Tag Archives: faith

My Journey of Faith, part 5.

my-journey-of-faith-5In the year 2001, I became a mother.

It was around 4 pm when our sweet daughter entered the world with that special newborn cry. I, who had never been too baby-crazy, looked down at her scrunched-up face and fell in love – as all mothers do! I was pretty sure I could feel my heart swelling with love, and the enormity of my emotion was overwhelming.

We took her back to my in-law’s house, and surrounded by family, we discovered the joys of night-wakings and first smiles. We were living in one bedroom, and my husband worked with his father during this time. My mother-in-law and the teen daughters operated a small bakery/sandwich shop, and I stayed home with my baby. fall centerpiece with candle

It was during this time that we started going to the same small church that my in-laws attended. It was a 2 hour drive one way to church. Not because there weren’t churches closer; this was the Bible Belt, after all. But this small country church had something the others didn’t: it had life. We drove to church every Sunday morning and home every Sunday afternoon. Thankfully, the folks at church were extremely hospitable, and we rarely left without a dinner (lunch) invitation. And usually a supper invite as well. Or more often, the dinner would stretch out to afternoon popcorn and games, then on into supper.

This church was pastored by a man whose teaching I hadn’t heard before. He preached often about the power of the Holy Spirit. Not about jumping and screaming and being slain in the spirit. But the power of the Holy Spirit… the power in a Christian’s life to overcome sin. I hung on every word. I hadn’t heard such life-changing stuff since Youth Bible school!

Some of the biggest lessons I learned there were:
Temptation is not the same as sin. Satan puts thoughts in your head, and that is not sin. But if you yield to those thoughts, that is sin. Wow! That was life-changing for me! It took away all guilt I had for not being able to stop thoughts from popping in my head.
To have power in your life, you must be filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8  I prayed specifically to be filled with the Holy Spirit every day, and I learned to ask for His help in each moment of temptation. I fell a lot in the beginning. But over time, as I followed the Bible’s teaching and grew in understanding, my ‘new man’ grew stronger and the ‘old man’ became weaker. Romans 6:6Eph. 4:22-24
Two rules I learned that helped me overcome sin; 1. sincerely repenting each time, and 2. asking forgiveness each time the sin involved another person. My biggest problem is sinning with my tongue, so I had a lot of uncomfortable conversations with people! But when you go to the person and ask forgiveness, the very awkwardness of it will help you ‘think before you speak’ in the future.
Who is the Holy Spirit? He is simply the third Person of the Trinity: the Spirit of Christ. Romans 8:9

smell the flowersWe moved to the community where this church was located, several months after our daughter was born, and we lived there 4 years. During that time, the pastor became a true spiritual father to us. He taught us many truths from God’s Word. He shepherded us as a young married couple, being an example with his life. His wife is a godly woman who taught me many things about living in a Christlike manner. I watched her ways, her speech, and her example. To this day, I text or call her when I am feeling overwhelmed! What a need there is for godly women to teach and mentor the younger women!

There were several very Godly women in that church who took me under their wing, and taught me how to mother, how to be a wife, how to cook and clean and be a better sister in the church. Sometimes I look back on those years and wince, as I remember all the dumb things I did and said as a young wife and mom in her early 20’s. Oh, goodness. So much immaturity! But no one chided me; they simply loved me and cared for me and gently taught me. My mother-in-law was one of the most important. I am so blessed with the mother I found in her! She was there when my own mother was far away, and I learned so much from her.

sunsetThanks for sticking with me on this journey of faith. It has been good for me to go back and remember all the goodness of the Lord; all the mighty things He has done for me! There is nothing good in me – ONLY in Him!!

To be continued…

My Journey of Faith, part 4.

My Journey of Faith-8

At last I had begun to see what a real relationship with Jesus was like! It started simply; by talking to Him throughout the day, about everything. I was purposely, consciously, training my mind to constantly turn to God during the day. To ‘set my mind on things above, not on things of this earth’. Colossians 3:2  I was not finished struggling against sin, but I was starting to see growth in several areas. I finally had hope. I had the promise of help and victory.

Day after day, I pored over the Bible and prayed earnestly for God to help me gain victory over my anger, selfishness, and discouragement. Up until now, the Bible had been quite dry and boring. It seemed almost sinful to admit that – and I wouldn’t have admitted it to anyone. But now! Now the Bible was like fresh, cool water on a parched desert. It came alive in my hands, and I feasted hungrily on the Bread of Life!

I don’t know if any of my family or friends could tell a difference. I’m sure Mom could – poor mom had to put up with me during my hard, temper-fraught years. As God changed my heart, I grew to respect and love my mom. I started trying to make life easier for her, instead of trying to get by with as little work as possible. I still flew off the handle at people, I still had a sharp tongue and a scornful attitude, often. But I saw these for the wicked sins they are, and began praying about them and fighting Self.

The next three years I attended the same Youth Conference. Each year I learned more about Jesus Christ, and more about how to walk by the Spirit, and not the flesh. Each year I came home determined to be a light and example to my friends, to help them see the wonderful new truths I was learning. But each year I came home and realized that we were not on the same wavelength, so to speak. The church I attended put a lot of focus on our Christian heritage, and a good moral life, but they didn’t have power! Or if they did, I never heard about it. Every Sunday it was the same testimony of struggling with the same old sins. They preached that Jesus would forgive your sins (and He will!) and that each day was a new beginning (and it is!) but I wanted more! I saw people who had real joy on their faces and testified of changed lives! That’s what I wanted.

So I kept on seeking, learning, reading. I also became disillusioned with the Mennonite culture in general. I loved my church – I really did! But they didn’t seem to be able to offer me much. And frankly all their rules and expectations were grating on me. Not that they were hard to keep; I had no problem keeping them. I never got into trouble with the leaders; I was a ‘good kid’. But the rules were not in Scripture, and the only thing they accomplished – as far as I could see – was burden people with unnecessary loads, and turn away those raised in a different culture. OR, they attracted people who saw it as some sort of ‘Laura Ingalls’ idyllic lifestyle. The reason given for the rules was to keep us from danger. To keep us from falling into sin. But there is a wonderful verse in Jude that says God can keep us from falling! How wonderful it is that anyone anywhere can be kept from falling by the power of the Holy Spirit within us! We don’t need to depend on man-made rules. (verse 24)

Of course, Mennonites are just like any other culture: There are wonderful people who love the Lord, and there are some who have wicked, unrepentant hearts. The problem I saw, was that if your heart was evil, you could still be a good Mennonite. You can hide heart stuff real easy when the church focuses on your appearance. Human beings are wonderful hypocrites. We are all pros at putting up a front! I include myself in this, by the way.

In 1998, my oldest brother died, about a week or two after Youth Conference. I was devastated. It was my first taste of death. But God ministered to my heart in such a special way, that it became a cornerstone for my Christian life. Ever since, I look back and remember how loved I felt at that dark time. You can read about that experience here: This Day in my History.

Well, when I was 18, my family took a 3 month visit to Belize, a small country in Central America. To give a bit of history, my mom is related to some Mennonite missionaries that run several missions in the southern part of the country. When my parents were younger, they went several times to the mission to help  while the missionaries were on furlough in the States. The last time they went, I was 4 years old. I had vague memories, and my sister – who was 6 that time – she also had a few memories. But we wanted to go again and see the mission as adults. My dream was to be a missionary like Amy Carmicheal, so I think my dad was trying to give us a mission experience without us leaving him to get it! 😀

A village school in Belize.

A village school in Belize.

Our family planned to road trip through Mexico to Belize, and there was this friend of the family who decided he wanted to go along. He’d spent almost a year at the same mission doing volunteer work, and had friends down there. So one cold January day, we headed to Belize.

What does this all have to do with my faith? Well, two things. 1. It opened my eyes to the problems that come when you try to impose Mennonite culture on 3rd world natives. (doesn’t work very well) and 2. That family friend who went along, asked me to marry him! 😀 Yes, it was Cliff, and it was in that hot, tropical country that we started dating. And we started dating because one day we had a long talk about Christianity, churches, and our longings for a church that taught more. We both had the same longings and desires, spiritually, and we were both kind of unsure where we wanted to be.

When we went home 3 months later, my church was going through a major church split. Caught up in my new romance, I never did get all the details, and I really didn’t care. I had been wanting to leave the Mennonite church, and here was the perfect opportunity. I gave a letter of withdrawing my membership, and, considering the confusion that church was in at the time, I guess it didn’t get much attention. I didn’t go to church the Sunday it was read publicly, so I don’t really know how that went down. But anyways. I want to say again how much I loved my church. It was real hard for me to leave it. I had close friends there who had poured time into my life. Friends who I am still indebted to, and whom I respect. But it just wasn’t meeting my deep heart cry for life and growth.

Our wedding day, year 2000. I was 19, and Cliff was 22.

Our wedding day, year 2000. I was 19, and Cliff was 22.

At our wedding reception.

At our wedding reception.

Cliff and I got married in November. (can you hear the happy church bells pealing? 😉 ) And we honored my mother by having a traditional Mennonite wedding. But when we got back from our Arizona honeymoon, we began attending a little non-denominational church. Most of the members were former Mennonites, so we felt comfortable, yet it had some life that we had been missing. We attended that small church for a few months, then  circumstances forced us to move in with my in-laws several hours away. We started attending their small church and eventually moved there.

Arizona honeymoon.

Arizona honeymoon.

Our first home.

Our first home.

I want to share another major, life-changing truth that I learned there; next time!

My Journey of Faith, part 3

 

My journey of faith

“This fog is terrible. Can’t see a thing,” my brother muttered as he peered into the gray darkness. The road was barely visible in the beam of his headlights, the winding mountain road seemed to go on forever through the dark trees and murky darkness. Occasionally, we would see the dim taillights of a vehicle ahead of us, which gave some depth perception to the haze that blanketed the road.

It was November, 1997, and I was riding in the backseat of my older brother’s Mazda pickup. My sister was along too, and we were headed to Pennsylvania to attend a youth conference. Actually, I wasn’t even riding on a ‘seat’, really. My brother loved his music, and he’d removed the backseat of his pickup in order to fit in a giant subwoofer box. 😀 There was a space beside the box for one person (me!) to squeeze in. My knees were in my face the whole trip, but other than that it was quite pleasant, really.

We drove for hours through the foggy night. Finally we drove out of it, and then made it to our host’s home. It was dark, the family was all in bed. We tiptoed up to our rooms and fell into bed.   In the morning we ate an early breakfast and headed to the church. The parking lot was filling up as we drove in, and I was nervous to meet all those strangers! My mom had taught me how to meet people though, and I’d had lots of practice from all the churches we’d been to. But I still didn’t enjoy it when I walked in and the foyer was a crush of strange youth. I managed to hang up my coat and squeeze through the crowd to to the sanctuary. My sister was 2 years older than me, and her personality was more outgoing and friendly. She led the way to an empty bench. Directly behind us sat two girls – clearly sisters – and we’d barely sat down when my sister promptly turned around and introduced herself to the older girl. I shyly introduced myself to the the pretty younger girl seated next to her; never realizing that we would end up lifelong friends! :) (we now attend the same church and she is still one of my best friends and one of the prettiest people I know!)

Anyways. Getting long-winded here…
So we spent a week at this conference, along with 400 other youth. We listened to two sermons every morning, had prayer groups in the afternoon, and choir, then another sermon. In the evening they opened it up for a family meeting where we again listened to a sermon.

I soaked it all in! I took copious notes, I shared my struggles with my prayer group, I re-committed my life to God. One speaker in particular really captured my attention. He was a tall, kind-eyed man from South Africa. He had a way of speaking – a way of using stories and illustrations – that I had never heard before! He spoke about being hid with Christ in God. About the Holy Spirit. About counting the cost of discipleship. He asked searching questions, and thundered warnings. He told funny stories and laughed with us. He also prayed. His prayers sounded like they were going somewhere. I hung onto every word.

Another speaker, white-haired and much less dramatic, spoke softly but gave me new ideas. He talked about victory over sin, living a life filled with the Holy Spirit, and practical christian living. He also gave me a gift that would unlock the biggest blessing in my life to date. He gave me this little book by A.W. Tozer. Now, Tozer is not light reading for a teen who never finished 8th grade! I had to read and re-read some of the paragraphs multiple times to understand what it meant. But that book was where I finally learned what it meant to have a real relationship with Jesus.

“Believing, then, is directing the heart’s attention to Jesus. It is lifting the mind to “behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29), and never ceasing that beholding for the rest of our lives. At first this may be difficult, but it becomes easier as we look steadily at His wondrous person, quietly and without strain.Distractions may hinder, but once the heart is committed to Him after each brief excursion away from Him, the attention will return again and rest upon Him like a wandering bird coming back to its window…
When we lift our inward eyes to gaze upon God we are sure to meet friendly eyes gazing back at us, for it is written that the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout all the earth. The sweet language of experience is “Thou God seest me” (Genesis 16:13). When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes  of God looking in,heaven has begun right here on this earth.”  -The Pursuit of God

The pursuit of God -Tozer

After youth conference, I went home and read a little piece in that book every night, along with readings from the Scripture. I read the book several times. It was eye-opening. I decided that this was it. I was tired of my failing, floundering attempts to live right. To please God. This new life that Tozer talked about – this was amazing! I was in for the long haul. None of this half-hearted Christianity, no more laziness of heart; I was ALL IN!

The first test came quickly. I worked on my father’s sawmill, and I hated that job. It was boiling hot in the summer, and freezing cold in the winter. I remember walking out to the sawmill one dreary wet day that winter. It was cold and damp and miserable. Normally I dreaded the job so badly that I would feel sick. But today, new-found faith firmly in hand, I was feeling almost cheery! I decided that if Tozer could fix his gaze on Christ, so could I! And so I began praying as I worked. I prayed silently – just ‘thinking’ prayers, but of course those kind are as good as any. :) I prayed for everyone I knew of who needed prayer. Then I prayed for myself, all my stryggles and questions and besetting sins. Then, as it was still early in the day, I started just talking to Jesus. I told Him how I felt about the weather, what my dreams were, how I wished I could serve on a mission… my mind wandered, (just like Tozer said!) but each time I would bring it back to talking with Jesus.

Now, stacking lumber is a rather mindless task. Hard, yes, but repetitious and brain-numbingingly boring. So I did a lot of daydreaming. And in the days that followed, I still daydreamed a lot. But each time my thoughts would wander to frustration or anger or discouragement, I would start telling Jesus all about it. At first it felt awkward and stiff. But after a few days it seemed natural to tell my new Friend all my deepest thoughts and fears.

And so I began to grow in my relationship with Him. As I cried out to Jesus for deliverance from my sins, and found a safe refuge where I could pour out my heart – I started gaining victory over my besetting sins. I was no longer angry about everything; I could tell Jesus! I was no longer depressed; I could tell Jesus! I wasn’t ‘fixed’ overnight, of course. It was a gradual growth, just like a tiny seedling growing, stretching toward the light, drinking in water and nutrients. So I started to grow; little by little, so imperceptibly that even I didn’t realize it.

I continued reading my Bible, soaking it in large portions at a time. I devoured it!  I prayed to be filled with the Holy Spirit, I asked God for victory over sin, and, most importantly, I now believed He could give it to me! I also started feeling unsure about the church I was a member of. Why had I never heard these things before? Why did they focus on outward appearances, yet left the heart issues go untouched? Why were rules held above all? I was confused, and unsettled about it, but I didn’t know what to do. I wanted everyone to know about this new life hidden with Christ in God. I did try to talk to my parents and friends about it, but some brushed it off as conference enthusiasm, and others didn’t understand what I was talking about at all!

Come back next week and see how I left the Mennonite religion.

My Journey of Faith, part 2.

my-journey-of-faith-2

My family moved a lot. In the years when I was 11-14, we lived in 3 different states for seasonal work, and 3-4 additional states for various other church or work-related reasons. So we weren’t in a ‘settled’ church. Mom asked me if I understood baptism, and she gave me a couple verses to look up in my Bible. I did look them up, and got excited about it. But there was still that issue of a church…

In the Mennonite church that we were part of, a person who got saved was expected to go through 6 months of ‘instruction class’ (where you were taught all the Mennonite doctines and church rules), then be baptized, and be taken into the church as a member. This structure was quite rigid; you couldn’t just be baptized without the 6 months instruction, and yet as a Mennonite, you wouldn’t be welcome if you went to a different church to be baptized. So I waited.

When I was 14, we were attending a small church in Oklahoma. It was made up of several families who had broke away from the Mennonites, and a few other christian families needing fellowship. We attended that church for about 6 -8 months, I guess. The first few weeks we lived in our fifth-wheel camper while we fixed up a dilapidated old house.

Dad had stripped the carpet and couch out of the back of the camper, and put a small woodstove in the middle. The floor was unfinished wood, and the six of us sat scrunched around that stove during the cold winter weather, pulling our folding chairs as close as we could without burning our shoes. I don’t remember where the chimney went… I guess Dad must’ve cut a hole in the roof to stick it out.

Anyways.

I remember Dad trying his best to get us kids to join in on family worship. He would read a passage of Scripture, and expound on it awhile, then ask us our thoughts. There were four of us girls at home at this time. All four of our brothers were out and about on their own. And us girls were used to our brothers and Dad loudly discussing ideas and thoughts. We scarcely knew how  to discuss Scripture, and we weren’t interested in discussing it with Dad and Mom. We just wanted to get family worship over with! So Dad got discouraged and finally stopped trying. (Shame on us kids!)

But the thing about this church was; they all seemed excited about God. I could see why Dad was drawn to them. It was a very young church, maybe 1 year old? And everyone was on fire for God. They were trying out new ideas and sharing God’s love and God’s dealings in their lives. They genuinely loved the Lord! We were only there several weeks when two of the young men were baptized. I stood on the riverbank and sang joyously with this new group of believers, resolving to be the next one in the river.

I told my parents that I wished to be baptized. Dad was happy. Mom was hesitant, but she also agreed. We talked to the preacher. He asked me and my parents to come over one evening to discuss it. He read some verses, and asked me to read some verses. While reading my verse, I mispronounced the word: vehemently. He gently corrected me, but I was mortified! I have never appreciated ‘grammar nazi’s’ since. 😀 We discussed my salvation, and I was nervous because I didn’t have a ‘grand’ salvation story, nothing real dramatic, and I stammered around, unsure how to say what I meant. But he was kind, and didn’t mind that I was nervous to the point of being unable to speak.

The next Sunday after service, the whole church drove down to the river again. Dressed in white, but wearing my secondhand rose-colored coat, I walked out into that muddy Cimarron river. It was cold enough to take your breath away, but I didn’t care! My teeth chattered as I answered his questions, but  I couldn’t stop smiling! As I came out of the water, the church family standing on the river bank broke into song: “Oh happy day, that fixed my choice! On thee, my Saviour, and my God!”

Image courtesy of Britannica

Cimarron River, Image courtesy of Britannica

Being baptized was a special experience for me. It was a public way to show my sincere love and commitment to Jesus Christ. I was taking my stand with Him, and telling the whole world that I was a child of God.

“Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:4

But I still did not understand how to gain victory over sin. My life was beset with lying, despair, temper fits, and unkindness. I had a sharp tongue and was not slow to use it. I tried – oh I tried! I hated myself. I felt so guilty for being such a mean person. But I was powerless. I listened in church, and yet never heard the answer I needed.

We soon moved on from that church, back to a Mennonite church in Illinois.
See, when I was six years old, we moved to this small country church in Illinois. We had moved away and then back to it many times. We lived in 7  different houses in that community, and one of the houses we moved in and out of, several times! My dad saw inconsistencies in the Mennonite church, but Mom grew up Amish, so Mennonites – to her – seemed like a good place to be. The inconsistencies that Dad noticed, she was ok with, since to her – it was just a chosen lifestyle.

Well, this church was one of the most caring churches that I have been to. They loved my dad and our whole family. And even though they would’ve loved for us to all be members and stay there, they didn’t pressure us, and always welcomed us back with open arms. Even after I was baptized in a non-Mennonite church, they welcomed me into the church later that year.

So when my friends were baptized and taken into the church, I sat beside them and was given the ‘right hand of the fellowship’ into the Mennonite church as a member. I thought that since I was baptized, and a church member, I would surely become more holy.

But it didn’t work that way. I still could not gain victory over my sins. I fell daily into anger, jealousy, unkindness, lying. I contemplated giving up. As our home and family situation deteriorated, I seriously considered running away. I thought about leaving the church behind and just living how I wanted! But two things held me back:

1 My mother had instilled a proper fear of God in me, from a child on her knee. I knew that I could run but I couldn’t hide from Almighty God.

2 My brothers loved me, and I couldn’t run away from home and ever be able to face them again. I just couldn’t. So I stayed home. I would rather be miserable than to disappoint them. They were my heroes.

So there I was. Stuck in the same frustrating circle of sins. I just wanted to know how to get out!

...Stay tuned for next week! Victory is coming! :)

Ohiopyle falls

O happy day that fixed my choice
On Thee, my Savior and my God!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice,
And tell its raptures all abroad.

Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray,
And live rejoicing every day;
Happy day, happy day,
When Jesus washed my sins away!

’Tis done—the great transaction’s done;
I am my Lord’s, and He is mine;
He drew me and I followed on,
Rejoiced to own the call divine.

Now rest, my long-divided heart,
Fixed on this blissful center, rest;
Here have I found a nobler part,
Here heav’nly pleasures fill my breast.

High heav’n that hears the solemn vow,
That vow renewed shall daily hear!
Till in life’s latest hour I bow,
And bless, in death, a bond so dear.

Philip Doddridge, 1700’s

My Journey of Faith, part 1.

 

My Journey Of Faith Part 1

Even children are known by the way they act,
whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right.
Proverbs 20:11


It all started when I was a child of nine. I grew up in a Christian family, we went to Wednesday evening prayer meetings, revival meetings, and to church twice on Sunday. I was told Bible stories from the time I was a small child on my mother’s lap. But when I was about nine, I heard a preacher talk about salvation. Now, I knew what salvation meant: Jesus died on the cross to save us from sin, and if we confess our sin, He would forgive us. Then we go to Heaven when we die. That was the Gospel I knew. So after hearing this preacher tell us how the ‘grass looks greener, and the sky looks bluer” after you get saved, well! I was up for that! Besides, I was old enough to start feeling a twinge of guilt and worry about the eternal destination of my soul.

So when I got home, I prayed a simple prayer. I asked God to forgive my sin and save me. I was a bit fuzzy on the details, but that was the best I knew how. Sadly, I didn’t have a good enough relationship with my parents to go talk to them about it. In hindsight, they would have loved it if I had. But I was pretty intimidated by them, and so I handled it the only way I knew.

I wrote them a note.

A note! And stuck it on the mirror where mom would be sure to see it. If I remember correctly, It said “I am trying to be a Christian.

Mom came to me, note in hand, and asked what I meant by that? I thought it was pretty clear, but I said, somewhat defensively; “Just what it says! I am trying to be a Christian!”

“OK,” Mom said. “But you can’t just ‘try’ to be a Christian, either you are or you aren’t.”

” I am.” I said flatly. I was embarrassed, unsure of myself, and desperately wanting to save face. (Oh, how quickly that religious front presents itself!)

Mom didn’t make much about it. She just started making plans with the local church seamstress to have me fitted with a prayer head-covering. (We were part of a Mennonite church, and when a girl was saved, she started wearing a head-covering immediately. It was a special cap that was hard to sew, and usually there was a seamstress or two in each church, who made them for all the ladies for a small fee.)

I was so happy. As soon as I put on a head-covering, I was accepted with gladness into the circle of saved girls. But, I was only happy because I was accepted as part of the ‘good‘ group of girls. My inner life was no different. I was no kinder, no more obedient to my parents. But because I had publicly committed, I tried very hard to control my actions. I failed – miserably. Again and again. And to my great dissapointment, the grass and sky looked exactly the same as before. I felt betrayed. Maybe I didn’t do it right?

So, I tried again. Several months later, I prayed:
“God, please save me! That last time wasn’t really right – but I really mean it this time!”
And a few weeks later, when it was obvious that my self-control was no better, I would pray again: “THIS time I am serious, forget the other times, God, THIS time I really mean it! I want to serve you!”

Oh the agony of always feeling guilty, but not knowing how to get relief! You may chuckle, and it is kind of funny now, but at the time, I was completely serious. Even at age 9 and 10, a child can feel so burdened by the knowledge of their sinfulness, that they cannot rest.

After about a year of this, I was at another revival meeting. This time it was at a small country church in the snowy mountains of northern Idaho. This preacher explained salvation in such a clear way, that I finally was able to understand it completely. I went home and poured out my heart to my Father, and for the first time, felt like I was heard. I had peace. I knew I was a child of God.

I was almost 11.

My struggle with sin was not over though.

Come back next week to read more! :)

One simple way to increase your faith.

For in it is revealed God’s righteousness from faith to faith. As it is written, “But the righteous shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17

increase-faith

Do you ever struggle to increase in faith? Does it seem that you just can’t get your eyes off the issue at hand, and truly have faith in God? Faith that He loves you, faith that He plans for you in love, faith that he is who he says he is.

There is one simple way to increase your faith.
Reading God’s Word. So simple, right? Yet such a struggle for most of us. My husband recently said: “The fact that it’s such a struggle to take time to read the Bible, shows how important it must be.”
Yes! If it were not important, Satan woudn’t care if we read it all day long! But the fact is; it IS important, so Satan makes sure we are too busy, get sidetracked, or just plain forget. I know, because I have been there myself. But, don’t be discouraged – rather, make it your ambition to begin reading the Bible regularly.

So faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17

Reading the Bible reminds me of God’s sovereignty. I see how God protected his children through thousands of years. I see his righteous judgement on evil, and his reward on the righteous.  I see the magnificent plan that began in Creation, and continues to this day. I see my place in the scheme of things, and how much God loves me, to send his Son to die for me. It reminds me of all the ways that God is perfectly loving and perfectly holy. That increases my faith in him!

One way to read more, is to have an easy place to look up verses when you are online. BibleVerses.com is a good resource. You can click on various topics, such as friendship, worry, hope, marriage, forgiveness. They also have short blog posts that are encouraging, if you just want a quick devotional.

Here are some more verses on faith: Faith

Fall Works and Fellowship.

fall-worksThe past few weeks have been busy with shipping calves and preg-testing the cows. We were blessed with warm, lovely weather. November is not normally this beautiful in Wyoming, so we are thankful for every sunny, warm day!

I cooked for the crew when they were working here, then went over to the boss’ place and helped with lunch when the crew was over there. Well, the boss’ wife did most of the cooking – I mostly just talked. 😀 It’s good to get together with other ranch wives, though.

shipping

shipping

shipping

This week we drove to our neighbors’ Bible study on Wednesday evening. Everyone brought a pot of soup or a salad, and we shared God’s Word over home-cooked food.

There is something special about fellowshipping over food. Sharing stories and doing life together. Laughing and eating and praying together. We read of Jesus often sharing stories and teaching around meals. He knew that eating together is a great way to be informal and relaxed.

We don’t sit down to eat with our enemies. We eat with our friends. We relax and start to open up to each other when we are seated around a table. We love Thanksgiving and Easter and Christmas in part because of the warm friendship and family times we have around good food.

shipping

shippingshipping

We drove over to our friends’ house and brought food, but they had to be willing to open their home, so we could all join in. Someone had to send that invite, make the calls, prepare food, sweep the floor, tidy the bathroom, you know — get ready for guests. No, it wasn’t fancy, (thank goodness!) it was a homey and inviting place, there was a stack of paper plates and a table loaded with help-yourself food, but the fellowship was heart-warmng. There was no stiffness or awkwardness, just simple food and warm smiles and genuine hospitality.

shipping

But someone had to open their home. We wait and wait for someone else to invite us, to organize something, to fill that need in our lives. We need to open our homes. To stop waiting for someone else to initiate and just be a friend. Invite someone over for lunch. Don’t worry if you aren’t a ‘hostess type’. Just do it. Everyone needs friends and fellowship, someone to do life with. Someone to listen and understand and say: “me too”.  Just text a few friends and say “hey, want to come over tomorrow night for tacos?” Don’t stress over ‘hostessing’, just invite friends into  your life. Open up your heart and your home, and be real.

What would happen if we all started reaching out on a regular basis? It doesn’t have to be a bible study – it can be supper. Or lunch. Or tea. Whatever you do – do that. Stop waiting on the others, and start being a blessing to those in your area.

shipping

The Great Battle Against Self.

the great battle against self

Hey mom-friends, I have some real-talk today. I want to say it real slow, so you don’t miss any of it. Lean in and listen, ok? It’s important. It has to do with your perception of me. You might look at my online life and say ‘wow! she takes pictures, has a blog, cooks, home-schools, etc. She must be so talented!‘ I’ve heard that before. And it makes me smile because it’s nice to get compliments. I enjoy cooking, photography, homemaking stuff, and all that.  But inside I cringe. Because I am not perfect. I struggle daily with my old enemy: SELF.

I want to be kind; self wants to lash out.
I want to be hospitable; self wants to lock the door.
I want to be loving; self wants to ignore.
I want to be forgiving; self wants to relive the pain.
I want to be cheerful; self wants to be gloomy.
I want to be a prayer warrior; self wants to hit snooze.

The great battle of this Christian life is not physical, but spiritual. My spirit, warring with my Self. War is not fun. It is ugly and there are casualties. Often, I am left bleeding and wounded after a battle. I lay there minute, gasping for air, getting my breath back, so I can crawl to my feet again and face another round. It’s not easy, this fighting and struggling. It’s hard.

The one thing that makes it easier?
Don’t feed the enemy. Self gets weaker if you never feed her! Don’t allow self to feed on
vengeful thoughts,
gloomy thoughts,
resentful thoughts,
lazy thoughts.

You know that saying: “You can’t keep a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair“?

It’s the same way with sinful or self-pleasing thoughts. They may pop into your head, but you – and you alone – can choose to kick them out. Yes, they will pop into your head multiple times per day. Maybe several times an hour. Maybe you have to literally get up and do something else to get your mind re-routed and stop the thoughts. But stop them! Don’t be distressed because you keep having sinful thoughts; be distressed because you keep allowing them to stay. As long as you are fighting, you are alive, spiritually.

Of course, the staying power in the Christian life is the Holy Spirit, living in us. By His power alone can we overcome sin. Ask Him to fill you. Ask Him to empower you. Don’t settle for a common life. Reach for the Overcoming Life where you live in victory over sin. Don’t think that it can’t be done — just because you haven’t done it, and you don’t know anyone who has.

I have never climbed Mt. Everest and I can say with some assurance that I never will. 😉 I don’t even personally know anyone who has climbed it! But I believe it can be done. I believe even I could,  if I had a desire to, and trained myself. It would be foolishness to say that it can’t be done, just because neither I nor my friends have accomplished it.The Great Battle against self, and scaling mountains

The same goes for overcoming sin. Not all at once, not all in one day. But one stronghold after another – just like the Israelites laid waste to the giants and strongholds in the  Promised Land. The power comes from the Holy Spirit. The weapon is the Sword of the Spirit. (The Bible, God’s Word) Your protection is the armor of God: “having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,  and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:14-17

We are weak because we indulge our flesh — we give in to our earthly desires and passions. We need to get serious about overcoming sin, about dying to self – then we will grow. God wants us to grow and overcome, much more than we ourselves want it! Have faith. Believe that He is ready to help, willing to help, and eager to empower us!

The hurting among us.

fern

“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.”   ― C.S. Lewis

 

“I had no idea!”
“You never said anything!”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”

I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know. I can talk, alright. I talk too much, in my opinion. I say exactly what I think and why. I speak too quickly, too harshly, and all at full volume.

But.

When I am hurting, I don’t say much. (when I am hurt – then I often say something, regrettably) But when the pain is heart-wrenching and deep, when I cry myself to sleep from the pain, those hurts are hard to get out. I stuff them. Bury them under a breezy manner and quick smiles.

I bet you do it too. You feel scared. What people will think, or worse, what they will say. That must be where it starts – this fear of showing our hurts. We tried, when we were younger and full of trust. We shared, and they were not gentle with us. So we learned to stuff it. To hide it well.  Much too well. woodland fern

-If you knew that woman sitting next to you in church just experienced a miscarriage, you would stop judging her for missing 3 Sundays in a row. You might even hug her.

-if you knew that man ahead of you in the checkout line was still in shock over his wife leaving him – you would stop despising his unkempt appearance. You might even pray for him.

-If you knew that awkward girl was trying to recover from sexual abuse, you would stop telling people how ‘pathetic’ she is. You might even take her out for a meal.

-If you knew that person in the car ahead of you was crying from the pain of losing his child, you would not yell at him for driving so slowly. You might even cry too.

No, we do not judge and despise people when they are going through deep hurts. We sympathize. We are understanding and patient. The problem comes when we don’t know. We assume they are on the same busy path through life that we are following. We only see the tip of the iceberg, and like the Titanic – we don’t see the gigantic pain just under the surface.

See, most people don’t purposely add hurt to hurt. (some do, I’m not talking of those wretched people) Mostly, we try to sympathize and help each other. But still, we don’t share. It’s too private. The hurt is too raw, and besides, how and when and why do you even share how it feels to cry yourself to sleep over a pain that is 10 years old? 20 years old?  Isn’t there a statute of limitations on how long you’re allowed to grieve? Aren’t you supposed to ‘heal’ from childhood abuse, and get over it? “She wasn’t good enough for you anyways! Better fish in the sea!

No, my friend.

To you who are sad. Hurt. Grieving. It’s OK. Be happy if you can, grieve when you need to, feel the hurt when it comes. If you can find 1 or 2 strong and true friends who can handle your pain – that is ideal. I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through some of my deep sorrows in life, were it not for my faithful few friends.  Although, there comes a point when only God can comfort you. Only He knows your heart without words. He understands! Don’t hesitate to run to Him with your pain.

To you who are not in a season of sorrow or loss; be aware. Don’t be too quick to judge someone, especially someone you are not very close to. They likely haven’t told you that their job is unbearable, or their health is poor, or their favorite uncle just died. Be sensitive to everyone. Assume that there is more to their story than they’re telling you. Be merciful.

 

Christians are killing each other.

Christians are killing each otherIf you are on social media these days, you will notice a theme; Christians are angry with each other. Of course, unsaved people are angry too, but that is to be expected. They don’t have the claim of a godly life or the power of a resurrected Christ. Christians – we are held to a higher standard. This election cycle has brought out The Worst in people.

Here is a typical scene I have noticed multiple times in the past few weeks:
First Christian posts something political.
Another Christian comments with a different viewpoint.
First Christian gets angry.
Commenter gets angry.
Sneering, condescension, and bitter words follow.

This has been making me so sad the past few months. Which is good, I guess, in a way, for it has driven me to pray for my brothers and sisters in the Lord more than previously. And anything that drives me to my knees has some purpose.

You know, in Matthew 5, it says this:
“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

Whoa. That is strong language! When we are angry with our brother, it’s the same as if we murder them!  This is not a popular Scripture passage, I know. But there it is. You can believe the whole Bible, or you can chop out the parts you don’t like.
This is a serious issue.
Murder.
Killing.
Think about it.
Would you get a gun and walk over to your brother and shoot him in the head? Of course not! Yet you blast out angry words right into his face and not even feel guilty.

What a huge deception Satan has spawned! He has duped us into thinking we can be angry, sneering and contemptuous to each other, and somehow God is going to wink at it.

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. Galatians 5:14

The desire of the flesh includes wanting to be right, wanting others to acknowledge that we are right, and wanting to be superior.
If we walk by the Spirit, we will have our eyes fixed on Jesus, and not on each other.

The elections have really brought out the ugly in Christians. Normally sweet, generous, loving people are now angry, judging, and name-calling. Their anxiety about future events and possibilities have blinded them to the wonderful kindness and great Sovereignty of God. It is under stress and in scary times that the hidden things of our hearts are displayed for all to see. What is in our heart will come out.

I challenge all of us to check our hearts. Are we worried? Fearful? Are we easily angered and frustrated with our brothers and sisters in Christ for their differing opinions? Do we still see them as brothers and sisters? I am convinced there will be liberals, conservatives, democrats, republicans, and libertarians in Heaven. One type of political view does not have priority over another. Only individual hearts and lives.

And you know, we aren’t even citizens of this country! (Ouch! I felt that dirty look you just gave me!)

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; Philippians 3:20

I love our country. I have the highest respect and honor for the heroes fighting to protect us, and for the many, many lives given for our freedom. But I am not first an American. I am first a Christian. My allegiance is first and foremost in Heaven, with my Father. He is the one who Created me, His Son saved me from eternal hell, and His Holy Spirit lives within me, empowering me to live victorious by God’s grace.

So when God gives a command, it supersedes the earthly commands. And God has clearly commanded us to love one another and stop being angry with each other. Our fellow countrymen would have us believe that ALL must be sacrificed for the sake of a better USA.
I believe ALL must be sacrificed for fellowship with God our Father, and for His children. That includes sacrificing my need to be right.

Sure, I have posted a few things about the elections, I have commented on a couple posts, (and regretted it a few times) and I do have an opinion on it all. But I want to promote fellowship with my family in Christ – not hard feelings. I never want to be condescending or sneer at them because they feel differently. I don’t want to be in danger of hell fire because I was angry with my brother. Totally not worth it!

So tell me, have you seen this trend of anger among Christians?