Well, we are back from the Bahamans and right on time for the new word of the month! I am sure prayer doesn't come as a shock since it's what I have been meditating on for some time as I read the book Prayer by Tim Keller. During our vacation I had some extra unique time to spend in prayer. It was very different from my usual time with God because it wasn't as structured; it was an unending flow of conversations, quiet, and songs of praise. Nearly the whole vacation my prayers were mostly, "Thank you so much for this time of rest." I couldn't stop thanking and praising Him! Over the next month, I'd like to invite you to journey with me in understanding and experiencing the depth of our prayer lives and how it results in us understanding ourselves better and experiencing God more deeply!
I am often asked why I smile so much or how I can be so bubbly and happy all the time.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. – James 1:2-3 (NIV)
Not gonna lie, there have been times where I read these words and sarcastically chuckled as I told God, "You're really asking me to be joyful in this mess?" Why should I view these trials as a joyful experience? James invites us to look at the hardships of this life from a different vantage point. I used to think that trials were a sign of God's displeasure or disappointment in me. I couldn't have been more WRONG! Instead, these trials are an opportunity for us to experience God in a more intimate way as He teaches us how to persevere through Him.
Do not be discouraged when you are in the midst of trials and hardships, brothers and sisters. Sometimes we will not see the purpose of these trials but I am confident that God will mold and build us through these trials that we may become more and more like Him! That is a promise that He made to us. A promise we cannot see but believe. A promise that will never fail.
C: You never know, maybe there is a hidden purpose...just kidding!Where do you work/volunteer?
A: I work at a large bank/credit card company and have been there for a little over a year now and am constantly blessed to work for such a great company! As far as volunteering goes, I help out with the youth group at my church on Sunday nights, and am currently leading a young adult small group at my church.
C: That's awesome! It definitely helps when you love what you do. When would you say your faith moved beyond just knowing God to experiencing God?
A: I would say that I don't think I ever REALLY experienced God until I was 23 years old and at the end of my rope. I grew up in a loving Christian household and have been in the church my whole life. There was never a time I wouldn't say that I was not a Christian (but if I must confess, there were times that I would be hesitant to volunteer that information in certain social circumstances). I attended Eastern Nazarene College for two years and was, by my own standards, living the good Christian life the best way I could (if you discount the nagging feeling about hardly ever touching my Bible, or the guilt I would feel when my internet browsing would be far less than Godly). Anyways, a little over a year ago, God worked through some pretty rough family issues to get me to FINALLY commit a situation into his hands. I didn't know what else to do, so I prayed, asked God to handle it and guide me, and then went and sought counsel with my pastor because, honestly, that was all I knew to do. Almost immediately after doing all of that, the situation started taking the baby steps towards reconciliation! It has been a long process, and it is not over yet, but God is pretty clearly working and strengthening my family day by day!
A: After that initial realization, it took hardly any time at all before God REALLY began pressing on my heart, specifically opening my eyes to the many, MANY ways I had been falling short. God brought me face to face with my own serious issues with lust, pride, laziness, etc... The list is basically endless. But I was just so overwhelmed with everything I was feeling, feeling so ashamed of how far I had fallen, that once again, all I could do was pray and ask God to handle the situation, and once again, go speak with my pastor. As I sat there, spilling my guts to him, confessing all the ways that I had been living in sin, I felt that REAL freedom for the first time! As he hugged me, prayed over me, and just spoke the gospel to me, I really FELT the effects of the gospel for the first time in my life! The freedom that I felt from sin after confessing it, and seeing how the love of God was working through my pastor as he just showed me love and understanding and forgiveness... There's nothing like that. If I had to pick a moment when my faith journey REALLY began, it would be that one.
After that night, God began showing me that it was ok to be open with people about the fact that you are not perfect, to not keep it bottled up until it explodes in a mess of guilt, anger, and shame. He showed me how to have REAL accountability with other brothers and sisters! He showed me what it was like to truly have a hunger for learning more about Him! He showed me what it was like to have VICTORY over sin, instead of just bottling it up and pretending it doesn't exist! It's an amazing, sometimes scary, but always beautiful journey!
C: Wow. Can I just Amen all that? Thank you for being so real with us! I know this may seem redundant but, in this season of your life, what would you say is the primary thing God is teaching you?
A: God has been teaching me about the process of falling back into His grace when I fall short. Instead of reverting to the old way of doing things, namely trying to hide my sin and pretend it isn't there, He has been teaching me to confront it and allow Him to put it to death. And as he cleanses me of sin, he has begun changing the desires of my heart in the process, so I desire more of him, and less of my natural bend towards sin. (I know a lot of this sounds like Christianity 101, but in reality, there was so much I didn't understand until a year ago that I am, basically, a beginner.)
C: Going back to the basics of what it means to be a disciple is something that is always beneficial! How do you keep your eyes fixed on God when storms come your way?
A: The main way that I keep my eyes fixed is to have the gospel that I know to be true, preached to me again by an outside party. I have a tendency to get caught up in my own head, and something about someone else telling me what I know to be true (ie, the assurance that the Lord IS working ALL things together for his good, He IS in control) that really helps me believe it. I have a few guys I go to who know where I struggle and they know exactly what I need to hear most of the time. I also love listening to sermons by Matt Chandler. Matt is the preacher who's messages really broke through my lackluster faith and really ignited that fire for the first time. He has such strong personality and a passion that really resonates with me and really helps me hold fast to the things I know to be true.
C: What are some verses that you often cling to as a reminder of His goodness?
A: I love pouring over the Psalms whenever I can! It always encourages me to know that a man as powerful in the Lord as David still had issues, struggles, weaknesses, sins, and just plain brokenness. And despite all his weaknesses, God was always faithful to David, AND David always makes it clear that the faithfulness of God was enough for him, no matter how awful the circumstance!
C: If you could encourage those out there who are fearful of letting go and trusting God, what would you say?
A: I would say that God keeps his promises in the most amazing ways possible! I have always been so skeptical before truly giving something over to God, but he has ALWAYS come through for me in the best possible ways! He truly is working all things together for our good, even if we see the good right away.
The words above couldn't be more true! Following Jesus does not mean a life without suffering or pain but confidence of the Hope that is to bring us through it and help us see beyond it. Last week I did not feel I could genuinely explore this word and it was because I was so distracted by my own suffering that I could not see God's presence, which I believe would have made all the difference and allowed me to remain in His Peace and Joy.
What changed between last week and this week? The circumstances around me are no different but my perspective and attitude are. I felt God's presence in the car that day and I believe that if you truly taste God, you will NOT desire anything else! That's what happened and continues to happen every day. My joy is restored and my gratitude is overflowing because HE is enough for me. What I am noticing is that all these words impact each other. It is not until I truly surrender that I experience God's presence and peace and receive this complete joy. It's a joy that He wants us to receive! In John 15:10-11 Jesus said., "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full."
On Wednesday I plan to dig a little deeper in a familiar passage...you know it:
"Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again rejoice..."-Philippians 4:4
I toss the word "love" around way too often without truly recognizing its power and meaning. Think about it, how often do you say, "I love that song; that movie; that picture; this restaurant; this pizza (not but really...); that book; that couch; this dress...and the list goes on and on and on.
I find the things I love are the things I am going to invest my time, energy, money and effort on. I have been taking a really good look at the things in my life I claim I love; the things I invest in daily. I look at what/who I run to when I am joyful and when I am upset. I look at where most of my money goes...is it to honor God or to please myself? Often times the reason why I "turn off the GPS" is because I get distracted by other things I "love" that pull me away from the ONE I love most. What does God's word say about priorities? The following scriptures shared by Richard Hollerman helps us take a look at the chief ones:
Ask yourself this honest question, just by looking at this list, how many of them would you say you prioritize daily? I know I am taking some time to re-visit my priorities...
As I mentioned on my Facebook page, I decided I wasn't going to do a new triple challenge today. I can't seem to move on from the word surrender from last week. I shared a video this morning on my page describing how God met with me while I was driving home from MA and I couldn't help but weep in his presence. Weeping and driving is not a good combination, which is what led me to pull over and pray as well as make a video for you sharing what God was doing in my life.
An area in my life I must constantly invite God into is pride. I hate it. I can see it from a mile away. I am beyond grateful of the gifts God has blessed me with and I know that they are ultimately to bring HIM glory. Yet, when my self-absorbed self finds a "groove" with what I am doing for God, it slowly becomes more and more about what I am doing and less and less about what God is doing in and through me. This, my friends, is exactly where God found me in my car today. I can't help but stand in awe of His relentless love, gently tugging at my heart. Sure enough, I look up and realize that I am lost. I used the analogy of the GPS (God). I turned it (God) off and decided I could find my own way. Next thing I know I am in the middle of nowhere and embarrassed at how my pride took over. Thankfully, God's grace is sufficient and He simply asks if I am willing to turn the GPS (Him) back on and follow HIS voice and not my own. YES! And what's the greatest feature about the GPS? The fact that you don't have to go try to find your way back to the start before you can plug in the correct address. Nope. You just turn it on and it meets you exactly where you are and gets you back on track. Same with God, brothers and sisters. Call upon the Name Of The Lord. Humble yourself and be willing to admit that you're not all that but HE IS!
Thank you, Jesus, that your mercies are new every morning. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your Spirit, who gently speaks and nudges me to look up and realize I am off track. Thank you because Your way and Your thoughts are higher and far better than mine. You lead, I will follow.
A Bit About ME!
Hey friend! My name is Caren and I am so glad you stopped by! This blog is a bit of my corner on the internet where I share honest thoughts about my faith journey, fitness journey, doctor wife journey, and motherhood journey. ALL of it! The good bad and ugly! I pray that something I share encourages you today!