“God, You’re Insane!”

I said it aloud, and shocked myself… it sounded almost sacrilegious! 

((Then I remembered the movie, and didn’t feel quite so bad… 😜))

Think it through though. God sent His Son to die a cruel death IN OUR PLACE, so that, IF we choose to accept His free gift of eternal life, we can be in fellowship with Him forever. It’s CRAZY that He even wants relationship with us! Crazier still that he CARES about the MINUTEST details of our lives. IT’S INSANE!

I have been thinking along this line the past week because of a couple of things that happened. 

First off, I had been wanting to check my tire pressure and make sure that all my tires were the same PSI for quite a while. You know, just one of those things in the back of your mind that you will do when you get around to it… Anyway, I was at the Speedway gas station last week. As I pulled up to the pump and got out, I realized that the air pump was running, and that no one was using it! I hate waste, and I love saving even more, so free air was pretty awesome! I jumped back into my car and circled around. I got two tires up to pressure before the time ran out. “Oh, well,” I thought. “I will just have to get out the air compressor hose at home and check the other two there.”  I finished gassing up the car, and noticed that someone else had pulled up to the air machine. I was really excited. I waited, and washed all my windows, eagerly anticipating the guy to drive off so that I could use his excess air! Guys, I had barely finished filling the last tire when I ran out of air. God cares about everything. I am still amazed, and wonder how many things like this that He does for me, and I just overlook.

The second thing is that I have been looking for a specific colored pair of shoes for several months. I had originally gotten a pair of these shoes from Goodwill, but wore them out so badly that I had to throw them away. No matter where I looked (online, thrift stores, new, used), I could not find that brand or another in the same color. I went in to Goodwill last week, and saw the exact brand, and exact color of shoe that I had gotten there before. It was 2 1/2 sizes too small, BUT, as I continued down a little ways, scanning all the shoes, another one stuck out to me. Exact same brand, exact same color as before, IN MY SIZE! 

I am so thankful that God loves me, and that he will reassure me in these “little” ways that mean so much. That He even cares… We are so small, He is so infinitely big….

 It’s incredible. HE’s incredible. 

Over and out. Happy Valentine’s Day! 😉

My Chains are Gone, I’ve been Set Free: A Testimony of God’s Goodness

So… here’s my story, or rather,  part of my family’s story, but here it is from the view that I had of it, and how God used it in my life.  

February 23rd, 2007, will be forever etched in my memory.  9 years ago today, my perfect little 14 year-old life fell apart, but God had a plan…  Here’s the synopsis of the story that I sent February 22nd, in a group text a few years ago (edited for clarity😉):

6 years ago today…  Grandma’s funeral was over.  It marked the end of a long, hard week – or so we thought. During the dinner that took place afterward, a man from church reminded Dad of a special Men’s Meeting for couples that was to take place THAT NIGHT! Dad knew what the meeting was about  and wanted to go, but it had been such a tiring week…  would Mom go? Miraculously, she said “yes!” One of the videos [shown] was Openness & Brokenness by Paul & Jenny Speed. Another man also shared his testimony. Dad knew that he had to be open and broken if he ever wanted to be free from his secret sin of lust, porn & self-gratification. Mom wondered, “who was this for?” But being a good wife, she asked Dad [on the trip home] if he had anything he needed to tell her. He replied that he did, but that he would tell her in the morning. Fast forward (through a lot of hurt, uncertainty & bad stuff) to today… Dad is FREE, and Dad & Mom have the BEST marriage in the world! God is SO awesome! Thank you Dad for coming clean! PTL!!! 

After Dad came clean with us, the feelings of pain and hurt smothered me, and I felt like I was suffocating.  I was shocked, and felt so betrayed.  Up until that morning, I basically thought that my daddy was pretty near perfect!  I remember questioning God almost every night after that… “Why God?  Why us, why our family?”  I had nowhere to turn but to Jesus.  My family was hurting, like I was, and none of my friends understood what I was going through…  Sometimes talking out loud helps me to think, and work through my emotions.  God didn’t answer me audibly, but one night as I cried myself to sleep, I felt His peace sweep over me.  I knew in that moment that He was WITH me and that I wasn’t alone!  He, the Creator of the universe, understood my pain!  The only way I can really describe it it is that I felt His presence envelope me, like a comforting hug, as I drifted off to sleep that night.   It was unlike any human hug, but it was real!

This was a real turning point for me in my walk with The Lord.  Life was especially hard then, but I’d go through it all over again if I had to — it was way worth it in the long run!  Because of my daddy’s openness, I later confessed to him and Mom some things that had happened in my own life that I had determined to take with me to the grave.  No matter how trivial they might seem now, Satan had a stronghold in my life because I had agreed with him to keep those things hidden from my parents.  

Today my daddy walks in freedom from the chains of lust that had held him in bondage for so many years, and my parents are still together – something I thought was REALLY really close to impossible 9 years ago.  Dad & Mom will celebrate their 25th anniversary this September!  God is SO GOOD!  I am deeply grateful for this time in our lives, as it drew me closer to Jesus, and gave us all a deeper understanding of the mercy and forgiveness of God.

Words, Gratefulness, and God

“Is [God] King over every area of my life?”

This was a question posed during Bible study at church this morning. You know how God works on you about a specific thing, and then He just keeps bringing other life lessons along to reinforce it?  Well he’s been doing that lately, and it started with my mom.  Well, it actually started with me, when I defended a word that I didn’t think was so bad… Mom came to me with scripture, and implored me to seek God on the matter.  At first, I blew her off as being old school and out of touch, but God was working in my stubborn and rebellious heart anyway, and I eventually realized that all of my words (and thoughts) were not pleasing to Him… I was not practicing the presence of Christ!  I am thankful for my mama, who humbled herself and came under me.  If she hadn’t done that, there is no way that I would have listened to anything that she said.  

Alright, so basically what God has been teaching me is that even when I say something small or stupid like “crud!” or “stink!” that I am still being ungrateful, just as if I were saying a regular cuss word, and that my words (and attitude), are still unpleasing to the Lord.  Do I still catch myself saying those words?  Yes, it is really hard to change a habit, but now when I say them, I think of what I am doing.  I am being ungrateful to God!  The God who has given me everything that I’ve got, and to whom I have everything to be grateful for, including His Son, Jesus.  

So, to all of you reading this blog post, you have permission to hold me accountable. 😉 

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  -James 1:26–27 

And Colossians 4:6 says:

Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Love you all.  Grow in Grace! ~Elizabeth

Is worry really a sin?

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (‭Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭34‬ NIV)

Are you living in busyness, worry, fear and control, OR in gratitude, trust, joy and surrender?

Quite a difference between these two concepts, wouldn’t you say?

While reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp last fall, I came to chapter 8 which was by far the most challenging chapter (it hit the nail on the head of most of the things that God’s been working on with me lately).

Fear, worry, busyness, control… I don’t know about you, but I often find myself tense, stressed and ultimately, worried. I hate to call it worrying, but that is what it is, and it is a sin to worry, according to Jesus, so why do I give in to worry? My theory is that if you minimize sin and don’t call it what it is (like I’ve been doing in this area), it doesn’t look so bad and you don’t know just how badly you really need Jesus.  [And just FYI, I REALLY need Jesus!!!]

Gratitude, trust, joy, surrender… All of these are linked together, but as I see it, thankfulness is the necessary building block for the rest of these qualities.  My challenge to you is to write down 3 things  that you are thankful for every day for a week and see how your attitude changes.  I definitely am not “there yet” by any streach of the imagination…  I still get knots in my stomach when I know I’m going to give a public testimony, or when I’m going to be flying, so I’m preaching to myself more than to anybody else.  Oh, and YES; If Jesus said not to worry, then worrying is disobedience, and disobedience is a sin.

Now run with endurance the race!

God is ALWAYS Good

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. -II Corinth. 12:9

Even when life doesn’t make sense, God is SOOO good. Wow. Last weekend was amazing! There was a WIT Alive reunion in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee! [I learned that one person’s “smidgen” might actually be a rather large amount (it’s an inside joke😜), and, on a more serious note, that all things happen for a reason! I really had so much fun — I felt like a kid again!]

It was SO, so good to catch up with old friends, make and get to know new ones, and share sweet fellowship in Jesus. The Smokies were spectacular, and I was constantly in awe of the God who made them! That He, who’s creation is so vast, would care for ME is humanly unfathomable. The love of God that emanated from this group of friends was so overwhelming! I came home so blessed, so full, and so very ready to see all of them again!

I must tell a story of God’s faithfulness to me on my second day there. On Saturday morning, I was having a really hard day. To top it off, I missed a ride with both of the carpools, so I decided to take the car that I brought down… Long story short, I missed my turn and ended up a couple hours away from my destination (which I now know should’ve been a 15 minute drive😜), but while I was sitting on the side of the road with blinking lights behind me, I realized just how good God was. Here I was, in what looked to be a desperately hopeless situation, kind of frustrated, far away from all my friends, really (really-really) tired of driving, and quite impatient (thus, the blinking lights😐), but God was with me!!! I had been listening to James MacDonald’s podcasts on the drive, and all of a sudden I realized why I had taken this seemingly “unnecessary” detour. God wanted to speak to me! Here I was listening to messages titled: God is Always with Me, God is Always in Control, God is Always Good… And I knew right then that He was more than enough to sustain me. I just had to grab onto His grace! I already knew that, but sometimes you just lose sight of the Goal. I eventually caught up with the rest of the gang at WonderWorks, and had a great time with my friends, but really, I needed that impromptu date with God. It might sound crazy, but I’m thankful I missed my turn, and I would do it all over again — hopefully with a little more patience though! 😉

The family of Kenneth Bae is asking for our help – #FreeKennethNow

Sign the petition to free Kenneth now.

VOICE OF THE PERSECUTED

American citizen, Kenneth Bae sentenced by North Korea to 15 years in a labor camp American citizen, Kenneth Bae sentenced by North Korea to 15 years in a labor camp

Who is Kenneth Bae?

Before his detention in North Korea, Kenneth Bae was always surrounded by friends, hosting meals and regaling everyone with hilarious tales and his renditions of Elvis tunes. He was the fun-loving uncle who showered his nieces with affection. He dropped out of college at the age of 22 to support his own young family. And after coming home late from working two jobs, he’d spend hours watching his baby son sleep.

Kenneth is a man who always does the right thing, no matter the cost.

Several years ago, Kenneth saw an opportunity that combined his entrepreneurial spirit with his personal convictions as a Christian. He believed in showing compassion to the North Korean people by contributing to their economy in the form of tourism. Based out of China since 2006, he started his own tour…

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How I got into “Joni Camp!”

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12‬:‭9-10‬ NIV)

This year was the 3rd year (equaling 5 weeks so far), that I volunteered as a short-term missionary (STM), at Joni and Friends Family Retreat.

I was probably seven or eight when I first started listening to Joni Eareckson Tada on the radio. It happened that she was after some of my favorite Saturday morning kids’ radio dramas, and I loved hearing her voice! There was (and still is), something so calm and tranquil about her. I remember my mom telling me the story of Joni’s diving accident, and explaining what quadriplegia was. I was moved by the testimony of this woman of God, and she became a role model of mine.

By the time I was in my late teens, our family had moved twice, been through the fire, and gone through some MAJOR changes. I was ripe to follow God in other channels of ministry, so when a friend told me of her most recent experience as an STM at JAF Family Retreat, I was excited! My friend had gone with her brother this last time, and she wished that he had come with her the first time, just so that she had the added stability of knowing someone there. I thought that was a great idea! So I excitedly but apprehensively approached Dad & Mom about it. I mentioned that maybe Daniel could go with me, and they thought that was a swell plan, so I signed up and started sending out support letters. I didn’t really know exactly how Daniel felt… Until we got enough support for both of us to serve as STMs for BOTH weeks!

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Anyway, Daniel went back the following year by himself, with his own money, and for both weeks. [God is amazing, is He not?]

Personally, God taught me that He is sufficient. No matter what. That actually seems to be a common theme in a lot of the lives of these families. Whether I am physically weak, or mentally exhausted, God is there. In my weakness, He is made STRONG!

[As a side note, a bunch of my JAF Maranatha friends went to MN as STMs for a Joni Camp there this year, and Joni herself showed up! Boy, I wish I had gone to that one too!]

Seriously guys, check out Joni and Friends and their many ministry outreaches that God may be calling you to serve with… Rest assured — you will never be the same!

IMG_1655.JPG 2013 – Hanging out with sibs and STMs, aka “friends!” 😉

Forgive!

“Don’t ever write anybody off, and don’t fail to say the name of Jesus to them.”

-Wendie Benton, Joni & Friends Chicago

Forgiveness

for·give

verb \fər-ˈgiv, fȯr-\

: to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong) : to stop blaming (someone)

: to stop feeling anger about (something) : to forgive someone for (something wrong)

: to stop requiring payment of (money that is owed)

It’s a word we as Christians have come to use with flippancy, but do we understand forgiveness, and what it really means?

“Refusing to forgive, whether ourselves or another puts us in direct rebellion against God. – Sheila Walsh

It was July of last year. I was at WIT Alive, serving as a team leader, no less!!! It was the last day of the conference, and Mrs. Speed was talking about bitterness. She said something to the affect of; “is there anyone that you’re bitter against?” [Immediately I thought “no, I’m not bitter against anyone…”] Then she said “is there anyone you’ve written off… [and I was like “what in the world is she talking about?” and she explained…] “someone who, if you saw them stranded on the side of the road, you wouldn’t stop to help.” Ooh. THAT hit a nerve. I was having this argument in my mind; “God, I’d help any of the rest of his family… but him??? That’s just too much.” Soon after that was worship, and EVERY song had to do with God’s grace. It was right there… God WANTED me to grab onto His grace. I could accept that gift, and live, or continue to do what I’d been doing – reject God’s grace and continue to die drinking the poison of bitterness. I could barely sing, and there were times that I couldn’t sing. Tears of joy and thankfulness mingled with tears of regret streamed down my face because of the GREAT patience that God has had with me, and also because I had rejected the gift of grace that God has ready to freely give!!! I’d turned my cup upside down and said “no thank you Lord… I don’t need that, I’ll handle this on my own.”

Since then I’m doing a lot better, but there are still scars, and there always will be. Now I can look at them though, and remember the goodness of the Lord!!! I still hurt sometimes, yes, but I’m no longer bitter. I realize that I MUST be vigilant, because just when I think I stand that’s when I’ll fall (I Corinthians 10:12-13).

So there’s my story of how God is teaching me to forgive. Remember that the enemy has nothing in his arsenal to combat forgiveness. Hope that in some way this is an encouragement to you!

Press On!
~Elizabeth

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