Monthly Archives: December 2012

Exploring Your “Calling”- Part 1

Happy last day of 2012, girls!  Wow….THAT went fast.  It’s unbelievable to me how much faster things move the older we get.  I remember my 7th grade teacher telling me that it’s because as you get older, 1 year becomes a much smaller fraction of your life.  When you’re 5, one year is just one-fifth of your life…but when you’re 30, it’s one-thirtieth.  Sorry about the late blog post today, little Khloe’s got an ear infection and this mama was up aaaaaalll night long.  Yay!

So many of the e-mails and messages from you all have had to do with “calling.”  I think that deep inside each one of us, we have this desire to do something for God, to have some sort of mission and purpose.  I’ll hear things like “I just wish God would tell me what He wants me to do” or “I just want to know what my purpose is.”  That’s good, and I would say it’s something that He’s written on each of our hearts.  The Bible talks about how we are all different parts of one body, so I guess each of us are screaming out, “am I an EAR?  A BIG TOE?  An EYELASH?  A HEART VALVE? WHAT!?”  And then something like this happens– we see one of the other body parts next to us go, “Ahhh.  Thank you Lord.  You made me a nostril.  I am a nostril.”  And we get kind of this weird jealousy about it, are you with me?  It’s a good jealousy, though, we just want whatever it is they figured out.  And then we start thinking, “well, maybe I’m a nostril, too.  I can smell just as good as she can.  Yeah, that’s it.  I am a nostril.  I am called to be a nostril!” when really you are a lung, but because you’re caught up in thinking you’re a nostril, God finds a different lung to use.

SO you might be asking, why doesn’t God just tell me what it is He wants me to do?  Well, I know for a fact that God is good and loves you like crazy (John 3:16), He’s not cruel and He’s not trying to keep you from fulfillment.  The exact opposite, actually…Christ said “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  The problem is not in Him, it’s in us.

We want the “ME” without the HIM.

Just tell ME what I have to do.  I want to know what it is that you have for ME.  What’s MY calling?  What’s MY purpose?  We should be asking- How can I know YOU?  Teach me to know what YOU’VE done.  What are YOU doing?  Now, these questions aren’t something that you just force yourself to ask God.  These come from a heart that realizes how destitute it is without Him.  How broken it is without Him.  How evil it is without Him.  They flow out of a heart that preaches the gospel to itself daily.  One that can’t wait to meditate on Him daily, hourly, minute-by-minute.  One that is saturated in the GRACE that He poured out on you when he let his own son be destroyed so that you could have a relationship with Him.  But no, we want to know more about US!

If you want to know your calling, here’s where we begin.  You’re not going to know who YOU are until you know who HE is.  You’re not going to know what YOU are supposed to do until you realize what HE has already done.  Now, we’re going to look at this in sections, because it’s a long topic, but for today I want to share this with you.  First thing that you’ve been called to is SALVATION.

Ephesians 1:4-8 says, “For he (God) chose us in him (Jesus) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will–to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”

If you’re reading this and don’t know if that’s you, let me just tell you that an unbeliever is dead in his transgressions, and death can’t choose life, it’s dead!  So if your heart is being stirred, I want you to know that the Holy Spirit is working in you–God is wooing you, calling you to life in Him.   If you’re a believer already and your heart is being stirred, maybe those embers that you’ve been quenching are starting to fan into a little flame action.  And if you’re a believer who’s on fire right now, well you’re just amen-ing your way through this anyway.  Just a little extra fuel for you.

So before the beginning of the world, God chose you in Christ Jesus.  He loved you so much that He sent His only Son.  All you have to do is believe in Him, and even then, that belief is a gift from God, it’s not something that you’ve mustered up.  It is by grace that you have been saved (Eph 2:5).  If you have any questions about salvation, or if you aren’t sure whether you’re saved or not, I’d love to talk with you about it.  Send me a little message through the “contact” link and we can chat.  Otherwise, remind yourself of this truth everyday.  Don’t let a day go by that you don’t remember where it is you’ve come from and what He’s done for you–you’re liable to get too busy and forget who you are.

‘Til tomorrow then!  Hopefully I will make it to 12 to pop my Martinelli’s.  (note:  I have nothing against a little glass of champagne.  However, this nursing mama’s got a sick baby on antibiotics who’s wanting to nurse all night long, and I’m neurotically cautious.  No biggie though, I really do love me some Martinelli’s!)  Looks like I may be on New York time tonight!  Happy New Year!!

*********A few of you have contacted me about doing a “read the Bible in a year plan.”  I think that is a GREAT idea, and I’m going to do it with you!  I have an awesome reading plan that is actually in the back of Casey’s Bible that he did this year and loved it!  If you are interested in the BEST New Year’s Resolution EVER, reading your Bible everyday, you can find the reading plan HERE! And let me know if you’re doing it with me!!*********

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Fearless Felix

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On October 14, “Fearless” Felix Baumgartner plunged 24 miles from the edge of space toward the earth, shattering records and breaking the sound barrier, all while achieving top speeds of 834 miles per hour.  Also on October 14, I did something very, very dumb.  I let myself watch it.

For the next few nights, and a few times since then (when I fail to take it captive….see 2 Chr 10:5), I gave myself the sweats thinking about it.  Here’s about how my thought process would go (brace yourself for my utter nerd-dom).  Suspended in air, with nothing holding me anywhere…in a teeny tiny metal capsule…over 126,000 feet above the ground.  I sit in my little pod, feet dangling over the edge.  My hot breath heavily fogging my helmet.  My heart pounding out of my chest.  My hands clammy and clamped tightly around anything I can get a hold of.  Homey in my ear telling me to go already.  Millions watching.  Feeling faint.  Here goes.  To infinity, and BEYOOOOOND!  I tip my body forward and let gravity begin to work.  My toes lift off of the edge.

NOPE I change my mind!  My body twists and my arms frantically clamor about and catch the edge of the capsule.  Dangling from 24 miles up, I long for the safety of the shiny pod.  Slipping, straining, pulling with all of my might, I try to get my body back up on the platform.

Just then, at the height of my terror, it hits me.  What am I doing?  What safety is this little egg going to give me?  Either I fall out of the pod, I fall in the pod, or I just sit up here and think about falling in or out of the pod.  And then my brain has had about all it can handle and I tell myself to get it  together and I will never be, or put myself in, a situation where I am skydiving 24 miles to the earth.  That’s settled.

Let me just ask you, are you clamoring for the safety of your little silver bubble, when God just wants you to let go and fall into Him?  We sing nice songs about surrender and tell Him that we want Him to be the center of our lives, but often times as soon as our toes lift off the edge we freak out and say “NOPE!”  We do a 180 and fight for the flimsy, temporary structure of self.  Our sin nature hates the sensation of a loss of control.  Thing is, we aren’t really in control in the first place, and when we think we are, we’re deceived.  Paul says in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Is your life Christ?  Stop here for a moment, and take inventory.  If we just take your life into some basic chunks, let’s hold them up to that question, and not just nominally.  Be honest with yourself so that you can work it all out with Him.  Is your daily life Christ?  Your family?  Your intellectual pursuits?  Your social life?  Your friendships?  Your environment?  Your job?  Your mothering?  Your physical health?  Your emotional health?  Your spiritual walk?  Is He the hub of it all for you that EVERY spoke generates from?  But here’s what’s so awesome…our God is SO gracious and SO merciful to us, that He doesn’t even care about where you’ve been lacking, his Son paid for it all, He just wants you to choose TODAY, NOW, to follow Him wholeheartedly.  There’s no trick or gimmick or equation you have to follow to be filled with Him.  Luke 11:13 says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  That’s it.  Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you (Matt 7:7).  It’s a promise!

Our walk requires leaps of faith.  The great news is that, unlike Felix, we can be certain that the dive will be a perfect success.  Jump off.

Don’t make me push you.

To infinity, and BEYOOOOOOOND!

Anorexia

Anorexia

When I was about 8 or 9, I remember laying in my bed at night and just feeling…..icky.  I wasn’t sick, and nothing was particularly wrong, but I just felt weird.  Kind of sad.  Off.  Depressed, maybe (can a 9 year-old be depressed?)  I remember coming out of my room crying and sitting at the dining room table with my mom.  The conversation went something like this:

“Mom, I don’t feel good.”

“What’s wrong, baby?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you sick?”

“No.”

“Did something happen?”

I’m crying and crying.  “No.  I just don’t feel good.  I don’t know why.  There’s nothing wrong.”

“Oh, sweetie you’re spiritually weak.  You need some nourishment.”

Now, let me preface this by saying that my mom is not your average mom.  She’s a believing maverick and has spiritual insight like no other mom I’ve ever met.  Back to the story, mom pulled me in and curled me up and started talking about how we have to have spiritual food or we starve ourselves, literally making ourselves spiritually weak.  I can’t remember all that happened next, but my guess is that she fixed me a mug of warm milk and sent me back to bed with a good psalm and a prayer.  Good ol’ Ma.

During his temptation, in Matthew 4:4 (and Luke 4:4, oddly), Jesus quotes Deuteronomy and says “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”  What does this mean?  This means that the physical is not all there is.  We also live by God’s word.  What happens to our bodies when we do not eat?  We starve.  We get sick.  We become weak and weary.  Our bodies zap ourselves of stored nutrients in order just to function.  If the Holy Spirit resides in you, and you aren’t feeding yourself spiritually, the same thing happens to you.  Spiritual anorexia.  Your growth is stunted.  You are left gaunt, debilitated, and ineffective.

If you are a believer, the Holy Spirit resides in you.  The Spirit in you is like a fire; the fire can be fanned into a flame (2 Tim 1:6), and it can also be extinguished, or “quenched” (1 Thess 5:19).    The Spirit takes residence in you to continually sanctify you, which means to set you apart as holy.  To move you further and further away from your sin nature.  To make you more and more like Christ.  To push you to increasing degrees of glory.  2 Chronicles 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is Spirit.”  It’s the Spirit who authored the Word, teaches you the Word, and gives you the ability to apply the Word to your life.  This application results in increasing degrees of sanctification.  When we quench the Spirit (the word is used to talk about pouring water over a fire), we retard the transformation process.  We stunt our sanctification, and the Holy Spirit actually GRIEVES (Eph 4:30)!  Perhaps it was a window into His grief that left me feeling so……well, grieved that night.

The Word is at the heart of it all.  Man lives by bread and…what?  The Word of God.  It gives us life.  It quickens our hearts to the Spirit’s leadings.  It fans the embers into blazing wildfires.

How do you quench the Spirit?  You fail to study the Word.  To take delight in it.  To see it as God’s beautiful gift to you, His very words spoken to you.  The most jaw-dropping, amazing, awe-inducing life changes wait at the tip of His tongue.  His words are ALIVE and the Spirit quickens them to you.  He teaches them to you.  Shows you how they apply to you.  But most importantly, they show Christ.  They show His character.  His face.  His love and amazing grace and sacrifice for us.  The answer to everything.  For every question you have, He’s given you the answer….I AM.  “What is my purpose?” I am.  “Where should I go?” I am.  “What do I do about my kid?” I am.  The all-surpassing powerful God who called you up from the dead and poured grace over you and gave you life.  He wants you.  He wants you to want Him.

We want all of the answers without searching for them.  God isn’t a spiritual Google, a search engine.  He’s relational.  He designed us for intimacy.  I hear all the time, “I just wish He would tell me what to do.”  Or, “I just want to know His will.”  The answer is in scripture.  And, the answers that aren’t in black or red letters in the Bible are given to you by the Holy Spirit whose flame is fanned by you studying the Word.  Do you spend enough time there?  Any time at all?  Or, do you read it once in a while just to solve your own problems, or someone else’s problem, without studying it and delighting in it just to catch a glimpse of the glory of Christ?  He’s there in the whole thing, woven through the testaments and covenants and promises and prophecies with a deep scarlet thread.  The One and Only GOD who lowered himself to become a man and carry our junk and rebellion and died for it all, to bridge the gap between us.  How He loves us so.  We can quench the Spirit by carving out idols and choosing to worship our families or our kids or our jobs or ourSELVES instead of the One who created all of that.  Isn’t that a scary thought.  By quitting church and fellowship with other believers (Heb 10:24-25).  We can quench Him by wallowing in worry and anxiety, which is fear rooted in unbelief, instead of trusting and delighting in Him.  Of being more concerned about the spiritual life of our spouse than our own.  Of not giving Him a second thought until the going gets tough and we pull out some one-liner verse and read it a couple of times or post it on Facebook.  Maybe pin a picture of it on Pinterest.  Probably while saying to ourselves, “oh this is a really good one for so-and-so.  They really need to read this one.”  Really!?  The Bible says to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Phil 2:3).  Let’s stop worrying about what “they” need to read and worry about our standing.  Work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.  Think about the fact that we did absolutely NOTHING to deserve Him, and that our righteousness is filthy rags.  And AAAAAAALL of this, I say with my best southern accent as I sing ala Bobby Pinson… “Don’t Ask Me How I Knoooooooow.”

Are you feeling a little parched, love bug?  Are you feeling some hunger pangs?  Or is that pit in your stomach the echoing of gastric juices just waiting to consume a nourishing home-cooked meal?  We like the healthy stuff around here.  Good doctrine.  Too much junk will give you a tummy ache.  Okay, perhaps I’ve gone too far now.  Grab your Bible and a cup of something warm, curl up, and delight in your Father.  Give strength to your bones.  Here’s your Psalm.

Psalm 42

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember as I pour out my soul:  how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.

Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon–from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.

By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me–a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me?  Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”

My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Lord, thank you so much for your Word.  What an awesome wonder it is that you chose me, and that you’ve revealed yourself to me in scripture.  Thank you for the blessing of knowing you.  I want to know you more quickly.  Create in my heart a desire for your word.  Fan the embers of the Holy Spirit in me into a consuming fire.  I love you, Father.  Thank you.  In the name of your Son, Jesus!  Amen.

XO

Amy

Out-of-Context Wednesday

Hope you all had an AWESOME Christmas and enjoyed celebrating with your families!

Every Wednesday at Love Abounding, we’ll be doing a little something I like to call “Out-of-context Wednesday.”  So often, verses are taken piecemeal out of the Bible, out of their original context.  When this happens, it is waaaaaay to easy for them to lose their original meaning and intended purpose.  To illustrate this, I present to you our first Out-of-Context Wednesday post.

Enjoy.

40 Weeks and Neon Stripes

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“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”  Galatians 1:1

Mary Christmas

Happy Christmas Eve!  As we move into our last day of preparation before we celebrate the birth of our King, I’d like for us to take a moment and reflect on another mommy’s Christmas preparations.  If you can, grab your Bible and turn to Luke 1:26-56.  I’ve also printed it below for you.  Before you begin, ask God to let His words pierce your heart as we look at His daughter, Mary.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

And Mary said,

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.

And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;

he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;

he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,

as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

    Luke 1:24-56

What a powerful, beautiful passage.  It starts with an angel coming to Mary, and how does she respond first?  She was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.  Isn’t it mind-blowing that her first reaction to the visit of the angel was discernment.  Too often, especially as women, we use emotion to lead us.  Emotions are a dynamic driving force which have the great potential to carry us about by “every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14).  Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), so we’d be the wiser to seek God before assuming everything we feel is from Him.  We are always hearing, and saying, perhaps too often, “I feel like God…” or “I have this feeling God…” or “God told me…”, which may be the case.  But, sometimes we put words in God’s mouth without inquiring of Him first.  Mary saw the angel, and before anything else, tried to figure out what this thing was and what was being said to her.  The angel responds with reassurance.

Mary’s story is a gorgeous example of humility.  Her message was not one of exalting herself; quite the opposite, actually.  She used discernment, asked how this could possibly happen, and submitted herself to the will of her God.  Excitedly, she quickly made her way to Elizabeth’s house, who was filled with the Holy Spirit upon Mary’s arrival and confirmed what the angel had told her.  And all Mary could do was gush praises to her Father.  Mary knew her scripture.  She knew that this child was the One promised to Abraham (v. 55).  She was overwhelmed with God’s favor and blessing.  Her words spoken in response to Elizabeth are called The Magnificat, latin for the soul magnifies.  All she wanted at that point was to make much of Him.  To magnify Him.  To rejoice in Him and praise Him.  The depth of her very being was exalting God.  Mary hadn’t done anything to deserve the blessing.  She knew that everyone, for the rest of history, would say “now that Mary, she was blessed more than any other woman.”  She was favored.  She was floored that God had chosen her in her “humble estate.”

You are favored.  You haven’t done anything to deserve the blessing.  Your God has chosen you in your “humble estate.”  As a believer, you are filled with Him.  The Holy Spirit resides in you.  Let it seep in to the depth of your soul, and magnify His Name today.

Bless you, Father, for the gift of your Son.  What a precious, precious day.  Help us to make much of You today.  We magnify your Name.

Exposed Hearts

Our worlds have all changed in the last 7 days.  Now, when I go to drop off and pick up Kiara from preschool, I have to ring a bell and get buzzed in.  I love it.

One week ago, our nation was rocked by the news of the massacre at Sandy Hook.  To be honest, that first day, I saw the headlines and decided not to read any more.  It was just too much to take in.  What happened was beyond description.  A heart-wrenching tragedy.  Afterwards, however, I found myself thinking a lot about the way we respond to news like this.  Children die and are killed all over the world, all the time.  As of October, nearly 2,000 Syrian children had been killed in uprisings there alone.  Why is it, then, that the collective consciousness of our world, and our nation in particular, was so deeply moved by this incident in particular?  Gun control?  Mental health?  Good vs. evil?  Video games?  Maybe.

I think, though, that the more comprehensive answer is FEAR.  Think about the Facebook posts you see at the beginning of each school year about moms crying and stressing and dreading taking their babies to school.  We do it because we know it’s good for them, but as the saying goes, “having a child is like having your heart walking around outside of your body.”  Parenting is a balance of intense love and intense worry about lack of control, which is rooted in fear.

When those precious babies went to glory last week, our hearts resonated with the parents who lost them like a perfect pitch to a tuning fork.  It’s one of the hardest things a mommy has to do– entrusting the care of her child, who no one loves more, to another.  It’s against our nature.  It’s why Solomon knew who the baby’s real mother was (1 Kings 3:16-28).  Every mom’s worst nightmare is that something would happen to her child.  And we have to put our trust in a crumbling system in a fallen world and pray for the best (all of you homeschooling moms right now are saying…..NOT US! Haha.)

The good news is, as believers, we have nothing to fear.  We can move forward boldly in what God has designed for our children, knowing full well that He works out everything for our, and their, good (Rom 8:28).  Placing Him at the center of our lives and releasing our fear over our children can be a difficult thing to do.  As believing parents, our prayers have to transform from “please, don’t let anything bad ever happen to my baby” to “please work in my child’s life in the way that brings you the most glory and my child the most good.”  That transformation comes from faith, and faith is not something we have to muster up ourselves.  Faith is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9) that comes from hearing the Word of Christ(Romans 10:17).  Lose yourself in Him, dear mommies, and sleep peacefully tonight knowing that we serve a very, very good God.