Encouragement for Today

Yesterday I was feeling very down.  I was hurting from something that had happened on Tuesday night, and so I had slept horribly and woke feeling out of sorts, tired and discouraged.  However, by the time I had finished my morning devotions, I was refreshed and recharged.  I was still tired.  I was still hurting.  But I had joy in the Lord.  Three things helped me: 1) Reading Psalm 5, 2) Praying, and 3) Reading a chapter in A Path Through Suffering by Elisabeth Elliot.  Each of these things helped me.  Today, I’m going to talk about the first of these three things because it is where I found encouragement the most yesterday.

Psalm 5 begins:

Give ear to my words, O LORD,
Consider my groaning.
Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God,
For to You I pray.
In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice;
In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch. (vs. 1-3, NASB)

That so closely expressed what I was feeling right at the moment I read it.  It helped that it was morning, and I was crying out right alongside the Psalmist.  I was begging Him to hear me, and I was eagerly watching to see/hear His response.  It touched my deepest soul to realize I wasn’t the first one to feel that way or cry out those words.

For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness;
No evil dwells with You.
The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes;
You hate all who do iniquity.
You destroy those who speak falsehood;
The LORD abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit. (vs. 4-6, NASB)

These verses helped me to remember that I needed to be careful to keep away from wickedness – even subtle wickedness, such as hard feelings and resentment.  It says that no evil dwells in God.  He is as far from evil as one can get.  He hates wickedness, sin, and dishonesty, so I had to be careful to make sure that I was (and am) staying away from it, too.

But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house,
At Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You.
O LORD, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes;
Make Your way straight before me.
There is nothing reliable in what they say;
Their inward part is destruction itself
Their throat is an open grave;
They flatter with their tongue. (vs 7-9, NASB)

I asked God to keep my righteous, to keep me from making any move that would be wrong in His sight.  I asked Him to lead me in His ways, and to help me to not to take to heart any untruths that may have been expressed to me.  I asked Him to give me wisdom in what I said, and wisdom to respond appropriately.

Hold them guilty, O God;
By their own devices let them fall!
In the multitude of their transgressions thrust them out,
For they are rebellious against You.
But let all who take refuge in You be glad,
Let them ever sing for joy;
And may You shelter them,
That those who love Your name may exult in You.
For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD,
You surround him with favor as with a shield. (vs. 10-12, NASB)

These verses helped me the most.  God reminded me that I don’t have to do anything.  It’s not my job to take anyone “down a peg or two” or even to necessary defend myself!!  God does that, and He does not need me to do it for Him.  In fact, He is the only one who could truly do that.  When I try to take things into my own hands, I usually tend only to hurt myself, so it’s better if I let Him handle it anyway.  These verses reminded me that God is my shelter.  He protects me.  He will surround me with His favor like a shield, if I remain righteous in His sight.  These verses encouraged me to do what is right and good – even in the midst of the seemingly bad things going on around me.

These twelve short verses reminded me that God is in control.  I don’t have to be because He is handling it.  He is working on my behalf, holding me in His hands, and working out His plan for me.  All I really have to do is rest in Him, remain in His Word, do what is right, and endure patiently while He works.  What a relief!!  He is my defender, my comforter, my protector, and my friend!

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gifts!

Until Next Time!

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Light & Darkness

Good Morning Friends,

It’s interesting to me how, when we stop trying to hold the reins, God works in our lives.  Recently, God has been doing a lot in my life, and He’s been showing me some areas where I needed to work.  These are areas that I thought I had already done the work that needed to be done.  There is one key thing wrong with this last statement – that is, I thought that I had done the work that needed to be done.  If I was doing the work – where was God?  The truth is, if I am trying to the do the work by myself, then that means at some point I pushed God away.

I’ve mentioned in earlier postings that I like to be in control.  I don’t like to have people tell me what to do, and I don’t like to think that there is anything that I cannot do.  However, that need to be in control is the very thing that can keep me from growing because when I am in control, 1) make a mess of things and 2) I don’t see the areas that I need to change.

Matthew 6:22-23 says, “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”  The problem is, when I am in control, I don’t let God’s light shine into my life.  Those dark corners stay dark.  In fact, if left unchecked by Christ, that darkness grows until it consumes my whole life.

By contrast, when I let God have control, those areas of darkness are lit up, and then I can see where work needs to be done.  I can see where change needs to take place.  John 8:12 says, “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”” By relinquishing my “right” to change myself, I allow God to work in me.  I allow His light to permeate my life, and I get to have a greater impact for His glory.  This is not something I can do by myself.  Only God can truly change a life.  I can’t force myself to feel differently than I feel.  But God can work on those feelings, and if I let Him, He can change my feelings.  He can fill my heart and my life with change.

So, how do I do that?  How do I let God have control and not yank it back?  It comes down to trust.  Do I trust God enough to say, “You know better than I do what I need.  Give it to me, even if I kick or stomp my feet and throw a tantrum.”  It is realizing that God has my best interests at heart and is infinitely able to do the miraculous in a persons life.  How do I learn to trust God?  I spend time in His Word.  I pray to Him.  I cultivate a relationship with Him.  How do you learn to trust someone if you never spend time getting to know them?  It’s the same with God – you can’t truly trust Him until you know Him.  I can accept His gift of salvation, and never grow.  Or I can accept His gift and get to know Him, and grow more than I ever thought possible.

So, as I stated at the beginning of this entry, God has shown me some areas that need work.  I can choose to grab the reins and try to make those changes by myself.  Or I can do the harder thing and let God have the reins and change my heart.  The question becomes, do I want to live in the light or do I want to live in the darkness?

What about you?  Are you, like me, going through areas of change, realizing that there was more work to be done that perhaps you thought had already been done?  Or perhaps you have never taken the first step of knowing God, which is to recognize that you are a sinner, and accept God’s gift (that’s right – it’s FREE) of salvation.  Are you ready to do that today?

Lord, I pray that you will bless those who read this and use it for your glory.  May we all learn to trust and know you more.

In Jesus’ Name ~ Amen

I hope you have a wonderful Monday.

God Bless!

More Thoughts on Love

Good Morning Friends,

God has been talking to me about what love is.  Yesterday, I wrote about what some different definitions of love are, and how God showed us the ultimate love when His Son died for our sins.  Today, I want to focus in on one definition that I think sums up love very well.

As I mentioned, one of my former pastors had a definition for love that struck a chord with me.  Pastor Randy told us that love is “doing what is best for the other person.”  This means, that even if I believe something else is better for me, or even if I think what I want is more important, doing what is best for the other person is to be my foremost thought.  In other words, I am to die to myself.

So, what does this mean?  Does this mean that I give and give and give and get nothing in return?  I don’t think so.  It has been said that the more you love, the more love you have to give away.  I believe when this phrase is used, most people think in terms of human love.  If you love others, others will love you.  But that’s not always the case, and in fact, I have a different hypothesis about that statement.  I believe that the more I love, the more grace and the more love God gives me to have the strength to love more, even when I feel like I can’t love anymore.

We are commanded to love others.  This isn’t a command that was given in the New Testament.  It was given in the Old Testament first.  Deuteronomy 6:5 says “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”  This is reiterated in Matthew 22:37: “And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'”

We are called to love our Neighbor as well.  Matthew 22:39 says, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”  This again is a quote taken from Leviticus 19:18.  And finally, we are called to love our enemies.  Proverbs 25:21-22 says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  For you will heap burning coals upon his head, and the Lord will reward you.”  Matthew 5:44-45 says, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

So, as you can see, we are called to love.  God would not give us a command that He could not and would not help us to fulfill.  Will you join me today in striving to love all those whom God has made (which means everyone)?  We are going to fail at times, but God knows that.  He asks that we do our best to follow all of His commands.  His grace is sufficient for you and for me.

God Bless!!

Grace and Life

Today I am going to share an excerpt out of my journal because I realized a few things today, that hadn’t sunk in before.  I don’t usually share my journal with others, but in this case, I think it’s ok. 🙂

I can see God working in me.  I am still “becoming,” and I always will be, but I am seeing little changes here and there.  Elisabeth Elliot writes of her friend Terri’s walk and one line struck me (well actually, several did).  She writes, “She [Terri] could not do it [die to her self-life] by herself, but she could will to do it, and she could pray,” and “Grace enables us to do what we can’t do (A Path Through Suffering, pg 30).”  I had read these lines before and had even underlined the second I quoted, but it only sank in this morning.  I can’t do it on my own, but with God’s grace (and help) I can.  I often try to do it all by myself (pride) because I don’t want to let go of my “self-life.”  But I need to put my pride aside and I need to ask for help.  I can’t let my pride get in the way of my relationship with God.  I need to set it aside and accept God’s grace to get me through the difficult times.

See, I thought grace was a one-time gift that I received at salvation, but the reality is, grace is an on-going gift – one that God wants to give me every day, if I will let Him.  Even though I accepted His grace at salvation, when I let my pride get in the way of God’s gift of grace, it’s like I am saying that His grace is not sufficient for me.  I have been so wrong at times, and I had no idea that I was doing that until this very morning.  There is something to be said for the timing of God because when I read this almost a year ago, I did not get it.  But since then, God has obviously been working in me, because I see it now.

Now, it’s not that I never let God help me, or that I never accept His grace.  It’s that I often let my pride get in the way of my relationship with God and my relationships with others.  I get caught up in the details and forget to let God work.  It all goes back to the control issue.  I want to be in control, and the reality is, I don’t have control, God does.  God knows what is going to happen and He has a “big picture plan” in mind, and my agenda does not change His plan.  I have God’s grace at my disposal every day – now it’s time to take advantage of that.

I am so thankful that God never gives up on His children.  I have an everlasting hope because God saved me.  There is nothing that can happen to me that He cannot use for good and for His glory.

~Gabby

Relaxing Day

I have found that I have a tendency to go, go, go all the time, without stopping to take time to relax and recharge.  Take last month for an example.  I cannot think of a single weekend that I did not have something planned from the first weekend in September through the first weekend in October.  So, not only did I work all week long, but I didn’t take time to rest on the weekend either.  Is it any wonder that I ended up sick and it took me so long to get over it?

Now, don’t get me wrong – there was nothing that I took part in that was bad.  There are a lot of good activities that I took part in.  For instance, one of those weekends was spent at the Answers in Genesis conference – it was a full weekend, which started on Friday night and ended on Sunday night.  It was totally worth going to, and I don’t really regret going.  Another weekend, my girls had an over-night party at the church.  Not that I didn’t get to have some alone time, but it wasn’t really a relaxing time – I pretty much ran around trying to get stuff done that I normally wouldn’t be able to.  Another weekend was a brunch for single parents, which was held at our church.  And then last week was my birthday, so of course there was a party!  So, as you can see, my weekends were pretty busy.  I don’t get time during the week to relax because I, of course work every day.  So, that leaves Sundays, which are spent at church pretty close to the entire day (there are a couple of hours in between the service and our afternoon drama/choir practices).

All this is to show that we get caught up in DOING.  So, where in all of this is there a time for rest?  Isn’t rest important, too?  Obviously, the answer to this question is yes.  In fact, God commanded His people to rest.  He said, “You shall work six days, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during plowing time and harvest you shall rest” (Exodus 34:21, NASB).  In fact, God set the example of that at the creation of the world.  Genesis 2:2-3 says, “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (NASB).  Looks to me as if God thought rest was pretty important.  So, why do we spend all our time doing, instead of taking the time to rest?

When we do not take the time to stop and rest, we set ourselves up to fail.  Rest is the way our body recharges itself, the way it regains its energy.  If we do not take the time to rest, we keep ourselves from reaching our full potential.  When we do not get enough rest, our bodies and our brains do not work properly, causing us to make mistakes, get sick, and if deprived long enough, we could even die.  Now, my guess is that most of us would not allow ourselves to go until the point of death, but I do know many of us tend to push ourselves to the point of exhaustion.  This doesn’t do any of us any good.

Now, you may ask, why I would even take the time to write about this.  Well, I got to thinking about it because today, I got a chance to relax.  I slept in for the first time in a very long time.  Normally, I am up no later than 8 am on the weekends (I’m up at 5 am during the week).  But today, I slept in past that time.  I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.  I got a chance to really spend time in God’s Word, without feeling like I was ready to fall back to sleep at any moment, and I could tell that I was REALLY in His Word, and not just going through the motions.  I got to type up my notes for the Bible Study I’m trying to write.  I got to play a few games on my computer.  I went to the library and checked out more books.  The most non-relaxing thing I did today, was to do our laundry – and that really didn’t take a lot of effort.

Today, I feel like I really LIVED.  I didn’t feel rushed or stressed.  I got to enjoy today, all because I took the time to rest.  If only I would do this more often.  I might find myself growing in so many ways.

So, what do you think?  What do you do to relax and recharge?  Do you do it often enough?  How could taking the time to rest and relax help you to grow?

~Gabby

Single Parenting

Being a parent is hard.  Whether there are two parents in the picture or only one, being a parent is probably the most difficult job anyone could be asked to do.  You are responsible for molding a child into a thriving, strong, stable person.  That’s a lot of pressure to put on two parents.  It’s even more pressure to put on one parent trying to do this on their own.  Being a single parent has a lot of difficulties, but there are some things that are more difficult than others.

I’ve been a single mom twice now – once when my children were little and I am again, now that they are in their pre-teen/early teen years.  One of the hardest things I have had to deal with is that I am in this by myself.  I don’t have someone to back me up when I make a decision.  I have to make these decisions all by myself, and if I mess up, I have to get myself out of the problem.  Being a single parent can be pretty lonely because there is no partner to lean on when I’m not feeling up to par.  I feel like I have to be strong all the time because there isn’t anyone else to be strong when I feel weak.

Another difficulty is the issue of income.  I make a pretty good salary considering the economy, but things just keep getting more and more expensive, and I have to somehow be the one to pay for them all.  It means that often I do without so my children don’t have to.  I feel badly because there are so many programs that they want to be a part of that I can’t afford.  My children never really complain about it, but the pressure is there when I see other children excelling in areas that I know my children would be great at too, if only I could afford it.

A third area of difficulty that I have found in being a single parent is that I have a tendency to be over-protective.  It’s easy to do because chances are, if someone is a single parent, he or she has been hurt by someone or some event.  The impulse is to try to keep the children from having to go through anything painful, and therefore hopefully they won’t get into a similar situation or have any problems in life.  As silly as that sounds, the reality is, that I often feel like that.  Even though I know in my head that it’s silly and actually will hurt them more to be overprotective, my heart tells me to keep them close so they won’t get hurt.  I constantly have to battle the urge to keep them from situations that have the potential to cause them pain (for instance if they fail at something they want to try).

Again, being a parent is hard, even with two parents in the picture.  But being a single parent has its own set of difficulties that need to be overcome.  What a single parent needs to keep in mind is that the ultimate goal is to raise well-adjusted, productive children.   If we allow these difficulties to get in the way of that, then we risk pushing our children into the very situations we are trying to avoid.

Conversation With God

I had a conversation with God this morning.  It’s not the first one I’ve had…it’s just one of many.  But I felt compelled to share it this morning.

By definition, I am a hypocrite.  A hypocrite is defined by the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary as follows:1 : a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion; 2 : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings”.  In point of fact, despite those who would argue otherwise, anyone who calls themselves a Christian is, in point of fact, a hypocrite.  Before you get upset, let me explain my meaning.  Even if we are not a hypocrite in the sense of the first definition – which I would hope most of us are not – we all are in the 2nd.  I do not know one single Christian who does not act in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.  And we are in good company.  Even the Apostle Paul said that he had problems in this area.  In Romans 7:18-19, Paul says,18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.”(NASB) (You may want to read the whole chapter in context, as well, because there is a lot more about this subject.) And look at Peter, who denied Christ 3 times, after stating he would DIE with Christ rather than deny him (Matthew 26:33, Matthew 26:69-75, John 18:17-27, Luke 22:31-62), yet deny him he did, along with all Christ’s other apostles.  So, I again submit, we are all hypocrites in some respect.

Now, I do have a reason for making this statement upfront.  It’s not to make anyone feel guilty or even that they are unworthy (though all of us are).  I started this blog by stating that I had a conversation with God this morning, and I felt compelled to share it.  See, I was struggling with a wrong I had committed – and struggling with the fact that I, too am a hypocrite – though I wasn’t really thinking in the terms of a hypocrite, rather just in the terms of being in the wrong.  And I asked God to forgive me and to help me.  And then I asked him how He could love someone like me.  I mean, I am a filthy, dirty, horrible human being.  Yes, I do good things sometimes, but I do wrong way more often.

And His response to me (and yes, I do believe He responded) was that He loved me because he created me.  So I went on to describe my “horribleness” and how much I fail.  And I said again, “HOW can you love ME???”  And He said, “I created you.  You are beautiful to me.  I sent MY SON to die for you because you were so beautiful to me, and I want you with me always.”  Imagine how humbling it is to realize that the God of the universe loves ME and thinks I am beautiful.  Me – the horrible, dirty, filthy hypocrite that I am.  God thinks I’m beautiful – and He loves me.

He told me that my sins have been forgiven by the blood of His Son…who died for me.  For my sins.  For my wrongs….and so now not only am I beautiful, but I am clean.  Yes, I should feel ashamed when I do wrong and I do need to repent when I do wrong and I do need to ask Him to forgive me when I do wrong – but I don’t need to LIVE in shame.  I don’t need to hate myself or beat myself up over it.  When I accepted Christ as my Savior, I gained not only a Savior, but an advocate who argues on my behalf – Jesus.  This knowledge is amazing and humbling and heartbreaking all at the same time.

Amazing – that God would even think about me – let alone love me.  Humbling – because I know I am undeserving.  Heartbreaking – because my Savior had to die, so that I could live.

And guess what!  God thinks you’re beautiful too.  He created You.  He loves you.  He wants you to be with Him.  He doesn’t want you to have to go through whatever it is you are going through alone.  He gave His Son freely – you don’t have to do some great thing to earn His love and Salvation – you just have to accept His free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9).  He’s not looking for you to be perfect – He knows that’s not going to happen.  He just wants you to come to Him – just as you are.  He can make you whole again.

So, that’s the conversation that I felt compelled to write about this morning.  I hope that it brings a measure of comfort to others and a measure of hope to others.

In Christ,

~~Gabby

Thoughts

So, it’s been a few weeks since I last posted here.  Life has been busy – but then again, when isn’t it these days?  With 1 teenager and another pre-teen, life is a list of appointments and social get-togethers…or so it seems.  I have been spending a lot of time reflecting on my life and on how I want to move forward and grow. Part of this has been because of the study we are doing in our Bible Fellowship class.  We are doing a study called “Do You Think I’m Beautiful?” by Angela Thomas.  There is a lot of introspection involved, as well as a lot of looking back to the past and getting into sometimes very painful memories.  And partly this time of reflection has just been because I was already doing that.

One of the things that I came to realize, is that I do not know who I am anymore.  I never noticed that so much of what I liked or wanted or did was based upon what someone else expected of me or wanted from me.  Not that this is all bad because we are told to submit to one another (Eph. 5:21).  But I don’t believe that submission means that we lose ourselves in the process.  God never told us not to think for ourselves and to know for ourselves – in fact quite the opposite.  So a lot of my reflection lately has centered on who I am and what I am hoping to get out of life – but mostly, what I have to give this life.

I have found that I have never been more joyful than when I was giving willingly of myself – whether it be money, possessions or time.  Yet, in recent years, I have found myself fearful of giving willingly.  Yes – I know I know….God promises to take care of us….and I do believe that.  It’s not the belief I have a problem with – it’s the putting into action.  I never used to have a problem with this, and I have seen improvement in the past year.  But I have a long way to go to get where I want to be.  So, that is one thing I know I want from life (or to give life) – I want to become a more generous giver.  I don’t know what that’s going to look like yet, but I am excited to see the possibilities – in fact, I have a few that I am working on: ESL Classes – I may be helping with these soon (already asked for more info), ReNew – my Bible Fellowship class (already made the first step to ask for a meeting to talk about it), and perhaps Choir – this one is iffy – I love choir but not sure whether I’m meant to do this right now or not….but the option is open. 🙂

But other than the above, I’m not sure where exactly God is leading me.  And I do know He is leading me…I have spent more time in the past 3 months (specifically) trying to pay more attention to what God wants from me, than I have in the entire time since I accepted Christ as my personal Savior at the age of 8.  Of course, some of this stems from the goals that I had at the beginning of the year – some of which I have been doing well with, and others that I haven’t been doing so well with.  But the three goals that I have that I have worked hard to ensure that followed through on are: 1) Read through the entire Bible this year and 2) Get involved in my church – specifically the Single Mom’s ministry (ReNew) and last but definitely not least 3) Work on a closer walk with God.  So far, I have managed to stay on track with my Bible reading – with only once or twice having to catch up the next day.  As I already stated, I am looking into several ideas for getting involved in church.  And as I also stated, I have really been reflecting on what God wants for me.

It would seem like I should have this down pat.  I mean in high school, Christianity seems so EASY…it wasn’t hard to maintain my integrity and keep myself pure and my language clean.  Something happened when I went out into the “real world” though.  I got distracted – I moved away.  My faith wasn’t personal.  It was ritual.  Yes, I did accept Christ as my Lord and Savior at 8 years old – I have rarely doubted my salvation – and never felt like I had “lost” my salvation.  But, like I said, my faith was not personal.  I had my parents who made me go to church, take part in youth group, and all that.  And I lived in a small town, so if I had messed up – EVERYONE would know lol – so there was incentive to not screw up.

When I left home, that incentive disappeared.  I was far away from anyone and everyone I knew – so I didn’t figure it would matter what I did.  Boy – I didn’t know how wrong I was.  Oh – did I forget to mention I was 17 and though I knew everything?? LOL  Typical!!  I let so many things distract and pull me away from God…and yet through all of that, I knew He was with me.  I knew I wasn’t hiding from Him.  Somehow I think I convinced myself that nobody – even God – could possibly love someone like me.  The sad part was – I knew I was wrong – but I didn’t want to admit it.  I regret many things that I did and many choices I made.  But I don’t regret what I learned.

1) I learned that no matter how unlovable I am – God loves me – just as I am.  He is saddened when I do wrong, but He doesn’t stop loving me because of it.  He is the ULTIMATE parent.  Just like I don’t stop loving my children when they disobey me or misbehave, God doesn’t stop loving me  just because I mess up.  He is saddened, and sometimes He has to discipline me, but everything He allows me to go through, He allows because of His deep love for me. (Hebrews 12:4-11)

2) God is forgiving.  Ok – that seems like that should be a given – but I think many of us have a problem with believing this.  Yes, we KNOW it, but we don’t BELIEVE it.   Knowing is head-knowledge.  Believing is heart-knowledge.  No matter how awful the things are that I have done, God forgives me – He forgave me.  In fact, the forgiveness is already done!!  God provided for that when He sent His Son to die on the cross for my sins.  Yes, I need to confess when I’ve done wrong, but that’s not for HIS sake, it is for MINE.  See, without confession, how can I truly repent?  Without confession, I am lying to myself – telling myself it doesn’t matter because He has already forgiven me.  But that doesn’t bring about real change – that brings the guilt of knowing I am hiding something (which isn’t really hidden from Him anyway!!).  (1 John 1:8-10)

3) God has a plan for me.  And it’s a good plan.  It’s a plan that is for my good and to bring about His glory.  (Jeremiah 29:11)  In order to know that plan, I need to spend time in His Word and praying to Him and asking Him to make it clear to me.

And the good news is – that these don’t just apply to me – they apply to everyone.  What other belief system offers salvation as a free gift?  And yes, it IS free – God doesn’t expect you to change to accept His gift.  The gift of Salvation is free (Ephesians 2:8-9).  You don’t have to meet a minimum standard.  I don’t know about anyone else – but that’s a relief to me.  God’s gift is free to all – and He wants all to accept Him (2 Peter 3:9).

I would be remiss in writing this if I didn’t include how to accept Christ here, so here goes:

1) Realize you are a sinner and deserving of death (Romans 3:23 & Romans 6:23)

2) Christ died for your sins (in your place) (Romans 5:8)

3) Admit that you are a sinner and confess that Christ is Lord (Romans 10:9 and Romans 10:13)

4) Salvation brings eternal life – nothing can separate us from God once we have accepted Him as Lord and Savior (Romans 5:1, Romans 8:1, Romans 8:38-39)

There is no “special prayer” you have to pray to ask Christ to be your Savior – all you have to do is confess you are a sinner and ask God to make you clean and to become the Lord of your life.

If you are interested in more about Salvation the following web address has a more detailed version of what I just wrote: http://www.idlewild.org/plan-of-salvation.html.

Until Next Time

~~Gabby

Do You Think I’m Beautiful?

This morning in our Bible Fellowship Class, we started a new study, which is going to be Do You Think I’m Beautiful? by Angela Thomas.  We watched a portion of the video for the first chapter of the book, and she started out by describing how she looked in Middle School.  Now, her description made her sound like the ultimate geek, but she included a couple of pictures in her study guide, and I really didn’t think they were that bad.  But they always say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder right?  And even if I didn’t agree that her pictures were that bad, I can still relate to what she was saying.  See, I thought the same thing.  I ALWAYS thought I looked horrible.  I had these huge glasses that took up half my face (just like she described) and my hair was unruly and unmanageable.  But looking at my old pictures, I don’t really see what the big deal was.  I wasn’t as dorky looking as I remember.  I’ve included a few pictures of me here, so you can get an idea of what I looked like – They are extracted from camp photos, since that’s really all I have to work with at the moment lol.

See, I wasn’t that bad…but I thought I was.  I hated my hair.  I hated my glasses.  I hated myself to be quite honest.  (But as you can see, I was pretty good at covering it up with a smile.)

So then, the next thing that Angela was talking about was how she was invisible, and she didn’t want to be.  I wasn’t completely invisible.  Some people noticed me, especially the teachers.  I was the one who always had the answers.  I was teacher’s pet.  I don’t say that because of any arrogance or anything, but I was smart.  Maybe not so much in high school, but in middle school, I was pretty darn smart, and I was well-behaved (that was through middle AND high school), and I did my work and tried to get it in on time.  I liked making my teacher’s happy because they always told me how proud they were of me.  I had a favorite teacher, though.  His name was Mr. Tei.  He has always been my favorite because even when I felt the most invisible, he never made me feel that way.  Was he the EASIEST teacher – no.  In fact, I distinctly remember him telling me once that if I didn’t stop whatever it was I was doing at the time, he was going to spank me.  That was when it was still “allowed.”  LOL.  But he didn’t do it in front of others, and he spoke to me privately.  He never belittled or made me (or anyone in my opinion) feel small for not knowing something.  I just loved Mr. Tei for how special he made me feel.

Angela went on about how middle school and high school shape our lives, and as a time that clenches in our hearts how we feel about ourselves.  If we women don’t feel beautiful by the time we leave high school, chances are, we take that with us through college and every other facet of our lives.  It colors our perceptions and drives our actions and reactions.

I started out 9th grade not wanting to be invisible.  I wanted people to notice me.  I thought I was pretty great – well – sort of.  See my “pain” had already started.  I grew up being told that I wasn’t as good as the other kids – not by other adults, but by the kids themselves.  I went to a Christian school from 4th through 8th grade, and I originally liked it, but you know how kids can be.  They aren’t very nice – especially in grades 6 – 8 (and I still see it’s the same way with my girls – one is in 6th, the other in 7th).  So, these girls would tell me that I wasn’t as good as they were because I wasn’t a preacher’s kid.  And while I knew better, I bought into that hook, line, and sinker.  It wasn’t long before I withdrew from everyone and lived vicariously through my books.  Oh how I loved books.  I still do.  They are the one thing that can’t lash out at you and make you feel bad.  They don’t talk back and you can imagine that you’re one of the characters and dream about what it would be like to live in that world.

People thought I was strange – I rode the bus, and I would read, and these kids would pick on me.  I was made fun of because I went to the Christian school.  I didn’t think much of it though because I loved learning about God, and I loved the classes, I just didn’t care much for how I was treated by the kids.  I don’t recall having very many really close friends there.

So, in 9th grade, I convinced my parents to let me go to the public school.  I started out not wanting to be invisible, as I mentioned, but I initially thought of MYSELF as better than them. Maybe it wasn’t conscious at first, but eventually I became aware of it.  Because I was a Christian, I thought I was better than everyone – while at the same time not thinking I was worth much.  Which is a study in contrasts if anything ever was.  I don’t know how that works, but somehow it was true.  It took almost a year for me to realize how stupid that was.  I was and am, no better than anyone else.  Just because I accepted Christ as my Savior, doesn’t make me perfect, nor does it make me better.  I am still a sinner – though I know that God has a place for me because I accepted His free gift of salvation one day when I was 8 years old. There is nothing like other kids to help humble you.

In 10th grade, I had a falling out with my very best friend.  I had been friends with this girl for a long time, it had to have been since like 3rd grade, though I truly don’t remember how we ever met since she was a grade behind me.  I was on fire for God.  I talked about Him all the time.  I was not ashamed to be a Christian, and I wanted others to know.  And I really wanted my best friend to know.  So much so, that when she asked me to stop talking about God, I wrote her a note (stupid) that said that I would not stop talking about God.  My friend refused to talk to me after that.  I was so hurt and lonely that she would do that.  That’s when I learned that I had to keep my mouth shut and stop talking about God.  Oh I still did once in a while, but not like that.  A part of me was lost – and my courage fled.  I could handle talking about God as long as I didn’t lose anyone.  I had forgotten that God said that whoever did not “hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, and his own life also, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26) This doesn’t mean to literally HATE them – we are just supposed to love God MORE than them.  And I did, but I let this bad experience shut my mouth to some extent, and I became afraid to talk about God with anyone except other Christians as a result. Something I still have a problem with today.

By the end of High School – I didn’t mind so much being invisible.  Factors that I will not discuss in a public blog had a part in that.  The ultimate result was that I wanted to be invisible.  If I wasn’t noticed, nobody could expect anything of me.  I didn’t have to worry about meeting anyone’s expectations because if I was invisible, they didn’t expect anything of me.  The problem is, that I wasn’t invisible.  And people had very HIGH expectations of me, and I let them down.  I let myself down.  I let everyone down.  And I hated myself for it.

Fast forward to today (since this is becoming a very long blog, that was unintentional, but apparently this is something that needs to be shared).  Today, I don’t want to be invisible.  But I spend much of my life feeling invisible.  I hide behind my shyness.  And I am shy – but it’s a self-inflicted shyness.  I hide myself behind my wall, where nobody can get to me.  Because to let anyone get to me, would be to open myself up to getting hurt, and I don’t want that.  So I hide behind this high wall that nobody has the time or the energy or perhaps even the desire to climb.  The only one I am truly open with is God, and that’s because I have nothing to lose there.  He already accepted me for me.  He took me with all my faults and all the sins I had committed and will commit.  He knew what I was before I ever knew what I was, and He loved me anyway.  Besides, He already knows everything about me anyway, so what’s to hide?

But God did not make us to be islands unto ourselves.  He made us social people with the need for relationships.  Yes, He wants our ultimate relationship to be with Him, but He told us to reach out to others – that right there ought to be the clue that we are to build relationships with others.  I live my life in a self-styled loneliness because of fear.  Ultimately, that’s what it boils down to.  I am afraid.  I am afraid to let others know me because if they knew who I am and all the stupid stuff I’d done, they might hate me.  And I don’t want to be hated.  And I don’t want to be rejected any more.  I have been rejected so often in my  life – and it hurts.  And I don’t want to get hurt again.  So I hide.

But I am trying to break down that wall, one brick at a time.  I’ve broken out a few bricks, but not enough to open up to others.  Oh I’ve felt the desire.  I know God has something for me to share.  But to do that means I have to tell others about me.  YIKES!!!  So, now I feel like most of the time nobody really notices me, and I am starting to want to be noticed – not for who I am, but for who God is making me.  God has a plan for me – I just know it.

All this is to share that God doesn’t just have a plan for me.  He has a plan for you, too.  Jeremiah 29:11 says He has a plan for you – a plan to “prosper you and not to harm you.  To give you a hope and a future” (partly paraphrased).  It doesn’t matter what you have done or how horrible you think you are.  God sent His Son into the world “not to condemn the world, but that the world, through Him might be saved” (John 3:17).  The Bible says that God is “not willing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).  He doesn’t want us to, but He will allow it if we don’t accept His free gift.  He offers a choice – all we have to do is make a choice.

So, that’s a part of my story.  I didn’t mean for it to be so long, but apparently God had other plans for my blog today.  Perhaps, this is His way of helping me to take out those bricks.

~~Gabby~~

My Recent Thoughts

**Author’s Note** I apologize in advance that this is not quite as eloquent as I imagined it to be.  I have a tendency to ramble and go off on tangents.  Also, this is not meant for any particular person or group.  It’s just my thoughts – and more toward myself than anything.  **END NOTE**

I hear it all the time.  We’re supposed to be tolerant – to the point of denying our own personal convictions so that we don’t “offend” someone else.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately.  I know I know – what’s new right??  I’m ALWAYS reading.  But I’ve been getting a little deeper in my reading material lately, and if you’ve never read anything by Randy Alcorn – you really should.  He’s a very gifted author, and I was impressed from the first chapter of the books I’ve read by him so far.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.  I hear complaining all the time from other Christians about how Christians are getting a bum deal.  I mean, if we say we’re pro-life, we offend the pro-choice movement.  If we say we believe everything that the Bible says, with no exceptions, then we are told that we believe an outdated book that nobody can really prove is true anyway (of course I beg to differ, but that’s not what I’m here to write about today either).  If we say someone’s life-style or actions or words or whatever is contrary to what God’s Word says is true and right, we are told that we are intolerant and uncaring.  We’ve been told that in order to truly be tolerant we have to embrace these causes and make them our own.  And what’s really sad, is that many of us buy into this!!  What happened to thinking for oneself??

Now, I am proud to be a Christian, but I have to admit, I don’t show it all the time…I fail at this so often.  But I AM proud to be a Christian.  Some of what I have to say here may offend others, and for the offense, I am sorry, but for speaking what I know to be true and right, I am not sorry.  I should be doing that more often.  I shouldn’t be sitting in my chair afraid to speak up because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  Since when did God say share the Gospel only if you’re not going to hurt someone’s feelings?  Since when did He say, don’t speak the truth, just love??  He didn’t – He said to “speak the truth IN love”  (Ephesians 4:15) – we are supposed to speak the truth BECAUSE we love those around us.

But again, I digress.

Often I hear about how all these special interest groups are allowed to get their agendas out there.  I hear Christians say, “it’s not fair, we have to keep being more tolerant of others, but they don’t have to be tolerant of us.”  It’s funny, this reminds me of Bible class when I was growing up…and our Bible Teacher, I think his name was Mr. Grist (or something like that) he always was saying “‘T ain’t fair! ‘T aint fair!” – he said that was what the Pharisees were always saying.  That’s how I always think of them now because of that class. But it gets me thinking – those who say it isn’t fair – were they really trying to get the message out there anyway?  I mean come on, let’s be honest now – how many of us honestly do that these days.  Again, I go back to my statement that I FAIL at this all the time.  I succeed at so many other things, but at THIS I fail…and this is way more important than anything else I do!!

But anyway, who said life was going to be fair?  Didn’t God say that we were going to have trials and tribulations?  Didn’t he say that if he was ridiculed we would be too??  We as Christians shouldn’t be surprised, nor should we whine and cry about it – we should “count it all joy” that we get to identify with Christ.  Our suffering is temporary, so what have we to complain about??

It’s not going to get any better just because we complain about it.  So, we might has well keep working toward getting the good news out there, but we also need to be aware that we are going to have set backs.  People ARE going to get annoyed with us.  Some of us might even get treated badly as a result.  But we are admonished to spread the good news.

I leave you with this passage (1 Peter 3:9-17 – NASB):

“To sum up, (K)all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, (L)brotherly, (M)kindhearted, and (N)humble in spirit;

9(O)not returning evil for evil or (P)insult for insult, but giving a (Q)blessing instead; for (R)you were called for the very purpose that you might (S)inherit a blessing.

10For,
(T)THE ONE WHO DESIRES LIFE, TO LOVE AND SEE GOOD DAYS,
MUST KEEP HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT.
11
(U)HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD;
HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT.
12
(V)FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS,
AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER,
BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.”

13(W)Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?

14But even if you should (X)suffer for the sake of righteousness, (Y)you are blessed (Z)AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED,

15but [a]sanctify (AA)Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready (AB)to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the (AC)hope that is in you, yet (AD)with gentleness and (AE)reverence;

16and keep a (AF)good conscience so that in the thing in which (AG)you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

17For (AH)it is better, (AI)if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.”

~~Gabby~~

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