Monthly Archives: August 2010

It is written…

For some reason over the last year, God has been revisiting the subject of temptation with me.

I know that God will not give me more temptation than I can bear (without giving me a way out – 1 Corinthians 10:13), but I have to admit the older I get and the more I grow as a Christian, it seems like the temptations I face in my life are greater.  I was a good kid as a teenager, but it seemed easy to be a good kid.  I honestly don’t remember being tempted by a lot of things that many other kids my age struggled with.

I also believe that God uses the challenges and temptations that I face to shape my character and grow my faith in Him.  I have seen God use them to shape my life as well as others that He puts in my life.

But for me temptation is toughest on a daily basis and often in the areas that no one sees (except for God).  Whether it is my thought life or my lack of discipline on my quiet time or a myriad of desires I would love to fulfill with the right credit line.  There are things that this world tells me I have every right to enjoy; yet I know that God calls me to a different standard.

Yesterday, I started looking at book called “Battlefield of the Mind,” by Joyce Meyer.  My Wednesday morning ladies Bible Study is thinking about starting this book in late September, so I wanted to get a sample of it.  At the same time I am also listening to Character under Construction by Andy Stanley.  Ironically, both of these leaders came to the same conclusion when it came to dealing with temptation.  And it goes something like this….

Human willpower and prayer alone will not effectively deal with the temptations that we face daily.  The desire to do what is good and right is not enough.  We need to follow the model that Jesus set for us on dealing with temptation.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’” The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus answered, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.  – Luke 4:1-13 NIV

(I love the last verse…Satan didn’t win, but he will be back.  It’s almost like the villain in a superhero movie.)

When Jesus was battling Satan’s temptations he didn’t win by telling himself that’s not the right thing to do, Jesus established the model of overcoming temptations by specifically calling out the Word of God to direct and justify his actions.  God’s word is much more powerful against Satan than our willpower alone.

So for my life, I’ve started to work on some “It is written” phrases to help me when the temptations arrive in my day.  When a temptation arrives, I mentally repeat my “it is written.”  Andy Stanley challenges us to identify “our three top temptations” that we know we are going to face in our week and seek out the “it is writtens” for those specific temptations so that when they creep into our lives (or hit us full force), we are mentally armed to meet them with God’s Word.

My “it is writtens” for this week go something like this:

It is written:  Keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts. — 1 John 5:21

It is written:  You must love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, ALL your soul, ALL your strength, and ALL your mind.  — Luke 10:27

It is written:  Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. — Proverbs 3:5-6

Now I’m going to go look for the “it is written” that tells me I need to get up off my butt and go exercise!

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More First Year Reflections

I spent the morning at Middle School Schedule pickup.  It was an amazing reminder of how far God has brought me in the last year.  This time last year, two somewhat timid middle schoolers and their very nervous mom stood in long lines and filled out forms, knowing no one, missing old friends and unsure of what our new community and new school would hold.

Today we spent the entire morning at the school confidently talking to other nervous parents and new students about their schedules and what a great experience the last year had been for us.

As I continue to reflect back on this last year, I see God’s hand working in our lives almost everywhere.  My goal this year is to continue to remain disciplined to staying as close to God as possible.  But even the simple distractions of everyday life can pull me away from that.  The house is not clean enough, the bills need to be paid, pick up the drycleaning and the kids and make sure dinner is planned. My personal goal of training for a half marathon has required hours a week of walking and running.  And then there is social networking (which I really need to give up this year) and blogging, which I love.  It is my creative outlet.

The fun part about blogging is that I have absolutely no idea who reads what I write.  I don’t pay for the sophisticated tracking programs, so my blog stats just come in the form of numbers.  40 views.  That means 40 page views, not even unique visits.  Occasionally, someone will send comment or a note and it usually surprises me to find out who is actually reading what I write.  I was also surprised to look back on my year to find out I had posted almost 50 blogs since last August.  Granted some of them were just reposts of the good writing of others, but it has been a rewarding experience to write through all the things that God is doing in my life.  And my prayer is that He also uses this blog to touch the lives of others along the way.

This past year I’ve read some great books:

Character Makeover by Katie Brazelton

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver

Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro

Primal:  A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity by Mark Batterson

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day: How to Survive and Thrive When Opportunity Roars by Mark Batterson

Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would by Pete Wilson

Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers

The Real Deal: Becoming More Authentic in Life and Leadership by Dan Webster

For someone who has not picked up a book for pleasure reading since college, I have really enjoyed the renewed love of reading God has given me this year.

As for the next year, I want to leave it flexible enough to be open to what God holds.  And for those of you who know about my addiction to volunteering, I have done better in Florida.  I am serving as president of the Band Parents Organization as well as teaching at church (an 8th girls Lifegroup (otherwise known as Sunday School) and a class of 3 year olds on Sunday mornings).  Luckily, our church has 7 services, so teaching 2 hours still give me a chance to attend any one of the other 5 and not working 40-60 hours a week, gives me plenty of time to rest up.

My books on the “to read” list for this year include:

Love at Last Sight: Thirty Days to Grow and Deepen Your Closest Relationships by Kerry and Chris Shook

Sun Stand Still: What Happens When You Dare to Ask God for the Impossible by Steve Furtick

Water into Wine: Hope for the Miraculous in the Struggle of the Mundane by Kelly Minter

At least one other Francine Rivers novel

At least one book by Andy Stanley

Increasing Your Personal Impact by Dan Webster

I have a few other personal goals for the year that involve spending time with my family traveling, continuing to enjoy my long walks/runs, yoga classes and making it to Costa Rica at least three times this year to help support the work of the Brook Ministries (http://www.thebrookministries.org/).  I just love the work that they are doing for pastors in both the US and South America.

This year has been a year of regaining perspective.  Sometimes we work so hard and so long (often driven by the examples we’ve had set for us by others for most of our lives) that we lose perspective of the life that God has for us.  It has been such a blessing to have this last year to regain at least some of that perspective.  I imagine that it will take many more years of focused time with God to get even close to where He wants me to be, but I have to admit that it has been an enriching journey.

Frisco has been tough to let go of.  Much tougher than I anticipated.  I loved my life and my friends in Texas and often when old work or community projects surface that I was incredibly passionate about, I get pretty emotional about not being able to be there to help “steer the ship.”  But I am learning (slowly) that I need to let go of the old and trust that God is in control and He is much more capable then I am of taking care of all the projects and friends that He gave me such a heart for in the first place.

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Character Choices

As we began our life in Florida a year ago, the first book I picked up was Character Makeover by Kate Brazelton and recently through my readings and podcasts, it is a subject that has come together again for me.

Andy Stanley in his series “Character under Construction” describes it this way:

“Character is what I want everybody I work with and live with to have, but character is not always something I am willing to pay the price to gain for myself.”

In other words, it is a whole lot easier to care about the character of other people than to be concerned about the quality of our own character.

He continues on in the series to talk about how character is shaped and defined in our individual minds.  Our character fights an ongoing battle with the desire for achievement and personal fulfillment.

“When it comes to choosing achievement over character, most of us choose achievement over character.”

When achievement and personal fulfillment, at the expense of character, become acceptable and right in our minds, then a new standard of what is right and wrong develops for each of us.

I think the real challenge is when we wake up and realize that a new standard of right and wrong has developed in our lives and it is not in line with God’s character.  We set out to try and fix it and that is not always easy.

In his blog post, Protect your Proprioceptors! Ron Edmondson uses the illustration of damage to our physical prorioceptors (the internal sensory receptors that help maintain balance and coordination). Even after an injury is healed, it become much easier to re-injure it if the proprioceptor designed to protect it is damaged as well.

Being a walker/runner myself, I found this interesting and I found this little quote in another online article on ankle injuries.

“Failure to retrain the proprioceptors removes the safety net provided by our nervous system and jeopardizes the integrity of joint stability.”

Ron’s blog post continues on:

“I think our conscience and our sense of morals serve as a proprioceptor to help us keep balance in life and more easily recognize the difference between right and wrong. When this particular proprioceptor is damaged, it is much harder to gain our sense of direction again and making the wrong decision becomes easier the second time.”

So how does this all come together with regards to character for me?

  1. When it comes to character choices, even the little things matter.  Because the more I choose achievement and fulfillment over character, the easier it will be to do again and again. If I am not careful, I can easily let a new standard of right and wrong develop in my life.
  2. “The man or woman of character is one who does what is right just BECAUSE it is right.  Not because they might get caught or someone might find out (another Andy Stanley quote).”  I need to take a look at how I handle character decisions.  Am I making a right/wrong choice because I think I will get caught or because I know it is the right thing to do?
  3. John 15:4 — Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  I must stay connected to God, daily and deeply to keep my spiritual proprioceptor protected.  The ASV uses “Abide in me.”  The Message uses “Live in me.”

I have a daily challenge to face when it come to perfecting my character to reach the desire of God, but it never ceases to amaze me that some of the most dedicated and effective Christians I know have some of the greatest challenges in their lives. Whether it is financial, medical, or spiritual, they are attacked with barriers and temptations that challenge them to make character choices every day.  But I am learning that it is facing those challenges daily (sometimes hourly) and making the right decisions that brings us to a deeper and richer relationship with God.

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Things I need to remind myself of daily — Marriage — Post 8

One of the things that I love about twitter is that I have mine set up to follow people that teach me and inspire me in my walk with Christ.  Some of them, like Ron Edmondson, I’ve never met and probably never will.  But through his blog, he has taught me a lot about what it means to be a Christian in my everyday life.  We are on the road today and missed our wake up call for church, so I was reading through some blog posts and I came across a great one on meeting the needs of my husband.

I love my husband a lot, but as a woman, I have still have a lot to learn about communicating with him in a way that makes him feel affirmed and supported in life.  It is something I need to work at daily.

http://www.ronedmondson.com/2008/07/6-top-needs-of-a-husband.html

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One year later…

I can’t believe it has been a year since we left Texas….and what a year it has been.

The whole purpose of our relocation to Florida was a job change, but if history is any predictor of the future for us, then God has a much bigger plan for us than just a job change.  And this year, we got a small glimpse into just that.

If I have to look back at this time last year, we lived a very different life.  I was working about 50 hours a week (and had been doing so for about 15 years).  The girls were finishing elementary and early middle school in one of the best school districts in the state (and with 600 kids in a middle school they knew almost everyone in their grade).  Our girls who were 4 and 2 when we moved from DC, have very few memories other than Texas (and Collin County at that!)

Today we live in Broward County, FL where about 93% of the population does not attend a christian church.  The girls middle school has 1800 students and next year Sydney’s high school will have 3200 students (Frisco ISD high schools max out at about 1800 students).  And while the girls are getting a quick and hard dose of the real world, God has also given each of us some really rich Christian friendships in the middle of a place where Christian values are not necessarily the accepted way of life.

We still have two houses in Texas.  We have tried to sell those, but the real estate market has not been in our favor.  For now, until our houses in Texas sell, we are in a nice apartment with beautiful walking trails that run throughout the city.  I truly enjoy walking through the parks and trails listening to my podcasts at least 4 days a week.

My husband loves his new job.  It is a lot of rewarding work for him and it is good for him to be back in an office environment after working from home or traveling full time for the last 6 years.  Relaxation for him involves photography and playing keyboards at church (as always, but our church here has 7 services and he still loves it!)

And I am enjoying the big shift in my life — being a stay at home mom for the first time in my life.  I love the time to reflect and think and spend time refocusing on priorities.  I enjoy being with my girls and working with the kids at church (both preschoolers and youth).

Do we miss Texas?  I think it is best to say that what we miss most about Texas will always be our friends.  This week another family, whom we admire greatly, left Collin County and moved to Costa Rica to continue the work of the Brook Ministries.  After selling everything they owned and moving from Texas to Costa Rica on a plane with 15 bags, Steve Lucas has this to say about the friendships he was leaving behind….

That’s what really matters in this life–relationships. It’s about the people who cross our paths and become part of our lives. It’s about shared hurt and shared joy. A good steak, a bad burger–doesn’t matter. Friendship is a gift from God to give us a glimpse of what it is to be loved by Him.

Unlike other things, with friends, you can’t pack them or give them away. So somehow you hide them in your heart. You file away those precious memories so you can pull them out when you feel alone. And so we don’t feel like the new kid at school sitting alone at lunch, we strive to stay connected any way we can.

And a year later, it is still the truth.  While God has taken us many places in life… Texas, DC, Texas, Florida (and who knows where next), at every stage of our life there were and are people who shape and lead and influence us and will forever remain in our hearts.

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