Sunday, 9 December 2012

Good News of Great Joy

Lord, where would I be without you? Whenever I get off track, you bring me right back to that place of surrender, of desiring you above all other things. Why am I so easily distracted? Why do I allow fear to overtake me so often? Why do I allow little gods, idols in my life, take precedence over my relationship with you? I guess the answer to all of these questions comes down to the same answer: I'm a sinner.

Thankfully, my story does not end there. Yes, I'm a sinner. Yes, that makes me sad and frustrated with myself at times. But it also leads me to the Source of forgiveness. My Source of strength, peace, HOPE. Jesus, you are truly my All in All. You're everything I need. I'm sorry for putting other things before you. For losing my way and missing the mark. 

The Good News is that each day, no matter how I feel about myself, there is Someone who is always going to love me. Luke 2:10-12 says, "But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” He'll never reject me and he'll never let me go. Even when I move away from him, He's there. When I am disobedient, he gently leads me back to live in His will. Why does he do this? He loves me. It's that simple. He can't help it. He IS love. He IS grace. He is Christ the Lord.

Jesus, there are 16 days left until we celebrate your birth. May we remember that each and every day, we are invited to celebrate and worship you. Right where we are...just as we are. You came into this world, this world that is often times so hard to live in because it's broken and sinful. Still, you came on our behalf. You came to give us life ABUNDANT. Instead of trudging through life, worrying about the details of our day, or the uncertainties of our future, you invite us to a different way. You invite us to intimacy with you, where we find fullness of joy and complete satisfaction. You are the Prince of Peace- Prince of Wholeness. Jesus, make me whole in you. I surrender myself to you and I thank you, so much, for coming into this world, so that you could die for my sins, and wash me white as snow. Thank you that you rose and you are alive now. You are in control and you are sovereign over all creation. I worship you today your incredible vastness you chose to give me life, and so I lay my life at your feet and put all my trust and hope in you. Today, and every day.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Gift of His Presence

Two of the most powerful ways I experience the presence of God in my life are through music & writing. His presence is sweet and I long for more of it every day. I think it's important to try to understand the ways in which we most experience His presence, because His presence satisfies our souls like nothing else. We can continue to try to fill our emptiness with things like relationships, material possessions, activities, career pursuits, our image, food, entertainment, etc. But ultimately, we will always come back to a place of emptiness, a place of need, a place of longing.

I am learning that there are many ways I experience God's beautiful presence in my daily life. One thing I know for sure is that I will not experience Him by following a '3 step how-to guide'. Experiencing Christ's presence is most often a matter of our hearts. What, or Who, am I seeking? When I am persistently, continually, seeking Him, even on the hard, busy days, He is there. Always. This is His promise to us, not something we earn. 

I'm experiencing God lately by being quiet, still and silent before him, through laughter with friends, witnessing the beauty of golden, orange, and red leaves, in a child's precious prayer and pure faith, in God's abundant provision in my life, and over and over again, God is revealing to me how I see Him in the faces of the broken, poor, and oppressed. When I seek my own ways, selfishness ensues. When I seek God's ways, loving others become my priority and I feel His presence and His love.

As I brush my teeth in the morning, I'll often read the words of Sarah Young. She writes a devotional called, "Jesus Calling." On October 4th I read this: "I am the Creator of Heaven and Earth: Lord of all that is and all that will ever be. Although I am unimaginably vast, I choose to dwell within you, permeating you with My Presence. Only in the spirit realm could Someone so infinitely great live within someone so very small. Be awed by the Power and the Glory of My Spirit within you!" It continues to talk about how the Holy Spirit is designed to be our Helper. He is our Source of strength and peace.

This promise, the assurance that Jesus sends us His Spirit, is expressed in John 14:16-17. Jesus says, "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate who will never leave you." (Advocate also means, 'comforter, encourager, or counselor'), "He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn't looking for him and doesn't recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you." 

God is everywhere and is in everything. When I teach these concepts, in simpler terms, to my kindergarten students, they accept them with such great faith. They don't doubt God's existence, question the mystery of the Trinity, or hesitate in their praise and thankfulness towards God. It is this child-like faith that I seek to have in my own life.

And so as I write this on a beautiful Thanksgiving weekend, I praise the Lord for His presence that is all around us. Like a child in my class said recently, "It's like...we can't see Him and we can't feel Him, but He's just always there." From the mouths of babes. 

Thank you Lord...for all you have graciously given me. But more than anything, thank you for Your Presence.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

From Resisting to Resigning

Do you ever find that right when you are on the brink of a major turning point in an area of your life, you, someone else, or something in your life causes you to resist getting there? Here's a simple example. Say you want to train for a marathon (I have THOUGHT of training for a marathon many times...key word being: thought.) :) I have actually even begun the training. But something always seems to hold me back from full on, serious training and preparing for this kind of race. Why is this?! I have always enjoyed running. But I make ridiculous excuses. "I don't want to get injured.", "I don't have enough time to really prepare.", "I haven't been seeing serious results in my fitness level yet.", "I don't like running for that long."

This is the kind of resistance I've been struggling with in my spiritual walk the past few months. I feel the Holy Spirit pressing me to face some things and make some changes in my heart. I recently went through the book "Believing God" by Beth Moore. This book opened my eyes to the reality of my struggle with FEAR. There were five statements Beth encouraged us to repeat over and over until we truly believed them. The statement I most wrestled to believe was: "I am who God says I am." Here's the thing: I believe I am who God says I am in my head. But I struggle with the truth of this statement in my heart. You probably wouldn't know it from my outward words and actions. I mostly act as if I believe I am who God says I am. Where this struggle is hidden is in the recesses of my heart where I am tempted to care more about what others think than what God says is true. 

There are real struggles in my life that I know Jehovah-Rapha, God my HEALER, wants to heal and help me overcome. His desire is not that I live in fear. He wants me to know security in Him. Because in Christ that is what I have! So why do I resist healing? How come I make excuses? The bible tells me to seek Him with ALL OF MY HEART. I am learning that anything short of that simply won't do. Jesus wants all of me. But my flesh continues to resist some of the places God wants me to go with Him. Satan also knows this. The last thing he wants is for us to be in right relationship with God. So when we are in right relationship with God, the last thing he wants is for us to experience freedom from sin. He wants to keep us enslaved, tied to the world and the things that hold us back from intimacy with Christ. But God, in his unfailing and sovereign LOVE, continues to pull me towards Himself. He whispers my name, "Amanda...come to me...let me heal you... don't give up... keep pressing towards the goal... I alone can satisfy and give you real freedom." I need only to surrender to His call to come to Him. Resist means to "attempt to counter the actions or effects of" (God's work in my life). Resign, however, means to give up or give over and come to accept (God's work in my life). Instead of resisting God's work in my heart, I want to resign every area of myself over to Him.

This afternoon I walked past my parents dining room table and the bible was opened to Psalm 103. This passage, verses 1-5, jumped out at me and encouraged my weary heart:

"Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul and forget not all his benefits-- who FORGIVES all your sins and HEALS all your diseases, who REDEEMS your life from the pit and CROWNS you with love and compassion, who SATISFIES your desires with good things so that your youth is RENEWED like the eagle's." 

Thank you Jesus...for forgiving, healing, redeeming, crowning, and renewing me. You never give up on us. Your love endures FOREVER.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Learning to Rest.

God has given me some time to rest up and renew myself this weekend, which I am SO thankful for. I've simply had time to read, soak in His presence, enjoy His creation, spend time with my husband...and rest some more. Sometimes it is SO difficult for me to wind down after a long week. Yesterday I kept thinking, "I should do something", "I should call someone", "I should work on this...or clean that..." etc, etc. The Lord is teaching me how much I require rest...not only physically but spiritually! When I rest physically, I feel my spirit literally rest and fall into the arms of God once again. I am continually reminded that whatever I do is not by my own strength, but His strength alone.

Resting is actually an act of obedience. When I look up the term "Sabbath rest" in the bible, TONS of verses come up, all giving generally the same message: "Work six days. The seventh day is a Sabbath, a day of total and complete rest, a sacred assembly. Don't do any work. Wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to God." (Leviticus 23:3). There is so much freedom in knowing that God wants us to take a Sabbath...a day of "total and complete rest." In our fast-paced culture, it's so easy to feel guilty for doing 'nothing.' But the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, understanding us intimately, knows how much we require rest. I thank Him for that and that I'm learning to obey this command.

I still feel guilty sometimes...I fall back to the "I shoulds", as I think about all I need to get done: grocery shopping, picking up this or that, working on day plans, cleaning the house....and the list goes on. But as I learn to trust the Lord completely, I also am learning to trust that He knows what is best for me...for all of His people.

The Lord alone provides the rest we so desperately need. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says, "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." 

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Serve the ONE

Writing has always been an amazing outlet for me. It is the best way for me to process how I am growing personally, especially in my relationship with Christ....which really directly relates to every area of growth in my life. I find that I usually feel most prompted to write when I have been reading and learning a lot and have some things to process. I spent the past 4 months going through the book of's amazing how much more you take from a book of the bible when you take the time to go through it slowly... 3-4 verses at a time. I also recently finished a book called, "Kisses from Katie." An amazing, inspiring book that I feel everyone would benefit from reading. It's about a girl named Katie, who is now about 22 years old. Right out of high school she moved to Uganda for what she thought would be a temporary, one-year commitment to teach. But Uganda completely stole her heart and she now lives there permanently. She has...get this...adopted 14 girls from Uganda!!...and she began "Amazima ministries", which seeks to reveal Christ's love to the Ugandan people.

This book challenged me in MANY, many incredible ways, but I think the biggest thing I took from it was the importance of serving the one God has placed in front of me. My love and passion for Jesus is best shown in serving and loving others....whoever God's placed in front of me at this husband, a child in my classroom, a teenager at youth, my Grandmother who's losing strength, my sweet sister who lives across the country, a woman at church on a Sunday, a downcast cashier, a lonely friend.... WHOever God places in front of me...that is who I am called to show Christ's love to. It's easy to become discouraged when we look at all of the pain and suffering and hurt in the entire world...there is a lot of it. And I am just ONE person. BUT....I am here for a reason. You are here for a reason. God has a purpose for you in this day, in this moment. He desires for us to love and serve one another with radical love.

Jesus, may I serve and love you by serving and loving the ones you place in front of me each and every day. 

Love each other as I have loved you ~ John 15:12

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Satisfaction in Surrender

Surrender: "to relinquish possession or control of to give oneself up/ give up completely..." 

When I come to a place of true surrender, this is when I feel the closest to God and the furthest from the things of this world that seek to destroy, distract, and distance me from Him.

I've heard it over and over again, that I am to surrender myself to Him daily. But surrender does not come naturally and sometimes it takes a while before I realize how long it's been since I've been on my totally, complete surrender to God and the plans He has for my life. 

We live in a culture that easily distracts us. I am pretty good at distracting myself. Eventually though, I realize how empty the distractions make me. Well....what now? What satisfies me? What I have learned to be absolutely true is that nothing on this earth can satisfy me.... not even the best things in life like fulfilling friendships and a loving family have this ability. They bring joy, comfort, and blessing, yes, but they do not have the ability to satisfy my soul. 

Only One does....and I've had to learn this truth over and over and over again in my life. Jesus alone satisfies. He ALONE gives "living water" to my thirsty soul. In the story where Jesus is speaking with the woman at the well, Jesus says to her: "Those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life." (John 4:14). This verse is SO comforting to me. To never be thirsty again? Jesus is telling her, all you need is me! I will quench your thirst, but not only will I quench it, you will actually NEVER be thirsty again. I will satisfy your soul in this moment and in the moment after, again and again. But, see the thing I continue to learn is that I must come to Him for this water. He gives it freely but I must accept it, must drink it up not only daily but moment by moment. It's easy to become weary in life. Anxiety and worry and ungratefulness become my default. But the thing is...when I'm allowing Jesus to fill me up, when I'm soaking in the Living Water He alone offers, anxiousness, selfishness,'s all washed away. And I'm totally satisfied in His beautiful presence... ready to be His hands and feet in this world. 

"When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing." ~ Psalm 145:16

So my prayer today is this..."Satisfy us (me) each morning with your unfailing love, so we (I) may sing for joy to the end of our (my) life." ~Psalm 90:14

Monday, 13 February 2012

He IS Love...

I am in a few weddings this year and that combined with it being Valentines Day tomorrow has me thinking about LOVE! There is a BEAUTIFUL Francesca Battistelli Song called "Forever Love." The lyrics are simple:
"You are my Forever love (4x)... from the bottom of my heart I'll sing to you, from the depths of who I am I'll love you, with everything inside I'll run to you, cause all that I've become, I owe to you."

This song touches me because it reminds me of my one True Love. Jesus. He is my Forever Love. All I have become, I owe to Him. I run to Him in times of need, in times of joy, peace, and trial. My desire is to love Him from the depths of who I am.

What strikes me though, is how God, who IS LOVE....he gives us significant others, (and not just spouses...but friends, parents, siblings) who also help us become who we are in Christ...people who encourage us and challenge us in our spiritual journeys. Today I am thinking about and thankful for those people. In my life, God did bless me with a husband....and I believe that the relationship we share is meant to be a reflection of my relationship with Christ. Although this is not always the case (we are both very imperfect!) it is important to remind myself of what marriage is...what it's purpose is. I am certain that marriage is not simply two people living together, sharing a bed, groceries, money, the couch, and an odd night out together. Sadly, I think this is what many marriages become....and Kevin and I fall into bad habits also. Thankfully, God has designed us for MUCH more. Marriage is a lot of things... and really, it is a mystery to me. But so far in my journey as a married woman... this is what I believe the purpose of marriage least a glimpse of what it CAN look like. Instead of two people merely living together, marriage is a union of two souls, spirits, hearts, minds, bodies.... it is the daily spurring on of one another, asking the hard questions "How are you really doing?". Ultimately in my marriage, I hope to help my husband become more holy, more CHRIST-like, and through this, help him bear fruit and do all of the good things God has planned for Him to do. And vice versa....As a wife, I hope that my husband will help me become more holy (not more happy and not more content- that is Christ's work alone)... but I believe as my husband He is to love me, uplift me, help me see the potential I have in Christ.... stick by my side when I mess up, forgive me, help me see my own sin and turn from it....and again, over and over, encourage me to turn towards the face of the Holy One. It is my GOD'S GRACE alone, that my marriage will become all that I believe it can be. That is why I believe prayer is so essential in marriage and I admit it can easily be neglected. And not just a quick, rushed prayer before dinner. Real, coming before the throne of JESUS, entering into His presence, seeking His will prayer. And then living out, in obedience, whatever He asks of us.

This February 14th, I am focusing on the One who IS love... and how through Him, my love with my husband and the other beautiful people in my life can become more pure, more the type of love that he desires from me. Thank you, Lord, for the blessings in my life...for all of the love and laughter and beauty that surrounds me. Help me to be intentional about creating a marriage that is pleasing to You!