Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Reflection on "Hurricane" Irene....

  So this past Sunday, my state was hit with it's first Hurricane....or rather Tropical Storm, since it was downgraded by the time it was fully upon us...of the year.  I was a little girl the last time a hurricane came up with way so I wasn't really sure what to expect....except of course power outages and days of eating non-perishable food.  
  As the outer bands approached it honestly just felt like any other rainy day.  My sister and I even commented that we were expecting a lot worse.  As a precaution we all (that is my sister, nieces and I) all decided to camp out together in the living room, but we went to bed Saturday night feeling pretty lucky that this thing wasn't as bad as they predicted.
  A few hours later we were woken up by what sounded like one of the kids falling off the bed (which was weird because we were sleeping on mattresses on the floor).  We got up to look around and this is what we saw (see picture to the left)  A tree had fallen on our garage (and that was only the "small" half)!
  At this point we were getting nervous.  The worse of the storm still hadn't arrived and we already had branches coming through a portion of the house...this could not be good!  Lucky for us....even hours later that was the worst of it!  No power outage, no other damage.
  Over the past few days I've been seeing images and video from around the state of all the damage other people have experienced and I can't help but so lucky!  This was just a tropical storm....not even a true hurricane...and people have lost so much!  It's scary to think what could have been, what we could of lost!  I feel like someone was truly looking  out for us and I am GRATEFUL!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A constant Prayer....

  Sometimes I feel like the worst Christian ever.  My ideas and thought processes are so different than 90% of the christians I know, that so often I feel like the odd ball out.  I don't fit in with the main stream of people in this world because I have such a strong faith and I don't fit in with a lot of christians because I question so much about our said faith.  It kinda makes a girl feel like an island in a world where "no man is a island".
  Then I go out to dinner with a friend, who sits down and lets me spout my ideas about life, love and God.  She allows me to ask the tough questions that most people just shove under the rug.  She allows me to share freely about my thoughts, whether or not she agrees, and has no problem sharing her thoughts right back even if that means we aren't on the same page.  She's real, open and honest with me....and I realize I feel safe, secure, loved...like I belong...she is my sister in Christ...this is how it should be.  So once again I find myself reflecting on this day and praying....God help me to be more like my friend so that I in turn can be more like you....amen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

To Become Great....

This morning I was reading and came across the following quote by Mark Twain...
"Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great."
... and I started thinking about all the "real great" people in my life.  The people who challenge me to be better when all I want to do is fit in..... the people who call me out when I need to hear it, but do it in a way I can accept it.... the people who love me for who I am and not just for who I portray myself to be... the people who stand by me when it seems the whole world is against me... the people  who can bring out my goofy side without making me feel like I will regret it in the morning....the people who stick around long enough to draw from the deep waters that I don't share with many....the people who allow me to be there for them when they are going through trails of their own.....the people who share their lives with me and help create such special memories.....the people who join in my excitement about something even when it's not really their thing....the people who serve with me when there are "better" things they could be doing.....the people who listen to me talk and take the time to hear the words I speak between the lines.....the people who can look into my eyes and see into my heart....
....And I just pray that God would help me to become more and more like them.....and ultimately, in turn become more and more like Him...Amen

Saturday, August 20, 2011

An Attitude of Gratitude......

  I have some really great friends.  But honestly sometimes it's easy for me to forget that.  I can get so caught up in the fact that my friendships aren't what I want them to be, or the fact that I struggle so much to trust people and to let them in... yet at the end of the day I am a pretty blessed girl!
  Today I came home from work and was greeted by a lovely letter from one of my said friends (see pic to right).  The thing is....today was a pretty great day to begin with, but that letter was like the icing on the cake!  It's amazing what a few sincere words from a friend can do....no matter what mood your in!
  So  tonite I thank God for the gift of friendship.  And for giving me the kinda of friendships that may not be what I expect in my mind, but become exactly what it is I need!  And Thank you to all of you out there who impact my life in so many ways!  I am grateful!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

  I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I will.  Growing up, I hated the story of “The Prodigal Son” in the bible.  It’s suppose to be this great story of God’s love and grace…it’s suppose to bring you repentance as you find comfort in a God who loves you in spite of yourself…..it’s suppose to give you that sense of security in the God who  is running arms outstretched to you as you turn your heart back to him.  But honestly….I was never quite able to see that in the story.  Instead what always stood out to me in the story, is the older brother and how even though he did everything right (i.e. he didn’t demand his inheritance…basically spitting in his father’s face and saying I wish you were dead….and then after wasting it all living the crazy life, come crawling back asking for more like his brother), yet in the end it’s his brother who is lavished with love… and acceptance….and an all out welcome home party!   
  In so many ways I can relate to the older brother…..I can almost see his story played out in my own life when it comes to me and one of my own sisters.  So basically, I’ve never really enjoyed the story because reading it always felt like a punch in the gut!  It’s like I could sense I was on the wrong side of the story…I was the “Older brother”….and I was missing out!
  Today I read the book “The Prodigal God” by Timothy Keller and I have to say it truly challenged me to look at the story in a different way and it forced me to examine the state of my heart!  Keller does something in this story that I have never seen before in a book….he takes a well known bible story and makes it 3-dimentional, giving you perspective from every different angle.  He talks about the younger brother (of course) and how he dishonors the father by going out and doing everything wrong, but then he also talks about the older brother and how he was just as dishonoring to the father by doing everything right, but for the wrong motivation!  The older brother may not have “sinned” in the way his younger brother did….but he also assumed that because of everything he did the father OWED him something….in his mind he kept to the “law” of the culture and therefore was deserving of a reward! 
  There’s this great apocryphal story in this book (a story originally told by Elizabeth Elliot but not really in the bible) where Jesus tells the disciples to pick up a rock and follow him.  Peter hearing Jesus say this decides that Jesus never said how big of a rock so he picks up a small stone and then gets behind Jesus as Jesus says “Come follow me”.  Later in the day, Jesus sits down with the disciples, tells them to pull out their rocks and then turns them into bread.  As they are getting ready to leave Jesus again tells his disciples to pick a rock, and having thought he had learned his lesson Peter this time picks up a large stone that is hard to carry and causes him to lag behind during the next part of the journey.  When they finally get to their next destination, Jesus tells the disciples to pull out their rocks and throw them in the water.  Peter is dumbfounded and Jesus responds, “Don’t you remember what I asked you to do? Who were you carrying the stone for?”
  It’s so easy to get caught up in doing things “for” God and expecting something in return!  It’s easy to be a Pharisee and  to demand God do what you want because you think you’ve done what he wants!  What’s hard (at least for me at times) is recognizing how much of a sinner you truly are…..what’s hard is seeing the ugliness of your own heart and recognizing how much you need a savior…..what’s hard is admitting the ways you have tried to be God or control God and then repenting and placing control back in His hands!  But that’s what also makes this story (the prodigal son) so great…..it's recognizing that no matter what side of the story you’re on, no matter how your heart has gone astray, the father’s still coming to reach out to you!  So Thanks Timothy Keller for opening my eyes to the joy of the story!

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Crossroads of Grace and my Faith....

  You know the saying "Bad things come in threes"?  Do you think that that could also be true for learning lessons....at least for those of us who are stubborn and hard headed like me (although that number should be more like 10-20 times)?  It seems lately everywhere I turn I am faced with the Message of grace! Maybe it's the fact that I've been re-working my way through the book "The Reign of Grace" by Scotty Smith that my eyes are so open to seeing the message all around me.  But It also seems that everyone has been talking a bit about grace lately (check out two of my favorite blogs to see what others have to say about it at... http://www.dereklevendusky.com/?p=1146 and http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2011/08/taking-god-seriously/ ).
  Tonight on my run I was thinking a lot about my relationship with God....both where I've come in it and where I am in it right now....and I realized that grace is such a hard thing for me to comprehend.  I grew up in the church...in fact from the moment I was conceived my butt has in a pew (well maybe not completely consistently but close enough)......and yet the idea that God, who created me and knows me better than I know myself, chooses to show me grace in spite of all that I've done, do and will do is astounding!  I can't wrap my brain around it!
   The crazy thing is.....that's the gospel right there.....that God treats us not as our sins deserve, but instead loves us so much he sent his son to die for us so that we wouldn't have to pay the punishment for our sins and be separated from him forever!  How could I have grown up in the church, been "saved" at the age of 14, and overwhelmingly drawn back to God a year and a half ago....and yet still not have the complete understanding that it's by GRACE I have been saved and not of my own works (Ephesians 2:8)!  How do I get that knowledge to move the six inches from my head to my heart?
  It seems no matter how hard I try to keep my relationship with God real and authentic...and basically gospel centered, I always slide back into the belief that somehow I can earn God's love and acceptance.  For some reason it's easier for me to create an imaginary check list of all the things I'm suppose to do, say and be as a Christian and then check those off as my proof to God that I am some how worthy of the gift of his Son.  Yet I'm not worthy and time and time and time again I am faced with the reality that I am a sinner who will never get it all right..... I am selfish and self centered, I have wrong motivations, I say and/or think rude things, I hurt people, I disappoint people, I build up walls between myself and others, etc.  How does any of this prove that I somehow have earned my way into God's love?!  It can't and it doesn't!  I need grace.....not just just a knowledge of it in my head, but an understanding of it in my heart!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Learning to take Baby Steps....

  I am not one for baby steps!  I like to know where I am going and then get there as quickly as possible.  I will push myself to the limit, stretch myself beyond my own ability and overwhelm every one of my senses in order to reach my goals.  And although at times my expectations for myself are completely irrational and I only end up frustrated and hurt.....I tend to learn the most about myself in those moments when I've pushed myself into a corner and have my back against the wall.
  What's interesting to me however, is how much that attitude cascades over to so many areas of my life.  Take for instance my faith.  I want to be a strong christian.  I want to to used by God.  I want to honor him with my life and make Him proud.  Yet so often in an effort to live the kind of life I think will glorify God, I jump ahead to "doing" all the things I think I am suppose to do, without laying the foundation of just "being" with God.  Then I get to a point where all my efforts fail and I'm hurt and disappointed, and wonder how I got back to square one, huddling in fear, afraid to face the very God who created me.
  Or take a more tangible example.  At the beginning of this year I had grand plans to run 11 races in 2011 and I knew in order to accomplish that I needed to get a lot of miles under my belt.  So even when my body got tired and my leg began to have some pain, I kept pushing myself to do what I was suppose to do without taking a moment to heed my body's warnings about where I really was at.  Then I hurt my leg and ended up having to take three months off from running. 
  Tonight was my first night back out there, and honestly it was hard, but not for the reasons you would think.  Yeah, taking three months off of running (or in my case any form of working out) while sitting around just gaining weight, meant that I have become highly unconditioned.  But what was really hard for me was having to go back to baby steps!  I want to be  out there running for hours, clearing my head, and letting the breeze take me away.  Yet, instead I'm stuck on a schedule, a schedule I chose to follow cause I knew myself and that I would immediately want to jump right back in and forget about laying that foundation.
  It's time for me to understand that I don't always have to learn from my failures.  I don't always have to have such high standards for myself and expect the impossible.  Instead, if I go slow, take my time, and build a firm foundation, maybe I'll be able to reach beyond what I even plan.  Here's hoping that's true.....