Category Archives: spirituality

The Jesus Challenge week 1


Like many other followers of Christ, I often have a hard time applying the actual “following Christ” part. Sure, I live a pretty good life, go to “church” and Bible class 3 times a week, pray and read my Bible, but if I’m honest, there’s more to following Christ than this. That’s why, when I first saw my cousin Danny’s facebook post about the “Jesus Challenge 2013” I was immediately interested.

Simply stated, the Jesus Challenge 2013 is a Facebook group started by Danny to challenge us to ACTUALLY LIVE like Jesus! Every week for 2013, he will post a short passage from the life of Christ along with some brief thoughts, a challenge, and a prayer. The challenge is to help us apply a characteristic that Jesus exhibits. Then you can post your own thoughts, receive encouragement and the like. I LOVE this idea! It’s a very easy way to help you be like Jesus in your daily life!

Last week, I thought I had the challenge in the bag without even really trying. It seemed so simple. Like Jesus noticed the little children, he also noticed others who often get overlooked and he made them feel special. The challenge: to notice people in our daily lives others often overlook and to let them know you noticed them. I thought this would be very simple. Kids, I notice them, I work at a preschool, it’s hard not to notice and appreciate their special gifts. The poor, they’re all around us and my heart breaks for their situations, and I try to help when I can. The addicted, I have family members who struggle with addictions. Etc. . . I honestly thought this was going to be an easy week. WRONG!

Friday, I began to notice someone, and it truly makes me feel ashamed. It may sound trivial, but it’s not. No unnoticed person is trivial. I noticed my UPS man. Actually, a friend noticed him for me. I have lived in the same house just one week shy of 3 years now. If you know much about my husband, you know he has a rather large personal theological library. Many, if not most of these books have been acquired from the Internet. Plus, that used to be how we bought diapers. Needless to say, when you have free 2 day shipping on Amazon, and you do a lot of online shopping, the UPS truck will be at your house…ALOT! Our UPS truck visits our house at LEAST once a week, and often more than that. I have had conversations with our delivery man several times and even told him how I got diapers so cheaply. Needless to say, I learned his name Friday. From a co-worker, who was talking to one of the kids in my class, who’s father makes the UPS deliveries in town. My town, to my house. . . OUCH! What really stung is my friend knew more about him than I did and he isn’t even her UPS man. AND I didn’t even connect the dots and realize his child was in my class and had been since August. She connected the dots for me. Talk about a fail.

This all got me to thinking, like it should. I wonder how often do people slip in and out of my everyday life without me even noticing? How many opportunities have I missed to share Jesus with someone just because I didn’t notice? I think it’s safe to say I pretty much failed the challenge this week. I only say “pretty much” because I did realize who I was not noticing but I haven’t had the opportunity to let him know how much I appreciate the great job he does, and how his child makes my days easy and enjoyable.

I plan on carrying this challenge out, for this week as well as my entire life. I pray that my eyes are not closed to the people around me and the opportunities I have to share the love of Jesus with everyone around me.

Do you want more information on the “Jesus Challenge 2013” or want to join me in this challenge to be more and more like Jesus? If so, follow this link to the Facebook page: Jesus Challenge 2013


The Passing Shadows


I absolutely love fantasy stories and movies.  Naturally, my favorite is the stories of Middle Earth by Tolkien.  I love the whole world he imagined and wrote about.  I also love how Peter Jackson brought that world to life.  It is such a great story of good vs. evil, but it is so much more than that.  

As a christian, I often feel like I am on a journey through Middle Earth, carrying the “Ring of Power” around my neck.  Sometimes, when I see all of the evil around me, I get discouraged and feel like there is no point in trying to make a difference.  I get bogged down and don’t want to continue my journey.  I think that is why the following scene in “The Two Towers” speaks so much to me.

Frodo has lost site of the goal.  He thinks he can no longer go on.  He feels the task is too hard for him.  Then Sam steps in, and reminds him what is at stake.  He reminds Frodo that the shadow is passing, and “A new day will come, and when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.”  He redirects Frodo back to the goal of a new day that will come when evil is destroyed.  

As awesome as that is, my favorite part comes next, when Sam states his realization for why certain stories “stay with you.”  He said, “But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand.  I know now.  Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t.  They kept going because they were holding onto something.”  

Sometimes, we all need a Sam to remind us the shadows of life on this imperfect world will eventually pass.  Evil will be destroyed, the new heavens and the new earth will be, and the sun will “shine out all the clearer.”  But, for our story to mean something, we can’t give up and turn back.  We need to hold on to something to help keep us going. 

As I am writing this, an old folk song from India keeps playing in my head.  I’ve sung this song so many times, but it always reminds me, even in the darkest of days, that with Jesus, there is no turning back.  God doesn’t want me to turn back, just like He didn’t want the Israelites to turn back when they were in the wilderness.  Turning back is foolishness.  I need to put my hope in Him, and keep going.

I have decided to follow Jesus.  

I have decided to follow Jesus.  

I have decided to follow Jesus.  
No turning back.  No turning back.  
The world behind me; the cross before me.  
The world behind me; the cross before me.  
The world behind me; the cross before me.  
No turning back.  No turning back.  
Though none go with me, I still will follow.  
Though none go with me, I still will follow.  
Though none go with me, I still will follow.  
No turning back.  No turning back.  
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
No turning back.  No turning back.  

Pretty much the entire book of Hebrews is about not giving up and motivating each other to not turn back.  It’s about holding fast to the hope we have in Jesus, no matter what comes our way.  Don’t give up!  Keep going!  We have something to hold onto, because He is faithful until the very end.

Hebrews 10:19-25
English Standard Version (ESV)

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.



On my walk to the church building, I’ve been noticing a sand-bur here or there the past couple of weeks.  Usually, I only notice one when it catches my sandal or gets caught in Jackson’s pants leg.  Having only been stuck by a couple, I didn’t really think we had a problem.  Little did I know, until I started looking, I did not know how bad of a problem we really have.

As I walked my pathway to the building, I noticed clump another clump of very mature sand-bur producing weeds.  I pulled one and saw another; pulled it and found another.  I pulled sand-burs for  quite awhile, until it was too dark to see them or snakes.  I thought I pulled so many that there wouldn’t be many left for me to finish in the morning.  Then, Saturday morning, I went out to finish the job.  Wrong again.

In the morning light, it was easy for me to see how big the infestation is.  At that point, I pulled the rest of the noticeable clumps from my path and decided to come back to the others.  Since I had only noticed the weed in that part of the yard, my thinking was I could get some help and pull them before they spread to another area.

That afternoon, I took Scott with me to the backyard.  We each had a laundry basket full of wet sheets and towels to hang on our clothes lines.  Low and behold, when I went to hang a towel, I was stuck by a sand-bur!  I looked down, and all around were giant clumps of sand-burs.  Keep in mind, this is in a completely different area than the other sand-burs.  There is even a structure in between the areas.  As I looked down, I quickly became aware as to how vast of a sand-bur problem we have.  There are way too many for one or two people to pull in any short amount of time.  Scott ended up hanging almost all of the towels and sheets while I pulled sand-burs.  I cleared a pretty big area under the clothesline,  but there were many more left.  My fingers became sore, and I was overwhelmed by all of the work left to do.  

As I was uprooting the problem, and pulling stickers from my fingertips and toes, I began thinking…

How long will it be before I can go barefoot again?

Where did these all come from?

How did they become such a problem without me ever noticing?

How can I fix this problem?

The questions go on and on (just like the pain in my fingertips).

I then started thinking about other problems that kind of creep up.  Things like dirty dishes in the sink and laundry that needs put away, and serious things, such as jealousy and greed.  At first, it’s just a want or desire for something you don’t have and before long you’re bitter towards anyone who has what you can’t get, or you spend all of your time chasing after the Jones’s and you miss out on the important things.  

When I take time to stop, and really look at my life, I realize it’s often full of sand-burs too.  The closer I look, the more I see how vast my problem is.  I know you know what I mean.  I’m pretty sure we all, at one point or another, find ourselves looking at the shambles of our life wondering , “Where did this all come from?  How did it get so bad without me noticing?  What can I do to fix it?”

Fortunately, there is an answer to our problems.  It’s Jesus, pure and simple.  He has the ability to fix our problems.  If we let Him, He’ll do more than mow over our issues.  He’ll help us dig out the burs from the root.  This doesn’t mean it is an easy solution.  It’s far from easy.  Just like my sand-bur infested lawn, it will take a lot of time, a lot of hard work, and some soreness to rid a life of the painful weeds that creep up and take over.  It may take awhile, and it may hurt, but the end result will be more than worth it!

He Never Disappoints


Recently, I was disappointed.  I wasn’t disappointed in myself, although that happens quite often, but I was disappointed when something didn’t turn out the way I thought it should.  That got me to thinking.  

I started thinking about all of the things that have disappointed me.  Usually it’s something I have done or said that disappoints myself.  I know better, but I do or say it anyway.  It’s disappointing because I know I am better than whatever I did or said.  Therefor, I disappoint myself.  Sometimes it’s my job, or my friends.  Sometimes it’s my husband, or a certain situation.  Whatever or whoever does the disappointing, it never feels good.

My mind usually doesn’t stay in the same place for too awfully long.  I have all kinds of thoughts just racing around in there.  It’s unusual if there isn’t a million ideas trying to come out at once.  So after I thought about the things that disappoint me, I tried to think of things that do not disappoint me.  The one and only think I could think of was a given, but I never really realized it is the ONLY thing that doesn’t disappoint.  Kids, relationships, the Church, jobs, books, and movies, they all can disappoint you.  I could only come up with one thing that cannot and will not disappoint you. If you haven’t figured it out, I’ll make it easy: God.  

God never disappoints.  God NEVER disappoints.  That idea is so calming.  God never disappoints.  Even now, thinking about how perfectly true this is, I get a smile on my face.  No matter what is going on in my life or in the world around me, God will never disappoint me.  No matter how many problems are thrown in my path or how much I am hurt, God will never disappoint me.  

In the darkest times, He’s there lighting my way.  In the happy times, He’s there rejoicing with me.  In the sad times, He wipes the tears away.  He is always there to help me through whatever the situation.  He never disappoints.  In Him, there is no evil.  He doesn’t cause the bad things to happen.  He never disappoints.  Disappointment comes from some inadequacy, or failure.  He is perfect, never failing, all knowing, all powerful.  God will never disappoint.

New Beginnings


There is something about spring that just screams New Beginnings!  It seems, as our beautiful planet wakes up, we do too!  The flowers, warm temperatures, and especially after last year, the much welcomed rain seem to all work together to give me extra energy and a renewed sense of well being.  I feel extra motivated to get things accomplished.  I want to eat healthier, and do healthier activities.  Every spring simply seems like a new start.

Amongst all of the springtime awakenings outside, I also feel a spiritual awakening.  It may have something to do with my physical disposition, but I think it’s mostly because of the extra time spent in the Word.  Every year, I try to set a goal for myself to read my Bible more than I did the previous year.  By the time spring arrives, I’ve spent a lot more time reading and meditating on the Scripture than I had before.  It’s had time to soak in and permeate my being.  It’s had time to transform my life just as the warm temperatures and gentle rain transform the earth.  It makes me think:

If I would continue to spend as much time in prayer and in the Word as I do leading up to spring, how much more would I be changed?

I always think of Romans 12:1-2 as a “springtime” passage because the transformation Paul is talking about is the same type of transformation butterflies go through.  I guess I think of the “end result” when it comes to metamorphosis and not the lifetime of change it takes to become that beautiful creature.  The more and more I reflect on that passage and what it means to go through a spiritual metamorphosis, the more I realize how the christian life truly is a lifetime of change and spiritual renewal.

That being said, I’ve compiled a short, nowhere near exhaustive list of some things to help me keep this “spiritual renewal” going on.  Feel free to share your ideas as well!

  1. Spend time daily in the Word.  God’s Word has the power to change us.  If we want change and renewal, we must spend time reading and meditating on it.  
  2. Find 1 or 2 short scriptures (or more) that lift your spirits and put a smile on your face.  Memorize them, and when you get frustrated, upset, or sad calm your mind and recite one.  Hopefully this will help put your mind at ease and in a better place. 
  3. Spend some quiet time with your BFF! 1 Thes. 5:17 “pray without ceasing…”  Throughout the day, I try to find ways to talk to God like I would a friend.  I like to think of this as my running conversation with God.  I like to have little conversations and tell God about the funny thing that just happened.  I imagine Him laughing and smiling about it too.  I like to tell Him my innermost thoughts that I dare not share with anyone.  I simply try to tell God everything through the day, just like I would if a close friend was with me.  The more I do this, the easier it becomes and the more I catch myself in these little “conversations” without even thinking about it. For me, this is how I pray without ceasing.
  4. Give something up and replace it with something better.  Recently, I decided to give up phone time in the evenings while Jackson is awake.  Instead of being on my phone facebooking and tweeting, I save it until after he’s in bed.  I realized I was wasting a bunch of time doing nothing.  I could be doing something fun and productive with him.  If I don’t want my son to be lazy and self absorbed, why would I model that behavior? We can do these types of things spiritually as well!  Find something consuming your time and replace it with something that will help you grow closer to God.
  5. Pray, pray, and pray some more!  Find a time to pray.  Since I try to have a conversation with God throughout the day, I try to cap it all off in the evening before I sleep.  Maybe praying in the morning is how you like to start your day.  It doesn’t matter when, just do it!  Find a group of friends and pray with them.  Sometimes the best remedy for anxiety is to tell your friends and let them pray for and with you.  It’s hard to put a value on how important prayer is in our lives.  It puts our mind on God, gives us comfort and peace, lifts our spirits, and brings us closer together.  Don’t neglect it!
  6. Meditate.  Meditate on the Word, meditate on God, meditate on the beauty of His creation.  It doesn’t have to be daily, but find some quiet time, however frequently you want, and meditate.  One of my favorite relaxing things to do is to find a quiet place in nature, sit and empty my mind, and try to listen and see God.



As many of you know, Scott has been teaching and preaching 1 Peter.  In his letter, Peter is writing to people who are going through a lot and who would continue to go through a lot simply because they wear the name of Christ.  It is easy to see how christians suffered for their beliefs and the way they lived.  It was even present in their everyday lives, not just martyrdom, but the way they were treated.  Perhaps they were unable to buy goods from some non-christians, or perhaps people wouldn’t purchase their items.  Whatever it was, these christians did not have an easy life.  They suffered on a daily basis because of their beliefs.  They truly were exiles.  Later on, people gave up all of their earthly possessions in order to ‘suffer’ for Christ.  Now, when we apply this letter to ourselves, while we’re sitting in our air conditioned buildings on padded pews, we seem to think we too are suffering terrible things.  This thought really disturbs me because as christians today, in the United States, I really don’t think we suffer for our beliefs.

As christians, we purchase whatever we want from whomever we want.  We eat whatever we desire, and participate in whatever we think is fun.  We live exactly like the rest of the world except we go to worship when we don’t have some other activity planned.  This really bothers me.  Notice, I’m including myself.  If you’ve been in my home, you know we have some really nice things.  We wear nice clothes, we drive a nice car, and like to have fun just like everyone else.  When reading and studying 1 Peter, I am VERY uncomfortable.  For example, in 1 Peter 1:17, Peter says, “…live in reverent fear during the time of your exile.”  Exile?  I don’t know about you, but I look around at how I’ve been so blessed and I don’t see exile.  I know I’m not in heaven now, but I really don’t see me living the life of an exile.  

I wonder if I would live more like an exile, would I suffer more like an exile?  I wonder if all christians did these things, would we see the church grow?  I wonder if we gave up more, would we be more excited about leaving this world?  I wonder if when faced with death, we would be able to say, “to die is gain” and truly mean it?

“The whole life of Christ was a cross and a martyrdom, and do you seek rest and enjoyment for yourself? You deceive yourself, you are mistaken if you seek anything but to suffer, for this mortal life is full of miseries and marked with crosses on all sides. Indeed, the more spiritual progress a person makes, so much heavier will he frequently find the cross, because as his love increases, the pain of his exile also increases.”  -Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, Book 2, Chapter 12

Letting Go


Most of us have probably either seen an episode, or at least have heard something about the A&E show “Hoarders.”  In cause you know nothing about the show, each episode follows two compulsive hoarders as they try to “clean up” their homes.  Sometimes these people have lost their children, or they are an inspection away from it.  Some people are forced out of their homes, and many lose their spouses over their disease.  During the episode, each individual works with a professional who attempts to organize, and help the hoarder learn new behaviors.  Large trucks and dumpsters are brought in, along with several workers to help the individuals sort and clean their homes.  The show ends with significant progress or failure of the person to change.

I’ve watched horrific scenes of clutter and trash being shoveled out and sorted by men in rubber suits and masks, and I have always wondered how the home owners could let their problem get so out of control.  This question is almost always answered by the person saying they just can’t let go.  They can’t let go of shopping habits, stray animals, trash, or home improvement items.  Whatever it is, they can’t let go, and eventually they are trapped in a very destructive behavior.  

Every time I see an episode of this show, I am encouraged to do some type of house cleaning.  I sort through clothes to give away one more time, or I clean out my “scrap booking” items that will probably never actually go into a scrapbook.  I am always terrified of becoming a hoarder.  This morning, as I was washing dishes, I thought about the show a little differently.  I wondered if I’m a secret hoarder.  I thought about when we moved and how much “junk” we were able to get rid of.  I decided I don’t have a problem with hoarding physical things, but I began to wonder if I hoard anything else.  

I thought back to the days in college when I was going through a really tough time.  I felt trapped in sin that I couldn’t escape.  Just like all of the hoarders on the show, I was trapped in a destructive behavior that was slowly killing me.  No, I wasn’t physically dying, but I certainly was spiritually.  Then one day, I realized I couldn’t clean up my life on my own.  I knew I needed help, so I turned back to God.  This was not easy for me.  I’m a very prideful and stubborn person.  Having to accept the fact that I failed and couldn’t fix the problem myself hurt really bad.  

Once I humbled myself to ask God for help, the first thing I needed to do was purge my life of everything I had trouble letting go of.  God knew I would need help, so He provided a clean up crew, my brothers and sisters in Christ.  This was very humiliating because all of my garbage, the skeletons in my closet, the very things I tried to keep hidden from everyone, including myself, was just laid out and being slowly sorted through and thrown out.  When I say slowly, I mean R-E-A-L-L-Y S-L-O-W.  I remember for weeks on end, night after night, of not going back to my dorm room until it was so late, there really wasn’t anything to get me into trouble.  Instead, I would hang out at the UC with several people singing, talking, reading the Bible, and just being around each other.  I avoided all the things that triggered my destructive behavior, and eventually these things weren’t a temptation for me anymore.  

I truly believe we all need a cleaning crew to help us sort through the stuff and throw it out, but without God being there to show us how to change the behavior, we are just going to get trapped again.  I also think it takes us being completely broken and our souls laid bare before God can teach us to let go.

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.”

Psalm 34:18 (ESV)