My Journey through Lent

At the beginning of the new year 2014, I didn’t make any resolutions. I decided instead to set some priorities and commit myself to living in balance. Nope, No resolutions here.

I did, however, ask a question. Father, what areas of my life need to be radically changed by Your Love.

Fast forward to now. Lent (for those who are non-liturgical) is the 40 day period which begins after Mardi Gras on Ash Wednesday and ends on Palm Sunday. It is a time of reflection and penitence to prepare one’s heart for the celebration of the Resurrection.

Lent, for me, began with a fast on Ash Wednesday.  A day devoted to Scripture and prayer that helped me to focus my heart by examining my spiritual walk. Where am I with Christ? What are the areas of my life that need to be pruned, readjusted, or realigned? Each Wednesday I attempted to focus on fasting (not always successfully) and prayer, and as each week passed, another layer would be tenderly exposed to the Refiner’s Fire:

My journey into Lent revealed, I believe, some interesting answers.

My Desires.

My Surrender.

My Attention.

Desires- There are lots of things I do. Lots of things I feel called to do. Yes, they are good things. Family. Church. Music. Work. Many of these things I have a passion to do. They motivate and excite me. When I get the opportunity to pursue my desires, I feel like I am fulfilling the purpose for which I was made. I am being what I was made to be. This is a good thing. This is a God thing.  If I’m not careful, though, I could let I have let the pursuit of my desires drive me to achieve, to accomplish or to strive. Then, I would fall prey to thinking I have to achieve or accomplish in order to be accepted.  But the truth that God so gently revealed to me is that those God-given desires are meant to draw me to Him. Pursuit of those dreams apart from Him will only serve to push me toward goals that will never truly satisfy. While recognizing, though, that these desires are meant to be the vehicle that drives me to knowing and serving Him more completely, I understand better that the end goal is knowing Him and the glorious benefit is that He uses my desires in the process!!

Surrender- As good as my life is, there are still things I worry about. There are things I wish I could change. There are things I stamp my foot and whine and wish were going my way. And, then there are things in the depths of my heart I have a longing for God to make right, and I keep wondering when that will happen. When those worries, frustrations, and pains sometime bubble up to the surface, I get mad and agitated when the situations are not fixed right when I want them to be. Sometimes, I even begin to doubt if God can really change them at all.  Sure….most of us know the song…”I surrender all, I surrender all”. And we know in our heads we are to surrender ourselves to Him, and we say we do with our mouths, and then we go right on worrying as best we can. But, I was reminded during this Lenten journey to surrender. The circumstances and people in which I wish to see change need to be surrendered to Him. This doesn’t mean I stop being concerned. Rather, this means I continue praying as best I can and keep surrendering (often again and again) so that it gets ME out of the way so God can work the situation according to His plan!

Attention- I’m still a little raw and tender about this one. I am a pleaser. I want people to like me. I confess I even want people to like me more than others. I want people to like what I do. And yes, I confess I want people to like what I do more than others. Needing this attention comes in the form of desiring acceptance, affirmation, approval and the like. Oh, I know…it’s human nature to want such reassurances from others, and it’s not entirely bad to desire this. However, at the core of this attention seeking is insecurity. Down in the depths of my spirit, what I am really desiring is to be recognized by Him, the true Lover of my Soul. I realize I’ve had these longstanding insecurities, and they were so common to me I didn’t think much about it. But the Father lovingly points out when I am asking those attention seeking questions (Does she like what I do? Does my one-and-only-fella like the way I look? Do they think I did a good job? etc, etc, etc), I need to allow those questions to drive me to seek Him and allow His Word and His promises and His presence to fill me with His love.

Yes, His Love.

His unending, saturating, completing Love is the only thing that can be the fulfilling of my desire, the calming to my surrender, and the satisfying of my attention.

Now, a new practice needs to begin. I must retrain my thinking when these well-worn habits rise up to release this prayer:

Father, Use my desires to help me seek you more, help me surrender my worries to trust You more, reveal my need to be liked the best to find You already like me the best! Amen

What areas of your life need to be radically changed by God’s Love?

~Amy

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All of You…Together

1 Corinthians 3:16-23

16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in[a] you? 17 God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.18 Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say,“He traps the wise    in the snare of their own cleverness.”[b20 And again,“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise;    he knows they are worthless.”[c]

21 So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Peter,[d] or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Why does Women of the Way gather to study and fellowship together?

All of you together are the Body of Christ.

All of you together are the Church of God.

All of you together are the Bride of Christ.

 We are stronger when we are unified. We are more effective when we work together.  We are One when we love each other.

Our theological and doctrinal differences are minor in light of the children going hungry, the women enslaved for their bodies, the missionaries enduring persecution, or the nations without the Scriptures in their native language…all of whom need a Savior.

So let us step out of our neat little boxes that we retreat to on Sundays. Let us break out of the comfort zones of our hymns, bulletins, and worship songs. Let us be the hands and feet of Jesus to the world outside beyond the particular sign over the door.

“We are One in the Spirit, We are One in the Lord, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love”bodyofChrist

~Amy

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My Coat of Many Colors

You may be wondering…..why does it matter if Women of the Way is interdenominational?

Because I have been uniquely shaped by many traditions. Keep reading and see why:

I have a coat of many colors. Not a Joseph kind of coat, but more like a Dolly Parton-patch-work-quilt kind of coat. This coat has been stitched together through many years of experience adding patch by patch of various styles, patterns, and textures.

I didn’t make my coat of many colors……it made me. Through years and years, as each patch has been added, it formed me and shaped me and my life would be impacted by each little part.

My coat – this glorious, rich mish-mash of vibrant colors, is my church history, or rather, my spiritual formation…….my interdenominationalism, if you please.

Throughout my life, I have been a part of several different denominations. I have known the expressive excitement of a charismatic service and the intense spiritual warfare of a Pentecostal service. I have understood grace from the Southern Baptist church.  And I have learned the deep respect for the elements of communion in the Episcopal Church, just to name a few.

There’s been one common thread through this patchwork journey. I didn’t really see it as it was happening. But, I can look back and realize that God has been faithfully knitting my coat of many colors to form me into His image, to teach me and grow me into the person He desires me to be.

Coat of Many Colors

Coat of Many Colors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, sometimes I wish my coat was made of one complete fabric, uniform in texture, style and color. A fashion statement. I wish I could have a long-standing history at one place, one congregation. It would be easier, and so much more comfortable, to slide into a well-worn, familiar coat. Instead, the patches of my coat have been pieced together in an unpredictable way. And, I’ve never gotten used to my heart breaking over one patch ending and the uncertainty of another patch beginning.

Oh, but I wouldn’t trade a thing for the lessons or the journey of how this coat has shaped me…and continues still even now.

And the people…. oh, the people! For each church in which I have worshipped, there have been pastors, mentors, and kindred spirits who have blessed and enriched my life. They are like threads of gold and silver woven into the fabric of my being. So many precious friends have been like beautiful buttons or beads carefully sewn into the patches to adorn my coat to make it not just valuable but priceless. I can’t imagine my life without all these brothers and sisters I have met along the way.

My coat of many colors isn’t finished. I don’t if it ever will be. I don’t know what the final product will look like. But I do know that I can trust the Master Weaver to knit and weave with wisdom and beauty until I am complete. Just like Dolly’s coat was made with maternal love, my coat is made with Eternal Love.

I cherish my coat of many colors my Father made for me.

~Amy

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Why Bother?

womenofthewaytn:

As Women of the Way 2014 approaches, consider how willing are you to step out of your own comfortable box?

Originally posted on Women of the Way:

I prefer to associate with people who believe like I do……….

It’s more comfortable to stay within the walls of my own church…..

My denomination has it ‘right’ and others…well… don’t.

Why bother?

We all have our justifications for why we worship with a particular denomination. And with good reason…..drums vs no drums, hymns vs praise & worship, eternal security vs not, wine vs grape juice, tongues vs interpretation, large vs small…the list goes on and on. All these variations of worship help us connect to God in ways that suits us best, and we find community within the Church with like-minded believers to support us in our journey.

Not a thing wrong with this!

But….how often do you engage in spiritual conversations with someone from a different part of the Body? I’m not talking about awkward holiday dinners with family members or debates with zealous co-workers or the uncomfortable…

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Chocolate

Let’s all pause for a moment and reflect………….

Aaaahhhhhhh……………………………………….

Anybody who knows me more than a few minutes knows that I am a Gen.u.ine. Choco-haulic. Yes, I admit it. I need therapy.

The honest truth is that once when I was little girl I kept begging and begging to eat the Reese’s cups, and mom decided to “cure” me by letting me eat all I wanted until I got sick. Yep, I ate all I wanted. And Yep, I got sick as a dog. It’s been a down hill addiction ever since.

This chocolate love-affair has also brought with it the whoas of battling the scale, but that is another story for another day. Let us, for now, just think about the chocolate…..

Used to, I’d eat anything that was called ‘chocolate’. Sure- some was better than others, but I didn’t care. I HAD to have it. Literally, it would call my  name. But then as I grew older and wiser and my tastes matured, I experienced a whole new level of bliss. My taste buds and my heart discovered the likes of Lindt, Godiva, and…..Ghirardelli<3<3<3

No longer did that cheap stuff from the Dollar Store satisfy. And even that common, household  chocolate pales in comparison to the richness of those mentioned above only pure enough to be called…..Chocolate.

Even so, it dawns on me this is exactly how it is with my relationship with God. I have spent so much time and energy feeding myself with sub-par substitutes…..tv, magazines, facebook, food. I’m looking to nourish myself, relax and unwind. Sure, it feels good at the moment but vegging out on junk for the mind and the spirit leave me sluggish and tired and not really rested and nourished.

But, during those times I put down the remote, close the laptop, and clear out artificial flavors, colors and additives, I find God waiting for me. When I feast on His Word and soak in His Presence, there is nothing on this earth more satisfying. Nothing.

His Word is bread. His Spirit is water. His Presence is……..Chocolate!

What is it that you feed yourself? Is it the fake, mind-numbing diet of the world? Or, is it the richness and creaminess of God?

 Taste and see that the Lord is Good Psalm 34:8

Happy Valentine’s Day

~Amy

Ps…I might need to consider what to give up for Lent, but that is another story for another day:)

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Dear Enemy….

Dear Enemy…….

I know you are doing your best to weigh me down. I know you love to see me worried, frustrated, and bothered. You love to see me tired, overwhelmed, and empty. Ready to throw in the towel. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?

Yes, when I get knocked back and stunned by people who criticize and talk about me, I know you take such delight. You watch while others, who should know better, leave me speechless with their words and actions while you sit back and quietly cheer them on. You whisper in their ears to take the jab, the sucker-punch, or the stab in the back.

Yes, I know…really, its you.

You love to dish out as much sickness, pain, and depression as possible stealing abundance and joy at every turn.  So many around are enduring such difficult tragedy and grieving such loss while you are trying your best to make them forget. To make me forget.

But I won’t forget.

In fact, I am learning it a little more each day. I am learning just how much God loves me.

Are you nervous? You should be.

See, I am learning that no matter what you throw at me, it can’t change the fact that I am deeply loved. At one time just knowing that God loved me to save me from my sin was enough. But now, I’m beginning to realize it’s even more than that. It’s growing in me like the dawn growing brighter into a new day. It’s growing in me like a tiny ember fanning into a wild flame. He loves me!!

I may be hard-pressed but you can’t crush me.

I may be perplexed but you can’t make me despair.

I may be persecuted but you can’t make Him abandon me.

I may be struck down but you can’t destroy me.

Because at the end of the day no matter what you’ve done to me, His Love never fails, it never gives up, and it never runs out on me. And, I can face anything because His Love guards my heart and gives me the strength to keep going.

So, I will keep turning the other cheek. I will keep forgiving. I will keep standing up for what is right. I will keep loving others.  He will keep pouring into me and I will keep pouring it out on others and Love will come full circle. I will love Him more each day until every fiber of my being is completely consumed by Him.

He loves me. And, there’s not a thing you can do about it.

~Amy

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Holy Matrimommy!!

No….that’s not a line from the old Batman TV show:) It’s a delightful blog by Kalonda Coleman in which she has Fellowship Fridays. I had the opportunity to share a bit of my testimony through answering her 3 questions.

If you are interested, please hop on over to Holy MatriMommy to see what’s happening!

Thank You, Kalonda for this opportunity!!

~Amy

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