When in Peace.

I’m not sure how many people have this experience, but do you ever reach a point when you’re not really in the midst of a huge trial that plunges you into the word and prayer and tears night after night… and then you’re like “what do I do now?” 

I’m out of the valley… now what? Besides the (maybe) obvious answer that is “PRAISE GOD!” I was reading in 2 Chronicles and found this example really fitting: 

Chapter 14: During the reign of Asa, King of Judah:
Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He removed the foregn alters and the high places, smashed the sacred stones, and cut down the Asherah poles. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, and to obey his laws and commands. He removed the high places and incense altars in every town in Judah, and the kingdom was at peace under him. He built up the fortified cities of Judah, since the land was at peace. No one was at war with him during those years, for the Lord gave him rest. 
“Let us build up these towns,” he said to Judah, “and put walls around them, with towers, gates, and bars. The land is still ours, because we have sought the Lord our God; we sought him and he has given us rest on every side.” So they built and prospered. 

Later when an army comes, Asa and his army rely on the Lord and they defeat their enemies, the Cushites. 

I think Asa had a couple options here. He could have used this down time to tell everyone to catch up on their sleep, hang out, eat all day (though I’m sure there was celebrating), shoot the breeze. Instead he has them build up their walls and prepare for the future. He took the time of rest to fortify the walls and build up the towns. 

This encouraged me a lot. How do you use your time of peace? Do you use it to veg out, watch TV (insert potential menial task here) or do you spend it in the word and pray, building up your fortitude? 

I generally walk around my room aimlessly. This semester compared to last semester has been incredibly different! While, yes, I still come across things I need to work on and grow in, God’s given me a lot of peace time this semester. Last semester with Jeff dying and me having to drop out of a class after almost failing 3, there was a lot of time I spent in the word and prayer because I knew if I didn’t I wouldn’t make it through anything. (Yet, I think I am still convinced of this even now) 

I have a couple options here. I could use this mountain top time for my worldly pleasures, maybe reading less, or I can use it to grow my spiritual armor, my defense. The truth is, you never know when the next battles coming. If I want to stand strong, I better use this time to fortify my heart with the truth… so when enemies come, I can fight them off. Might be some old stones that need replacing or some holes that need mending. “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Cor 16:13-14)

Image

Let’s fortify the city! 
Carry on in faith and love!

-Teresa

A Letter to my Mother.

Image

Kido immediately jumps on my shoulders whenever I come home.

At home in Wisconsin for Spring Break! Feels a little more like winter break though. When I got home, I was happily greeted by my cat and an otherwise empty house. My room was ice cold because its been closed off since I left home last in January and the fridge was surprisingly empty. (These details are important because it leads to me walking aimlessly around the living room for a few minutes)

Then I stumbled upon a letter my mom had stored in a picture frame on our mantle. I remembered writing it, but I hadn’t remembered what it was really about so I took it out. I wanted to share it because I remember God convicting me to write this to show my mom gratitude and to focus on thinking about “what is pure, what is true”: what is good. It was good for my heart to do. Not to boast in my self, but to give God glory because He is the perfecter of our faith and the reconciler of our relationship with Him through Jesus that overflows into our relationships with others. Mother’s Day is coming up in a couple of months, maybe consider writing your mom a letter to tell her how special she is to God and to you regardless of your past experiences! Whatever is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things! (Philippians 4:8)

To my beautiful mom, “Walk beside me and be my friend”-Albert Camas
Love. If I can say anything first, its that I love you! Even in all ways I fail to express it, I do. I’m so glad to call you my mom because I see so much of God’s love through you. You always sacrifice for me and you’re willing to do pretty much anything for me. I really appreciate it and I thank God for you. He guides us on a great journey through life and I’m so glad that we are on that journey together.
The failings and trials along the way: I can’t count them, but only to attest that God is far greater than ourselves and that He can overcome anything. Besides, there are too many things to be grateful for to waste time thinking on the things that are harder to be thankful for. Thanks for always providing for me even when it was hard, thanks for always being there for me, teaching me things, and making me work hard, even when I didn’t want to. I see how hard you work and how you made so much out of so little. I’m proud of you. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without you.
I love my beautiful mom because she taught me how to serve people and how to have joy in life. She continually teaches me through her life that God loves us a lot, has made the greatest sacrifice: himself; and shows me that we can have life and have it abundantly. Though we are far apart, like with God sometimes, she loves me still, unconditionally.
So thank you mom! I want to honor, respect, and serve you that the world may see God’s restoring power and love through our relationship which is always being transformed into something greater than ourselves.
Loving and humbly, Teresa
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” 2/21/13

Image

My mom and I at the west coast in May 2012

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that is may benefit those who listen….Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Eph 4:29,32)

Carry on in faith AND love! (1 Cor 13:2b)
-Teresa

For the joy set before him.

I’ve been able to go on prayer walks in the mornings, which started because I park my car a little bit “off” campus in the commuter lot (It’s free during the day! Yay!) Now that’s its warmer- why not? It’s been super refreshing to my soul. 

This morning I was encouraged just think about how Jesus got through the cross. If anyone deserves a standing ovation, a medal of honor, the crown- its Him.

Sometimes in life, I think God grants us the opportunity to stand before our future challenges, what’s to come, and we have to brave it somehow. 

I think about Jeff passing and how we all knew it was coming. We had to prepare our hearts, but we really couldn’t… and God was still there to carry what we couldn’t in the first place. 

For the joy set before him- he endured the cross. Can we just stop and think about that? Jesus knew the full extent of the pain to come… think about Gethsemane. The weight of the guilt and shame of the entire world…upon him. Yet, because of the joy set before him… he endured the cross. 

What will I endure for the joy set before me? What about you?
Maybe the better question is… do we know about the joy

So often in my life, my biggest excuse for not doing something is the fear of future pain. That’s why we all build up walls, right? We don’t want to get hurt, again, or at all. I think a lot about my family. This year God called me to bring down some of those walls and open up to them again which I probably hadn’t done since I was a child, if ever (yet, I am not much greater than a child now). Since then I’ve actually answered the question “How are you doing?” with more than a begrudging “Fine.” but with honesty regardless of the content. Since then, since letting my mom, my dad, my brothers back into my life God has shown His glory in my mom confessing Christ as her savior, going to church and now bringing my brother Adam along too. Adam and I were baptized together as children- he hadn’t been to church probably once in the last 8 or 9 years. Now he’s been twice and he’s singing and praising. Man, if I would have known about this joy coming… 

I could have know though. “To live is Christ, but to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) “God works for the good of those who love Him.” (Romans 8:28) Maybe it is possible to have hope in every circumstance. 

Then I think to myself… what if Christ had decided to not endure the cross? (I just rewinded the entirety of life for a second.) 

I’m sure a lot of people would say the same; that we probably wouldn’t be here today. I probably wouldn’t have made it through my life without the Holy Spirit holding me strong and leading my life. Nope, not a chance. If my reward, my joy, is having my name written in the book of life (Luke 10:20) and there’s no cross- no atonement, no resurrection, no Holy Spirit, no redemption, no intercession, no relationship… there would be no hope. Wow. 

Praise God Jesus did. 

(Talking about the men of faith in the OT) Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

(Hebrews 11:36-12:3)

One time I heard someone talk about us being in relationship again with our Maker was part of that joy set before Him. Kind of like that reference to a mother forgetting the pain of labor when the joy of being with her baby takes over. 

Carry on in faith!

Good Grandmas

My grandmother was the person who shared Jesus with me the most when I was a child. We always went over to her house for “sunday school” where I generally colored bible story pictures and my brothers did others things with my grandma somewhere else. 

If it wasn’t for her prayers and faithfulness, my salvation wouldn’t have happened the way it did- and I’m grateful! 

I found a book the other day back at home that was dated Dec. 16th 2001. I got this book after I accepted Jesus as my savior, but I’ve never known when that was really. My memories are all mixed up. Now I have a clue and its kind of exciting, like I get to piece my life back together or something. The book is called God’s Love for You and I’ve taken to reading it for quick encouragement. Each “chapter” starts off my saying God cares enough to… (fill in the blank) and some verses. 

God cares enough to… love us unconditionally. 
Romans 5:5-8 “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 

Image

Grandma and I when I graduated HS. :)

Backstage Passes

Right now I’m riding in a van on the way to northwestern Iowa to look at some sheep. It’s one of those class field trips where you’re told to meet somewhere and you just jump in a van and go. Kind of a fun time to get to know some folks and see new parts of the earth. Iowa is pretty, I’m surprised to admit. (Wisconsinite born and raised)

The time in the van allows for a lot of introspection. A friend of mine’s mom was just diagnosed with cancer and as we were talking about God (as she’s not yet a believer) I could hear her resentment towards God in her voice, but I was able to pass on some encouragement in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11. God is the God of all comforts and he allows hardship to draw us to him.

Cancer is this crazy epidemic happening all over. My pastor just mentioned of friend of his was diagnosed. Jeff died 5 months ago. It’s still sad to think about and sometimes I cry because I miss him. But it’s happening all over.

I had a story to share that my mom passed onto me that I thought was kind of neat. It eludes to how God is working behind the scenes and most of the time we never find out about stuff like this.

Sandy (Jeff’s sister) was talking to my mom and expressing how glad she was I was able to tell Jeff about Jesus before he died. She said that Jeff had specifically asked that none of the family members would come and talk to him about Jesus.

Too bad I’m not actually a family member. The memo missed me.

I won’t know until I see Jeff in heaven if he ever accepted, but I’m encouraged to know and see that God is always working in the background, behind the scenes. Even beyond Jeff’s faithlessness, He was still faithful to provide Jeff an opportunity to put his faith in Him and just maybe Jeff saw the love of God when I left the hospital room weeping.

We don’t always get the backstage pass to see how God works, but we can be assured He is.

Carry on in faith, my friends!

Proof For God and a “100 posts and 50 followers celebration”!

The evening is ending something like this: Percy Faith playing on my record player, a small class of Hakutsuru plum wine along side of a small slice of cheese dipped in ketchup (don’t knock it till you try it). I just came back from a little college retreat weekend where I spent the whole day in fellowship, prayer, and song. Delightful! On the way back I was talking with a friend about a recent facebook post that has been circling around on everyone’s newsfeed in our church. I usually and successfully avoid the intense debates on facebook because one, it rattles me emotionally and second because you can waste hours of time invested in a conversation where everyone involved is probably too stubborn to realize it. Just an opinion though. However, as I scrolled my newsfeed and deliberated if I wanted to expand the “see 137 previous comments” I noticed someone posted a comment on whether or not the explanation for gravity explains God so I had some thoughts to share because what else do you do on a Saturday night besides enjoy some wine and cheese and post blogs, right?
Also, wordpress is funny and sends you notifications when you hit different numbers such as “100th post” and “50 followers” both of which I’ve achieved apparently. I suppose that’s an accomplishment, so I just wanted to sincerely thank those reading. I pray over my blog that it might impact its readers no matter how many they are, so it’s encouraging to think some of it is at least God-thought provoking. So thanks! God’s done a lot of work in my life in the past couple of years and I really do enjoy sharing. Here’s my thoughts on proof for God:

A lot of people ask “prove to me God is real”. A fair statement. Why believe in something if its not real? Some will talk about creation and how a beautiful sunset declares a creator and some people see that and think “wow I can’t believe that happened by coincidence”. The arguments go on and on. Some people say, God is like gravity. It works and you trust in it, but you just can’t see it. Others say God is not like gravity, because you can test something against gravity over and over again to prove its existence. It’s a little hard to set up a science experiment for God especially since He’s not a vending machine who submits to limited human wisdom. Besides the word says “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”. (I wish I was one of those blessed people- I doubt a lot)

We know gravity exists because we see it act upon another object. It happens over and over again and we realize there is a specific force that acts on this object over and over again and we call it gravity. Much like the wind, we don’t actually see its driving force but we see its action on other object, like trees and leaves, snow, air, we feel the wind so we call this force wind. Can God be like this too? Is it possible that God acts on objects over and over again in the same fashion that might give one a reason to believe there is a force behind all of these reactions? I think yes and those objects are you and me.

People who are committed to following Jesus share their stories or “testimonies” for one reason (usually) to declare God’s great work, his action and force, upon their lives transforming them from a selfish, bitter, unmerciful, lazy, arrogant, angry, worried person to a selfless, joyful, gracious, diligent, humble, loving, peaceful soul who wants to follow God from here through all of eternity.  It happens in the same way too: through confession Christ as your savior and obeying his commands by loving God and people all via his Spirit. Lives are transformed everyday and the Spirit will work the same way in all of them. It’s in our lives that we carry the proof for God and how his undeserving and unconditional love affects our hearts! I get there’s a lot of liars out there claiming Jesus as their savior or some other religion and live opposite, but that just proves we have an enemy hard at work. Not to fret though, Jesus has conquered the grave and all authority on heaven and earth has been given to Him who is to be forever praised.

The funny this is,  I share my proof for God and people will say to me “Thanks for sharing that, I’m glad that you found healing and joy, but it just doesn’t convince me!” And I’m like GAHHHHH I don’t get it. And then God has to remind me about patience and goodness because I often “don’t get it” either.

I suppose this probably isn’t a perfect argument, but one thing my friend mentioned is that it doesn’t really even matter because people really won’t believe. Even people who saw Jesus face to face turn water to wine didn’t believe. How much more proof do you need? The truth is people are bent on not believing- I’m convinced. Lord, help us all believe.

Proof for that is Romans 1:16-25

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes[...]. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

I pray we would worship our creator instead of the created. What can creation do for us? Does it give us life, peace, freedom, joy? No. Only you, God. Only you. Help us trust you gave us life, you own our lives, and you like a perfect father that you are know truly what’s best for our lives. May I know that everyday.

Letting all go.

Here’s a song I wrote a couple weeks ago on the brink of forgiveness.

There’s a child inside of me crying, longing for you.
There’s a darkness that lingers around me, and nothing gets through.

And the strings of this pain that’ve colored this stain,
you’d think they’d pull like a noose.
Yet, I’m here to say when I give Him my pain,
there’s nothing that crumbles this cave like the truth.

Broken I’m falling before you, down on my knees.
Feeling the weight of regret, my soul needs relief.

Oh Father of mercy, please tell me you love me
and Jesus, you cover my need.
For my father before me, he could not protect me
from corruption and all that it reaped.

Here I am. Nothing in hand. Parched in a desert land,
and water comes from your hands.

Forever here I’ll stand, with your promise to the end.
For this world has left me wanting, though measured I have been.

When the wolves cry out to the moon; hungry, they encroach.
Yet laugh at them, though I must, for I will not let go
of the truth that has saved me,
the blood that renamed me,
and the penitence in all of my soul.
The healing He gave me,
the loves that replays in me,
and the freedom of letting all go, gives me hope.

Image

If you only knew.

Image

Its been so long since I’ve let down these walls
or even pulled the curtain open.
Oh the light could shine through- my soul, if you only knew.

Maybe I built them up in vain,
to protect my heart from tearing apart
but, they’re there all the same.

And He’s asking me to let them in
but I don’t even want to put windows in.

Why should I let them see this heart You’ve put inside of me?
Its like they might actually love You- my soul, if you only knew.

In those memories of shattered hopes,
of empty dreams and broken scopes
of lonely tears, the lies that seared
of neglect and mountains of regret
from the people who could have loved me most dear- this is what I feared:

I didn’t matter.

It may have even been true.
I didn’t matter to see their love through
I didn’t matter though I lay in ruin
no one cared to ask and so we have fruition
of a heart beaten.

And I suppose You knew too
this life that stung You like a nail.
Yet, You were satisfied to see it through
because You knew how deeply the Father loved You.
And You turned the other cheek to those You didn’t matter to
all the while breathing this reckoning truth:

“It was all for you.”
My soul, if you only knew.

Nope, not by your own righteousness.

I’ve been reading through the old testament (slowly) for the past couple of months. Though now trekking through the Dueteronomy, I was in Numbers earlier and at several points had a reaction sort of like this:

ImageImage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because sometimes it gets a little scary. I was left feeling like Boo who accidentally caught my Father getting really mad and destroying people (Numbers 16:49). It was scary and I didn’t really know how to react. I did however pray that the Lord would give me the right perspective, because its says a bazillion times we should fear God… but I don’t think it should be a fear that keeps us from trusting Him or that makes us run from Him. (But stand in awe of him because he has ALOT of power!) Then I read a verse in Psalm 33:5 that says “The Lord loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.” God’s wrath is an interesting thing to try and grapple with, but if the Lord LOVES righteousness and justice… he would not punish the innocent. “The Lord detests differing weights and dishonest scales do not please him.” (Proverbs 20:23) God’s promise was that if they (the Israelites) obeyed his commands and kept his decrees, God would bless their lives and keep them from disease along with a lot of other good things (Deut. 7:12-15). He even gave them signs and wondrous miracles in Egypt to prove He was God (7:19). And so I find myself in Deuteronomy feeling more assured that God in fact carries out justice, though it is hard to imagine the depth of their hatred towards God (and yet, I think I can). Better yet, God explains himself clearly (as He always does when I seek) that while He was humbling Israel for the hatred and forgetfulness towards God in the desert for forty years to reveal their true hearts, he was specifically disciplining them like a good father should. As God commanded Israel to defeat certain nations, God points out something very clearly: it was not because of Israel’s righteousness that they were allowed to defeat these other nations as they traveled to the promise land, it was because of those nation’s wickedness. 

Deuteronomy 9:3-6 (Moses is speaking to the Israelites) “But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out quickly, as the Lord has promised you. After the Lord has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on the account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to posses, for you are a stiff necked people.”

God will punish the wicked. That’s a hard to truth to tell, but I’m grateful that He does because that means justice. I think its hard to watch people die, and I’m sure it breaks God’s heart too as he desires all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), but from reading the Old Testament I can trust that God really does love righteousness and justice and He wouldn’t punish those who didn’t deserve it. It’s hard to imagine that people are so turned away from God, so cold, and distant… but it’s true. All God asks is that we turn from our stiff necked ways and fear Him, remember what He has done (in our lives and on the cross) to give him the glory He deserves

If I don’t trust, while reading about God’s wrath, that He is still good and loving, my understanding of God starts to fall apart. When I start making excuses for people’s sins, I start giving the devil a foothold to take my perspective of God and twist into something that isn’t true. Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding… right?

 

I’m thankful I have a mighty savior who stands to test against my questions and give me answers. 

For Freedom!

Malachi 4:2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.

This is what that kind if looks like:

May we rejoice in our freedom in Christ- the great healer and redeemer!