growing in grace


Growing in grace.......

One of the books that has greatly impacted my walk with God is the book, The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. It challenges me to think outside of theology and "head knowledge," and to live daily in the gospel of grace. It is amazing to think that I, a "ragamuffin" who is dirty, bedraggled, and beat up, can sit at the feet of the Father and He smiles upon me because I am an object of His "furious love." I am on a journey to grow in this grace and to extend it to others.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Seeing the invisible.....


I am in a battle.  Well, aren't we all?  There is never a season in life when we aren't battling something, right?  It may be the littlest annoyance that keeps pestering away at us with no reprieve, or perhaps one of those "thorns in the flesh" that Paul spoke of which flare up throughout our lifetime.   Either way, the battles are meant to draw us near to the Lord.

I was encouraged in my scripture reading this morning while reading 2 Kings chapter 6:16-17


“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha."

In this section of scripture, an enemy king was coming after the prophet Elisha to kill him because Elisha was reporting to the King of Israel what the enemy king's plans were against Israel.  The enemy king surrounded Elisha with troops, horses, and chariots everywhere.  Elisha's assistant got up early in the morning and went out and saw the enemy king's oppression and hurried to inform Elisha.  The odds seemed against them.  They were surrounded by a great military force that set out to destroy ONE man of God.  I think panic would be a good word to describe the assistant at this realization.  Was he thinking, "I am going to get the heck away from this guy," and pack his bags to catch the next donkey out of town?

I appreciate the attitude of Elisha at this moment.  In verse 16, he calmed the anxiety of his assistant immediately with the words, "Don't be afraid."  I'm sure there had been other times throughout Elisha's ministry in which the assistant had watched Elisha do some incredible things under great pressure and tremendous circumstances.  Drawing on the past experiences could have been enough to calm an anxious heart, but Elisha went one step further.  He asked the Lord to show the assistant that which Elisha saw himself.... the visible army of God with horses and chariots of fire protecting and surrounding him in the supernatural realm!  Ahhh, can you say sweet relief?? 

Believing that God is watching out for us and actually seeing it are two totally different experiences, but they offer up the same reality don't they?  The reality in our lives should be that God is present, He cares for His people, and He most certainly does not abandon us in our time of need.  He even goes one step further and has anticipated any need we have before we ever knew we had one.  We may not have the privilege of opening our eyes and seeing the valiant warriors of God surrounding us, ready to fight our battles, and bring our enemy defeat.  However, we can have faith that they are there!  We can be assured, like Elisha, that those that are with us are more than those that are against us!

So, what ever battle you are facing today, whether great or small, rest in the fact that you are not alone in the trenches of your battle.  God is with you and He's got your back!  Now, be obedient to Him and let Him guide you through it.  Seek Him for His wisdom and His alone.

Blessings~


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Writing.....

I miss writing and haven't made any time for it lately.  So, I am thinking about starting a new project.  To help me get started, you can tell me which parable is your favorite in the Gospels.  Thanks!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Come on and rain down on us.....


I have been wanting to blog to you all week about what I learned last weekend at my Living Proof Live conference with Beth Moore and while I'm sitting here at the barn, in this beautiful weather, I am going to try to summarize what the Lord taught me through the words Beth shared with us girls.

The passage that Beth taught from was from the book of James (a new study that she will be coming out with soon)......
"Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming near." (James 5:7-8)

The main point Beth drove home during the weekend was that we are either going to be in a rainy season of life or a drought. The rain is symbolic of the time when God's blessing and abundance is evident and obvious in our lives, and the drought being a time of patience and endurance as we trust for the next rain shower to show up in our life. The rain is what will produce the fruit, or harvest, in our lives and it is only from the Father. We can all remember the last time the shower of blessings from the Lord had flooded our lives. Some of you may be clinging to those memories right now as you endure the drought between the rains while hoping and trusting that the Lord will send a shower your way soon to produce a harvest in your life.

Beth spent a lot of time sharing what we should be doing while we patiently wait between the rains. She called them the "8 while We Wait." Here they are...

1). Embrace the word you love to hate....patience!
In God's economy, things are sown first, grown over time, and not instantly shown. How many times has a farmer planted corn seed and the next day have a full grown stalk of corn? Things take time, they need to go through a process, and have to develop. In our fast paced culture, we expect things immediately. We need to remind ourselves that God has a different pace than ours.
2). See the sacred in the simple while you wait.
Just as the farmer goes through the seasons of farming and waits for his crop to mature, we have to go through them as well. Just as it is God's plan for the farmer to be patient as he waits for the seeds to germinate and grow, it is God's plan that we have patience while we wait on Him.....and that is a sacred discipline we all need to cultivate in our lives.
3). Go look for your heart- the place where it got lost.
Wherever the Lord has you, there is meant to be a harvest! I love that about the Father! God tells us in Matthew that we are to love Him with all our hearts. The enemy wants nothing more than to have your heart. Your actions will soon follow where your heart has led you, so you need to examine where your heart is today. Dueteronomy 11:13-14, "So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil." When the Lord has our heart, He promises that He will send the rains.
4). Watch for relationships that a long wait will cost.
If we don't turn ourselves towards God while we wait, we will turn on one another with grumbling and complaining. Our cynicism and critical spirits during the waiting times will cause causalities in our relationships with each other. We need to recognize that God is still changing lives and hearts of people and He is not going to put up with our groaning and grumbling with each other.
5). Pray, believing that your rain is near.
In 1 Kings 18:41-45 we see the answered prayer of Elijah that the rain was coming. The Lord hears our cries and sends His rain to the faithful.
6). Study the lives of those who persevered.
It takes some spiritual hard work, sweat, and endurance to persevere. Beth said, "We love a great story, but we just don't want to be one." How true is that? Another good one I heard was, "Lord send someone, just not me!" Hebrews 6:7-8 says, "Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned." Let the stories of those that have gone before you and persevered inspire you to do the same. Don't be content in your laziness, empathy, or discouragement. Do you live in the reality of the abundant life that He offers you daily?
7). Trust that God will cause your eyes to see.
Isaiah 46:10, "Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I will plan will come to pass, for I do what I wish."
Philippians 1:6, "And I am certain that God, who began a good work in you, will continue his work until it is finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns."
Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
8). All that He's been in the past, your God will always be.
My scripture memory verse this past week is Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." He is faithful and trustworthy and in Him only I can place my trust.

The song that we sang over and over, that I dearly love, and sums up the message of the weekend so appropriately is "All My Fountains" by Tomlinson:

[Verse 1:]
This dry and desert land
I tell myself, "Keep walking on"
Hear something up ahead
Water falling like a song
An everlasting stream
Your river carries me home
Let it flow, let if flow

[Verse 2:]
A flood for my soul
A well that never will run dry
I've rambled on my own
Never believing I would find
An everlasting stream
Your river carries me home
Let it flow, let it flow

[Chorus:]
Open the heavens
Come Living Water
All my fountains are in You
You're strong like a river
Your love is running through
All my fountains are in You

[Bridge:]
Come on, and rain down on us
Rain down on us, Lord

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A legacy lived and passed on....

It feels so good to be back on my blog! This current season of life has been very busy and also filled with grief. We buried my precious grandmother on March 31st after about a two week hospital ordeal that seemed to consume most of my time and thoughts. I thought you might want to read what I shared at her memorial. I know many of your were praying for me and my family during this difficult time, and I definitely felt your prayers and the Lord upheld me mightily! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Xoxoxoxo (my grandmother always signed her cards this way)!

My Gramma Rene has always been a constant in my life. There has never been a holiday or major milestone in my life that she has not been present at or a part of in some way. For almost 36 years she has been one of my biggest fans and cheerleader. She was always telling me i could do anything and she was proud of me. Some of the earliest memories I have are with her when we would visit her and my grandfather in Taft or when I would share my room with them when they would come to Modesto and visit. My early memories of times with her are NOT of fancy meals, expensive outings to entertain us kids, or of any specific one present. What I remember most is just her presence- her gentle touch of her arm around my waist, her kisses, her smile, her hugs, and of course, her laugh. I loved it when i could make her laugh, and it wasn't hard to do. She just loved to be around us grandkids and we were her delight. I can remember her sitting by the pool watching endless synchronized water routines, patiently waiting on her living room sofa while I danced for her, saving all her old bank paperwork so i could use it to set up an office in her guest room and she would be a customer, teaching me how knit, taking us bowling (she was a great bowler!), shooting the basketball in the driveway, or constantly applying sunscreen and subsequently aloe vera on me....she was always very concerned about her fair skinned granddaughter. If i would have heeded her advice a little more, I am sure I'd have less age spots & sun damage. My grandmother had the most beautiful skin (even recently in the hospital I commented to her about it)- probably because she always wore a hat when out in the sun or tried to always sit in the shade.

When i was a child, it never failed, that when the time of visiting was over and we had to head back to our home in Modesto, I became a crying mess! The kind of cry that effects you physically with blotchy red spots around the eyes, labored breathing, you have the idea. It was so hard to say goodbye to her, because I knew I would miss what her daily presence in my life offered and her love that she gave so freely.

This goodbye will obviously be the hardest, but as I think about who she was as a person....

I will choose to remember her propriety. She was always dressed beautifully, hair in place, a little lipstick on, nails painted, perfume on, and had a little sparkle of jewelry somewhere. I had asked my kids what they would remember most about how great grannie looked and they both commented on her hair. She definitely had a signature look that was just "Rene".

I will choose to remember her sense of humor and laughter . She always enjoyed a good "chuckle" and I loved nothing more than to try to make her smile and laugh. She had such a unique giggle. She was such a flirt too! She would always let us know when she thought someone was good looking and she would usually tell them too, which was awkward when it was a boyfriend of mine.

I will choose to remember her independent spirit. She was brave in her adventures and had no problem taking on things alone. She wasn't afraid of much. Well, accept heights. I know first hand, that the little cable cars that go above amusement parks are NOT an adventure she enjoyed. However, for her grandkids, she at least tried it...ONCE.

I will choose to remember her generosity. She always had a dollar or two for the great grandkids when she saw them, and would often give me a little something to "have some fun with." She was not only generous with her money, but with her time too. Her volunteerism is what I think she would say she was most proud of. She loved her days at the Discovery Shop and giving her time to help out. One of the best things about my grandma is that she would freely give her time to her family, which she loved to be with.

I will choose to remember her love. She had a unique love for her family. Seeing that her family was so small, it was like her love was "concentrated" for us. She loved us fiercely! After she passed I asked the kids when it tucked them in to bed, what they would remember most about her. They each separately said "that she loved us.". Her love was unmistakable. We knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she loved us and wanted to be around us when ever she could. Last week, I was looking through a giant box of pictures looking for some for the video remembrance. In most of her pictures, she would not look at the camera. I used to tease her about that and make her take another picture with her looking at the camera. What I realized in going through all the many pictures, is that she often preferred looking at those she loved that were around her than the camera - her kids, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. We were her true delight and the reason for her smile.

I have realized that she has passed these qualities on to her family. They are her legacy. I see them in my mother, I see them in me, and I hope to see them in my children. She also passed on her stubbornness and strong will to me, but that's another story. I was blessed to have known her and to be loved by her.



Friday, March 4, 2011

Blonder than I pay to be......


Have you ever done something really stupid? I mean REALLY stupid? I had one of those revelations of my own stupidity the other day. I had a "blonder than I pay to be" moment, as Beth Moore calls them. Most of you know, that my husband makes no claims to be electronically or mechanically adept in anything. So naturally by default, all of those responsibilities in our home are mine....whether I want them or not. Seeing that I have more patience than him, I gladly attempt most of the challenges; and for the most part, I navigate through them well. However, I was humbled on Tuesday.

Our tv had gone out, AGAIN, and I was waiting for the Uverse man to show up and replace my box for the second time. To quote Cade, "Praise God the Uverse man is coming!" He was going through SpongeBob withdrawals. Apparently, the first 24 hours are rough. Anyways, the repairman found a faulty cable, replaced the box, and then asked, "are you using your HD?" A little caught off guard, I said, "Um, yeah. I have had it for awhile now." In the nicest way possible, he said, "Well, you haven't been seeing it. At least not with that cable." We haven't had HD picture and I've been paying for it?? (This is the "blonder than I payed to be" moment) Apparently, when I added my HDTV upgrade via the internet (because they discourage you from actually talking to a real person) I was suppose to have different cables and then make some picture adjustments on my DVR box. When I bought the HD tv it came with cables, why would I think I need to go purchase new ones and isn't the company suppose to just flick a switch and, wellah, HD programming appear? In Erin's world, yes. In The Uverse world, no. Once the proper cables were on, etc... I saw the true HD picture and realized it was MUCH better than my HD version.

This event got me thinking about my walk with the Lord. How many times have I been going along in life and thinking I had a "high definition" relationship with the Lord and I didn't even have my cable plugged into HIM! Believe me, once the true HD picture showed up on my tv, the old picture paled in comparison. Things were crisper and the colors more vibrant. I think I often settle for dull colors and fuzzy pictures in my walk with Christ and think it is how it should be. How sad, huh? After all, Christ paid the upgrade for us to have a vivid and vibrant life in Him! When you stop and think about all that Christ has to offer us, it will blow your mind. Abundant life, His strength, His power, discernment, wisdom, patience, spiritual gifts, freedom, compassion, mercy, and grace are just scratching the surface. The longer we walk with God, the better we see these things. Isn't it fun when you are with a new believer and they start to really understand God? It's like they go from basic cable to HD when they start to see the details and brilliance of God. I need to check my cables more often in my walk with the Lord. Check to see if there is faulty wiring on my behalf that isn't letting me experience the brilliance God has to offer me. Sometimes we need people in our life, much like the Uverse man, to point out that we are missing it. Aren't you thankful for the fellowship of believers? I love that we are meant to be in relationship, to encourage each other, and spur one another on in our journeys of faith. Get your wiring in check. Make sure you are plugging into the Lord. Be an encouragement to someone around you to check their own cables. Maybe you need to show someone how to upgrade their life and experience a vivid life in Christ.
Blessings~

Monday, February 21, 2011

Throne of grace....


Hebrews 4:16, "Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

This is the verse I chose for my scripture memory challenge for the end of February. I picked it mainly because I thought it would be a good verse to have memorized in order to share with someone when the time is needed, but also a good reminder for me. As I have mentioned, I have been reading through the Old Testament. It has been said many times, but I will say it again.... the New Testament makes so much more sense when one has an understanding of the Old Testament. Yes, the OT can be rather dry and boring at times (i.e. Leviticus). Yet at other times, it can be the best adventure narrative. In the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, God makes it very clear that He is God and we fall very short of His holiness. The elaborate ceremonies and rituals required for purification and atonement for the sins of man were overwhelming. The required temple laws had to be kept to the most intricate of details. Perfection was the requirement for the temple and perfection was required for the person who entered into the temple and into the Holy of Holies. If the high priest was to do anything wrong, he was immediately consumed by fire, a plague or some sort of death! It was obviously a high stress job! The average Israelite would never be allowed into the very place in the temple where the Living God dwelt. Only the priests, who were set apart, were allowed to go in and make atonement sacrifices and offerings on behalf of the people. In contrast, the Hebrews passage says that we (YOU AND I) can approach God's throne of grace with confidence. It is not a confidence that we will be consumed by His rage and fury like the high priests may have experienced. It is a peace knowing that we will find mercy and grace once there. The reason we can do this is simple, yet so profound! It is because Christ lives in us that we can enter God's throne room with confidence. You see, He still requires perfection in His presence, that hasn't changed. However, when He looks upon us He doesn't see our imperfections, but He sees His perfect son. Christ is the only one worthy to stand before the throne of God. He was the atonement offering for each one of us so that we can now stand before the Father and have divine fellowship with Him! If that doesn't give you goosebumps, I don't know what will! Have you approached the throne lately? After all, a lot was sacrificed so you could. In this day of social networking.....I couldn't think of a better "contact" to have than Christ. Don't take for granted the sacrifice that was paid for you and don't take for granted the benefit you have because of that sacrifice. Enter the presence of God with confidence and do it often! What will you bring before Him today?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Obstacles or opportunities……it’s perspective


Today, my scripture reading continued on in Numbers.  In Numbers 13, I read the story where Moses sent out the 12 spies from the tribes of Israel to explore and spy on the inhabitants of the Promised Land.  They went to see what the land produced and how strong their enemies were.  After 40 days of exploring the land, the spies returned to report their findings.  They brought fruit (figs, pomegranates, and grapes) from the land and described it as a land flowing with milk and honey.  However, they quickly changed their tune and began to dwell on the other things they discovered.  In addition to the bounty, there seemed to be bountiful people there.  The people were powerful, their vast cities were highly fortified, and the people were large!  The spies reported that they felt as small as grasshoppers. Ten of the spies were causing an uprising among the Israelites to go against God’s plan and to not move into and take residency of the land He had promised them.

In verse 30, Caleb, one of the 12 spies, speaks up.  He says, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” How come he had such optimism in the midst of a crowd of nay-sayers?  What was it about Caleb that made him see the obstacles as opportunities?

We all are confronted with obstacles daily.  We find them in our marriages, as we parent our children, can arise in our workplace, and we’re definitely not immune to them.  I have the tendency, when faced with an obstacle, to take the path of least resistance.  Who wants to go to war, to fight a battle, to suffer, to be vulnerable?  I’d rather play it safe, hedge my bets, and try to hold on to what I have.  Caleb was different.  He saw the obstacles of fortified cities, numerous people, and giants as an opportunity.  He knew that God had a plan for His people and entering a land full of obstacles was part of it.  He knew that the obstacles would be God’s opportunities to reveal His glory, power, and favor on His called out people.  Caleb was confident in God because he had seen Him work in the past.  He redeemed His people out of slavery, He split the Red Sea for their exodus, He provided manna for their hunger, and He even dwelt among them in a pillar of fire and cloud!  He knew who his God was!  He knew that his God was the Almighty and His ways are not like ours.  I think that when obstacles come my way, I need to make more of an effort to consciously look at them with a perspective like Caleb and say, “what opportunity could this be to glorify God?”  It’s going to take faith- a faith proven by a God who is Faithful.  May you be encouraged to go into the areas that God has called you, amidst obstacles, partnered alongside nay-sayers, and be filled with a faith that God is at work among His people who desire to do His will!  Blessings~