Thursday, April 29, 2010

April 29, 2010

I was thinking today, I'd probably be a better child of God if only I weren't American. Darn you, stars & stripes, freedom & civil rights. Kidding - I truly am thankful to live in the States (so please don't kick my husband out of the military, Department of Defense). But really, think about what choice does to us and our standards.
You would have a much easier time eating bland rice and beans if you didn't have the realistic option of pizza and burgers. If only given the choice to wear mom jeans or nothing, mom jeans would win in my book (depending on the temperature and the present company, anyway). I would have a much easier time following God if I weren't born into a nation that allows me the personal liberties to believe what I want.
Self-righteousness is one of the greatest evils that separate us from God in the modern world. We've gained this sense of entitlement that leads us to believe we deserve everything we want, rather than being grateful for having what we need.
I'm by no means harping on treating yourself - I believe whole-heartedly that winding yourself too tight with self-sacrifice will only cause you to burst. But from your probably padded chair in your probably air conditioned space on your sufficiently operating computer, let's give it some thought.
What are your standards? Do you believe that you deserve a professional massage because you made it through a chaotic work week? Do you deserve a new wardrobe because you met your goal weight? Do you deserve forgiveness, just because you gathered up the nerve to ask? Do you deserve salvation, because in our culture we've grown numb to just how big of a favor this is?
Yes, we live in a nation of great accomplishment that allows us many liberties and personal choices. This is by the grace of God alone and does not mean that we necessarily deserve the cushioned lives we are allowed to live. Are you willing to drop some of your cushioning and take on more raw intimacy with the Father?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April 21, 2010

I was excited when God gave me the "Daily Bread" title because the theme lent itself to a bit of relevant creativity - food for thought, something to chew on, etc. I mainly liked that I can reference the Lord's prayer in a whole new way. 'Give us this day our daily bread' is no longer just about financial security to me, but calling on the Lord to reveal Himself to me in a new way that can be of use to others. It needs to be my anthem, and the first thing I call on God for every morning. Today, the Lord provided my daily bread through my friends Laura and Brandi. To be honest, I was not up for writing today. My energy is tapped out, and I never got a strong lead on what to say. Truthfully, I've been warning myself that not many people read this, and certainly not often. That means no one would really notice if I skipped a few days, right? So, with no intention to log onto blogspot tonight, I just checked my gmail account and saw encouraging comments from friends, and was given a whole new energy for this. God is reminding me how dangerous it is to fall into a place of complacency. Although it's not realistic to expect enthusiasm from my flesh on a daily basis, I do expect even "perseverence mode" to consist of a great desire to please my God. This leads back to prayer time (April 15, 2010 post). It's okay to have to drag your mortal mind into engaging in prayer. Once you're there, your spirit will be reminded of how satisfying it is to offer yourself back to Him.

PS I just had to double-check the definition of complacency with Zach, and have a new appreciation for exactly how well fit it is for this topic. Expect it in my Facebook status before too long.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

April 20, 2010 - Temptation (my favorite post to date)

I don't hear from God in conversation form often. Imagine my surprise to hear from Him so direct this morning:

Me: Hey, God, I'm not reading out of my Bible, so I'm not sure exactly where I left off in Acts. Where do you want me to read this morning?
God: *silence*
Me: Uhhh... ya hearin' me, buddy?
God: *crickets*
Me: Alright then. I'm just... gonna... roam... I guess...
God: Roam on into Romans.
Me: That was almost as punny as Howie Mandel. Really, God, you're gonna have to bring your A-game humor to impress me.

So anyway, I 'roamed into Romans' (so glad I'm not responsible for that phrase) and found a great excerpt on temptation. Paul, a significant and respected figure in the Bible, admits himself powerless against his sin nature in Romans 7:15-20. In order to understand what this means to me, let's backtrack a bit.
In the last 10 years, I have had more than a few ups and downs with God. The most recent "down" lasted about four years and was due largely in part to sin nature. Why in the world would a God create a man with biological, physiological impulses and then instruct him to never, ever give into these impulses? What kind of a set-up for failure is this? Certainly not one a loving God would provide. I struggled with this for four years, and never did find a straight answer. I ended my girlfight with God in February of 2009 with no resolve on this issue, but just an agreement to "lean not on your own understanding, but trust in the Lord God with all your heart" (Proverbs 3:5-6). April 2010 finally brought me some breakthrough in this area. Prepare yourself for the most elementary revelation ever: We do not get to choose our areas of temptation. I know, right? Obvious. If we got to choose, it wouldn't be a struggle. I think I would choose the temptation to eat too many vegetables, and spend too much time in prayer and volunteerism.
Point is, I used to take responsibility for my sin history, and the shame I find in it. It was my free will that erred, and my flesh that acted irresponsibly, and my reputation that suffered as a result. Pile on top of this guilt the pressures of keeping secret my past, and there's a tension mounted within me stretched to its breaking point. Of course, under such strain, I'm bound to fall again and boost the vicious cycle in its spin. It's no wonder I couldn't maintain a stable relationship with God. So there's the negative cycle, and here's the relief part again: We do not get to choose our areas of temptation.
This is the "freedom from sin" concept. You did not invite the world's darkness to your doorstep. You did not go begging society to please fall further away from God's will. It happened out of your control, and you happen to be an impacted bystander. Nobody blames a burn victim for simply being present when the fire raged out of control, and nobody judges the scars as the victim's responsibility. To have freedom from my sin history and the weight of its responsibility allows me to engage in a positive cycle with the Lord. One in which temptation does come, as it came to Jesus Christ himself, and I am not to blame for this.
My responsibility lies solely in my reaction to the temptation. It is my opinion that God is most flattered by honesty. What could be more rewarding to God than to take your deepest, darkest secrets and expose them in His light? The less responsible I feel for my temptations, the less personal the temptations become, and thus, easier to combat.
Praise God for freedom, and for the provision of this daily bread.

Monday, April 19, 2010

April 19, 2010

Acts 16:4-5: As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew daily in numbers.

This doesn't initially strike me as a powerful verse, but I know there are no wasted words in the Bible. The more I reflect on it, the more I appreciate it. Of all the messages Paul and Silas could have delivered in their traveling, the one that was chosen was obedience. I was thinking yesterday about the pressures of raising good kids, and all the different lessons I'm going to have to teach them someday about right and wrong. Then I realized that all it boils down to is obeying the Spirit over the flesh. God understands that our mortal flesh has a certain response system that has been influenced by our brainwashed society. It is not a sin to be tempted, nor is it a sin to feel any emotional response. What God seeks is that we choose to obey Him rather than obeying the desires of our flesh.
This was also brought up in a different form last night. The way my mind had formed it was emotion vs. commitment. There are a million different forms of temptation that can play on my emotions and attempt to interrupt my commitment to Zach, Carson, God, whomever. Although there is instant gratification in satisfying my emotional wants, it just doesn't hold up to the joy of knowing that I've honored a commitment I've made. Obeying our commitments is where we find stability, maturity and wisdom. It goes against all we want, but provides for us all we need.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

April 18, 2010

I am on month four of a lifelong prayer schedule that God has been using to impart to me certain truths. I was initially excited to be of use to Him, and felt like I was closer to understanding my grace giftings and place in His Kingdom. Then I went to house church with a group of young adults that are more developed in their spiritual walks than I am. I watched them join around each other and share giftings from God that seemed so much more powerful than mine, and came so much easier. I got intimidated, vowed to not go back, and started reconsidering His purpose for me. I struggle so much with not being the best at something, I'd rather quit than be in second place. It was a challenge to my comfort zone to actually start this blog, but God's not interested in my comfort. He's interested in my character. While registering a blog name, I first tried many other variations of dailybread that were all taken. I've wondered a few times as to whether those blogs are the same concept as this one, but I'm too scared to look at them to know. What if they're better written? What if they aren't as trivial and "I" focused as mine?
God provided a security for me this morning with service at New Life. A church brother spoke very passionately about how we cannot disqualify ourselves to God. It's an insult to Him to talk down His creations, even when that creation is me. Within the next few days the service mp3 will be on, and I'll be able to edit with an actual quote of what was said. It's much more impressive in His words than my own.

Edit: Quote from Brock McKay on disqualification, courtesy of
"It shortchanges the possibility for people to walk out this incredible identity that each one of us has and we have no right anymore to lay claim to being disqualified. It's covered by the blood of the lamb. We have no right to lay claim to being disqualified. It's not our stuff. It's one of the reasons why the Lord Jesus, on the cross, in the midst of all the intensity, in the pain of not just his death, but the burden of the weight of sin that was on his shoulders at that point, says out loud to the Father, to the world, to the heavens, "It's finished. It's done." If the Lord Jesus says it's done, there is nobody who can call that back. There is nobody who can disagree with that."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

April 17, 2010

I woke up at 4:30 this morning in dire need of a bathroom break and chocolate milk. Totally normal, right? Upon not being able to return to sleep/stop drinking chocolate milk, my mind somehow started psychoanalyzing my husband. Also totally normal, right? The way I was able to understand him at 5 AM made me love and respect him more than ever before. Warning: The following are assumptions based off my perception of Zach. I haven't actually run any of this by him before publishing on the internet. Don't all great love stories start with unauthorized publications about the other? Or was that just 27 Dresses?
I was thinking about how different we are in how we manage stress. I am a warm bath and chocolate relaxation kind of girl, he is a tear out tree stumps and manly things kind of guy. I often wonder what in the world can be relaxing about manual labor and reorganizing the garage for the tenth time in a week. I realized this morning that some of the greatest stress Zach faces are in regard to school and work. In both circumstances (as with most things in life), he often has to answer to a higher authority. Sometimes the judgment of these higher authorities is not in agreement with Zach's judgment, something he finds frustrating and powerless over. When he comes home, he's put into a setting in which he is given authority. Sometimes that situation is something as seemingly trivial as the length of our grass or the arrangement of the garage. To Zach, though, he has control over making some element of our home life perfect for our family to enjoy. Ultimately, his yard work and cleanliness equal out to his desire to make things perfect for us. For me. How can I not be flattered by that? How can I not respect that?
This may seem pretty irrelevant to movements in faith, and maybe it is. I'm just excited to develop a further appreciation of the way God designed my husband to provide for me. We don't have to speak the same language to understand what the other conveys.

PS Did read the Bible yesterday. Read about the mission work of Paul and Barnabas in Acts. I didn't feel a great revelation from what I read, and that's okay. If I am submitting to what God has asked of me, I am still doing His will. How can He or I be ashamed of that?

Friday, April 16, 2010

April 16, 2010

So remember how I've been struggling so bad to stay in perpetual prayer? God gave me an answer this morning, and it's a shocking, mind-blowing, GENIUS revelation: read the Bible. Duh, Jen. In the last two weeks, I've read at least 3 John Grisham novels and not a page of the Word. Doesn't take rocket science to see the connection here.
So now that I have put on the internet that God's told me to read the Bible today, I'm under a good amount of pressure to have a reading report by tomorrow. Thank God for accountability (He's smarter than me).
Change of topic: God's able to use me where I am. There have been so many volunteer opportunities or Bible studies I've wanted to participate in, and can't because of my responsibilities as a mother. I've been under the impression that I will be given my purpose in the Kingdom when the kids are older and my days are freer. Once again, He's smarter than me. This fellowship blog mission is easily and readily available from the home, with the kids here. Thank God for unexpected growth opportunities.

Today's Honesty: I'm quick to put God on the back burner to school and parenting, because I know He's a lot more forgiving and a lot more patient.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

April 15, 2010

I'm convicted today of failing to stay in a "perpetual prayer" mode. As a member of a day and night prayer team, I've signed up for the responsibility of being in prayer from 10-11 AM Monday through Friday. Although this has done great things for my prayer life (nearly everything written here originates in the 10-11 time), I'm also restricting myself with it. It's become an appointment in my time management, and all prayer-related items are pushed into the 10-11 slot. If I wake up at 8:00 with the Lord urging me to spend time in prayer on something, I "save" the material for my 10-11 hour. I understand this to be direct disobedience when God is asking for me here and now. Still, it's a habit that I've become stuck in and struggle to break. The daily tasks of homework, cleaning, and child care tend to occupy my primary focus, and prayer is all but forgotten from 11 until 10 the next day. I desperately need to get back to a perpetual prayer mode, and am seeking ways to do that. Any tips?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Give Us This Day

God just told me to start a blog. Although I can't say I foresaw this when I woke up this morning, God's outsmarted me once again (Him: infinity, Me: 0. And I thought my March Madness bracket looked bad).
I've been keeping a journal for the last several months of truths that God has told me in my prayer times. Each journal entry has brought me a great deal of reflection, conviction, encouragement, and, most importantly, a better understanding of the character of our Lord. Each entry has also made me crave fellowship with other believers - what child of God doesn't love to conversate with others about her experiences and insights?
I've searched a lot for the purpose of my journals. I know God isn't revealing Himself to me for His words to lie still on a page, never shared with others. I considered leading a Bible study, or publishing a book, but never felt that the Lord was 100% behind this. And so I asked Him again this morning what to do with His words, and was told very clearly a blog was the answer. Impressive how my Heavenly Father is at least 2000 years older than my earthly father, and is MUCH more in tune with technology. Sorry, dad. I'll take it back when you learn how to turn off the TV instead of cable box.
The more I think about this blog, the more excited it gets me. It resolves the logistics of the Bible study I couldn't possibly start - the one that includes friends across the country, the one that has too many members for all to possibly give feedback, the one that couldn't find a good child care solution, the one that would never meet simply on schedule conflicts alone. It also utilizes the never-ending boundaries of the Internet to glorify God by congregating His believers.
The vision I see for this blog is for readers to comment with their feedback (revelations, experiences, prayer needs) and we can encourage each other in that way. I believe you can post a comment without Google membership, but it will not send you an email alert for any responses. If you leave your email address with your comment, I will email you any responses so we can engage in truer communication. I am starting this blog on April 12, 2010, but am going to (attempt to) upload my back-dated journal entries. I'm completely new to blogs, so please bear with me as I get more familiar with its operations.
I strongly feel called to honesty in these writings. A grouping of vulnerable, imperfect, worldly people encouraging each other to live for Christ will do more for His Kingdom than us pretending to have it all together and needing for nothing.

Today's honesty: I am really reluctant to publish this. If I don't have a strong following of readers/commenters, it'll make me feel foolish and look like a loner. My flesh says it's important to be popular, and that makes me want to hide away from all that is not socially safe.

Take My hand and we'll make it, I swear
Living on a prayer,

Saturday, April 3, 2010

April 3, 2010

My aunt Karen is in town for the Easter weekend, and I've had the joy of visiting with her about faith and the way God moves. She is, what I consider, a very traditional and conservative Southern pastor's wife. I am, what I consider, very contemporary and liberal.
The church body I belong to, New Life, is very forward-thinking and out-of-the-box with their practices. We attend service at the middle school auditorium because they've never heard God tell them to build a facility - nor have they found need for one. Our pastor, Sam, regularly disregards the notes he's planned for service and just wings it because he hears God telling him to go down another path that particular morning. It's too improvisational and unstructured for a lot of more traditional believers, but to me, it speaks as genuine.
Being able to dialogue with Karen about her beliefs has opened me to recognizing that New Life is not the only congregation in the world that is doing it right. In fact, there are many Southern Baptist congregations, far more legalistic than my comfort zone, that are also "doing it right." There are believers gathering in tents in Middle Eastern countries with no doctrine at all that are "doing it right."
Here's my breakthrough today: We have one universal God. And He hears from us equally. He is just as glorified by hymns as he is modern worship music. The fire and brimstone delivery of sermons speaks His word just as honestly as Sam's improv sessions. To be relevant and covered by all different cultures is just beyond my imagination.
I try to picture one man walking the earth that fits with all cultures, loves all people, and is relevant to each and every person in our civilization. I simply can't. God is too big to be placed in the "box" of human limitations. He is contemporary and traditional. He is conservative and He is liberal. He is compassionate and He is just. He is soft and He is stern. He is more than any of us are capable of being - and maybe that's the point.
Our God is an awesome God.