Journey of Faith: Day 3

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Day 3: Dare to Live Differently by Living Like You Are Loved

I do not know your past. I do not know what kind of circumstances or people you were raised around. You may have had supportive parents and friends who readily cheered you on through life. Many did not. But we can never forget we’re not alone. We may feel beaten down with thoughts of insecurity, low self-esteem, and feeling unloved by everyone around us. But there is a mighty King that loves you unconditionally.

With the love of God we are enough. God is our heavenly Father and we are His sons and daughters; we are His princes and princesses. The book of “John says that God has lavished his love on us. Lavished, according to the dictionary, is a profuse or extravagant display of something. In the Thesaurus lavish is linked to the word shower. God showers us with his love.” This powerful statement should fill us with confidence and lift our spirits each and every day. Why wouldn’t we have endless faith in a God who loves us this much? “When we live as one who is loved, we can walk in faith, believing in something we cannot see but dare to hope for.”

 

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. I will build you up again, and you, Virgin Israel, will be rebuilt. Again you will take up your timbrels and go out to dance with the joyful.

(Jeremiah 31:3-4)

 

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords:

His love endures forever.

to him who alone does great wonders,

His love endures forever.

who by his understanding made the heavens,

His love endures forever…

He remembered us in our low estate

His love endures forever.

and freed us from our enemies.

His love endures forever.

He gives food to every creature.

His love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of heaven.

His love endures forever.”

(Psalm 136:1-5, 23-26)

 

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

(Romans 5:8)

 

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”

(1 John 3:1)

 

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”

(1 John 4:16)

 

“keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our LORD Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”

(Jude 21)

 

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

(Romans 8:31)

 

Journey of Faith: Day 2

Day 2: Dare to Pay Attention to God’s Lead

Now that we have given our heart wholly to God it is time to live out His word in our daily lives. We do this by listening to His calling, obeying His commands, and letting Him take the lead. The book provides the example of the disciples, who before becoming followers of Jesus, were ordinary fishermen. Jesus called them to be “fishers of men”. They left their nets behind that day to be fully committed to following Jesus and leading others to Him.

Much of our days are set on repeat mode. We wake up, eat breakfast, drive to work, get the job done, drive home from work, eat dinner, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day. We run on autopilot; tackling the same tasks each day. Whether you need to wake up a little earlier, alter your lunch hour, or cut that TV show a few minutes short in the evenings, spend some time alone with God. Pray to Him, read His word, and sit and listen to what He has to say. Keep your eyes and ears always open, God provides us with signs and signals each day. If you’re not paying attention, you just might miss it! Maybe He’s telling you to minister to your co-workers, mend bridges with an old friend or family member, have that difficult conversation you’ve been dreading. “Each day is a ministry opportunity, a chance to do all that God has called us to do for that twenty-four-hour period.”

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

(John 8:12)

“Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart- they do no wrong but follow his ways. You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed. Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees! Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands. I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me.”

(Psalm 119:1-8)

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.

(Mark 1:16-18)

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

(Luke 5:4-7)

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.

(John 14:23)

Journey of Faith: Day 1

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Today I started a new book titled The Faith Dare. Written by Debbie Alsdorf, this book calls you to step out of your comfort zone to live the fullest life God has planned. It’s a 30-day journey of ridding self of fear, worldly anxieties and no longer succumbing to the opinions of others, but putting full, absolute trust in God whom we cannot see. Each day I will be presented with a dare, or a challenge, along with scriptures to guide me and a prayer for the day. I will be reviewing and writing about my thoughts here as I go along this journey.

Day 1: Dare to Ask God for a New Heart

My first task assigned in this book is to pray to God and ask him to restore my broken heart, to make it whole and new again. I must rid myself of a worldly heart and replace it with a spiritual heart, one that is filled with the love of God and doing His work daily. For us to have a complete change of faith and trust in God we must begin at the source.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

We must give up our old ways of living for our heart to make a change. Keep a close eye on shows we’re watching, music we’re listening to, people we surround ourselves with, the books we read, and the type language we choose to use. We cannot have a heart after God if we don’t completely rid ourselves of worldly things. Our heart must be undivided.

“Hear me, LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long. Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you. You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. Hear my prayer, LORD; listen to my cry for mercy. When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me. Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead. Arrogant foes are attacking me, O God; ruthless people are trying to kill me— they have no regard for you. But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did. Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, LORD, have helped me and comforted me.”

(Psalm 86)

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.”

(Ezekiel 36:26-28)

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

(Hebrews 4:12)

Traveling Solo: Good for the Soul

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If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend taking a vacation by yourself. It doesn’t have to be long, just a weekend will do; so long as you have time set aside just for you to be alone with yourself, free of all distractions. Go ahead and turn those notifications off, don’t think about work, and forget social media. Sounds crazy right? Hear me out for a few minutes before you completely ditch this idea.

A couple weekends ago, after my birthday, I decided I would like to stay at the beach for a little bit. Every weekend in April and May was filled with something, except one weekend and I needed time away. Plus, I also had to use this thing called a “personal holiday” (perks of working for the state) before the end of June. So, I took off a few extra hours early on a Friday, used my “personal holiday” on that following Monday, and set off to the beach for the weekend. Originally when I came up with this idea, I decided for it to be a family thing. My sister would go as well as my parents, and we’d make it a family vacation. But, I had always wondered what it would be like to take a vacation by myself, kind of a “grown up” thing to do I thought. It was a step out of my comfort zone to stay at a condo alone, eat alone, lay out by the pool or on the beach alone, go walking on the beach alone, anyway you get my point. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted that weekend to be just me, I would regret it if I didn’t take this chance. Decision made, I arranged to stay at a smaller condo on the beach for three nights and let me tell you, it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

I could not have asked for the weather to have been more beautiful for that weekend. I spent all day outside, whether that meant on the beach, walking around, or just sitting out on the balcony of the condo. It was just so peaceful and relaxing, it gave me time to think about life and things other than work or obligations. It also gave me time to talk with God and pray to Him. One particular walk I took that Sunday afternoon, I walked about an hour or so up and down the beach just silently talking and praying to God. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that close to Him as I did in those moments. It was a real talk about mistakes made, direction, guidance, but also praise and thanksgiving for how He’s led me and where He has me right now. I journaled that afternoon, splurged a little and ate from one of my favorite restaurants, and happened to catch the Blue Angels fly over the beach that evening. Side note: if you have never seen one of their shows I highly recommend you see one. It is absolutely amazing and fascinating to watch!

That weekend I came away more confident in myself in every way. Taking that step out of my comfort zone to take a solo vacation gave me a more confident body image, higher confidence in my work and abilities, in just life in general. I am really working on not letting fear of the unknown or fear of how other people may perceive me to dictate how I live my life. That first step came when I deleted my Facebook account a couple weeks before the vacation. I know, *gasp*, who does that anyway? It was officially deleted the weekend I was at the beach, very appropriate I thought. I also just learned how to take blood for iron level checks at work, something I thought I would never have to do, and it turns out it’s not so bad! Haha. These may be small examples, but I’m anxious and excited to see what’s next! I am learning to take life’s challenges and not get so stressed or overwhelmed, but look for the silver lining and grow from them instead. I promise, it makes the bumps a little easier to ride out.

“I love the person I’ve become, because I fought to become her.” ~Kaci Diane

Think back ten years ago, five years ago, even just one year ago. Who were you then? What were you doing? What dreams, goals, and aspirations did you have? Are any of them true now? Was there anything that came up that was not part of your plan?

I believe that last question is an understatement. Most of what I had in mind one year ago, much less ten years ago, has drastically changed. Life threw curveballs at me left and right. It was just one thing after another. Before I could fully accept one thing, here comes something else! I was happy, sad, angry, depressed, lost, confused, hopeful, afraid, all not necessarily in that order. I had to adjust, had to adapt to the rapidly changing pace my life had turned into. I desperately needed the love, encouragement, and strength of my family, closest friends, and God most of all, to keep myself going. I had fallen away from God at the time, but never once did He give up on me. All that has happened in this past year alone is proof of that.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Never has this verse been more apparent to me than it is now. He knows what’s best, knows the paths we should follow, He opens doors I never thought were even possible. All the challenges that I’ve faced have shaped me into the person I am today. The mistakes I made, I’ve learned from them. I’m stronger because of them. I still have a ways to go, but I know with God’s help I will get there. God has a way of bringing out the best version of ourselves if we will just open our eyes and hearts to what He’s showing us. Take a leap of faith and trust that there is a light at the end of this road.

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,” (Ephesians 1:18).

“Faith is seeing light with your heart when all your eyes see is darkness.”

Dive Headfirst into the Unknown (Part 2)

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This post is a continuation of my post from a few days ago. In the last one, I addressed the importance of not letting fear get in the way of really living your life and taking that first step out of your comfort zone. I applied the necessity of this to your life in general, but I recently realized how well this could also be applied to your spiritual life as well. This past weekend I had the great opportunity to attend a church retreat with my college group. The retreat contained the theme “Reflection”, where we looked back at our past and all that we had been through, we looked at where we are now in the present time, and then we looked down the road at our future to see where we wanted to be. After listening to each lesson presented to us and having small group discussions about our own struggles that we’re each dealing with, it really made me see how stepping out into the unknown has a HUGE part in your Christian walk with God too.

When you make one of the biggest decisions of your life to become a Christian and to become a follower of Jesus Christ, you are embarking into an unknown journey. You’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior and you are automatically thrust into a changed world. Your motives change, your plans change, your whole life has taken a different turn. But it’s all for the better if you live your life the way God wants you to live it, if you actually do what He called you to do and reach out to the nonbelievers (Matthew 28:19). God did not tell us that it was going to be easy once you became a Christian. In fact, it’s very difficult. That’s why the decision to become one is so vastly important and is not to be taken lightly at all. You see, God doesn’t want us to be comfortable. Living as a strong Christian is out of our comfort zones. God called us to be different to be set apart from the world (Hebrews 10:10). The world is not going to agree with our decision. They are not always going to like what you stand for and what you try to teach them. We have to be ready for that.

It is not a comfortable situation when you sit down and have a Bible study with someone who is very unfamiliar with the Word. It’s uncomfortable the first few times you go door to door in a community letting others know about an event at church, asking for a Bible study, or even just taking prayer requests. Why is it so uncomfortable for many of us to be able to reach out to the world about God? To put it simply, we’re afraid. Afraid of rejection, disappointment, conflict, and whatever else may happen if the ones we’re trying to reach do not receive the message with an open mind. But what if we let our fears hold us back from ever reaching out to others? What if we never talked to others about our faith or shared with them the good news? Well, we wouldn’t be doing what God called us as Christians to do then, would we?

I know it’s uncomfortable to share the Word with others. The first couple of times I went door knocking in an unfamiliar community it was very awkward and uncomfortable for me. I was afraid of how they would react to what we had to say. But the more I’ve been exposed to those situations, the easier it’s become. So don’t worry. It’ll become easier the more you talk to others and share with them. You also need to realize that even when you do try your best to reach out to others, there are always going to be some who will not listen to what you have to say. Not everyone is going to be open and pleased with the message you’re attempting to share with them. Don’t let that discourage you though. Just don’t give up. Continue trying, persevering, and working as a follower of Christ. We must not lose hope because there will be those that you do reach and eventually find themselves accepting Christ as their own Savior. And what an amazingly, awesome feeling that is. To know that you had a part in leading someone to God is a heart-warming experience. Then having the chance to see them grow into wonderful Christians and leading even more to the Lord is something that can’t be adequately described in words on a blog post. I can tell you that it’s most definitely worth it. It’s worth facing your fears and stepping out into the unknown because what is waiting for us at the end of this life is a chance to spend an eternity with our Lord and Savior (John 6:50-58). Words cannot describe what Heaven will be like. I don’t know about you, but I believe it’s going to be wonderful to be in Heaven where there will be no more pain, no more hurt, no more tears, no more sorrow.

“Won’t it be wonderful there

 Having no burdens to bear

 Joyously singing, with heartbells all ringing

 Won’t it be wonderful there?”

~Won’t It Be Wonderful There (church hymn)

Dive Headfirst into the Unknown

From the time we are young we all have these preconceived thoughts and ideas about how we’re going to turn out once we grow older and what we’ll accomplish and do in the future. These preconceived ideas are mostly based on what others have told us about ourselves or what others believe we can and cannot do based on our personalities and behaviors they have observed within us. Do you notice what these ideas have in common? They all come from the same source and not where they need to come from. They all come from other people, not from your own beliefs you have within yourself.

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I believe that is the reason so many do not accomplish all that they could. They do not push themselves to their limits; they do not try anything new, anything outside of their comfort zones. They do not do the things which scare them. How fun is it really to live in fear? I know firsthand it’s not fun at all. Fear holds us back from accomplishing so much. It keeps us from living our life to the fullest every single day. Now I know that it’s not an easy task to step out of your comfort zone and face your fears head on. I’m not an outgoing person, and I definitely know how hard that can be. I know that about myself and I’ve been told that by who knows how many people. Because I am not outgoing, I tend to prefer sitting on the sidelines. I would much rather watch everyone else play the games, act crazy, and make fools of themselves. I watch as everyone else takes big risks and chances and think how out of their minds they must be to do something like that, but at the same time, deep inside me, I want to be like them. I want to live more carefree, more spontaneous. I want to actually be out in the action, not just on the side. But why has it taken me and so many others so long to finally stand up and push ourselves beyond our limits? It’s expected of people like me to not do anything crazy or out of the ordinary. That’s what we’ve always heard, that’s what we’ve always been told, so why should we think anything different?

Like I said before, I’m not a person that finds it so easy to face her fears and take that leap into the unknown. But a little more than a year and half ago, my journey into the unfamiliar began. When I decided to move to Tuscaloosa, 4 hours from home, back in August of 2012, that was a major step out of my comfort zone. I was leaving everything familiar and comfortable to come to a brand new place where I knew only two, maybe three people. It was an exciting new adventure, but also one that scared me at the same time. But what I did once I made the move surprised everyone who knew me, even surprised myself. I knew I had to force myself to go to church events and activities with people I didn’t know. If I ever was going to make friends and get in with a great group of like-minded Christians, I had to put myself in uncomfortable situations. It wasn’t easy. In fact, there were many times I didn’t want to step out there because fear held me back, but I found that the more I pushed myself, the easier it became. Today, I have formed amazing friendships and have established such strong relationships with so many different ones that I never would have developed if I had not taken that first step and went beyond what I thought were my limits.

I’m also not a spontaneous person. Everyone that knows me knows that I am a planner. I get that from my mom, who gets that from her dad. When things come up that alter and change our plans, we usually have to take a step back, analyze the situation, really think about it, and then we’re ready to go once again. It really throws us off when the unexpected happens. We are flexible people and can adapt to change easily; it just takes us a little bit longer than some to adjust to the change. One thing you hear a lot of people talking about is taking these spontaneous road trips. These road trips to who knows where and coming back who knows when. Trips like that used to scare me. How can you not have a plan on where you’re going or how long you’re going to be on the road? What if this happens and what if that happens? So many different excuses I can think of to not go on an unplanned road trip. To be honest, most of these excuses are fear of the unknown once again. I do not feel adequately prepared for what I will be facing and I feel more out of control. I like to be in control of what I’m doing. It’s safer and much more comfortable. I’m not really missing out on anything by never taking a spontaneous road trip, right? While at the same time I’m also thinking, I wish I had the guts to do something like that. It does actually look fun. The people that go on these trips and those that live out of their comfort zones seem to be happier, more carefree, more relaxed, where I tend to be wishing for those moments and longing for them instead of actually accomplishing them.

Well, who would have ever thought that I would be one to take part in a spontaneous road trip? I never thought I would. My friends and family back home could never see me doing something such as that. But last summer, towards the end, I got the grand opportunity to take a five hour road trip to the beach to watch the sunrise. It was completely spontaneous and not planned at all. One moment I’m sitting around with friends talking and laughing, and the next thing I know we’re loading the vehicle at midnight to start out on our journey. We made it to the beach, with breakfast in hand, just in time to watch the sun come up from the horizon and we returned later that evening. Even though we had little to no sleep for about 36 hours, and we had spent 10 hours on the road for just a few hours on the beach, it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was nice to not have a schedule to follow for a change. It helped relax my mind. It really was an incredible experience. One that I would love to have again.

What I’ve learned in such a short amount of time, is that I would not be who I am today or even heading towards the person I am becoming if I had not taken that giant leap into the unknown. Each and every one of the experiences I’ve had has taught me so much about life and about myself. I’ve surprised myself so many times already and I don’t believe I’m finished with surprises just yet. To all of you out there like me who are too afraid to push yourself and accomplish those things that you’ve always wanted to complete, take that first step. It doesn’t have to be a giant leap. Take it one step at a time. It’ll become easier. I don’t think you’ll regret it once you do.