Archives for September 2012

Unleash!

Have you ever noticed how quick we are to blame God for the difficulties in our lives but how much we take for granted all the undeserved kindness He shows us?

I woke up in a climate-controlled house today…due to the goodness of God.

I have a closet full of clothes…due to the goodness of God.

I have options about what type of food to eat this evening…due to the goodness of God.

The Bible tells us that every good and perfect gift that we have in life comes from God (James 1:17).  That means everything – not just “spiritual” blessings but everything good in our lives – comes as a result of His kindness.

from Perry Noble’s Unleash!

I am loving this book.  I’ll admit; I was a bit skeptical when I began reading even though I listen to Perry Noble regularly.  When I read things like…

“God wants more for your life” or “leave your normal life behind and live a life unleashed” or “the abundant life God has for us,” I pause.  I think, “is this another prosperity-type book that promises Christians an awesome life with little or no problems or suffering? Is this a book that wants us to think the Bible is about us, instead of Jesus?”

This book is NOT that.  In fact, it’s the opposite.

It’s real and practical, placing Jesus at the center.

Here’s more insight into the book’s theme:

Most of us don’t even consider living a life that is unleashed.  Instead, we settle for average, routine, predictable.  But the Bible describes the life of a Christ follower as anything but boring.  God doesn’t want us to live mediocre, mundane lives.

If that’s the case, then why do so may of us wake up in the morning fully expecting nothing more than “normal”?

I’m here to tell you that it’s completely possible to live a life beyond normal.  

It’s completely possible to live with purpose rather than stumble through our days trying to figure out, ‘Why in the world am I here?’

It’s completely possible to live a life marked by freedom and passion rather than one filled with regret and shame.

It’s completely possible to live in right relationships with other people rather than let unforgiveness hold us hostage.

It’s completely possible for the tragedies in our lives to make us stronger rather than cripple us.

It’s completely possible to end strong at the finish line rather than limp along in defeat.  

It’s completely possible to move beyond normalcy and embrace the abundant life God has for us.

I can’t wait to finish the book and share more!  So far the chapters on “The Performance Trap” and “Triumph Over Tragedy” have deepened my understanding of more Jesus, less me.  I have also gained a new, much-needed perspective on forgiveness.

I’d love to know what you think of the book, too!

We Lost Owen

We lost Owen.

He was playing on the Columbus Crew’s soccer field last night as part of the pregame activities.  No parents were permitted, so Steve and I sat in the stands and watched.   At 6:00, Steve and I went to meet him at Gate 120 as instructed.

He wasn’t there.

We checked the field…no Owen.

We asked those in charge…nope.  No one had seen him.

Columbus Crew guy:  “M’am, do you have a picture of your son on your phone?  We need to know what he looks like, so we can search for him.”

Me:  Blank stare at crew guy.  No one knows where my son is.

Frantically scrolling through my phone, I realize I have no picture of Owen.  I transferred all my pictures and videos to my computer yesterday morning.

Yesterday morning!  No way!

I didn’t think to retrieve a picture from Facebook.  I couldn’t think at all.

People spread out to look.  Crew guy radioed and described Owen, repeating his name, what he was wearing, and his hair color.

I watched Steve walk away…determined…looking.  I could not move.  I looked around.  Stared…barely registering the lady beside me, asking me questions.

I am trying to pray, but I can’t.  I believe the Holy Spirit stepped in for me.  I could feel it.

What in the world would I do without sweet Owen?

The child who challenges me…who makes me a better person with his questions and thoughts and unique view on the world.  The child you makes me laugh and cry and everything in between.  He’s my boy.

Guilt steps in.  Owen and I have butted heads recently over school, specifically reading/language arts.  Imagine that.  Me not accepting his performance in English. Sigh.

I am a visual learner.  Owen is auditory.  We don’t speak the same learning language, so I frustrate him and he frustrates me.  I say he’s not trying hard enough; he says, “I just don’t get it.”  I say, “try harder, spend more time, and you’ll get it.”  He nods and tries again. I take a breath and pray for patience.

Yep.  That’s guilt I am feeling.

Owen loves to show us magic tricks.  Honestly, it’s wearing me out.  That’s.  All.  He.  Wants.  To.  Do.  Magic tricks.

When I am reading a book, he interrupts with excitement:  “I just learned another trick – watch, Mom!”

Really?  This book is so good….

Snapshots of my time with Owen are flashing through my mind.

Do you ever “think” you’re too busy for your child’s latest story, magic trick, or dance? Do you ever get frustrated with homework, learning disabilities, and busy schedules?

Me too.

But, in this moment, I would read any story twice and watch any magic trick 100 times if I could just find my Owen.

Ten minutes pass.

As I look through the crowd, I see Steve and Owen walking toward me. Owen is crying, scared to death.

Here’s the story:  Owen saw the other kids leave the field, so he left too.  He didn’t see us, so he decided to look for us.  In the midst of looking, he’d gone to the bathroom.  Steve found him outside the bathroom.

“I couldn’t find you,” he said.

I embrace him, holding back my own tears.  I tell him I love him and that he should have stayed in one place, blah, blah, blah.  None of it really matters.  We found him.

I then pay $5.00 for the smallest bowl of chocolate Dippin’ Dots in the world.  (Ice cream just makes it all better:)

As we walk to our seats, I keep looking to make sure Owen’s beside me…just a little paranoid now.  Chocolate’s dripping around his mouth, and I start to wipe it.

Nope.  I kinda like the dripping chocolate…and his grass-stained jeans…and his untied shoe…and the chocolate on his jacket.

And God reminds me…I should never be too busy to watch a magic trick, tie a shoe, kiss a boo boo, or read a story.

In this season, God has called me to be the watcher of magic tricks, the teacher of my children, the chef to my family, the bride of my husband.

May I make much of Him today as I fulfill these roles for His glory.  I pray I am never too busy or rushed for magic tricks, broken hearts, or funny stories.

May you make much of Him today as you do what He’s called you to in this season.

(This is a great post on time and priorities by Sundi Jo, a gal in my Kingdom Journeys lauch group.)

God’s Word, Not Bible Studies and Books

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”  Psalm 119: 105

I was reminded of light’s importance this morning as I stumbled down my dark hallway.  Thank goodness there were no Legos lurking in my path. (If you’ve ever stepped on a Lego, I am sure you understand:)

A light would have been helpful.  I could have clearly seen the vacuum I left in the path as well as my daughter’s wayward clothes hanger.   Instead of stumbling through the shadows, the light would have allowed me to see these obstacles and easily step around them.

I need light to guide my path today and everyday.  Without it, I maneuver through the darkness, using shadows, outlines, and assumptions.  Even if I see the obstacle, it’s usually too late to avoid it.

We need light.

And, God gave us light to guide our paths:  His Word.

God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. I bet you’ve heard this before: “God’s Word is a light” along with “read your Bible everyday.”   Me too.

But, this morning that truth has taken a new hold in my heart.  I love reading books about the Bible.  My Kindle is overflowing with books about the gospel and growing closer to God.    I also love Bible studies.  Chatting with the gals and listening to someone share God’s word is good for my soul.

Please don’t hear what I am not saying:  Books and studies aren’t bad.  God speaks to me and “lights my path” through the Scripture and insight found in both.

Still, these books and studies are not God’s Word.

While they’re wonderful and helpful, I need His word.

Why?

Rewind…Earlier this year I was preparing for a mission trip to Honduras.  Our church packed a container containing clothing, toiletries, and other materials.  We collected donations, filling the container from January to May.   We shipped it to Honduras in early June.  In July, 17 team members distributed the supplies to eight church plants as part of an existing church planting ministry in San Manuel, Cortez.

After we shipped, I heard that someone for whom I have great respect criticized the mission. He was citing some articles about short-term missions.  I Googled and found similar, maybe the same, articles.  After reading the articles, I read a book: When Helping Hurts.  I also read portions of Toxic Charity.

All three are great resources. All three are biblical.

Did these resources increase my awareness and stewardship?  Absolutely!  I learned much from both books and the Gospel Coalition’s articles.

But, when I relied on these resources and one person’s opinion, I made a wrong turn.

I should have sought God’s word.  I should have prayed.  I did neither.

I opened the door wide for Satan as I lost touch with God’s voice, listened to man’s voice, and began to doubt our mission.

God brought me back around in route to Honduras, reminding me that he called me to go:

Mark 28: 19 – Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

Mark 16: 15 – He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

I answered the call and went.  I am not in charge.  He is.

I realize it’s September, and the mission trip was months ago.  Yet, God just brought this full circle for me this morning as I read Psalms.

He reminded me to read His word and pray. Those are my direct connections to Him if I want to know Him more intimately.

After I’ve read His word and prayed, I feel free to open my Bible study, digging deeper into who He is.   To seek wise counsel, gaining new perspective and uncovering my blind spots.  To read the latest book, understanding God’s story in a new way.

Saturate yourself in His word today.   Allow Him to light your path, so you may bring Him glory.

Links:

  • If you’d like further information on the Bible as authoritative, this podcast from the Journey Church in Marietta is a great resource.
  • If you’re thinking…”I’d love to read the Bible, but I don’t know where to begin,” consider using a Bible reading plan from YouVersion or reading through Colossians with the Good Morning Girls.

As always, if you have questions or would like additional guidance, please comment or email.  I’d be happy to help!

A Letter to My Teen Self (in Honor of Graceful)

In honor of Emily Freeman’s new book Graceful, I wrote a letter to my teenage self.  You can view more letters here.

I encourage you to write a letter to your teen self too.  Whether you’re 20 or 50, it’s both uplifting and gut-wrenching to reflect on your life so far.  Very perspective giving.

Dear Teen Sarah,

Spend time with your Dad.  He won’t be here as long as you think he will.

Don’t settle for any boy that comes along.  Dating someone you’d never marry is simply practice for divorce.

The prince you’re waiting for?  He will come.  Just wait and see.

You’re going to be a mom someday.  I know, I know.  That’s hard to digest. But, you’ll love it.

Be healthy.

Quit trying to be valedictorian.  In a few years, no one will remember or care.

No one is impressed by your ability to participate in 20 clubs and lead five of them.  Give yourself a break and have fun.

Every time you lie to your parents?  They know the truth.

Be thankful and show that thankfulness by taking care of your ’89 Escort.

Don’t let others tell you what you can and can’t be.  You will regret changing your major and giving up your dreams to become a writer.

Others’ opinions are just that:  opinions.  Stop listening.  All those people you are trying so hard to please will (mostly) be out of your life in a few years.

There’s a world beyond Poca, West Virginia.  Go see it.

In turn, Poca will always be your home.  Never forget where you came from.  Roots are important.

Most importantly, make Jesus the center of your life. Lean into Him and trust Him.  He will never leave you or forsake you – no matter what.

With Love,

Grown-up, wiser Sarah (who is still learning to lean into Jesus and trust Him completely)

On a Journey

“The journey is more than an escape from the things that have come to define us in life – it’s a chance to break free from the shackles of an ordinary existence.”   from Kingdom Journeys by Seth Barnes

Ordinary.  No one wants to be ordinary.

We want extraordinary.

We discuss life’s purpose frequently.  Wondering…

Why I am here?

What can I do to make a difference in this world?

How can God use me to glorify Him?

In Luke 9:23 Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

To me, that’s the extraordinary life:  To live as a disciple of Christ.

How?  What does that look like?

I thought I had (decent) answers to these questions, but I am gaining a new perspective from Kingdom Journeys.

From the book…

All of us are on a journey.  We can’t escape the beginning and the end, but the middle is full of crazy possibilities…

A few questions may help you along the way

  •  Where is your life headed?
  • What is the purpose for your existence?
  • When will you really be satisfied?

I can’t wait to read more, share with you, and hear your stories.

Reading this book is more than “launch team” participation to me.

Reading this book is a journey. I hope you’ll join me!

NOTE:  Here’s what “launch team” means: I get the book to read before it’s released.  I read the book and collaborate in a private Facebook group with other launch team members.  I blog, tweet, and Facebook about the book.  If you’d like to be on a launch team, watch for application opportunities on Facebook and Twitter.

Hospitality = You Matter to Me

I just read this post from the True Woman blog:  The Cure for the Can’t Have People Over Syndrome

When someone’s coming over, I am SO much like the lady in the introduction:  “a few hours of insanity while we raced around throwing things in closets, scrubbing everything in sight, and doing our best to make it look like no one lived at our house.”

Ugh!

Through this post, God reminded me of a sermon I’d listened to last week and an incident over the weekend.

In his sermon A New People, Matt Chandler defines hospitality as showing and telling others “you matter to me.”

That’s it:  You matter to me.

It is not having a fancy/perfect house or putting a wreath on the door.

We are to seek to show hospitality…saying come to my house or let’s go get lunch. I care about you, your marriage, your ups, and your downs.

In Romans 12: 13 God commands us to be hospitable:  “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”

That’s a command, not a suggestion.

Rewind to last weekend. We had a tree fall on our house.  My husband’s Facebook post about the tree elicited an ourtpouring of love and help from our care group.

So, there I am, fresh out of the shower.  No makeup.  Hair in a towel.  “Home” clothes on – you know the ones – the clothes you never wear out of the house.  And, there’s a knock at the door.

Yikes!

Later, other knocks followed along with offers to help.

My first thought?  No, we don’t need help.  (Read, my house is a mess, and I have no food to make for you.)

Within the hour, my house was full  – both inside and out.  It was a blast!  Kiddos everywhere.  I fed them pizza on paper plates and made peanut butter cookies.

Yes, before they arrived I ran around and cleaned.  (Sadly!)

Today I realized…these people were showing true hospitality, and I was worried about my house.

Ouch!

I have learned a valuable lesson today.

God’s command to be hospitable far outweighs my need to appear as if I have it all together.  It seems so easy when we view through God’s word, huh?

Do you run around when people are coming over?  Does your blood pressure elevate as you mop and dust?  Does an unexpected knock on the door make your heart drop?

Do you meet with friends to check in on them, their marriage, their kiddos?  Do you genuinely want to know their ups and downs?  Or, are you too busy in your own world to be hospitable?

Tough stuff, but I pray you make much of him today by being hospitable.

Suffering and Evil

“Why does God allow evil and suffering?  Look at the cross of Jesus.  It can’t be that he doesn’t love us.  It can’t be that he is indifferent.” Tim Keller

It’s 9/11.  Reading that simple sentence evokes something different within each of us.

I was feeding my one-year-old daughter when the Today Show caught my attention.  I watched for hours, embracing Hannah tightly.  It was horrific.  I remember thinking…Hannah has no idea that what is happening in our world at this moment will forever transform the world in which she grows up.

It truly altered us all in some way.

Whether you were sitting in a college dorm, flying on a plane, or watching with coworkers that day, you remember where you were, what you were doing, and what you were thinking.

We each have a story about that day.  Some lost loved ones.  Some lost friends.  We discovered new heroes and began to understand words like “terrorism” and “war” in a new, more tangible way.

We suffered as a nation and as the human race.

Eleven years ago we asked, “Why?”  Today, we ask, “Why?”  Why does God allow suffering and evil in this world?

I participated in David Platt’s Secret Church on the cross and suffering in April.  It lasted about six hours.  Platt read scripture after scripture, detailing suffering and evil in God’s word.

It was like drinking from a fire hydrant.  I couldn’t process all he covered in marathon fashion, but I can best sum up those six hours with…

We live in a sinful, fallen world.  Period.

Still, there’s one thing to which we can cling, especially when we don’t understand and are hurting: the Cross.

Romans 6-8:  When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

When we focus on the cross and Christ’s suffering for us – suffering that occurred while we were still sinners – we know that he loves us.  That he’s not indifferent.   That He is in control.

Please join me today in honoring 9/11 by sharing your story and/or your prayers in the comments or on Making Much of Him 365’s Facebook page.  I’d love to hear your story and pray with you.

Read and Listen this Weekend: Good Stuff from the Week

I love to read.  I also like to listen to podcasts and sermons, usually as I walk/jog or drive to pick up my kiddos at activities.  I thought I’d share some of my good reads and listens from the week.

Listen:

A New People by Matt Chandler from the Village Church – This sermon begins a new series at the Village called City on a Hill.   Chandler calls us to be a New People.  There’s no cookie cutter Christian; we are all very different.  But our Savior makes us one.   My words can’t adequately explain or even preview this sermon.  Just listen.  It’s worth every second.

4 Commitments for Building a Successful, Long-Term Marriage  by Michael Hyatt – This is a great podcast about commitment.  Marriage struggling?  This is for you.  Marriage best it’s ever been?  This is for you.

Read: 

True Woman 2012 Conference will be streamed lived.  I love the True Woman blog. It challenges me daily to rely on and live in Christ.  I can’t make it the conference, so I am super excited that it’s going to be streamed.

A Review of Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker by Kim McClure on Ruth and Grace  – I love my friend Kim’s heart, and I love this post!  If you’ve not read the Circle Maker, read this review.  Then, buy the book.

The Worrywart Prayer by Mary Demuth and my follow-up post on control – It’s when we let go and let God that we see Him begin to move in our lives.  But, giving up is hard.  Waiting is harder.  But, this prayer will help set you on the right path.

People Pleasing, a blog post from Proverbs 31 and Lysa TerKeurst.  I think we all have a little people pleasing in us.  My favorite quote:  “Every “yes” will cost me something. Every “no” carries with it the potential for disappointment. ”This is a helpful post!

The Elijah Syndrome, a blog post about being loved and known by your Creator.  “You are loved. You are known. You are Mine.  And that’s more than enough for today. “  My favorite quote from the post.

 

Books:

I am reading two books/one devotional right now.

The Explicit Gospel – This a second read for me.  My husband I are reading it together this time. I like this book so much better aloud.

Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa TerKeurst

My Sacrifice, His Fire:  Weekday Readings for Women by Anne Ortlund

 

Enjoy some time soaking up His Word and maybe a few of these this weekend!  Happy Weekend!

Cookies Needed! Please Help:)

My friend, Randy, volunteers with a prison ministry.  He is in need of 150 dozen cookies to take to the St. Marys Correctional Center in St. Marys, West Virginia, in October.

Can you make a dozen?  or 10?

My daughter, Hannah, has pledged to make 10 dozen chocolate chip cookies.  My friend, Angie, is pitching in too!

I hope you can help…it’s a simple way to make much of Him today:)

The Details:

  • Randy needs the cookies by October 25. I can help you arrange pick up and drop off.
  • They should be packaged by the dozen – 12 cookies to a bag.
  • No bake cookies are a favorite!  (Sadly, I can’t make these. Mine won’t set up!)
  • You can NOT ice them or put fruits or nuts in them.
  • Each cookie should be 2 to 2.5 in diameter.

If you’d like to help, comment, message me, text me, tweet me – whatever:)

Giving Up Control (Thanks, Mary!)

Today, I awakened to this prayer by Mary Demuth in my inbox.  Funny how God knows exactly what we need.

This prayer reminds me that…

God is more than capable of handling my burdens.

I like to be in control.  I am a planner, an organizer, and a…..ummm…..control freak.

I don’t like chaos and can’t stand the unknown – or the unorganized or the unplanned.

But, God’s been working on this idol in my life.  He has called me to relinquish control in some very specific areas, and I have taken some huge steps over the past week.

I did it.  Now I wait.

And, the scariest part of waiting?

I don’t know what the outcome of me giving up control of ___________ will be.

I might love the outcome!  Or, I might hate it.  Again, I don’t like not knowing, so this part is the hardest for me.  The waiting [insert Jeopardy theme here] and the waiting [yeah, I know I said it twice!]

I’ve asked myself a bazillion times in the past week, “Then, why make all these changes?  Why not stay on the same path:  doing it my way?”

Because God woke me up at 1:09 a.m on Saturday night/Sunday morning and laid out his plan very clearly.  And, it’s time to surrender to HIS way. (And, duh, my way wasn’t working!)

More than that…

I want your will.  I want your presence.  I need your strength.

All I want in my life is God’s will.  His presence.  His strength.  I look back over the past five years, and I’ve existed because of HIS strength.  The minute I step back into my own strength, I fail, fail, and fail again.

I KNOW God’s way is better than my way.  God’s shown me that again and again in my life.  So, I am choosing to wave the white flag and let God have the control he should have had all along.

Mary’s words echo the prayer of my heart as I daily surrender to Him and live in the tension of not knowing the outcome: Please take this burden today and use it in my life for your glory.

I love the song “You Are”:

All for Your glory; All for you name…You are God, Jesus, Majesty; You are life, Jesus, saving Me; You are King, Jesus, All will see that You are God.”

That’s my song today – and everyday. All in my life and your life – good and bad  – be all for His glory.

What burden are you carrying today?  What worry is filling your head and your heart, crowding Jesus out?  What needs to be turned over to your Creator?

Rest in knowing He is sovereign. His ways are better.

Isaiah 55: 8-9

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

Give it to Him.