Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Temporal vs Eternal

This last week I let myself get caught up in worrying about certain situations. I let my mind wander to asking questions such as "How will this work out? What am I supposed to do? Why doesn't prayer seem to be enough? Why do I feel so lost and confused?." Last night, I realized I needed to just go on a walk and be quiet and still before the Lord. I just poured out my frustrations and confusion to Him. I asked Him to take this burden of worry from me and to be ever real before me. I walked along the beach with no one around me and just listened to the waves crash and looked up at the starry night. It was then I realized all these "worries" and "burdens" are temporary. Eternity with God is what matters. The burden then just melted off of me and I felt so much lighter. It put things into perspective for me. It made my burdens seem so small and insignificant. I realized that God is so much bigger than anything and will give me strength. I am desiring to be more aware of God and to be open and listen to Him. I was listening to a song by Brandon Heath as I walked last night. These words from his song Stolen spoke to me:
                        
                          You catch me like a thief in the night
                          You hold me when I put up a fight
                         You chase me when I run from Your light
                         Because You love, You won't give up
                        'Til my heart is stolen

These words were so encouraging. God doesn't give up on us. I poured out my frustration with him and fought somewhat, but He doesn't let that stop Him from loving me. Thank you Jesus! Steal my heart away, Abba! :)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lead me to Repentance

        After discussing Lent with several people a couple weeks ago, I decided to follow Lent this year for the first time. I didn't want it to be legalistic practice, but a time to have self-reflection and to prepare my heart for Easter and to remember what Christ has done. I have been going through a Lent devotional which has been convicting and helping me to reflect in a deep good way. One of the recent daily devotional shared a suggested prayer to pray. It says "Lord, I am willing to be left alone with my sin, so that I can be transformed. I prayed that prayer which kind of scared me to do.
      These last few weeks have been interesting in that God has been revealing sins in my life.  I have been convicted lately of how selfish I am. I so easily get caught up in what people think about me. I want to be noticed, I want people to like me, and I don't want there to be conflict. I feel guilty and dwell on the fact that maybe I am making someone unhappy and they won't like me anymore. When I write this out, I know this may seem like elementary thinking, but this is what has been going through my head. As I reflected on why I feel this way, I realized that it is because I place my identity in what others think about me. My prayer has been that I would be freed of these thoughts and my hearts desire would be to place my identity in who I am in Christ. He has continually shown me that I am a precious daughter of the King and that He loves me so much, but at times I struggle to rest in that. I also have been realizing that I approach Jesus and Christianity in a selfish way. I was listening to a podcast by Britt Merrick, and he was talking about how we read the Bible selfishly in trying to get something out of it for ourselves and make us feel better instead of learning about God's character and what He wants us to learn from His word. This is something that I realize I struggle with and have been reflecting on, especially as we talked about the Bible a couple Saturdays ago. Also, this weekend Darin spoke about Judas and how he followed Jesus for personal gain. Darin said " We pursue Jesus for what He can do for us, but we should pursue Him because He is God. " That statement hit me hard. I think many times I turn to God in expectation for Him to make me "feel better." The message also spoke about how Judas felt remorse, a sadness over what he had done and so he hung himself. However he never turned from his sin and repented. It finally hit me that I have been feeling remorse over the sin of selfishness that God has been revealing to me, but I wasn't repenting of it. I wanted God to just make everything better so I could "feel" him again and not feel distant, but I wasn't willing to come to repentance. I was just sitting in self-pity.

      God I don't want to live in my selfishness any longer but I want to turn from it. Forgive me Abba of my selfishness and pride and help remove these areas of my life that are not pleasing to you. Help me to view my identity as your daughter and in who I am in You and not in what the world thinks of me. Thank You Jesus!

      Sunday night during worship I got this picture of a child being playfully turned upside down to remove the junk hidden in his pockets. I started laughing to myself as I though about how this is what God is doing to me. Lovingly, He is removing the hidden sins of my life. Thank you Jesus!

       Another area that I was convicted in on Sunday is one of gratitude. I was feeling bummed before Sunday service about not feeling enough gratitude from my brother for throwing him a birthday party. He thanked me and was appreciative but I wanted him to be ultra-grateful since I had put a lot of work into it. Dannah and I were talking that day and she read me an insert from the Charles Finney paperwork you guys went over a few week ago that I missed. She read the part about ingratitude toward God. I then realized that I expect gratitude from others for things I have done, but I barely show gratitude for God for all the amazing things He has done in my life. So Sunday night was just a time of conviction, repentance, and thankfulness. I am still processing all that He is showing me and know it will be a process as He reveals more to me. I am grateful for this time and know that He is transforming me. I want to be open and receiving and humble and ready to repent. I am so grateful to be a child of God and to be forgiven! Thank you Jesus! :)

I know this is a big post of all that I have been convicted on but I know that God is using this time to bring transformation. Thank you for letting me share and pour out my heart with you guys. I am so grateful to be in Circles with you all and to see the transformation God is doing amongst our group. :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Gungor - Beautiful Things

This is the song I mentioned in my last blog :)


Craziness!

I just have to say that life has been crazy lately! It cracks me up that my last blog was about peace and now I am feeling crazy!  Honestly, I feel like I haven't been able to breath for the last 2 weeks. I had such an awesome time in New Zealand and came back refreshed. I had an amazing opportunity to spend time with God, enjoy His creation, and be encouraged. Coming back, I wanted to keep up with Circles and make sure I spent time with God each day. However, that has not happened. It seems like I am just running and that God wants to show me things but I need to slow down to see them. I want to give my all to God but I am so burnt out that I offer Him just a little morsel. I know I need to manage my time and cut back on some things to make sure God is a priority in my day. This is the first day I have had off to just relax and have nothing planned. It is still hard for me though to be quiet and still before God. Lately, I have been overwhelmed with starting school, work, volunteering at Catalyst West conference, and all the other little things I planned for myself before I started school. I am one of those people that loves to be a part of everything and to hang out with everyone, but I realize that I am at stage in my life where I can't do that. I tend to say yes to do everything but my new answer will be " I will get back to you on that." ;)  Basically, I need to focus on being intentional with you all as my community right now and also focus on school. I am so blessed to have you all in my life and I don't want to miss opportunities and friendships because I am spreading myself to thin to be of use to anyone. My goal is to be more intentional with Circles and to be dedicated to you guys. Thanks for being in my life and I really am looking forward to growing with you all in the next few months :)

For a little side note, I want to share some things I learned from the Catalyst conference. I was so exhausted going into it and did not really have the right heart to serve the first day I went. I was soo tired and honestly didn't really know what Catalyst was all about. I only heard of it a couple months ago from a few friends and decided I would help out and go for free at the same time. :) The theme of the conference was to "Take Courage." I am still trying to process all that was said there but there were some powerful messages. That first day I helped out, I felt so selfish and in a funk. I decided to stay for the evening session and was so blessed. The guy that spoke talked about how Jesus is the sum and substance and that we should not feel like we are lacking anything because with Jesus we have everything! As I sat there feeling unworthy and just a ball of selfishness, the band Gungor played the song "Beautiful Things." This song spoke to me so deeply! Basically that even though I felt selfish and unworthy to serve because of my heart's condition, I was reminded that God wants to use us. He makes beautiful things out of US! He used the disciples who had no training or degrees and who were selfish and who failed at times. It is so amazing that God wants  us. The next day I came back with a new perspective and with a heart ready to serve and be used by God. God blessed me that day and I felt refreshed to move on to a weekend at work. One of the blessings that day was being able to give a Starbucks card to someone at the conference. Those on our volunteer team were asked to start a conversation with someone who needed encouragement and then bless them with the card. So Dannah and I went around super awkwardly trying to find someone to encourage. For those of you who have been to Mariners Church they have a little chapel on site. Anyways, Dannah and I couldn't really seem to find anyone so we went into the chapel just to take a look at it. Well, inside they had set up a time of reflection, confession, and time to be with the Lord. We took communion and wrote down our fears and confessions and nailed them to the cross. Then we wrote on this wall the fears that we wanted to let go. I wrote the fact that I fear man and lack boldness and want to let that go and just trust God! After our chapel experience we went outside and right in front of us were two women sitting on a bench. I had seen these women around the conference working to clean the church. It felt like just people to bless. We went up to them and just told them even though it may not seem like anyone notices the work that you do we appreciate it and want to bless you with these Starbucks cards! It was so awesome seeing that God placed the opportunity in front of us once we stopped trying to force it to happen :)

I know this is a long post of rambling but I have had a lot on my mind. I have been going so fast that I am just now starting to process what God has been doing and wanted to share that with you guys. Thanks for bearing with me :)
Ashley