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To Polish or Paint

As a newly engaged woman I am constantly obsessing over the sparkly ring on my finger, not because I’m materialistic but because it is a reminder of my fiancé’s love for and commitment to me. While slipping into my flats this morning I noticed how my ring glittered and glistened while my recently polished toenails were already chipped and dull.

This one observation spurred me to think of and pray for those in my life who are experiencing hardship. We don’t know the reason for specific struggles and suffering, but we can trust that God uses these instances to bring us closer to Him and to polish us. Why does it take struggles and suffering to be polished? Well, like my toenails, if our flaws were simply painted over, we would just be back to our damaged selves right away, but God chooses to scrub off our blemishes and make us shiny and new. We don’t have to return to the dull-in-spirit sinners we were before.

 

 

 

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. – Psalm 66:10-12

 

When I look back on the valley journey it took to get to this mountaintop joy-filled time of my life, I honestly don’t see how I could have gotten here without the many valleys along the way. In addition, I wouldn’t be the person I am now without those valley, those times of refinement and scrubbing. There were times I felt hopeless, worthless, and ashamed. If God had just painted over my sin instead of washing it away, I couldn’t be the wife and daughter he is making me to be. I might look nice, but I couldn’t love like Christ.

The biggest lesson learned through suffering is this, His thoughts are higher than my thoughts and His ways are higher than my ways. We will never have all the answers to the “why me?” questions in life, but we aren’t meant to. We are meant to trust God and His process no matter how painful it is because we know He is good all the time…even when we can’t feel it.

 

 

“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

 

Pray for someone who doesn’t have the strength to pray right now and reflect on the good that has come out of the worst in your life.

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Reverence: A Lost Concept

The word reverence is rarely used in everyday conversation. In fact, I would guess that many young people don’t know the definition. To be honest, if you would have asked me two months ago for a word that means respect and awe, I wouldn’t have been able to identify the word. It was just off my radar for too long.

Since hearing the word at a prayer meeting or small group discussion a couple months back, the concept has been on my mind, but in my pride I didn’t act on it.

More recently, within the last week, I recognized that I had not been hearing God in the way I had even a year ago. A heart shift had happened. I had unmet expectations of God, and therefore lost some of that respect and awe in His presence. He became someone I expected to disappoint or fall short, and while I still have areas where I struggle to trust Him with my life, I find a little physical expression of reverence goes a long way…even if my heart isn’t there yet.

The term “fake ’til you make it”, I think it applies to faith. You’ve heard it said that love is a decision, and a decision is a conscious choice. I just woke up one day and thought, I’m going to choose to kneel down at my bedside the moment I open my eyes. And when my knees hit the floor I’m going to praise God for all that He is and all that He’s done. After I praise Him I’m going to confess even though my respect for Him is waning at times. Then I’m going to pour out my heart, my deepest hurts, concerns, requests, and cries for help. I’m going to be honest, but I’m also going to remember my place in this relationship by bowing my head, closing my eyes, and kneeling before the King.

While I am still not hearing God clearly, I know that I am doing nearly everything I can think of to open my ears and my eyes to see Him. If you have suggestions for drawing nearer to God in reverence, please leave a comment. I read them!

 

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Feeling Uncomfortable in Church?

Do you ever feel like running for the door when the pastor starts preaching? This is a normal response. No offense pastors, but sometimes your teaching makes me want to cover my ears and stuff my face in a pillow. It’s not that your message is bad or poorly delivered. It’s quite the opposite. Your message speaks such truth into my conscience that I feel guilty and sometimes ashamed. I realize, sometimes for the first time, how much I have wronged God.

Almost every morning I put on glasses. As I’ve gotten older I’ve decided contacts really aren’t worth the two seconds it takes to put them in my eyes and certainly not worth the money most of the time. In my mad rush to get out the door, I often don’t properly clean my glasses, at least not in the way my dad recently instructed me to go about cleaning them. Before leaving the house the lenses seem perfectly clean. I rush out the door and as soon as the lenses catch a glimpse of sunlight I can see all the blemishes, all the impurities.

The same happens in church. Out in the real world of distraction we don’t notice the blemishes of sin until we sit down without distraction and take in the truth and examine our sin. Sin is an ugly thing. Like the smudges on my glasses it can blur the way we see things.

Fortunately we can take time to examine ourselves daily, reflect on where we have failed, and most importantly, revel in the fact that we are forgiven and reconciled. To examine ourselves is to shine the light of God’s word, His truths on our lives and let Him reveal where we have mis-stepped. This is not to cause shame, but to release the guilt through repentance.

To see the blemishes is to see the light, for in the darkness neither blemish nor beauty is seen. Would you rather live without seeing at all or live with seeing what can be made pure through the blood of Jesus?

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A Day with My Lover

As the eldest of three sisters and still single at nearly 34 years of age, I experience both real and assumed pressure to walk down the aisle sometime this century. Some people beat around the bush, and others just blurt it out, “Are you ever going to get married?”

Well, first off, getting married is not a one-person decision, neither is it a two-person decision, but a bride, groom, and God decision. When people ask me if I’m ever going to get married I feel like screaming! When has it ever been okay to ask a barren woman when she will ever have children? Don’t you think if I had a choice in the matter that I would get you off my back in an instant if I could?

Sometimes, however, no one has said anything, but I just feel a pressure to not be single anymore, to give my parents the grandchildren that they want so very much, but again, it is not my choice. Sure there are things I could have done differently in life that may have gotten me hitched, but I can’t change the past now. Fortunately God has given me so many other reasons to live and enjoy His creation. Believe it or not, world, life goes on even when you are single, and life can go on down in the dumps or happily jumping in the puddles while the storm blows through.

Yesterday I missed my friends’ wedding because I didn’t want to face the questions of why I am still single. That’s sad. I instead slept in, had church at home in the peacefulness of my living room while listening to the choir at the church next door belt out hymns (talk about making a joyful noise!), sang some worship songs of my own (well, not my own), read the word, and prayed and listened. You know what? After I prayed, asking God if I should go to my friends’ wedding, telling Him my fears of judgment, and listened quietly, all I heard was God’s perfect peace telling me to just rest in His goodness. There would be enough guests to celebrate with my friends, and without me there would surely be more food for them. At that moment I was feeling the joy of being with my Heavenly Lover, and He knew that was all I needed. Plus I knew my friends would understand.

Instead of saying someday God will give me all I wish for, I say I wish for all that God has for me because He’s already given me more than I deserve, more than I wished for…and that was exactly what I needed to feel yesterday, today, and forever. I’ve spent the last several weeks feeling like the future was too far away, but it’s true what they say, the present is a gift (or a present).

Heavenly Father, I thank You that You understand my every need. You know when to make me rest and when to get me up moving around, serving others. You give me strength in my weakness, and wealth of spirit when I am poor in spirit. Sometimes You let me suffer, but You always rescue me before I fall to pieces. You catch me in Your arms, not only like a father catches his child, but like a groom carries his bride. Thank You for Your gentleness, Your mercy, and Your grace. Even when I have forgotten all You have given me, You still give me more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Have you ever had a special day with Jesus that you would like to share?

Also, I just want to take this opportunity to wish my friend Maura a very happy birthday. Thanks for always reading my blog.

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While the Dew is Still on the Roses

10441466_10205042817645174_8265139601986918341_nFor those who grew up in the church there is probably a worship song or hymn you remember singing as a child that brings a smile to your face each time you hear it. For me this song is In the Garden (written by C. Austin Miles). All the kids in my Sunday School class would be on the edge of their seats waiting to be called to hold up the big 16 by 20 inch lyric book in front of the whole children’s church. You would get to go in front and turn the pages as the pianist played. Each page took you to a fantasy land where you could walk beside a real and beautiful savior in a lush garden filled with roses and baby animals. We all wanted so badly to be in that picture with him, holding hands with Jesus.

This last Sunday our worship band at Great Commission Christian Church sang In the Garden, and as I sang I think I was probably smiling from ear to ear thinking about those Sunday School memories. And as I smiled God whispered something in my ear. You see, I was thinking how great it would be to be innocent again, to feel pure and cleansed by God, to want to hold his hand and walk through fields of roses. While I my thoughts were drifting away into this fantasy land of my childhood, God said, “If you come to my garden you can be innocent again before the dew is even gone from the roses.” Then it struck me! Of course God is kind enough to meet me in my spiritual garden each morning when I wake up. He’s more than willing to listen to my thoughts and confessions before I have a chance to call or text a friend for advice. Not only that, He’s longing for me to enjoy his creation, walking through the garden of life.

What is your favorite Sunday School hymn? Does it remind you of your childhood innocence? If so, repent and then meditate on the words to this song. God can make you new, forgiven and cleansed, and excited to walk with Him each morning. Hallelujah!

Uploaded on Feb 20, 2011. Video created by Peter Tremblay. The traditional Hymn, “In The Garden” sung by Alan Jackson. I hope you enjoy the video. Lyrics are included in the video so you can sing along.
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She Now Knew She was Mighty

As I sat there in the front row, literally one step away from the stage, my fingers fidgeted with the folded up piece of copy paper. I looked over at my friend as she twirled her pen with one hand and a lock of hair with the other. We were preparing to perform the very vulnerable task of sharing our original poems with an audience of mostly complete strangers. I had spent all day fretting over this moment that was about to happen, even while I was at work at the local hospital.

A coworker asked me how I was feeling, and I replied, “Freaked out, terrified!” I explained that I was about to conquer one of my greatest childhood fears, reading in front of an audience. You see, growing up I was a very slow reader and often I would be chosen to read in front of the class, a task that was not only daunting, but mortifying. I wasn’t dyslexic. I didn’t have any learning disabilities that I knew of. I just wasn’t a very skilled reader. I was such a slow reader I would have to lug home all my text books in order to get any of the class work done. That meant, not only was I doing homework, but the work that was intended to be done in class as well.

Back at the coffee shop 25 years later my knuckles are turning white from making tight, nervous fists. I get up to use the bathroom again, thanks to my nervous bladder. I see my tiny folded up poem almost slip from my pocket into the toilet but catch it just as it’s about to make it’s final dive to the great unknown. It occurs to me at that moment, ‘I’m going to open with this, and once I laugh I think I’ll be okay.’ People always tell me I have an infectious laugh, so I thought I’d just lighten the mood.

Finally the emcee announces that it is my turn. I take that one tiny step to the stage, grab the music stand, which will mainly act as a stabilizing device as my knees shake beneath me. In the other hand I grab the mic. This is my moment to prove my bullies wrong. “Hi, my name is Chelsea, and I’m going to share a poem I wrote, which I almost just dropped in that toilet right back there!” Laughter filled the room. A small bit of relief came over me. I started, and I could tell I sounded just like my elementary school self stumbling over each word, but by the fourth line something extraordinary happened. I looked up to see that the crowd was rooting me on with their encouraging smiles. Wow! It was no longer children laughing and pointing, but people of all ages and races smiling, giving me a thumbs up, and gasping as I read the last line, “she now knew she was mighty.” I did. I knew I was mighty. I was mighty enough to conquer my fear, and not only that, do it better next time, show fear who is boss.

I’ve heard it said that everyday you should do something that scares you. This was one of those things, and it felt so good to laugh about it afterward with complete strangers outside my favorite coffee shop last Thursday night.

I hope my story inspires you to conquer your fear, whatever it might be. Share it with me by clicking on “reply” at the top of this post, and share this post with others in your life that have a fear to conquer. You definitely know someone.

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Give me Attitude, Prayer Attitude

Ever been at a prayer meeting when someone breaks into tears of desperation? “Lord, we need you!” This heart cry made my heart ache. How could I pray without desperation in my heart? Words are not enough to show God how desperate I am. I need to change my attitude to that of desperation.

Time and time again David cried out for help, sometimes accusing God of turning away from him, even ignoring him. I never know whether to be offended for God when reading these Psalms or to be comforted that I am not the only who feels the way David did. God knows we need him, but when we come to Him in desperation, whatever the prayer request may be, He knows that we know we need Him.

When I heard this cry of desperation from my friend I remembered what I had heard on the radio just the other day. A speaker on one of those 30-second segments explained that the older she gets, the more she knows God, the more desperate she is for Him. She said this brings her comfort knowing that she will always know she needs Him. My friend’s cry for help was a shocking reminder that all of us desperately need Him no matter how good or bad our circumstances are today.

Heavenly Father, we need you. Alone we are damaged goods, but with you we are the Bride of Christ, made pure in Jesus’ blood. Lord, we accept your gift of salvation as we begin this Holy Week. We reflect on the suffering Jesus endured, His death, His resurrection, and our anticipation for His return. Only in Him are we made whole and clean. Help us to cry out to you with tears in our eyes, desperate to receive what you have for us today and desperate to give back some of what you have given. Help us to be desperate in our confession as well, that we may recognize our need for forgiveness. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Breathe by Michael W. Smith

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Oddly Jesus’ Best

Learning to accept and even welcome the unexpected as Jesus’ best for me is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a Christian. When things don’t turn out the way I planned I want to stomp around and pout like a two-year-old not getting her way. As adults we often throw ourselves pity parties or practice retail therapy or even worse, but when we see kids throwing tantrums we roll our eyes at the thought. 

In John 9 Jesus uses mud and saliva to give a blind man sight. If I were the blind man I’d be thinking, “Look dude, people already think I’m a horrible person just for being born blind and now you’re going to rub mud, wet with your spit on my eyes. Can this get any worse?!?” 

I notice, however, that Jesus didn’t forewarn the man. In fact, the author doesn’t record Jesus addressing the man at all before rubbing his spit in his eyes. 

Often we experience these off-road, unplanned detours God throws our way without warning and without apparent preparation, but as we see in the scripture, God uses the odd and seemingly unplanned as a testament to his goodness. When God is able to use the odd for your good, it shows the good in your life is truly a miracle from God. 

When God used my Great Uncle Jerry’s illness and near death to turn his soul back to God and heal him in order that he could share the Gospel during the last years of his life, it was an undeniable testament of God’s goodness. When God used my prayer for my friend’s back to heal me of half a decade of unexplained stomach pain, there was no question it was God’s doing. God is notorious for making himself known in the lowliest of places and circumstances “…so that the work of God might be displayed…”

God’s Current

As far back as I can remember in the history of cell phones I have always overcharged my phone. I use it so much for taking pictures or Googling random facts, that I don’t like to let it out of my sight long enough to charge until I’m ready to hit the hay. At the end of the day I plug it in, thinking, I won’t fall asleep before I unplug the phone, but inevitably I always doze off before it’s done charging. It’s a bad habit that ruins my phone battery and keeps me running on empty throughout the day, but it always happens.

One evening I was winding down for the day and went to plug in the phone, but the end of the cord that connects to the phone was fried. In my sleep a few nights before I had unplugged the phone and left the cord plugged into the wall. It had been like that for who knows how long, and it had finally gotten too hot and melted the outer shell of the plug. Fortunately this did not cause a fire, but from the appearances of it, it very well could have. 9597bc0b-3382-455e-a663-e83d75bcb989

As I reflected on my foolish mistake, I realized that we neglect our spiritual lives just the same. We power up on Sundays, neglect God all week, and return the next Sunday ready to refuel. And just like I didn’t unplug the cord from the outlet, so God does not unplug from us. His Holy Spirit current is still flowing to us, but we are disengaged. We fail to receive His power because we’ve detached ourselves from the source. It is not that He ever denies us the Holy Spirit, in fact, it is still flowing at the same speed and same strength as it ever did. And like the cord that got so hot it melted, so we can feel the Holy Spirit tongues like fire (Acts 2:3) roaring in us, to the point of it spilling over, erupting from us. God uses that precious overflow to reach those around us that are yet to know His power.

Today and everyday, God invites us to reconnect, refuel, and allow His goodness to spill over in our lives if only we take the time to plug in.

Zealand Worship – Your Love is Wild (Official Video) Published on May 23, 2016

God’s Will and Shoe Shopping

Alas my foot finally rubbed a dime-size hole in the side of my favorite pair of flats. These were the shoes I wore proudly for five-plus years and got compliments every time. These were the shoes in which, though they were pricier than most I owned, I didn’t hesitate to invest. When I noticed holes wore through the inside of them last winter, I turned a blind eye because I loved them. Though they always came untied, I never hesitated to bend down and retie their bows. No shoe matched everything better than these shoes.

Now without my perfect flats, shoe shopping is more difficult than ever. No flat seems worthy of filling its empty slot on my shoe rack. I’ve searched high and low, and not one meets the high expectations I now have because of my perfect flats. And though shoe shopping is difficult, I only wish parts of my life were as easy as shoe shopping. If only I could walk into a husband store. A salesperson would slip my heart into a heart measuring device, pull up some possible matches on her register, and pull some of those candidates from the back room for me to try on. I could take them out of their boxes, turn them around in my hands, examine their quality, and try them on for size. I know, I know. There are things out there like that. For instance, online dating sites. Each of these advertises that they can find you a perfect match, but I’ve tried and they can’t. In fact, they match me with non-matches, saying things like “A what-if match!” I’m sorry, but if I’m looking for Nordstrom quality I’m not going to walk into Payless Shoe Source!

Before I knew God, I mean, really knew God, I would have settled for any Joe Blow off the street. I had never experienced the unconditional love of a perfect heavenly Father, but now that I have experienced it, it’s like my perfect flat. I know what real love feels like and its difference in quality to that of lust or a crush. Since man can never live up to God, of course I’m not searching for perfection. I have taken the time to pray and think through the qualities of God’s love and character that I most love and appreciate. Those qualities are what I hope to find in a husband. I’m looking for the perfect flat of a man. Someone who, just like my perfect flat, complements all my favorite things like faith, family, volunteering, trying new foods, hiking, etc. Now that I’ve experienced God’s love, nothing will ever compare. Fortunately God’s love won’t ever wear out as my perfect flat did, but perhaps there is a husband out there who mirrors some of my favorite God-qualities. And maybe there’s another shoe that can fill my perfect flat’s slot in my shoe rack, if only I wait just a little while longer.

Better than I Used to be

After taking off a few months from writing, it is a little overwhelming to try to start again. So much has happened that it makes it difficult to know where to start.

For those of you who don’t know, I took off the last few months to concentrate on studying for the CAPM exam. The CAPM is a “junior” certificate in project management. I decided to do this after an “ah-ha!” moment about 18 months ago and several failed attempts at getting a job in project management without obtaining a certificate in that area of expertise. I’m glad to say that I passed with a lot of effort and even more grace.

I’ll be honest, after applying for over 30 jobs in a little over a year, it got pretty embarrassing to receive job offers of less than 80% of my current salary. Each time I was turned down or offered one thing when I felt I deserved another, it felt like I another needle pierced through my pride bubble. Needless to say, it was painful. For those of you without jobs, I understand that I am blessed to have one, especially in the Bay Area and the state of the national economy, however, nevertheless it was heartbreaking every time. I felt cheated out of my destiny, out my dream job, my dream life.

Finally a manager offered to give me feedback on an interview I had done. I gladly accepted the offer to receive feedback from a manager who had hired and fired many staff. One thing she repeatedly suggested was investing in my own growth. Finally I realized that I had been prideful, I had felt entitled to succeed in the workforce simply by excelling in the one job I have had for the last 10 years. It was at that time I realized I was nothing special in the eyes of my interviewers. There is too much competition in an area of the nation where there are several major universities and organizations that invest in the development of leaders.

With this new-to-me information, I set forth praying and researching. What could I do to prove to the workforce that I am skilled in managing projects, leading, communicating, and coordinating activities and resources. My initial thought was to go back to school, however I just paid off my student debt and colleagues advised against it. Eventually I ran across the Project Management Institute website. I found all the resources and information I needed there, and bought some courses through Groupon believe it or not. I studied and studied and almost gave up, when I realized I needed to keep praying. Alas, it was the week of my test, and I met with a former student volunteer who will soon be starting medical school. I told her about my aspirations, and she gave me some invaluable advice, don’t study the day before or the day of your test. You won’t learn any more than you already know by then. That advice stuck with me, and I took the day off before my test to rest and relax. I ate healthy food, spent quiet time with God, treated myself to a massage and pedicure, took a tour of the testing facility, and prayed a lot. The day of my test, I awoke ready to conquer the world. I pulled on a shirt a friend gave me the day before. On the front was the word “Brave.” I used my time wisely on the test, and as I hit the “complete” button, I reminded myself that I had done everything I could and the results were up to God.

As I read the screen that popped up next, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I passed! I can’t forget the feeling I had. It was similar to the feeling I had going into the test, an overwhelming sense of peace.

I know what you are thinking. No, I haven’t forgotten that this is supposed to be a faith blog, but the above story is all a part of my testimony. You see, all throughout college I suffered pretty severe panic attacks. I remember one in particular happened the day of a test or a presentation. I went to the student health clinic thinking I was having a heart attack when, in fact, it was a panic attack triggered by the pressure I put on myself to perform without error. I have struggled with being a perfectionist my whole life, but God is freeing me from it.

Anyone that tells you God frees you from experiencing panic attacks the moment you become Christian, is either lying or has experienced a miracle. I can say, that since becoming a Christian trusting in God has helped me to experience joy which helps calm panic and anxiety, but no, anxiety hasn’t completely gone away. Over the years, I have learned ways of coping with it. I have come to know myself better which has helped. I realize that I need daily time to myself and time with God in order to enjoy social time. And I now recognize that social time, fellowship time helps too. It helps put things in perspective when I hear other people’s stories and when I tell my own.

Earning my CAPM is not the end of the road for me. I’m a lifelong learner, and I plan to get my PMP and other certifications in the near future. Above those goals though, is my ultimate God-given purpose to love God, love my neighbor, and to share the Gospel and all that goes with that. So no matter if I hold this same position another decade or get promoted to project manager, I know that I am fulfilling God’s purpose for my life every time I love Him, love my neighbor and share the Gospel. I also know, that with every day I read His word, live it out, and draw closer to Him, I will become freer and freer from anxiety and panic. He promises it over and over that someday all who believe will be free from what we suffer…someday.

What a Difference a Decade Makes

As my 35th birthday approaches I reflect on the difference the last decade has made. Ask a 15-year-old or even someone in their 20’s like the volunteers I work with, and they will probably tell you that most maturing happens between ages 15 and 25. However I beg to differ. I have found no other decade thus far that has both matured me and made me more youthful than this last decade.

Perhaps it is because my family dynamics are better than ever or because I have mastered my job of 10 years, but my gut tells me it’s more than that. I know this maturity and this youthfulness has come from a deeper relationship with God as a result of many enriching friendships with genuine investment in my life. These individuals and church communities have been intentional about their relationships with me. They not only loved me with their own love but with the love of Christ. They met with me, prayed for me, encouraged me, counseled me. I wouldn’t trade the last absolutely excruciating years of spiritual stretching, molding and refining if it meant going back to where I was in my faith at 25.

As my church prepares to start discipling relationships, I am both fearful of failure and confident in God’s grace. The same grace he has given me in the last decade will be shown to me in the next…and shown to my discipleship partner as well. It is comforting to reflect on how God used many ordinary people in my life to do extraordinary deeds for him. Not once did he use a celebrity, a earthly king/queen, or a genius to disciple me. He used a dietitian, a wealth manager, a housewife, a manager, a college student, a pharmacist, and many others to disciple me. None of them were Bible scholars, sinless, and few were even in places of authority in the church. He can and will use me when I step out in faith.

Lord, I am so grateful for the way you have used the past decade to mold me into who I need to be in the next. I step out in faith to disciple others because I know you are the only tool I need. Thank you for your grace and mercy. Amen.

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