Saturday, December 28, 2013

Psalm 23:1–The Lord Is My Shepherd

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”  (Psalm 23:1)

That’s basically a summary statement of it all right there, isn’t it? I mean, the rest of the psalm goes on to beautifully expand upon all the ways that the Lord’s sheep are never left wanting, but it’s all there in that first sentence.

The Lord

This part of the statement explains why the rest of it can be taken as true. The One being spoken of here is no mere man but the divine Master and Creator of all. His flock are not just sheep that He has bought or inherited from some one else, but they are His very creation, the one part of creation that was honored with the likeness of His image (Genesis 1:26-27). And in the years since this psalm was written, Jesus, the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4), came to this earth and died in order to redeem the lost and wandering sheep of this world into His flock (Acts 20:28). This Shepherd is not limited in power nor grace (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). He is not fickle but is a true and constant Guide (Hebrews 13:8).

Is My Shepherd

This is a very personal psalm (as most of them are), speaking directly to the relationship between the psalmist and his Lord. To make this statement is to declare an allegiance and total dependence to the One whose flock you have joined. We are all sheep under a shepherd; the question arises, though: Whose flock are you in? Because here is where there is not a direct analogy to the physical sheep-shepherd comparison; physical sheep cannot choose their shepherd. They may, through no fault of their own, find themselves under the care of a cruel and foolish shepherd and will greatly suffer the consequences of it. Or they may be blessed with the great fortune of a shepherd who knows what he is doing, one who truly cares for his flock and will put himself on the line for them.

We have those same two possible outcomes, but the difference is that the choice of which flock to be in is up to us. Jesus greatly desires to be our Shepherd, to lead and provide for us in a way that no one else can because only He knows us to the very core of our beings. Satan is every bit as eager to take us into his flock. But those who choose to join this flock are not coming into the care of a loving shepherd. No, Satan is the shepherd that offers what pleases the eye but brings only destruction. Have you chosen the Lord as your Shepherd? Do you bear the mark of His flock? – 2 Timothy 2:19; Galatians 3:26-27; Romans 6

I Shall Not Lack

One thing that I learned from Mr. Keller’s book is that sheep typically demand more attention and focused care than other livestock. So for the ‘sheep’ of this passage to be able to say, ‘I shall not lack,’ is pretty impressive. It means that his Lord is able to not only provide everything he needed then but everything that he could EVER need (Matthew 6:25-33; Philippians 4:19; 2 Peter 1:2-4).

This statement speaks not only to the character of the Shepherd but to the character of the sheep as well. This is a sheep who is content in the care of his Shepherd (Philippians 4:11). He does not fret about an uncertain future or stare longingly across to the land on the other side of the Shepherd’s fence. Rather, he trusts in his Shepherd and follows His lead faithfully.

* * * * * * * * * *

So much depth there in just a few words! As we go through the rest of this day, may we all live in such a way that we can speak these words in full spirit and truth. May we put our trust in the Shepherd who gave us form, gave His life to redeem us into His flock, and continues in His wonderful care for His sheep each and every day. Praise be to Him!

Thanks for stopping by!

~Erin~

 Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Study of Psalm 23

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I will be posting some of the personal studies I am doing using the SOAP method. I decided to start somewhere familiar – Psalm 23. This is a psalm that many of us have known and could recite since our childhoods, but, as with the rest of scripture, it has such depth as to constantly have more to teach us about our walk with our Savior.

One of the things about this psalm that intrigued me was the opportunity to learn more about how David wrote it from the perspective of the shepherd-sheep relationship. And as the shepherd-sheep allusion is used many times throughout the Bible to describe Christ’s relationship with His people, I wanted to delve deeper into how this psalm (and other similar references) would have been understood by a people who were much more familiar with the shepherding lifestyle than I am.

Having gone through this psalm verse by verse using the SOAP method, I then read W. Phillip Keller’s book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. I would recommend that anyone who wants to take a closer look at these verses to likewise seek insight from someone who is well qualified to speak about the world of shepherding. Mr. Keller’s book really helped me gain a better understanding of what the work of a shepherd really entails, which in turn helped me gain a better of understanding of the full meaning of the words in these verses – written by a shepherd about his Shepherd. While I enjoyed reading Mr. Keller’s book, I cannot recommend without a caveat. From my reading, it does appear that he holds some false beliefs on some things, such as how the Holy Spirit works in our lives. For the most part, though, his book is very helpful in this study. What I feel would be even more helpful, though, is to find a Christian who is, or has worked as, a shepherd to study through the psalm with. How fruitful and encouraging a study that would be!

Over the next six posts, I’m going to be sharing what I learned from my study. I used the SOAP method for my personal study, but the posts on here won’t really be laid out as such. While I will type out the Scripture, my observations, and some potential applications, I will not be typing out a prayer for each verse. I wrote out my own as I studied and would encourage all of you to pray to God about the things you are taking from each verse as well.

May God bless us so that we grow in understanding and wisdom as we study and make application from this beautiful psalm.

Thanks for stopping by!

~Erin~

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Appreciating a New ‘View’ of Things

One thing that I’ve wanted to do for a while is to take the time to enjoy both the sunrise and sunset on the same day. I finally took the opportunity yesterday to do just that. While it may be a surprise to some of the people reading this (namely, anyone who has previously lived with me), I have actually been up before the sunrise pretty much every day for quite a while now. I just happen to usually be on the couch enjoying a cup of coffee and catching up on Facebook and things like that when the sun makes its appearance. Yesterday, though, I decided to take an early walk and, as such, was outside when the sun came up.

If you’re like me, when you think about sunrise (or sunset), you tend to focus on the visual side of things – the darkness fading away into the light of a new day and the beautiful colors spanning the horizon. That’s what I was expecting to see yesterday morning, but the clouds had other ideas. Instead of a burst of light shining amidst the pinks and oranges and blues, all I had to see was the gradual transition from pitch black to brighter shades of grey in the sky. Not quite the sunrise I was expecting, but then I noticed something else.

The hum and buzz of the crickets and other nighttime creatures was joined and then replaced by the singing of the birds. And it was just as beautiful to my ears to hear that transition as it would have been for my eyes to see the painted sky. It was like when my focus shifted off the visual, I could actually better appreciate the other wonderful things in God’s creation around me. Because I’m not sure I would have really noticed, much less fully appreciated, the birds’ morning music had I had the view of the sunrise that I had expected.

It makes me think of all the many times God has given me the opportunity to shift my focus on the things in my life and appreciate them in a new way. Maybe it’s a wonder of His creation that I have come to love any more having experienced it a new way. Maybe it’s a relationship that is so much more deep because of the new perspective that either a celebration or sorrow brings to it. Maybe it’s a familiar passage of Scripture that reaches deeper into my heart and my life because I read it at just the time that I needed it so very much. That’s the beauty of living in our Lord’s creation… As the product of an infinite Being, there is just so much depth, so much beauty, so much to gain from His work and His word that we finite humans will never ever ever exhaust the fullness of it all. And that is a tremendous blessing indeed!

May you all be blessed with the chance to see something familiar in your life in a new way today so that we may all give glory to the One who made this possible.

Thanks for stopping by!

~Erin~

Monday, October 14, 2013

Helpful Study Method: SOAP

Some (or many) of you may already be familiar with the SOAP study method, but I had not heard of it until a few months ago. It had been mentioned in several blogs that I followed and kept showing up in my Pinterest feed, but I didn’t really pay too much attention to it. Based on the little checking into it that I did do, it didn’t seem to be something I would be much interested in. However, I have been participating in online Bible study for the past six weeks which is completely based on the SOAP method. Let me tell you… I love it!

I probably should give a little explanation of SOAP for those who are just as clueless about it as I was. SOAP stands for: Scripture, Observations, Application, and Prayer. Its purpose is to really engage the studier in the scripture under consideration through several different steps:

  1. Write out the Scripture. So often when we’re reading through a passage we may breeze right through and miss some, or even many, of the more subtle lessons to be gained. The simple process of writing out the scripture provides the opportunity to slow down and really consider the words that the Holy Spirit has provided for our edification.
  2. Write out your Observations. Once you write out the verse(s), make a list of the things that stick out to you. These observations may be things that you have always known and appreciated about the passage or insights that are hitting you for the first time. (Just make sure that they are strictly observations and not personal applications; you’ll get there soon enough!) Many of the SOAP descriptions that I read through suggested writing out 2-3 observations each time, but there have been some passages in my study that are just so rich in meaning for me that I went far beyond that number. :)
  3. Write out personal Applications. This is where you get to take those observations and describe how you are making or plan to make personal application of those truths in your life. This could be written out in list format, perhaps with a personal application for each of the observations you recorded. I prefer to choose one of the observations (or more than one, if they are closely related) to focus on and jot down my applications in a paragraph format, which usually includes a lot of questions directed at myself about how well I am living out these principles.
  4. Write out a Prayer. Up to this point, God’s word has been speaking to you. Now, you get to speak back to God – glorifying Him, thanking Him, and asking for His guidance and help as you strive to better live as the Christian He would have you to be. To be honest, this was the part that I was the most unsure about going into it. I have tried writing out prayers before but never really stuck with it. I either felt that I began rambling or that I sometimes bordered on substituting “prettiness” of speech for sincerity. What has made the difference here, though, is that the prayer is targeted to the context of the scripture with which you are working. This gives me focus, which I desperately need to stay on task. (By the way, I have been able to use this concept in a separate prayer journal where I fill a page with each prayer – no more and no less. As such, I am much more focused on what I’m saying then how I’m saying it, and, most importantly, I am able to stay focused on who I am talking to.)

This is a fabulous study method that I would whole-heartedly recommend to anyone who has, like me, struggled to find a way to better connect and grow from his or her Bible reading. It’s so easy to get started with: grab a notebook (or print off any number of the SOAP worksheets available on the internet!), pick a verse or set of verses to start with, and SOAP away! It’s also easy to adapt for studying with others, whether that be your spouse, children, study group, or whatever else might come to mind…

Like, for example, studies of various Bible passages that may be posted on this page sometime in the (hopefully) near future…

As this is something I am planning on doing, I wanted to share beforehand the structure I will be using to present these studies, for those of you out there who were not familiar with it before this. And while the posts will be written from the viewpoint of my own personal interaction with the scriptures, I would definitely encourage anyone who may be interested to SOAP each of the passages for themselves as I go through them. These posts will probably be handled as week-long considerations of either one long passage or of a group of verses covering the same subject. I’m going to start with some of my favorite passages but would welcome any suggestions that any of you might like to see covered as well.

Anyway, it’s getting late, and I have work tomorrow, so it is time to sign off. :)

Thanks for stopping by!

~Erin~

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Rekindling a Neglected Passion

Before you get worried, this post is not about personal relationships in any way. I’m talking neglected passion in the strictly ‘something you used to do and love but don’t do much anymore’ sense. For me, that something is writing.

Now, you might be thinking, “Aren’t I reading your writing right now, though?" Yes, but this isn’t the kind of writing I’m talking about. I’m talking about poems, short stories, maybe even a full-length novel or two (if I can ever get them finished).

I’ve been a writer since I was a little kid, when I was constantly creating new characters and storylines, some of which I put on paper but many more that lived only in my own imagination. In high school, I would carry a stack of loose-leaf ruled paper on which I would craft stories in any free moments I had in between and during classes. It was invigorating to see my characters come to life, to see their lives and loves played out on the pages before me. In the last few years, though, I have seen that old passion for putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be) transformed into almost a dread at the thought of struggling through the writing process.

What happened?

What happened to that love that I used to have for writing? What happened to the joy I once had in creating a new character, almost as if I was meeting a new friend for the first time? What happened to that irrepressible drive to get the story from my mind to the page, to walk with my characters to the end of their story, and to bid them a fond farewell so that I could attend to the next set of characters who were fighting to come out and tell their story?

Truth be told, there are a lot of reasons that I could give to answer these questions, but I guess the biggest of these is impatience. Impatience with myself, impatience with my stories, impatience with the whole writing process. Writing can be incredibly challenging, especially if you try to take a perfectionist’s approach toward it (which you should NEVER do on a first draft, by the way). But if you love it, if you TRULY love it, you do it anyway, even when it’s hard, even when the plot doesn’t seem to be coming together or the characters start acting weird or you struggle to get a few useable words down a day. That’s why that passion is so important.

So I’m going to work on building that passion up again. I’m going to do all those things that they tell writers to do when they lose focus or the drive to continue: Start small. Do at least a little bit every day. Connect with others who have the same passion. And have fun again.

Before I sign off this post, though, I’d like to take it to the spiritual realm for a second.

It’s one thing to feel this way about writing. I mean, if I never rekindle that passion for writing that I once had, it’s really not that big of a deal in the long run. But how many of us have felt this same way about our spiritual lives at one point or another? How many of us have sat up one day and realized that, for whatever reason, we had lost that love, joy, and zeal that we once had for the Lord?

“Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent.”  - Revelation 2:4-5

If this describes you, please consider your standing before the Lord. Rekindle that passion that you once had for your Lord and your service for Him. Start small. Do at least a little bit every day. Connect with others who have the same passion. And open your heart to experience the more abundant life that God offers to His faithful (John 10:10).

Thanks for stopping by!

~Erin~

 Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Messing Up vs. Failing

I was going through one of my old notebooks and found a note I had written a while back, so I thought I might go ahead and share it with all of you. Those who know me well will not be surprised that there is a baseball reference in these thoughts… :)

Messing up and failure are interesting concepts. Neither is good in the spiritual realm, but does messing up necessarily imply failure? Certainly, it does in the short-term view of things, in the limited and most basic application of the word. When you mess up, when you stumble and fall, you have – in that moment – failed to live up to what is expected of you. If you never correct it, that sin remains stamped on your soul, and you will be held accountable.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  (2 Corinthians 5:10)

But as long as you are breathing, you have the chance to make correction and find redemption in the mercy of your loving Father. Consider, though, failure in its most absolute sense – failure where you hang your head and give up because there is nothing else that you feel you can do.

Look at it in the context of a baseball game: Messing up (i.e. limited failure) is striking out in one at-bat; ultimate failure is losing the game. At that point, there is nothing you can do to redeem that game.

So does messing up necessitate that feeling of ultimate failure?

Back to the game analogy, look at the batter who struck out in his first at-bat. Maybe he took bad swings or he wasn’t properly prepared to face what the pitcher was throwing. Maybe he got tricked by the pitcher’s craftiness or didn’t even take a swing at all. Whatever the case, he didn’t fulfill what was expected of him in that at-bat.

Now, there are some batters that will let the pitcher get into their head. They start to believe that there is no chance they can succeed against him, and they take their at-bats accordingly. They walk up to the plate with that sense of impending failure and thus essentially give up. Yes, they still walk out to the plate, and they may even swing the bat, but it’s obvious in their swing, in their posture, and in their dejected walk back to the dugout that they expected nothing more than they showed. Often, we see these struggles carried over into the next game and the next, until the word “slump” starts getting thrown around.

On the other hand, some batters go up there and strike out in their first at-bat – just like the other guys – but their minds are in a different place. This kind of batter walks back to the dugout thinking about what went wrong, not to dwell on and get dragged down by it, but to analyze the situation and figure what he needs to change for the next time. He doesn’t let his poor at-bat hurt him beyond those three strikes; he takes it as a learning experience and dedicates himself even more to making his next time at the plate a success. He is determined to be more patient, use better judgment, be more prepared, etc. As he sits on the bench waiting for his next at-bat, he watches the pitcher to figure out what he is throwing. He also cheers his teammates on, congratulates them when they do well and encourages them when they do poorly. He tells them what to watch out for, helps them see some of the mistakes they’re making (in a kind and supportive way), and is eager to get in that batter’s box again, to get another chance to come through for his coach and his team. He doesn’t let his poor hitting distract him in the field but sees that as another realm in which to redeem himself. This is a player that will struggle from time to time, but he is one who will pick himself up from his mistakes and refuse to fail.

Can you see the parallel to our spiritual lives?

Each of us is one of these kinds of batters spiritually. Are you the batter that lets your mistakes get in your head and discourage you to the point of complete failure? Or are you the one who sees those mistakes as mistakes (not sugar-coating the wrong) but learns from them without letting them drive you to ultimate failure? This second type of Christian – this is the one who will endure.

All of us will strike out spiritually at some point in our lives. The devil is crafty in what he throws at us; he has studied us and knows our weaknesses. His hope is to get inside your head, to get you to think that you’ll never be able to hit what he’s throwing you. He wants you to follow that path from messing up to absolute failure.

But God says you don’t have to follow that path. In fact, you mustn't follow that path if you want to have any hope of getting to heaven. That’s the point here: You have to have a strength of character, and you have to have hope. That hope is founded in God’s mercy, truth, and faithfulness. You know that He will not give up on you (2 Peter 3:9), that His door is always open to those who have strayed but make the choice to come back (Luke 15:11-24). Take a minute to read Romans 5:1-11, and tell me that doesn’t give you the encouragement you need to do what’s right!

Your mistakes don’t have to lead to failure. Repent of them, learn from them, and build your strength based on what you have learned. If you are struggling, don’t let discouragement cloud your mind and distract you from your walk (Hebrews 12:1-3). If you see that discouragement building up in another, reach out to him or her, and be an encourager (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Just remember that if Satan can get people to see themselves as failures, to believe there is no hope for them to be who they need to be, then he is that much closer to winning not just the battle (individual circumstance – that one sin) but also the war (eternal punishment of the soul in hell).

Thanks for stopping by!

~Erin~

 Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

An Honor and a Privilege

On Thursday I went to a funeral. I hadn’t known the man for long, a little over five months, but he has left an incredible impression in the time that I was blessed to know him. This man had been very sick the entire time I knew him and for a good while before that as well. I never saw him off of an oxygen tank. I don’t remember the last time that I saw him moving around without a wheel chair. But you know what, none of those things will be what I remember about him.

I will remember how he was there at services more times than not, even though two oxygen tanks were needed to make it through.

I will remember how he and his wife hosted both a get-together and a Bible study over the summer. When the offer was made to have the Bible study hosted somewhere else, the answer was, “If the study is at our house, he can actually attend.”

I will remember how he lead multiple prayers in worship service from his seat in the weeks leading up to his death, even though he needed oxygen to breathe and a lapel microphone to be heard. He was determined to continue to serve in any way he could.

I will remember how he made it to every service of the week-long gospel meeting we had last month.

I will remember the beginning of the prayer he led on Sunday night of that meeting, when he said it was “an honor and a privilege” to be able to come before the Lord in worship that night. Knowing the difficult week that lay before him and the struggle he faced to leave the house each time he did, and knowing how few of those opportunities he would have left… Those words hit me hard when I heard them, and those words will stick with me, hopefully for the rest of my life.

I will remember the strength, courage, virtue, and kindness I saw in every interaction with him. The love that so greatly characterized his family. The love of the Lord that guided him.

In my life, I have had the blessing to know many great Christian examples. I have also had the mingled sorrow and joy to watch many of these men and women pass from this life and into their reward. Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). I am so grateful that I have so many examples in my life who lived this verse so faithfully. And my goal and desire is that I am each day living faithful to this verse as well. May God help us all in this quest.

Thanks for stopping by!

~Erin~

 Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 26, 2013

“Therefore, Take Heart”

The 27th chapter of the book of Acts is not one that I gave a whole lot of consideration to for a long time. I knew the story, how Paul was being taken to Rome and was shipwrecked on Malta. I knew that every person on that boat lived, as God had promised, because they followed exactly the instructions given by God through Paul. I knew all of this, but I'm not sure I ever thought to gain a deeper connection to and understanding of this passage until I heard a sermon that focused on verses 25 and 26.

"Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. However, we must run aground on a certain island."

Basically, "Don't worry; we will all be fine. We just have to shipwreck first." Can you imagine being in that boat and hearing Paul say that? The point the preacher made from this was that this is how our life can be sometimes. We are stuck in the storms of trials and tribulations, and we don't see any way out. And here comes the promise of God: "Don't worry. Trust in Me, and you will be fine. But, just so you know, it's going to have to get worse before it gets better." 

Thinking about that lesson and this chapter, here are some points that stood out to me:

Don't lost hope, even in situations that seem hopeless (vv. 13-22).

One of the purposes of the hardships we face in life is to produce hope within us (Romans 5:1-5). We must put our trust in God, as He watches over and cares for His children (Psalm 31). Our Father hears His children's prayers (Psalm 3:4; 6:6-9), and He will make provision for us in ways that are to our benefit (Matthew 7:7-11).

God does not lie (v. 25).

God promised Paul that all the men on that boat would live (v. 24), and this promise was fulfilled (v. 44). The men on that boat reaped the benefits of that promise because they believed Paul and followed the guidelines that God revealed for them. Abraham also reaped the benefits of God's promise because he believed and did exactly what God commanded him (Romans 4:20-22). Likewise, we can believe and obey Him when He says that the reward of heaven will be worth all the things that we have to suffer here on earth (Matthew 5:10; 2 Corinthians 4:16-17).

Bad things will happen, but God will take care of His faithful (vv. 25-26).

God sends the rain to the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45), but He also promises that each will ultimately receive the reward he or she is due for the life lived on this earth (2 Thessalonians 1:4-7). Remember that the troubles of this world are temporary (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:4) and that enduring through these trials helps us mature as Christians (James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7). If we persevere and stay true to God, we have the reward of heaven waiting for us (Revelation 21:1-7). Of course, the wicked and those who do not stand strong have a reward waiting for them as well (Revelation 21:8).

May God bless you and keep you safe through whatever storms you may be going through. And should you also have to 'run aground on a certain island', may you find God's strength and grace sufficient to see you through it all.

Thanks for stopping by!

~Erin~

 Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"One Thing You Lack"

Looking through the Gospels, the story of the rich young ruler stands out to me. There are so many lessons that can be learned from this short passage, but there is one that has started hitting close to home with me. First, a look at the passage:

"Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him and asked Him, 'Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?' So Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not bear false witness," "Do not defraud," "Honor your father and your mother."' And he answered and said to Him, 'Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.' Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, 'One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.' But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions."  (Mark 10:17-22)

I think most who are familiar with the Bible are familiar with this story. It's a vivid warning about the danger of trusting in the riches of this world, as Jesus goes on to point out to His disciples in the following verses (vv. 23-25). What inspired this article, though, is what Jesus said to the young man after his assertion that he had kept God's law faithfully - "One thing you lack." One thing. One thing stood in between this man and a life completely devoted to his Lord and Savior, and what did he do? He walked away. The Bible doesn't reveal what happened to this man in the course of his life. Did he remain tied to his trust in riches, or did he ever turn that trust fully over to God, repent, and obey? My hope is that he did obey, but there's no way to know from the Scriptures. Here's what I do know, though: Jesus came to bring sinners to repentance, but His sacrifice does nothing for those who are unwilling to repent (Luke 5:31-32). The sad truth is that many are blind to their sins. However, God tells us to examine ourselves and to make corrections where they are needed (Luke 18:9-14; 2 Corinthians 13:5). 

“Do I really need to examine myself, though? I seem to be doing okay...”

Many have thought themselves to be righteous when they really were not. Consider the Pharisees. Various passages, including Luke 18 and Matthew 23, make it clear that they thought themselves to be among the spiritually elite, while in truth they were spiritually destitute. The same can be said of the majority of the churches called out in Revelation 2 and 3, a status that was specifically attributed to the church in Laodicea (Revelation 2:17). In fact, there are and have always been many who are completely blind to the true state of their soul (Matthew 7:21-23; 15:7-9). The Judgment is too late a time to figure out the truth! We all need to understand two basic truths: Nothing can be hidden from God, and nothing can be kept secret forever (Hebrews 4:13). For this reason, we are to "take heed how [we] hear" (Luke 8:17-18). We hear lesson after lesson and class after class. But do we really listen? Do we ever make application? Or do we just stop at how it applies to someone else?

“So what do I need to do?”

Do just what the rich young ruler did. Bring yourself before the Lord and ask Him to lay bare to you those areas in which you lack (James 2:10; Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Peter 5:6-7). How will He do this?

  • Through His word - Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:15; 3:14-17; Psalms 119:9; 19:7-14
  • Through the assembly of His saints - Hebrews 10:24-25
  • Through our other interactions with our brethren, both in our local congregation and those more widespread - Proverbs 27:5-7; 2 Samuel 12:1-15; Acts 18:24-28

The real question is: How will you respond? In 1 Samuel 15, God gave Saul the command to completely destroy Amalek, everything and everyone inside, yet Saul and the people disobeyed the Lord's command. They were 'unwilling to destroy' that which they saw was good, although they were were all too willing to destroy 'everything despised and worthless' (v. 9). Are there things you are unwilling to destroy? Are you only putting off those things that you view as 'despised and worthless'? Hebrews 12:1-2 says that we are to 'lay aside every weight,' not just those we really don't care that much about anyway.

How do I make the changes I need to make in my life?
First, remember what was done for you so that you might be able to live free from sin. Think about what it cost Jesus to leave heaven, live the life He lived, and suffer the death He died. Read the account of the crucifixion; read about how He was abandoned by all men, betrayed and denied by those closest to Him. This is what our sins have cost.

"For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him."  (Romans 5:6-9)

Second, truly repent. True repentance is more than just feeling sorry for what you did. It's often described as a change of heart/mind that leads to a change of action/life. The truly penitent person understands that only God can make what is wrong right again and appeals to His mercy (Psalm 51:1-2), then dedicates him or herself to the life God expects of all of His children (2 Corinthians 7:10-11). (This article is written from the perspective of one who is already a baptized believer, but if one is not yet, then full penitence and obedience would take that person to the waters of baptism as well – Acts 2:38; 8:35-39; Galatians 3:26-27.)

Third, look for the root causes of your actions and address those. If we look at the sins we struggle with, often we can see a more general cause (e.g. fear, lack of focus, a worldly attitude, frustration, etc.) that produces a number of sinful actions. Medicating a toothache when a cavity is the root cause may take away the pain temporarily, but it does not solve the real problem, which will continue to grow worse if left untreated. Likewise, a failure to acknowledge and address the root causes of our specific temptations and sins will leave us forever wondering why we just keep failing time and time again.

Is your conscience seared? Consider the consequences. - Hebrews 10:36-39; Romans 2:1-11

Do you feel like you're too far gone? Read John 6:37. - 'All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.'

How do you think Paul felt (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)? Or the people on Pentecost (Acts 2:36-41)? Don't question God's love and His power to forgive. Just have faith and obey (Matthew 11:28-30).

Utilize the help of your brethren. They are there to help you (Galatians 6:1-2), but they can only help you if they know that you need help (James 5:16).

And keep your eye on the goal (Philippians 3:12-14).

I based what I've written above on a lesson I prepared for a mid-week girls' Bible study a while back. At that time, I was struck by the idea of losing out of heaven because of just one thing and how incredibly tragic that would be. At that time, and still now, I know that there is so much that I lack, so many areas that I need to be stronger in, and so I revisited this lesson as a reminder for my own need for self-examination, correction, and growth. 

But what about you? What do you lack? And what are you going to do about it? Nothing in this life is worth losing out on heaven and eternity with our God (Matthew 16:24-27).

Thanks for stopping by!

~Erin~

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Consider Your Trajectory

I mentioned in a previous blog that patience has been a virtue that I have had to work on a lot. One of the areas of my life in which this truth has manifested itself has been in my attempts at self-improvement. Through the years, I have been able to identify a number of areas in which I wanted to fix issues or grow stronger, and through the years, I have made multiple attempts to follow through on these changes. Sometimes I was successful, but one problem with my methods showed up time after time.

I wanted to be at the end of the journey before I had even really gotten started.

You know, it’s great to have goals, and it’s great to have your eyes firmly set on those goals. But it’s not so great when your eyes are so firmly set on the goal that all you can see is how far away it is. So many of those times that I failed, I failed because I got so frustrated with myself and my slow progress that I gave up trying at all. It should not be this way!

So what is there to do about it? Consider my trajectory.

Considering your trajectory is all about considering the path from starting point to reaching the goal. This path includes: recognizing a change that needs to be made, deciding to do something about it, setting the goal, and then all the little individual steps in between those first few stages and the last one. Considering your trajectory is all about taking a step back and checking that you are still on the path, moving in the proper direction with the proper momentum. It’s about understanding that getting to your goals takes a lot of hard work, which means it will also take time.

When you consider your trajectory, you can have patience with yourself. You can appreciate the small steps you are taking in the right direction, and you can celebrate the little victories you gain along the way.

Recently, I gave some advice to a friend whose young daughter was struggling with her progress in learning to read. She wanted so badly to be able to pick up the chapter books her sisters are reading and enjoy them herself, but her frustration with herself was basically making her shut down when reading lessons started. My advice was for my friend to help the little girl focus on her progress by showing her every day how many words she could read as compared to the day before. Now, her eyes were set not on how far away that goal of reading those chapter books was but on how much closer she was getting to it every single day.

And then I started thinking… Isn’t that what I need to do myself???

So I am committing to this new perspective. When I find those familiar frustrations rising up within me – when I find myself thinking, 'Why am I not there yet?’ – I will take a step back and consider my trajectory.

  • Am I still on the right path, moving in the right direction to reach my goal?
  • Am I moving at a good pace in order to achieve what I’m working toward in a reasonable time frame?
  • Am I taking the time to recognize and celebrate the little victories I am achieving along the way, appreciating the time and effort that went into each one?
  • And am I putting my faith in my Lord to enable me to accomplish all that is within His will for me?

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Thanks for stopping by!

~Erin~

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fear of Man or Trust in God

Sometimes it seems like we are a nation of worriers. Numerous statistics point to high levels of worry and fear in the American population (and we are surely not the only people on this planet to fall prey to this scourge). While there are some in this number who have legitimate worries to deal with or certain psychological maladies that drive their fears, many of us have simply given over our minds to the fear of what others may think of and/or do to us.

In comparison to the very real and very serious spiritual battles being fought by the church today on the fronts of morality and Biblical authority, this may seem like a small concern. However, it is this very fear that entraps and paralyzes the very ones who should be on the front lines of these battles. As soldiers of Christ, we must all make a decision: Will I give myself over to the fear of man or trust in God?

“The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.”   
(Proverbs 29:25)
 
“The fear of man brings a snare…”
There are many Bible examples of those, even men of great faith, who allowed their fear of men to lead them astray. Abraham twice lied about his true relationship with his wife Sarah out of fear for his life (Genesis 12:10-20; 20:1-13), and his son Isaac committed the exact same sin some years later for the same reason (Genesis 26:6-10). Many of the rulers of the Jews in Jesus’ time actually believed in Him but let their fear of the Pharisees and their wrath prevent them from publicly confessing and acting on this faith (John 12:42-43). The apostle Peter also fell to this fear – at the trial of Jesus (Luke 22:54-62) and before the Jews visiting Antioch (Galatians 2:11-14).

Fear was obviously a snare to each of these men, hindering them from their work for God. We shouldn’t fail to consider the impact that their fears had on the people around them, though. Their fears laid a snare for so many around them. The men of Egypt and Gerar could have unknowingly made themselves guilty of adultery. Many other Jews, including Barnabas, followed Peter’s example in rejecting the uncircumcised Gentile Christians, possibly opening up rifts in the brotherhood that would take time and care to heal. And how many more Jews might have opened their hearts and ears to Jesus’ teaching had they seen their leaders willing to make that choice?

“But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.”
So the life of a Christian should be fear-free, right? Well, not exactly. While we are not to fear man, we are commanded to fear our Lord (Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:4-5). To many in the world, this may seem counter-intuitive. If God is full of love and mercy (and He is – John 3:16), what place is there for fear? And if fear paralyzes, how can it be at all useful in our service to God?

The Bible says that “the fear of the Lord is clean,” more precious than gold and sweeter than honey (Psalm 19:9-10). The preacher in Ecclesiastes lists it as part of man’s whole purpose in this life (Ecclesiastes 12:13), what makes this life worth living in the midst of so much vanity. To reconcile all of these truths we must recognize the impact the target of the fear has on its character. To fear man paralyzes, but to fear God motivates deeper and greater growth and service. There cannot be wisdom or righteousness without fear of God (Psalms 111:10; 36:1). Likewise, with the first century Christians, “the comfort of the Holy Spirit” and growth of the church is fundamentally linked with “walking in the fear of the Lord” (Acts 9:31).

Here’s the secret: God does not want or expect our fear of Him to be housed in the realm of terror. He has no desire for a people who sit cowering in fear of Him. His desire is for a people who have a healthy respect (yes, this entails fear) for His power and authority (Hebrews 10:31) but who couple this respect with an understanding of His mercy and love (1 John 4:17-19). Just as with our earthly parents, obedience to our heavenly Father is borne of a combination of our fear of punishment and our desire to please and serve the One who loves and blesses us. Thus, the combination of fear and love for God in a Christian’s heart leads to trust in Him.

And it is this trust that brings safety. Safe here does not necessarily mean physical safety but spiritual safety. Perhaps ‘security’ would best describe the concept under consideration. Because the God we serve is strong enough to save out of the midst of the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:8-25), the lion’s den (Daniel 6:10-23), and in battles with the worst possible odds (1 Samuel 17). There may be great sufferings (2 Corinthians 11:23-33) and perhaps even death, but nothing except our own choices can separate us from His love and care (Romans 8:31-39). An understanding of this and the kind of trust and faith it provokes within us surely provides the motivation to endure anything to attain that “crown of righteousness” which awaits all the faithful in heaven (2 Timothy 4:6-8). And therein lies the truest and fullest concept of safety that we can ever imagine or attain – eternal rest in God’s presence. Read Revelation 21-22. Can there be any question that “whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe”?

God promises not to forsake His faithful (Hebrews 13:5), so we have nothing to fear from this world. Persecution, pain, and physical death are small when compared with the joy that heaven will bring (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:4).

“So we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’”   
(Hebrews 13:6)
 
Let our lives show that we believe this. Let us be bold in our service to Him. And let us shine forth as beacons in the midst of the darkness of fear that threatens to drown those around us that they may see a better way, a better life, than the one they have chosen.

Thanks for stopping by!

~Erin~

Friday, July 26, 2013

A New Perspective on Things

It’s funny the perspective that the passing of another year can bring…

Sunday was my 31st birthday, and I can honestly say that I could never have expected a year ago to be where I am now. In that short period of time, I have fallen in love, left a job, gotten married, and moved away from the state that has been my home since I was born. So much change in such little time!!!

I was thinking about this as I was walking the dogs late last week. The last few months have been a lesson in faith and patience for me, a lesson that I desperately needed but was fighting against internalizing. About a month after I moved here to Florida, I started putting in job applications, starting slow at first and then increasing exponentially as I continued to receive little to no response. As days, then weeks, then months, went by with no job to show for my effort, I was starting to get frustrated with myself and with the whole process. Matt was wonderful in his encouragement and support, but I struggled with self-doubt. I knew that this was an opportunity to both demonstrate and build my faith in God’s willingness and ability to provide for those who trust in Him, but I wanted so badly to be able to help pay off some of our debt, specifically the fairly significant educational debt that I brought into the marriage. With each application that went out with no response, the thought grew stronger and stronger in my head: I know what the result will be. Why even bother?

So I was walking the dogs last week, thinking about my upcoming birthday and how much my life had changed in just a year, when a new thought made me stop and smile…

If so much can change so quickly, why am I wasting my time and energy worrying excessively about something that can change at any moment?

I realized that I was taking the circumstances of my present moment and assuming that they would always be that way. How silly a thought, though, when I knew firsthand how quickly things could change! There is no way any of us can know what the next moment of our lives hold.

Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you out to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’”  (James 4:13-15)
 
James 4 talks about the foolishness inherent in the assumption that life will continue on as it always has. The foolishness is not in the making of plans for the days ahead but in the approach to life that assumes that I am in control. It’s a perspective that can permeate so deeply that you don’t even realize that you are living by it. But all of a sudden, your timeline is most important; your measure of what is good is the standard; your expectations are what need to be met to be happy. Here’s the thing, though: my timeline doesn’t really matter, my measure of what is good is only as sound as the assumptions I have built it on, and my expectations of what I need to be happy can be completely warped by the influence of the world.

So after that walk, I decided that I was going to fix my perspective. I was going to keep doing my part in submitting applications, but I was going to stop viewing each rejection as a disappointment and start viewing it as just another stepping stone in the path that I am walking for Christ. No matter how long it would take to find a job, or even if I never found one at all, my focus would remain firmly set on living each day in service to my husband and to my Lord.

Remember how I said how quickly things can change, though…
I got a job this week. :)

I praise God for His mercies and His patience with me, and I thank Him for blessing me with the means to help out my family in each and every way that I can. And I thank Matt for his patience with and encouragement for me and for being such a hard worker and good provider for the two of us. I’m looking forward to seeing all the changes this coming year has in store for us!

Thanks for stopping by!

~Erin~

Friday, July 19, 2013

“Rise Up and Walk”

"Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, 'Look at us.' So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, 'Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.' And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them - walking, leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God. Then they knew that it was he who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him." (Acts 3:1-10)

The story of the healing of this lame man, in so many ways, echoes the numerous other accounts of miraculous healings performed by Jesus and His disciples during their ministry. In case after case, we see someone who has been greatly afflicted find relief at the hand of God's workers, resulting in great joy in the one healed and great amazement in those who witnessed it. The parallels of this man's story to those who have been redeemed from sin have stood out in particular for me, though.

Like this man sitting and begging at the Beautiful Gate, we, for so long, spent our lives begging after the things we expected to bring us happiness. And just as this man must have sometimes received what he was asking for (or else why would he have expected it from Peter and John?), most of us have attained at least some of those things that we have been begging after only to find that they cannot fully sustain us and that we end up having to beg after these things daily. 

But then we hear the invitation, "Rise and walk" (Acts 22:16; Romans 6:4). When we take His extended hand and allow Him to lift us up, immediately we receive the strength we need to so walk (Matthew 11:28-30). Yes, we receive the yoke of Christ, but in doing so we lay aside the terrible chains of sin (Romans 6:15-23). 

This man's story did not end when he was healed, though. Consider his reaction: joy, praise, and manifestation of a difference evident to all. But is this where the similarities between this man's physical healing and my (or your) spiritual healing end? 

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear." (1 Peter 3:15)

"Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all." (1 Timothy 4:15)

The Bible is filled with passages that make it clear that the change in our lives - our choices, our perspectives, our purposes and goals, etc. - should be such that others can see it. In fact, it should amaze them (just as with the lame man), that they want to know the source/drive behind such a change. And this is to be a continual growth process. Of course, we are not to do anything for the purpose of being seen by men (Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18), but when we are truly living a Christ-centered life, people will certainly notice (Acts 4:13). 

So what about me? And what about you? Has the call to 'rise and walk' been heeded? And if so, is it obvious for the world to see - in my/your life, joy, hope, and peace? Give glory to God for His mercy and healing and continue to walk as He would have you to (Ephesians 4:1; 1 John. 2:6).

Thanks for stopping by!

~Erin~

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The 3 P’s (and 1 B) of Loving Our Dogs

While I have always had good intentions, I have not really been the best at helping my pets get the exercise they needed to be healthy. So when I moved to Florida, I made it a goal to do at least one walk through the neighborhood every day. With Yogi, it was really easy; adding Rangler has made things a bit more interesting.

Rangler is twice Yogi’s size and a little over a quarter of his age, so to say that they often want to go at different paces is an understatement. They are also both determined to sniff out and follow every new scent that comes their way, not to mention the instant reaction if a squirrel or cat happen to run by. I usually walk them by myself after Matt goes to work, so it has taken some training (for both them and me!) to begin to find the balance that allows each of us to get what we need out of the walk without me coming back completely exhausted and frustrated by the whole experience.

Along the way, I have found a few things that are essential to get through these walks, not to mention all the other fun experiences that our dogs have been blessing us with recently - like Rangler getting an ulcer on the eye from getting too excited and running headfirst into a plastic tote or Yogi getting an irritated spot on his leg and licking the fur and top layer of skin right off of it… both within a couple of weeks of us going out of town for a week.

1. Patience:

When you have a fifty pound dog pulling you forward and a thirty pound dog who refuses to budge from the shady spot he’s found, it can be hard to hold your temper and your tongue. It’s in moments like these that patience has become so necessary for me. I love the definition of patience as given on Dictionary.com: “quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence” – I love that the focus is on the attitude of the person and not on the annoyance or trial that they are facing. Patience is both moment-specific and an enduring characteristic.

So when I’m with the dogs, I must learn to have patience in the immediate situation, now allowing myself to get frustrated but to stay positive and encouraging. (More on that in a minute!) I must also learn that each moment instills training for the next, and thus I must have patience in allowing Yogi, Rangler, and myself to learn and get better on the very things that are frustrating me now. The bonus is that this new perspective has opened my eyes to see that things are getting better with each walk!

2. Positivity:

I debated with myself for a while on which must come first – patience or positivity. In the end, I realized that the only way I could possibly stay consistent in a positive attitude was to commit myself to have patience. Otherwise, I would quickly get frustrated and more negative with the dogs, and anyone who is a pet owner knows that our animals don’t tend to respond as well to training and direction that is overly harsh. Once I was able to build up my patience, though, I found it much easier to use softer tones in disciplining and myself much more likely to laugh off the minor annoyances that used to drive me crazy.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to see the benefits of this attitude in the dog’s behavior as well. In the time since I have committed myself to positivity around them, I have started to see a calming of some of those negative habits which they were exhibiting before. It’s like my stress and anxiety translated to them and only drove them to more destructive behaviors. And in the end, dogs are going to be dogs, and I and my family have a long history of finding some of the quirkiest among the lot. So why not take the approach of setting appropriate limits and learning to laugh about the rest, right? :)

3. Prayer:

To be honest, this was the “P” that I neglected for far longer than I should have. I guess my thought was that prayer should be reserved for more serious concerns, not venting my aggravations about my animals. Two things, though, went a long way in showing me the error of my thinking: (1) I needed God’s help in controlling my attitude, especially if I didn’t want my frustrations to spill out into other areas of my life, and (2) God cares for every area of my life and He cares for those two dogs He has given me too.

When I started praying about my interactions with and approach to caring for Yogi and Rangler, I felt such an encouragement in knowing that even the things with them that feel so much out of my control had now been passed up to the throne of my loving Father. I felt closer to Him in knowing that He hears and cares about even my most mundane worries, and I felt more dedicated and empowered to make the changes that I knew I needed to make in myself.

4. The “B” – A Break!

Matt and I were in Boston all of last week for his work conference. We had a wonderful dog-sitter who took such good care of them that I could enjoy Matt and my trip without having to worry about how things were going at home. Having that week to relax and refresh did wonders for me and my interactions with the dogs! In the days since we’ve been back, I have seen a marked improvement both in my attitude and in the dogs’ behavior. Our walks have gone back to being the daily blessing that they once were for me, just at a time when I so needed them to.

While I unfortunately cannot justify a weeklong vacation every time the dogs’ start to act out, I have learned an important lesson to step back and seek out some sort of rejuvenation in the midst of frustrations, whatever they might be.

 IMG_20130718_103243  102_0849

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love these two and am so blessed to be given responsibility over them. I pray that I can do them justice and do my part in giving them a happy and peaceful life in our family. :)

Thanks for stopping by!
~ Erin ~

Friday, July 5, 2013

Learning from Loving Our Dogs

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This is Yogi. He’s around 7 years old and was a rescue from an animal shelter in the town I lived in at the time. He’s a corgi-beagle mix and full of personality. There is nothing quite like having those brown eyes with that permanent “eye-liner” looking dolefully up at you when you’re trying to scold him for tearing down the blinds, completely emptying his pillow or one of his toys of its stuffing, or ignoring you when you when you tell him that it’s time to come inside. He’s a great dog and has been a good friend to me through a lot of changes through the years he’s been with me.

RanglerThis is Rangler. He’s the new addition to our family and has been an extra jolt of energy in the month that we’ve had him. He’s a lab-pit bull mix, 1 1/2 years old with all the energy and playfulness you would expect from a dog his breed and age. Matt (my wonderful husband) wanted a bigger dog that could keep up with him. (Yogi is more of the ‘I’ll lie here while you rub my belly’ type of dog.) We saw Rangler on Craigslist, and as soon as we met him, we knew that he would fit the bill of what we were looking for perfectly. He’s a great mix of playful and loving – he may flop over on his back for a belly rub in front of you right in the middle of a game of catch!

These two dogs have been a special blessing in my and my family’s life, and I have learned a lot from working with them. Since that’s really the whole spirit of this blog, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to grow to do a series of posts on things that I have learned from loving and caring for these dogs. I’m going to talk about how these dogs have helped me gain a greater appreciation for patience, positivity, and prayer; how they have helped me see the value and necessity for a proper balance of encouragement and discipline; how they have opened my eyes to both the challenges and joys of having two very different dogs in my life; and all the many other lessons that I’m sure they have for me. :)

Thanks for stopping by!
~ Erin ~

Monday, June 24, 2013

Why ‘The Meaning in the Moment’?

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You might be thinking that question isn’t really that hard to answer. I’m far from the first or the last person for which this has or will be a guiding principle – to recognize and truly experience the full meaning in every moment of life.  But there’s a bit more to it for me.

Anybody who has known me for more than five minutes knows that focus is not my strong suit. I get distracted by… well, by pretty much anything really. I chase so many rabbit trails while sitting in meetings, lessons, and conversations that you could start calling me Elmer Fudd.

Now, it’s not all bad. To be honest, in many ways it is a blessing to be able to jump from one thought to the next and, on the flip side, to get drawn in by even the most seemingly mundane of things. In other words, my inability to focus has helped me experience a wonderful variety of those moments that I’m interested in, and I am extremely grateful for this. In fact, some of my most personally significant insights have come as a result of chasing one of the rabbits I mentioned earlier. No, recognizing the moments has never really been the problem. It’s what happens when I catch sight of those moments that are at issue here.

When you never stop to focus on these moments, you will lose out on seeing the deeper meaning there.

How much deeper might those insights have been, how much more impact on my life might they have had, had I taken the time and effort needed to really focus on those moments and draw out the full meaning they had to offer? I have been living life as a series of exclamation points, but in doing so, have I missed out on the words (i.e. the actual meaning) in between?

And that’s where this blog comes in. This blog is one of the ways by which I mean to find focus in my life – to have the words and the exclamation points together. The nice thing is that I can already see some fruits of this coming through. Can’t wait to see where we go from here! :)

Thanks for stopping by!

~ Erin ~

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Brand New Blog… Kind of Scared!

Hi! Welcome to my blog!

This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a little while now, but the thought of writing a blog honestly terrified me. Why would anyone want to listen to me talk day after day? Do I really have that much to say? And what could I possibly add to the conversation in this wonderful world of blogging that could make it worth it for the readers that I hope will be joining me on this ride?

And then I thought back to why I wanted to do this in the first place. I have been blessed with so much in my life, so many opportunities that have taught me so much and still have so much to teach me. God has given me all of these things for a reason, and that is certainly not for me to hold all these lessons in for myself. He has given them to me so that I can learn and grow and glorify Him in my life. And that’s what this blog is about – How can I best make use of the blessings God has given me for His glory?

It’s about good stewardship.

And that brings me back to the fear. Funny transition, right? Not really when you consider that one of the more well-known parables of Jesus, the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), has a great deal to do with stewardship, fear, and the intersection of the two. What drove the one talent man to hide the money in the ground? Fear.

As I was considering this passage the other day, a sad thought struck me…

Who knows what that man could have accomplished if he hadn’t been too afraid to try?

He could have done exactly what he was afraid of and lost his master’s money. But he also could have found success. Who knows?

And who knows what I might have been able to accomplish all those times when I allowed fear to hinder me in working in any way I could for my Lord? In the end, it’s really not about what I can or cannot accomplish… It’s GOD “who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). This is the same God that promised that His word will always achieve that which He intends for it to achieve (Isaiah 55:10-11). All I need to do is to be faithful in presenting His word so that His will can be fulfilled.

So that’s my intent for this blog – to share the things that God has so graciously allowed me to learn in the day to day moments of my life, with the hope that maybe somebody out there reading it will find something within that can help them as well. :)

Thanks for stopping by!

~ Erin ~