Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Then Sings My Soul

Good evening! I am so very excited to be starting something new with you. I know, I have Women's Biblestudy to share with you, and lessons that I'm learning in contentment, and my LifeGroup Study, "Radical,"....when did life get so busy that I stopped being able to keep up?! Hopefully you will find a cozy chair and be able to relax a bit while you read all the new things I have to share with you. While we are waiting to roll back around to all those other studies, let your soul sing with me! Wednesdays are going to become my favorite! You know how I just love music? Many blogs of mine include songs to tie into the entry. Wednesdays are going to be dedicated strictly to songs! I'm starting Hymn Wednesdays. Maybe you are not traditional and are rather bored with hymns. Maybe you are very traditional and loathe contemporary music. Maybe you are somewhere in the middle and just want to sing songs that are about God and not about you. Well, no matter where you fall between the Traditional/Modern Spectrum, I hope that Hymn Wednesday's will be a blessing to you! We are going to find out where songs came from, who wrote them, and what they mean to me. Welcome, and let's let our souls sing!
We are going to begin with one of my favorite hymns. How Great Thou Art. (Perhaps you had already guessed that'd be the first hymn based on the title of this series.) This hymn actually began as a poem in 1885 when Carl Boberg, a 26 year-old Swedish minister, wrote about our Mighty God. Translated to English, his poem reads "When I the world consider which Thou has made by Thine almighty Word, and how the webb of life Thou wisdom guideth and all creation feedeth at Thy board. Then doth my soul burst forth in song of praise! Oh, great God, Oh, great God!"
This poem literally went around the world being transformed into the song we know today. Several years after releasing his poem, Carl was surprised to hear it being sung to an old Swedish Melody, but neither the poem or the hymn achieved widespread fame...until some time later.
An English Missionary, Stuart Hine, heard the hymn in Russia. He was so moved that he modified and expanded the words, making his own arrangement of the Swedish melody. His first three verses were inspired by Russia's rugged Carpathian Mountains. While caught in a thunderstorm in a Carpathian village he wrote the first verse. The second was written as he listened to birds singing near the Romanian border (and how easy it is to be inspired when Romania has anything to do with it...). The third verse was written as Stuart Hine witnessed many of the Carpathian Mountain dwellers coming to Christ. And the final verse came upon his return to Great Britain.
This beautiful hymn made its way to India, Toronto, and London before finally blessing the land of the free with it's beauty and truth. Oh how I would have loved to have been there in the beginning hearing the Naga Tribespeople in Assam singing of how great God is! In 1957, Bev Shea along with a choir sang the majestic refrain 99 times! Can you imagine the heavenly sound that was spreading through heaven as God's people repeated 99 times "Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, how great Thou art! How great Thou art!" How moving!
I believe I've mentioned this before, but at the risk of sounding crazy once again I will remind you that music moves me and speaks to me in ways I cannot express. I literally can feel my soul within me when I sing praises to my King. I am and always have been a 1st Soprano. My voice is high and isn't afraid to sing higher. Something about this particular hymn though...when I sing it, no matter what key I'm in, if I am not paying attention to my vocal chords, joke...choke through the whole refrain. Getting through each verse is hard enough. But when I get to the refrain, it is as if my soul is clawing its way out of me and trying to get into heaven to be with my Father. Do you have any idea what I am talking about, or is this all nonsense to you? All I'm saying is, when I sing of how great my Father is, I feel His presence all around me. This body He has given me is just a harness for my soul. And one day, what a glorious day it will be, Christ will come with shout of acclamation and take me home. What joy shall fill my heart! And I will bow in humble adoration, and there proclaim, My God! How Great Thou Art! (Tears flood my eyes just thinking of that moment!)
I know it has been a long blog, but as always, I want you to soak up the lyrics. Dwell on them, and be breathless and speechless as you praise God for how great He is!
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds Thy hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee! How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee! How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
When thru the woods and forest glades I wander, and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee! How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee! How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
And when I think that God, His Son not sparing, sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee! How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee! How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration, and there proclaim, "My God how great Thou art!"
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee! How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee! How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Calm my Anxious Heart

Good Saturday, to you! Zane and I just got home from taking the dogs to a creek on the outskirts of Athens...supposedly part of the Oconee River. Let's set something straight first: I am a Tennessee girl. Born and raised. The hills of TN are a distant memory in this flat city of Georgia, and after going to Cades Cove in the Smokey Mountains on an extremely regular basis, and playing in the clear water as it streams over the slippery rocks, dirt infested moldy part-of-the-Oconee just doesn't measure up. Period. (But Moxie [German Shepherd/Rottweiler] and Frisbee [Sheltie mix] had a wonderful time jumping rocks...making the dirty water well worth and disease we may capture...)
For my birthday a few months ago, the best mother-in-law in the whole world bought me a devotional. A much needed devotional. It is called 'Calm My Anxious Heart,' by Linda Dillow. I must admit, when I first opened my present I wondered, "Did Zane tell her I struggle with contentment!? I can't believe he talked about me behind my back!" Well, that was not the case. No drama erupted from that event. My mother-in-law has done the study many times herself and thought it would be a good one for me to have. Let's be honest: God knew it was THE devotional I needed to have, for such a time as this.
When we moved to Athens, GA, away from the state I've lived in my whole life, away from my friends, my family, to a new job after 2 months of marriage, going to a new church, my husband starting a grad program which meant him having class til 9:30 many nights...well, you get the picture. My world had changed drastically, and other then my incredible husband, discontentment in other areas of my life set up a room in my heart very quickly. I'm usually a very happy, joyful person no matter what the occasion. In fact, many people ask me how and why I'm so happy all the time. Don't be misled--I was not, and am not, depressed. But I definitely let the questions settle in: was this where God wanted us? was I ever going to go back to Romania? would my friends and family ever come visit? (I would not wish driving highway 316 on anyone!) Every friend I met here couldn't replace the deep friendships back home. The church we started going to did not do music the way I wanted (no hymns). We had an infant nephew and every time we saw him he had grown a few inches. We never saw Jack crawl...he went from rolling around on his back one visit to walking the next. Let's just say that from the time we arrived in Athens until a few months ago, my heart was focusing on the negative, rather than the incredible blessings God was giving us at every turn.
At first, I didn't want to blog about Calm my Anxious heart, simply because I'm hoping God allows me to start a young ladies Biblestudy where this would be our book of study. But then I realized that it is okay to blog about a devotional twice! If and when a Biblestudy gets off the ground, my perspective will have grown, God will still be teaching me contentment (He is always leading us to be more joyful in Him!), and I will have interesting stories from young ladies on their take of contentment. I'm excited to share this with you...and equally excited to be vulnerable as I tell you my struggles. I hope it blesses you and helps you in your road to contentment as well. God bless you and have a wonderful Saturday afternoon!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Golden Calf

Good evening! I hope you are doing well. I just had some 'soul food' from Weaver D's in Athens, GA, and I do believe that the butter potatoes are now swimming in my arteries. Oh yes...I feel like a huge lump of butter right now.
Over the summer, the Women's Biblestudy group I am a part of took a break. We started back up last week with several laughs, and almost zero productivity--after all, we had to catch up with each other! My first study I did with the women at church was 'Esther' by Beth Moore, followed by 'So Long, Insecurity,' also by Beth Moore. (I blogged about 'So Long, Insecurity' on here, and HIGHLY recommend that book for all women! Do the Esther study first though. I cannot explain what a wonderful follow up studying about insecurities was, especially after digging down deep into the life of a woman who by legal mandate, had to share her husband with any and all women he so pleased.) Now, we are breaking in our study books from Beth Moore to study Kelly Minter's, 'No Other Gods.' Friends, I must admit, the first week...I was a little upset. It wasn't as deep and intense as I had hoped. But whew, did the second week slap me in the face with the deep realization that the golden calf of Exodus, made by the Israelites didn't just vanish in Old Testament is here today. All around each of us. And guess what, not to be negative, but you have a golden calf yourself...and God wants it gone.
"The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession." Deuteronomy 7:6
Real quickly I want to touch on the first week's lesson where we learned about an idol being a 'functional god.' That can be anything in my life that takes the place of could be something I try to find my identity in (being the prettiest/most athletic/most musical), or seek security in (getting that job promotion/hoarding my money/never taking risks). In truth, it could be my desire to be in Romania serving the orphans, or my passion for adoption. Now before you say that those things cannot be idols because they are good...great even, let's look at a definition by Richard Keyes:
"An idol is something within creation that is inflated to function as a substitute for God. All sorts of things are potential idols, depending only on our attitudes and actions toward them. Idolatry may not involve explicit denials of God's existence or character. It may well come in the form of an overattachment to something that is, in itself, perfectly good. An idol can be a physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, a hero--anything that can substitute for God."
When my love for orphans or Romania becomes an obsession and makes me want to run after something that is not God's will at this moment, that thing, whether good or bad, becomes an idol. Ouch!
Week two literally felt like my eyes, brain, and heart were being sanded down my some carpenter refining his creation. Interesting...I believe that is exactly what Jesus was doing!
I am chosen. I am treasured by God. I already have an identity, and that is in Christ. Until I realize that my identity is in Christ...I am His first...I will not be able to rid myself of false gods in my life. How often do I lose sight of what I have (Jesus!) and who I am (a child of God!)??!! I just have to quote Kelly Minter here...I believe every young women needs this engrained into her skin: "Fulfilling our sinful desires will snuff out this burning goodness. By indulging them we actually become the reverse of peculiar and strange. We become--hold your breath--normal. For those of us seeking individualism and distinctiveness, chasing our lusts will only make us like everyone else, with little identity at all." We are aliens in this world--sojourners. As a Christian, I know this is not my home. I have no business trying to set up camp here. My face should always be looking toward heaven, seeking to glorify God, and that 'difference' in me should be Jesus' light shining through...not me seeking attention from the world.
Why idols? Simple. We get tired. Tired of waiting on God to answer our prayers. Tired of His answers being different than what we wanted (though His answers are always what we need). We get tired of hearing people tell us what God wants/is doing/will do. If you have the time, go and read Genesis 16. Sarai grew tired of waiting for God to give her children (even though He had promised her a child that would bring many generations--and in her line would be born the Saviour of the world!). Instead of being patient and trusting in the Lord, she gave her servant to Abraham, which produced Ishmael. In Genesis 21 we see the fulfillment of God's plan. He always keeps His promises. But our actions always have consequences. Sometimes dire ones. And because of Sarai acting impatiently, we had the birth of a son (Ishmael) that would lead to the religion we know today as Islam.
But the thing that stuck out the most to me was learning where the famous Golden Calf (Exodus 24) came from. While Moses was on the mountain with God, the Israelites grew tired of waiting for him and so gathered their golden earrings from the men, women, and children, and created the golden calf. I had never, ever, had this pointed out to me before. If you trace back to Exodus 12, you will see that God gave the Israelites favor over the Egyptians, allowing the Israelites the gold. The Israelites turned God's gifts into gods.
So that is where I am dwelling now. Do I have gods in my life that were originally blessings from my Lord. Are they, in and of themselves, perfectly good, yet I have allowed myself to find identy in them? My identity is in Christ, and I refuse to let His blessings to me become anything but a gift to offer back to Him. With His help, that will be the case.
I am excited to share with you all that I learn through this! Thank you for joining me, and I hope that me sharing my learnings will be a blessing to you!
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light." 1 Peter 2:9

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dare 40

"Where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God." --Ruth 1:16
Love is a covenant. I must say, this blog is difficult to write. Not because I disagree with it. I wholeheartedly believe and know that love is a covenant. It is difficult because a dear friend is going through a divorce. We spoke yesterday and I told her, "You should know...I am praying for reconciliation between you two. That you both will grow closer to Christ and that God will heal your wounds." After telling me her husband was moving closer to Christ and definitely on the right track, her response devastated me and let me know that her mind had been made up. She thanked me for praying for her, but asked that I pray God will grant them both peace with their decision to go through with the divorce. She was seeking after God, enjoying being in His will and living her life the way God wanted her to...but she was no longer going to be married. There was to much pain and she was done being his wife.
"The experience and challenge of loving your mate is something that never comes to an end. Consider your marriage a covenant instead of a contract. Seeing marriage as a contract is like saying to your spouse, 'I take you for me and we'll see if this works out.' But realizing it as a covenant changes it to say, 'I give myself to you and commit to this marriage for life.'" (Kendrick)
There are many differences between a contract and a covenant. A contract is usually a written agreement based on distrust, outlining the conditions and consequences if broken. It is self-serving, and comes with limited liability. A covenant is a verbal commitment based on trust, assuring someone that your promise is unconditional and good for life. It is spoken before God out of love for another. A covenant is intended to be unbreakable.
Please grab your Bible and read through some of God's covenants with His people. Genesis 9:12-17; Genesis 17:1-8; Exodus 19:3-6; 2 Samuel 7:7-16; Hebrews 9:15. Dwell on those Covenants. Realize that God has kept every single one.
"There's good reason why God was the One who initiated covenants with His people. He alone is able to fulfill the demands of His own promises...but the Spirit of God is within you by virtue of your faith in His Son and the grace bestowed upon you in salvation. That means you now can exercise your role as covenant keeper, no matter what may arise to challenge your faithfulness to it...marriage is not a contract with escape clauses and exception wordings. Marriage is a covenant intended to cut off all avenues of retreat or withdrawal. There's nothing in all the world that should sever what God has joined together" (Kendrick).
For thousands of years people have wondered why at times God withholds His blessings from their homes and marriages. "You say, 'for what reason?' Because the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant...For I hate divorce, says the lord, the God of Israel, and him who covers his garment with wrong, says the Lord of hosts. So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously" Malachi 2:14, 16.
Every marriage is called to be an earthly picture of God's heavenly covenant with His church. To show His unconditional love. John 15 tells us to remain in Jesus' love. Let His words inspire you to be a channel of God's love to your spouse.
Kendrick finished The Love Dare by declaring that love is too holy a treasure to trade in for another, and too powerful a bond to be broken without dire consequences. Amen to that! Take some time to thank God for the good in your marriage, and pray to Him for strengh and love, that you may show Christ to your spouse, even when it seems unbearable. Dare to take hold of your marriage and never let go.
Dare 40: Write out a renewal of your vows and place them in your home. Make it a living testament to the value of marriage in God's eyes and the high honor of being one with your mate.
Dare 39: Love never fails.
Dare 38: Be extravagant.
Dare 37: Pray together.
Dare 36: Read the Bible daily.
Dare 35: Seek guidance in a mentor.
Dare 34: Celebrate godliness.
Dare 33: Complete each other.
Dare 32: Satisfy your spouse's needs.
Dare 31: Spouse=Top Priority of Earthly Relationships.
Dare 30: Be unified.
Dare 29: Express your love.
Dare 28: Sacrifice.
Dare 27: Encourage.
Dare 26: Seek forgiveness.
Dare 25: Forgive freely.
Dare 24: Kill lust.
Dare 23: Love protects.
Dare 22: Love your spouse. Period.
Dare 21: Be satisfied in God.
Dare 20: Commit to love Jesus so you can love your spouse.
Dare 19: Pray for God to change your heart.
Dare 18: Study each other.
Dare 17: Promote intimacy.
Dare 16: Love intercedes.
Dare 15: Honor each other.
Dare 14: Delight in each other.
Dare 13: Fight fair.
Dare 12: Let the other win.
Dare 11: Cherish each other.
Dare 10: Love unconditionally.
Dare 9: Greet well.
Dare 8: Don't be jealous.
Dare 7: Believe the best.
Dare 6: Don't be irritable.
Dare 5: Don't be rude.
Dare 4: Be thoughtful.
Dare 3: Be selfless.
Dare 2: Be kind.
Dare 1: Be patient.
Thank you for going through these dares with me. If you're married, I hope they blessed your marriage as they did mine! If you aren't, I hope you start practicing these dares now so that your marriage will be blessed by a love unimaginable. Just because the dares are over--dare yourself everyday! Love conquers all. Praise Jesus!
--Inspired by Kendrick's, "The Love Dare"

Dare 39

"Love never fails." -1 Corinthians 13:8
Let me repeat that. Love never fails. "Though threatened, it keeps pursuing. Though challenged, it keeps moving forward. Though mistreated and rejected, it refuses to give up" (Kendrick). God's love never fails. And if you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit in you, which is unchanging. That same Holy Spirit possesses Jesus' unchanging love, and you have that within you. Love that is from God is unending, unstoppable. No matter what the reaction the recipient of your love gives, love keeps giving. When rejected, love loves on. When accepted, love loves on.
In Matthew 26, Jesus confirms to the disciples that He will never fall away. After Peter denied Him, Jesus still loved. His men failed Him, within hours of echoing Jesus' words, that they would never fall away either. Yet He never stopped loving them, because He and His love are "the same yesterday and today and forever." (Heb. 13:8)
This is a hard lesson to grasp, especially when I have many friends who have been through a divorce, or their marriage is on a rocky path, or they are going through a divorce. God hates divorce. No matter what the reason. While adultery gives reason for a spouse to leave the other, God doesn't smile when a wife or husband gets out of that situation. As a married woman of the Lord, I know that Zane and I are suppose to represent Christ and the church in our marriage. No matter what happens in our marriage, if either of us ever gives up and walks away, we can no longer together represent the forgiveness, redemption, and reconcilation that comes with Christ. God can redeem anyone, and anyone's marriage. I'm not in any way (please don't mistake me) saying that reconciliation is easy. Being refined is painful. Especially when the one who promised to love you most in this world betrays you. But please don't underestimate the power of God. "When you have done everything within your power to obey God, your spouse may still forsake you and walk away--just as Jesus' followers did to Him. But if your marriage fails, if your spouse walks away, let it not be because you gave up or stopped loving them" (Kendrick).
No challenge or circumstance can occur that will ever put an expiration date on Jesus or His love. And your love is made of the same unchanging characteristics. On your wedding day, you accepted your spouse as God's gift to you and promised to love them until death. Your love is greater still.
"He delights in unchanging love." Micah -7:18
Dare 39: Write a letter of commitment and resolve to your spouse. One that says, "even if you don't like what you're reading--even if you don't like me--I choose to love you anyway. Forever." And put it in a place that your mate will find it.
Dare 38: Be extravagant.
Dare 37: Pray together.
Dare 36: Read the Bible daily.
Dare 35: Seek guidance in a mentor.
(For previous dares, refer to earlier entries.)
--Inspired by Kendrick's, "The Love Dare"

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dare 38

"Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart." -Psalm 37:4
Love fulfills dreams. It brings me great sadness when I hear people talk about 'everything they had to give up' when they got married. Marriage should give you wings you didn't know you had. Not clip the ones you were growing crippling you from ever taking flight!
What is something your spouse would really, really love? It doesn't have to be something expensive. Fortunately, Zane likes inexpensive things (I say fortunately for our finances sake, but I do love giving gifts!). What he really loves is an unexpected kiss, or an excited smile on my face just to let him know I'm crazy about him even more now then back in college. I have a journal that I have kept since our first date. He gets a huge smile when he finds a new entry that he didn't know existed (as long as it includes something good...not a recent argument).
Sometimes in marriage, we can get so accustomed to saying 'no' that we can make our spouse feel worthless--like the opinion doesn't carry weight, and they don't have your respect. But love sometimes needs to be extravagant. Blessing because it wants to...blessing because that is what love does. Sometimes your love for your spouse may not feel like putting forth any effort...but let me allow Kendrick to put both of us in our place: "Hasn't God's love met needs in your heart that once seemed out of the question? You were living under such a load of sin and regret you thought you'd never earn your way back into His good graces. But He looked at you with love and said you didn't have to. He wanted you back. He wanted you to realize your need for Him, and that as you repented and turned to Him, He would love and forgive you." "God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, amde us alive together with Christ" Ephesians 2: 4-5. And another love letter in Romans 5, verse 8: "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
He's your model. He's the One your love is designed to imitate. Though you weren't a likely candidate for His love, He gave it anyway. He paid the price. (Kendrick) So even when you don't feel like loving, do it anyway. God calls us to. He demands it. And nothing He tells us to do does He make us do alone. He is by us willing and able to get our hearts into loving extravagantly!
1)love calls you to listen to what your mate is saying and hoping for
2)love calls you to remember the things that are unique to your relationship, the pleasures and enjoyments that bring a smile to the other's face
3)love calls you to give when it would be a lot more convenient to wait
4)love calls you to daydream about these opportunities so regularly that their desires become yours as well

Love dares you to think in terms of overwhelming your spouse with love!

Dare 38: Ask yourself what your mate would want if it was obtainable. Commit this to prayer, and start mapping out a plan for meeting some (if not all) of their desires, to whatever level you possibly can.

Dare 37: Pray together.

Dare 36: Read the Bible daily.

Dare 35: Seek guidance in a mentor.

Dare 34: Celebrate godliness.

(For previous dares, refer to earlier entries.)

--Inspired by Kendrick's "The Love Dare"

Dare 37

"If two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father." -Matthew 18:19
I apologize for getting so behind on these dares. Zane and I finished the Love Dare a month ago...and I have been so lazy! But, I'm going to get through blogging these, and I truly hope that you, as well as myself, put these dares into constant practice--daily daring ourselves to love our spouse more!
Love agrees in prayer. Would you find that statement to be true? I most certainly do. Prayer draws you to love deeper whoever you are praying for. When you come before God after an argument, He gives you peace, as well as wisdom to see the error of your own ways so that you can love more the person with whom your fighting. When I was in highschool and college, I set up a practice for myself...and it became something that every woman I ran into going through heartache, I advised her to do. Everytime I went through a break-up, and everything within me wanted to hate the jerk who just treated me like a left over piece of pizza with mold (you know the feeling--misery, worthlessness...wondering why you don't deserve love), I would begin to pray for him. Really. God taught me how to pray for those who hurt me. And when you do, the focus is no longer on your hurt heart, but on Christ, and restoring His rightful place in your heart, and granting you strength and dignity. After all, it's hard to stay angry long with someone for whom you're praying!
Now imagine that strength and dignity growing not only in you, but in your spouse as Christ sits on His rightful throne as most important in your life and heart! "Unity that grows between a man and woman who regularly pray together forms an intense and pwerful connection. Within the sanctuary of your marriage, praying together can work wonders on every level of your relationship. When you were joined together as husband and wife, God gave you a wedding gift--a permanent prayer partner for life" (Kendrick).
Maybe my story was a little off topic, but I believe that through praying for those that hurt me, God equipped me to be able to pray with and for Zane in ways I wouldn't be able to now if I hadn't learned then. I don't know if you understand 'music talk,' but when someone makes an analogy with're speaking my language! "The word Jesus used when He talked about "agreeing" in prayer has the idea of a harmonic symphony. Two separate notes, played one at a time, sound different. They're opposed to each other. But play them at the same time--in agreement--and they can create a pleasing sense of harmony. Together they give a fuller, more complete sound than either of them can make on it's own."
Isn't that beautiful? Seeing prayer as husband and wife as a harmony. Praying together is most definitely worshipping together...and how beautiful it must sound to our Lord when we let prayer intervene in our lives and pause us to realize whose presence we are in!
Prayer is a privilege to be enjoyed on a consistent, daily basis. And as a married woman, I have a prayer partner for the rest of our lives. That is the best wedding gift anyone can ever receive.
Dare 37: Begin praying together. Pick the best time, and let it be a part of your every day activities.
Dare 36: Read the Bible daily.
Dare 35: Seek guidance in a mentor.
Dare 34: Celebrate godliness.
Dare 33: Complete each other.
(For previous dares, refer to earlier entries.)

--Inspired by Kendrick's "The Love Dare"

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dare 36

"Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." --Psalm 119: 105
Love is God's Word. For some people, the Bible is impossible to understand, because the Holy Spirit is not dwelling in them. But as a Christian, you're not left alone to try grasping the major themes and deep meanings of the Bible. The Holy Spirit, who now lives in your heart by way of salvation, is an illuminator of truth. "For the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God" 1 Cor. 2:10. The Scriptures are now ours to read, absorb, and comprehend.
1) Be in it. Begin reading a portion of your Bible every day. Maybe that does not seem exciting to you, but the Word is busting at it's seams with life and stories and every word is applicable! The writer of Psalm 119 says "with all my heart I have sough You...Your Word I have treasure in my heart, that I may not sin against You." Be like the psalmist. Seek God with all your heart. You will come to agree with Psalm 19: 10, that the Bible is "more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb."
2) Stay under it. The Bible is deep and challenging, and in order to get the most out of it, we should be having it explained in sermons and in Bible studies. I once heard a pastor say that a message he had heard recently would have been a lot better had Scripture been infused to back up the sermon. Amen to that! Being involved in a church where God's Word is not only taught, but also read out of is huge. (I will never understand pastor's who write their sermons without a single verse involved...something major is missing...) Join with others who are on the same journey as you, hungry to be fed by Scripture. "Continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them" 2 Tim. 3:14.
3) Live it. Kendrick states truth when he says that unlike most other books, which are only designed to be read and digested, the Bible is a living book. It lives because the Holy Spirit still resonates within its words. It lives because, unlike the ancient writings of other religions, its Author is still alive! And it lives because it becomes a part of who you are, how you think, and what you do. "Prove yourselves doers of the Word, and not merely hearers" James 1:22.
We must strive to be like the wise man in Matthew 7 who built his house on the rock. When your home is founded on the rock of God's unchanging Word, it is insured against destruction. (Kendrick) And wise couples build their houses on the rock of God's Word.
"Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction." Romans 15:4
Dare 36: Commit to reading the Bible everyday. Find a devotional book or other resource that will give you some guidance. If your spouse is open to it, read the Bible daily with them.
Dare 35: Seek guidance in a mentor.
Dare 34: Celebrate godliness.
Dare 33: Complete each other.
Dare 32: Satisfy your spouse's "needs"
(For previous dares, refer to earlier entries.)

--Inspired by Kendrick's, "The Love Dare"

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dare 35

"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." -Proverbs 15:22
Love is accountable. Now, I usually don't prefer to just take whole paragraphs out of a book and post them, but Kendrick's following example of Sequoia trees is too perfect to pass up. "Mighty sequoia trees tower hundreds of feet in the air and can withstand intense environmental pressures. Lightning can strike them, fierce winds can blow, and forest fires can rage around them. But the sequoia endures, standing firm, only growing stronger through the trials. One of the secrets to the strength of this giant tree is what goes on below the surface. Unlike many trees, they reach out and interlock their roots with the sequoias around them. Each becomes empowered and reinforced by the strength of the others."
I'm sure by now you already see where this is going. The secret of the sequoias interlocking their roots with those around them is a strong key to what we should be doing in marriages. Those who interlock their lives in a network of other strong marriages radically increase their chances of surviving the fiercest of storms (Kendrick). Pursuing godly advice, healthy friendships, and experienced mentors are a must for a strong, healthy marriage.
Provers 12:15 says, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel." That verse has always been difficult for me to read. I must admit that at times, advice and constructive criticism is the furthest thing from what I want. My attitude far too often drifts to ignoring the advice I'm given, or doing the exact opposite. I hate that about me. I know accepting advice is wise...I suppose insecurity rears its ugly head when I realize I don't know everything and would do well to listen and learn. Do you ever feel the same way?
Wisdom is more valuable than gold. That is why it is so important to have an older married couple mentoring you in your marriage. Someone of the same sex should be helping both you and your spouse. (Not a woman helping Zane, or a man leading me...that opens up the door for disaster quicker than a serpant leading us to eat an apple!) "Good marriage mentors warn you before you make a bad decision. They encourage you when you are ready to give up. And they cheer you on as your reach new levels of intimacy in your marriage" (Kendrick).
Hebrews 3:13 says "encourage one another day after that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Be careful. While it is important to have a mentor you can be honest with, a best friend whose marriage is unhealthy is the wrong person to be going to for advice. We need to be seeking people out who have been through the storms and come out stronger--People who can help us build bridges rather than tell us to get out while we can, or seek happiness for ourselves. Guard against those who will encourage you to act selfishly and influence you wrongly.
We need to know this truth: Your marriage is worth every second spent and every sacrifice you will make for it. Just because our marriage may not be in immediate danger, we are in no less need of honest, open mentors--people who can put wind in our sails (Kendrick).
Romans 14:12 says/warns "each one of us will give an account of himself to God." Though we are ultimately responsible for that unbreakable appointment, we can surely stand to accept as much help as others are willing to give.
"In abundance of counselors there is victory." -Proverbs 11:14
Dare 35: Find a marriage mentor, pray about it, and ask God to direct your decisions and discernment.
Dare 34: Celebrate godliness.
Dare 33: Complete each other.
Dare 32: Satisfy your spouse's "needs"
Dare 31: Spouse=Top Priority of Earthly Relationships
(For previous dares, refer to earlier entries.)

--Inspired by Kendrick's, "The Love Dare"

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dare 34

"Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth." -1 Corinthians 13:6
Love celebrates godliness. In this day, you can find a group of people to celebrate anything. We celebrate graduations, weddings, birthdays, elections, babies, and smaller and quite more evil things such as bad language, immorality, lust. From the moment we wake up, our perceptions are challenged by the world we live in. Be more beautiful. Study harder. Look but don't touch...or touch, just don't get caught. Whether it is friends, coworkers, television, the radio--all of these and more will be working overtime to shape your perceptions of what's true and most desirable in life. "We can begin valuing what everybody else values and thinking the way everybody else does" (Kendrick).
But God's Word is the ultimate expression of what real life is. God teaches us what does matter. Not just what 'should' matter. Following His Word is the only pathway to real blessing. And following Him in obedience causes us to rejoice! So ask yourself: What makes you rejoice more in your spouse? A new higher-paying job, or their desire to serve in the church? Having a tender heart towards the poor, or saving up for a new car? While all those things are good in and of themselves, we should be rejoicing more over our spouse following Christ than anything else! "You are one of the most influential people in your spouse's life. have you been using your influence to lead them to honor God, or to dishonor Him" (Kendrick)?
Love rejoices in pleasing God and the things that please Him. Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 how delighted he is in the people's faithfulness and growth in Jesus, saying, "we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows even greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure."
And the apostle John wrote to his flock inn 3 John 4, "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth."
The pursuit of godliness, purity, and faithfulness is the only way to find joy and ultimate fulfillment. What could you possibly want more for your spouse than for them to experience God's best in life? "Be happy for any success your spouse enjoys. But save your heartiest congratulations for those times when they are honoring God with their worship and obedience" (Kendrick).
Dare 34: Verbally commend your spouse fo a recent example of them demonstating Christian character.
Dare 33: Complete each other.
Dare 32: Satisfy your spouse's "needs"
Dare 31: Spouse=Top priority of Earthly Relationships
Dare 30: Be unified.
(For previous dares, refer to earlier entries.)

--Inspired by Kendricks, "The Love Dare"

Friday, September 3, 2010

Dare 33

"If two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone?" -Ecclesiastes 4:11
When Zane and I got engaged, I had a close friend who asked why I would get married so young when there were so many things I still wanted to do. My response was easy. Mine and Zane's goals in life, while different, matched each other perfectly. Wherever God decided to lead us, I knew Zane and I could do more being together, than being separate. Zane in no way was holding me back by marrying me. He was allowing me to do more!
That is where this love dare comes in. Love completes each other. Love must be willing to act alone if necessary, but it is always better when it is not just a solo performance. God's Word tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that God makes us all for different purposes. But we, together, are a body. Just like a body can function on its own, there is a more excellent way. So it is with love! 1 Corinthians 12:31 says: "Earnestly desire the higher gifts, but I will show you a more excellent way." Then the love chapter follows! Take some time right now to read 1 Corinthians 13 as if you have never read it before. Let it sink in. Then continue on here...
"Our bodies are made for each other. Our natures and temperaments provide balance, enabling us to more effectively complete the tasks at hand. Our oneness can produce children, and our teamwork can best raise them to health and maturity. Where one is weak, the other is strong. When one needs building up, the other is equipped to enhance and encourage. We multiply one another's joys and divide one another's sorrows" (Kendrick).
Ecclesiastes 4:9,10 tells us that "two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up." Know that our differences have been created by God and can be ongoing blessings if we respect them. Meaning, I have to respect Zane's lack of spontaneity. Just because I prefer doing things randomly, with no thought preceeding the action, does not mean I cannot love Zane all the more for planning ahead! If he didn't plan ahead, we would be so in trouble most of the time. I'm quick to say yes. He's quick to consider the cost first before responding. That is something beautiful, that while difficult to learn in the beginning of marriage, we are now at a point where we enjoy and love our differences all the more.
The effectiveness of marriage is dependent upon both husband and wife working together. God made me to complete Zane, and vice versa. Which means that as badly as I want him to listen and understand my opinion, I should do the same for him. "Love realizes that God has put you together on purpose. And though you may wind up disagreeing with your spouse's perspectives, you should still give their views respect and strong consideration. This honors God's design for your relationship and guards the oneness He intends" (Kendrick).
Like my response to my friend, that Zane and I would be able to do more together than separate, God designed our marriage to do just that. Joined together, we are grater than our independent parts. We need each other. We complete each other. How beautiful to be brought together by Christ and held together by His great love for us.
Dare 33: Recognize that your spouse is integral to your future success.
Dare 32: Satisfy your spouse's "needs"
Dare 31: Spouse=Top Priority of Earthly Relationships
Dare 30: Be Unified.
Dare 29: Express Your Love.
(For previous dares, refer to earlier entries.)

--Inspired by Kendrick's "The Love Dare"