Faith

We Don’t Know What to Do

blogThis has been on my mind the past couple weeks.

2 Chronicles 20:10, 12
10 If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.’

12 O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” (2 Chronicles 20:10, 12)

For the past couple weeks I’ve had this scripture in my head. We’re faced with something that has completely turned this world as we know it upside down. We can’t find what we need at the store. Some of us can’t go to work. Schools are closed. Churches are closed. We’re told to stay homel and social distance.

And we don’t know what to do.

Keep your eyes on God. Jehoshaphat and his people were facing a different kind of danger in this passage of 2 Chronicles, but their response should be our response. They humbled themselves, they fasted and prayed, they admitted their need for God, and then they waited on God to see what He would do.

And what God did was amazing! It’s one of my favorite stories in the Bible. God told the people to stand still and that they would not have to fight because the battle was His and not theirs. All the people had to do was praise and worship God and as they did, the enemy was destroyed. Not just destroyed, but confused so badly that the enemy attacked itself. What came to destroy Jehoshaphat and his friends, God turned around and used it to destroy itself.

Praise precedes the victory. No matter what it is that we are facing, no matter how bad the situation looks, keep praising God. He’s still God. He’s still almighty. He’s still sovereign. He’s still worthy of praise.

So in this time of uncertainty, turn off the news. Keep washing your hands and taking precautions. Stay at home, but turn off the TV and open your mouth in praise to a God who will fight for you. God, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on You!

~Sondra

Faith, Uncategorized

I Used To

I’m sitting here in my favorite chair. It’s dark. Everyone is asleep. Except for the humming of my heated back massager, the house is quiet. I can’t really be this old.

But I am this old. It’s not old as in “at the end of life” old. Or “silver-haired” old. More like “mid-life” old. Not quite “over-the-hill” old, but “I can see the summit from here” old. That’s where I am. At least I don’t have any gray hair yet.

As I sit here in my favorite chair, sipping my Coke Zero, and listening to the hum, I am thinking about something that stuck out to me in Bible study tonight: Seasons. It wasn’t the point of tonight’s lesson, but it’s what I took home. At one point in the lesson, the conversation went to the fact that we are all gifted in some way. God has given us special talents and gifts to use in ministry and for His glory. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do the works He had planned for us from the beginning. God created us to do certain things. All of us have different gifts, of course, but we’re to use them collectively to advance the Kingdom. Makes sense.

What struck me, however, was when the teacher of the class started asking us what we thought our gifts were. She asked the oldest one in the room first…a mighty woman of God who has lived for Him all her life. Her answer was, “Well, I used to teach, but I can’t do that anymore.” Next up was another senior citizen. Her response, “I used to bake bread, but I don’t do that anymore.” Next was another older lady who said, “I used to sing, but I don’t do that anymore.” All of these women are prayer warriors and encouragers and helpers now. Just because they can’t do what they used to do doesn’t mean they no longer do anything. It’s those three little words that hit me, though. “I used to.” Why? Because I can say those words, too. “I used to teach.” “I used to be a youth leader.” And you can say those three words, too. “I used to take care of the nursery.” “I used to clean the church.” “I used to _____________.” You fill in the blank. We all have things we used to do.

Is it wrong that we don’t do them anymore? Not necessarily, and that is what I am thinking about tonight. Life is made up of seasons. And God sometimes only calls us to a certain thing for a season. It’s not a bad thing when the season ends. It’s sometimes a hard thing when the season ends, but it’s not bad. It just means that He has other plans for you and needs to move you somewhere else.

And so I was curious and went online to do a spiritual gifts test. I hadn’t taken one in a few years, and I wanted to know if my giftings had changed. They have changed dramatically. When I was in the youth pastor season, my giftings were leadership, administration, teaching. Those gifts fall somewhere in the middle now and have been replaced by faith. Faith was one of the lowest scores I had the last time I took the test. That was before cancer. I definitely needed faith to get through that.

My point is, God equips us for the season we are in. Embrace it. God created you to be exactly where you are right now and He wants you to walk in the gifts He’s given you.

Faith

Eyes Wide Open

I ran into an old friend at Wal-Mart today. I was there to get hamburger buns for the guys and some healthy stuff for me. As I was placing the things from my cart onto the belt, I heard someone say my name. So much for sneaking in and sneaking out of the store unnoticed. Side note, I am not that unsociable, but when you are a teacher who works and shops in the same town, someimtes going to Wal-Mart is a little like a rock star trying to leave a concert. Anyway, I turned to look and I saw a dear friend I had not seen in a couple of years. She keeps up with me on facebook so she knew all about my cancer journey and was supportive while I was in the middle of it. Today she told me that she was diagnosed with melanoma and that she had all of her lymph nodes removed. I felt sick to my stomach to hear her tell me the story. I hate cancer. I hate what it does to people. I hate the fear that it causes and the lives that it steals.

On the way home, I heard a man on the radio talking about being grateful and not taking things for granted. He said, “What we feel entitiled to, we do not feel grateful for.” It’s true. If we feel like life owes us a break, do we stop and say thank you when the break comes? If we feel like God owes us food or provision, do we stop and thank Him for the provision? Not hardly. We pray things like, “God, You said that You would supply all my needs and this is a need.” And then expect Him to do it. That’s not a bad thing. His Word does say that and what He says He will do, He does. And we are to expect in faith. Those are not bad things. But when He does supply that need, do we stop and thank Him for it? Better yet, do we thank Him for it before He supplies? Now that would be faith, wouldn’t it?

One thing I learned from cancer is that I am not entitled to anything. I am not even guaranteed my next breath. I learned not to take people and things as small as red blood cells for granted. The big and the little things in life, literally. I am not entitled to any of them, and I am grateful for all of them. Of course there were days when it was hard to find something to be thankful for. Those days when I couldn’t get out of bed, or the days in isolation in the hospital were dark and lonely. I still have days that are tough. But if I look long enough, I always find something.

Look around with eyes wide open for the blessieyes ngs. They are more in number than you think.

~Sondra

Faith, Health, Uncategorized

Fit and Lean in 2017!

Fit and Lean in 2017!

That’s what a friend has deemed her mantra for the new year. As I thought about it, I discovered that it could cover all aspects of life. So I stole it (sorry B!).

Of course, I don’t have to go into great detail about how “fit and lean in 2017” can apply to the physical body. It might look different for you than it does for me, but it means to get healthy. Period. Maybe you’ll eat clean, maybe you’ll low-carb. Maybe you’ll join Weight Watchers. Maybe you’ll join a gym, or the Y, or sign up for C25K. What’s important is that you find something that fits you. Make sure it’s something you enjoy and can continue. Otherwise, you’ll be done by February.

You can also be emotionally fit and lean in 2017! What I mean by that is, stop over-thinking. Quit holding people liable for what you think they meant instead of what they actually said or did. Cut out the drama from your life. Cut out the negativity from your life. Purge the toxic thoughts and relationships. And for goodness sakes, get off of the emotional roller coaster. Life is too short. If you don’t like it, change it. If you can’t change it, use it to strengthen you. Don’t tell me that’s too hard to do. I just beat cancer. I didn’t like it and I couldn’t change it, but I used the experience to become stronger.

“Fit and Lean in 2017”…fiscally. This is a hard one for me, because I want what I want when I want it, and I want it now…but it’s an area I am ready to tackle in the new year. Get out of debt, cut back on spending (wasting) your hard-earned money on things that you don’t need to impress people you don’t like. Start a savings account. Even if you only save $10 a week, that’s still $520 at the end of the year. Virtually everyone can find $10 a week in their budget. Cut out your expensive morning coffee and make your own at home. Eat out less and cook at home more. You can do this! For some extra motivation, go find Rachel Cruze’s book “Love Your Life, Not Theirs”.

How about materialistically fit and lean in 2017? I’m not saying go be a minimalist. If that’s what you want, that’s great, but there’s no need to go to extremes. Go through your closets and garages and sell what you haven’t used or seen in the last year. Go ahead. I dare you. If you haven’t seen it in that long, you don’t need it and quite frankly, you probably forgot you had it anyway. Do you really want someone else to have to go through all of your stuff when you die? Keep nothing in your home that you don’t view as purposeful or beautiful. Not what I think, but what YOU think. It’s your home! Make it yours!

Be spiritually fit and lean in 2017. Whoa. What am I talking about? Stop going to church so much? Stop praying so much? Absolutely not. Those are necessary things if you want to be spiritually fit. What I mean is stop trying to live up to all of those man-made rules and the “do not’s” that we have placed on ourselves. Get back to the basics of your faith. Find a church home and attend regularly. Find a Bible reading plan you can stick to. Spend some time in prayer each day. Help the helpless. Feed the hungry. Give to the poor. Do all of those things! Live out your faith! But stop being so hard on yourself (and others) when they don’t live up to your expectations of what a Christian should look like, or act like, or talk like. Love God. Love People. Make Disciples. Basics.

Here’s to being Fit and Lean in 2017!

–Sondra

Faith

Mere Words

There are no mere words. In a world where words are so readily available, in print, online, streaming over a podcast, or blaring out of the TV or radio, there are no mere words.

If you’re like me, you have had more than enough of the words coming from election campaigns, yet they are still spewing forth. The candidates use words to attack and tear each other down. They use words to try to sway people to their side of the issue. Words are a strategy to gain votes. We know, of course, that most of them are lies and used solely to take the focus off of oneself and place it on the opponent.

Those are obviously negative words. But not all words are bad. People use them to communicate love and compassion. Words are used to teach, to advise, and to direct. They are used to praise, encourage, and comfort. They convey appreciation.

Words have meaning. They have a purpose. Good or bad. There are no mere words. They build up or tear down. Encourage or discourage. Comfort or cause distress. Heal or hurt. Bless or curse.

“Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21)

“Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” (James 3:9-10)

Words are powerful. By them, God created the whole universe and everything in it. He spoke them into being. Likewise, our words have the power to speak things into being. I see this every day as a preschool teacher. I can say, “Don’t run” to a child and he continues to run. I can say, “You can use your safe feet in the classroom” and the child slows to a walk (usually). I am speaking that into existence. How many times have you heard someone say “ice cream” and not long after that you are craving it? Words have the power of suggestion. You can wake up in the morning and complain about being tired and all of the things that you have to do that day, and chances are, you’ll have a long day full of work. Or you can wake up in the morning and choose to say something positive and your day goes better. It’s the same day, but your attitude is different because you chose to speak the positive instead of the negative.

I lived this while I was going through chemo. There were so many days that I did not even have the strength to get out of bed. There were nights when I felt like I would not make it through. But I refused to complain. Why? Because I had the choice. Every day I had the choice to complain about the situation, and I would have been justified in that, but what good would it have done? It would have made me feel even worse. I chose instead to be positive. Our words follow our thoughts and our actions follow our words.

My challenge to you is, for the next few days, be mindful of the words that are coming out of your mouth. Evaluate them. Are they speaking life or bringing death? Are they building up or tearing down? Are they blessing or cursing? There is no in between. Words are not idle. Once they are released into the atmosphere, they are moving to accomplish their purpose. There are no mere words.

Uncategorized

Trust

I’ve wanted to start blogging again for a few days. Of course, I haven’t had time to do it, but I’ve wanted to. And today seems like the perfect time to start.

Yesterday I went to the doctor. I needed to have a check-up with my blood pressure, but i also wanted the doctor to check out the lump I found in my breast a couple weeks ago. It is in the same location where they did two mammograms back in February. He ordered another mammogram. I don’t have one scheduled yet, but they are supposed to call to make an appointment. Hopefully Monday.

I’m a type A personality, so I want to get it over with ASAP. I don’t need a mammogram to tell me there is something there because I can feel it there. I need to skip to the step where they just do a test to figure out what it is and then deal with it. But, I wait, which is hard for me.

It’s not that I’m worried. Not much. I don’t believe that it is anything to worry about. I believe that it is nothing. I don’t expect to have to go through a long journey with this. But, if it turns out to be something and I do have to go on a long journey, I trust that God’s got this. I trust that this is part of His plan for me and that He has it all under control. I trust that, if this is something, my world is not falling apart, but it’s falling into His plan that He had for my life from the very beginning. I am His masterpiece…His best work…created to do the good works He had planned for me from the beginning. Before He formed me in the womb, He knew me. He knew exactly where I would be today. And where I’ll be tomorrow.

Today, my faith is strong. Today there is no wavering in me. I can’t promise tomorrow will be like this. I can’t tell you that I won’t be an emotional wreck tomorrow. I can’t promise that fear won’t overtake me tomorrow. All I know is that, through every single breath, I must trust God.