Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Living Quietly

“And to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”  1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

As I enter a new chapter in my life, I feel challenged by God to work out the concept that Paul speaks about in his letter to the Thessalonians.  He urges this church to “make it their ambition to 1) lead a quiet life, 2) mind their own business and 3) work with your hands”.  In the midst of a social media crazy culture, it is almost impossible to lead a quiet life or mind your own business, let alone make it your ambition.  Most people’s ambition is to be seen and heard through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest- all social media sites that I enjoy using but do they help me achieve this goal of living quietly?   

Due to the recent changes in my life, I think Paul is drawing on something wonderful and life-changing. 

Months ago, my family moved to the Palm Harbor area to be closer to schools, water and boating.  This lifestyle change has been on our heart for years but unattainable for many reasons.  This move to a smaller but taller house (3 story home) has its benefits and disadvantages.  First, my husband has a much longer commute to his office though time spent working at home has led to more family time.  Also we left many dear friends in the Lutz area that we hope will remain in touch with especially since we live near the beach- road trip!   Finally, I decided to leave our church which I spent many hours serving in women’s ministry.  This church change was something that I can see now as necessary to my spiritual health and growth.  I feel as though God is urging me to have a period of rest while I draw closer to Him for strength, wisdom and guidance for next steps of ministry or occupation.  My desire to “do” for God has always been strong and clear.  Now I feel a desire to be available more emotional and mental to my family and enjoy my quiet time with the Lord without any set agenda.  But I have to be honest, I feel a little lost- God has always been clear on the next step.  All I can do is put my trust in God- He knows the when, where and how for my next steps.  

When I came upon these verses in a study on Paul’s letters, I was immediately drawn to this concept of living quietly.  Making it my ambition to just live quietly, mind my own business and work seems like my new plan from God- one that might win the respect of outsiders and open the door to new relationships. 

To truly understand what Paul is urging in these verses, I had to pull out key words to help me understand this passage.  Ambition means “a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work.”  Paul is telling them “to be determined” to live quietly- this is not very true of the culture we live in- what does living quietly even look like?  I don’t think Paul was suggesting that these new believers hole up together keeping the outside world at a distance but instead to integrate themselves quietly, intentionally and mindfully into their communities.  Living quietly means to live not for your glory but God’s.  To look out for the best interests of others- to love your neighbor.  Forgive when it is hard to forgive, love when it is hard to love.  Always giving back to Him all credit and honor through your words, actions and deeds. 

"Working hard” at minding your own business tends to be something that women struggle with more than men.  As believers, we need to be concerned with ourselves and not engage inappropriately in other people’s lives.  The type of person who is making this their ambition will not meddle in other’s lives- they will be concerned with their house and keeping it in order- looking for ways to help people, not add to or create drama.

Finally, it is important to work, specifically with your hands.  The Thessalonica church had become idle, waiting and watching for the Lord’s return.  This was not a good witness to the outside world that was watching them.  When you are engage in good, honest work, there is no time to be idle- the idle life doesn’t please God.  Idleness leads to worry, fear and meddling which will not earn the respect of others that are watching your life. 

God’s heart yearns for the unbeliever to turn and come to Him.  He uses believers to be seed planters in the lives of those around us.  In order to even plant a seed or nurture an existing seed, the soil needs to be soft and pliable- ready to receive.  This is also true with the spiritual seeds we plant and nurture in the lives of the people we come in contact with daily.  If their heart isn’t ready to receive a word from you then the seed will eventually die.  But we play a huge part in the readiness of the soil- the respect you gain from others due to the way you live helps the soil of one’s heart to be open to the seeds God has given you to plant. 

Paul’s challenge to live quiet lives will not only lead to a more abundant and fruitful life for yourself but can lead others to God.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

O come let us adore Him

Every year the Christmas story is the same- a young virgin, confused husband and a tiny little baby born in a manger- no room in the inn.  This year my bible study mentor/teacher asked us to take a fresh look at the story about the birth of Jesus.  As we sung the contemporary Christmas hymns at church this morning, the lyrics to "Joy to the World" spoke deep to my heart. 

O come let us adore Him- this was the invitation extended to the shepherds that first Christmas night when the army of angels came to announce to these humble men that the Savior was born in the city of Bethlehem.  These men did not delay
but at once gathered their belongings and headed to see and adore this little baby called Christ the Lord. 


This same invitation is extended to us today- God wants us to come and adore His Son, Jesus Christ.

To adore means
  1. to worship or honor as a deity or as divine
  2. to regard with loving admiration and devotion 
  3. to be very fond of
God wants us to worship Him- the Ten Commandments clearly state that God wants us to worship Him and Him alone.  But I would like to suggest that God desires us to come to Him in loving admiration and devotion- I believed this is the type of adoration that the hymnist speaks of in the classic song "Joy to the World".  By approaching the wonder of Christmas with admiration and devotion, this might cause one to hear the good news the angels shared with the shepherds with fresh ears and a new heart.  This might cause one to hear and accept the good news of the gospel like the first time they ever heard the Christmas story.
  • What type of Christmas are you looking for? 
  • One filled with wonder, admiration, devotion? 
  • Do you long to come to God with the desire to adore Him? 
Take my bible study class challenge and ask God to give you fresh perspective on the birth of Christ- come like the shepherds came, anxious to see the newborn King.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dear God: All I Want for Christmas is...

This is the first year that my boys have questioned the validity of Santa Claus.  Matt (10) and Jake (8) started questioning the truth behind the big fat man in the red suit last weekend.  Matt said, "If I could just get him on video, then I can believe."  So I asked him, "You believe in God, right?  You can't see him."  Matt responded, "Of course, God is real."

Matt & Jake- Christmas 2008
But how many of us have uttered the same thing about God that Matt questioned about Santa-
  • If I could just see God, then I would believe.
  • If I could just hear God, then I would pray.
  • If I could just feel God, then I would have no doubts.
The disciples walked day by day for three years with Jesus and still had their doubts.  One of my favorite verses as a kid was John 20:29 "Then Jesus told him (Thomas), “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  Hebrews 11:1 says "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see."  Webster's Dictionary defines faith as "complete trust or confidence in someone or something."

This Christmas I am challenging myself to send God my Christmas list but this list won't consist of toys, gadgets and clothes.  This list doesn't have to be sent once a year in hopes that a few fun things are left under the tree on Christmas morning.  This list is not a wish list but a belief list- belief that I can ask in faith things of God.  That I can ask expecting God to hear and answer my prayers. 

I am writing an Ephesians 3:20 Belief List-  I have 3 big worries on my heart that I am giving to God this Christmas, letting Him carry them for me while believing that He is "able, through his mighty power at work within me, to accomplish infinitely more than I might ask or think." (Eph. 3:20)  These prayers are Big Hairy Audacious Prayers- prayers that need to be prayed in faith because everything around you tells you that there is no hope, no way, no answer. 

But with God, "nothing is impossible". (Luke 1:37)

Can I pray these prayers expectantly?  Can I believe without a doubt that God hears me when I call and wants to give me the desires of my heart?  But just like my boys' Christmas list which is long and expensive- leading to wishes not answered, you will not always get want you want.  Our lives are being used by God to draw others to Him so an unanswered prayer in my life might just be what draws someone into a relationship with God.  The ultimate gift- a relationship with Jesus!

What's on your Ephesians 3:20 Belief List this year?


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

God is faithful!

Psalm 100:5-  "For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations."

Sometimes I can hear God clearly- other times I am wondering where He is.  Recently I have felt like I am on hold- not sure what He wants me to do or where He wants me to go.  Last night, I started reading 1 Corinthians and a verse just jumped off the page- it spoke about God's faithfulness.  Then this morning, two specific verses spoke again of God's faithfulness.  Ok- I'm listening....

So here are the words I felt God lay on my heart- hope they touch yours as well.

       God is good- He is faithful- these things are true.  Even when it is hard to see evidence of that, I need to hold on to this belief for dear life because the enemy wants me to believe otherwise.  God's faithfulness will continue forever.  He was faithful, He is faithful and He will be faithful- this is not something He chooses to be when He feels like it, it is part of His being- His character.

       God's love endures forever- enduring love has no end, enduring love is strong and steadfast.  It is the type of love that picks up you when you get knocked down- the type of love that never leaves you nor forsakes you.  It is a love based on God and not us- we can't earn or lose this love.  It is lavished on us by God through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. 

       God is good- life isn't always good, people aren't always good, circumstances can look bad but God is good.  Every good and perfect gift comes from above. Some of our hardest times are when we see God's goodness shine the brightest- might not be when we are in the thick of it but if we step back and look, we see glimpses of God's good Hand leading us through the circumstances He has allowed.

      1 Corinthians 1:9 says "God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus our Lord, is faithful".  God has called us into a relationship with Jesus who is our Lord.  God is faithful- whatever is happening in your life right now- remember that God is faithful.

Trust in Him with all your heart
Lean not on your own understanding
Acknowledge Him in all your ways
and He will make your path straight.
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

      God is able- God is faithful

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Appreciating the Long Run

Every marathoner has a love/hate relationship with the long run.  The long run is essential to your marathon training but can be the most dreaded workout of the week.  The long run can build your confidence or break your spirit. 

With school starting, I had to shift my long run to Mondays.  Since Glenn and I are both training for the NYC marathon in November, it is too much on the family schedule for both of us to do the long run on the weekend.  I am still at home with the boys so I have a lot more flexibility in my schedule.  So every Monday after dropping the boys off at school, I will be heading out for my long run.

Last week I went for a 14 mile run.  Here are a few key components to long run training:
  • First, your goal is to run each mile about 60-90 seconds slower than marathon pace.  The thought is that you are building your body to be able to withstand hours of running without pushing it too hard. 
  • Second, this is a great time to work on your nutrition for the marathon.  During a long run, your body burns lots of calories.  Replenishing your body with calories is essential to healthy training & successful race.  You can do this through water, gel/gummies and energy drinks. 
  • Lastly, the long run trains your brain to continue pushing even when you want to quit. 
Marathon running is both a physical and mental work-out. 

As I was running my 14 miles, I began to think about how the trials and struggles that we face in life are similar to the marathon "long" run.  Everyone of us faces trials whether small or large- our lives are not easy, breezy strolls through a beautiful serene meadow.  Most of the time it is a slow grinding pace that leaves us feeling like we want to quit and give up our race.  But that is when we need to remember the goal of the long run. 
  • First, stay slow and steady-  most of life is not a 100 yard dash.  When things are weighing you down and life is tripping you up, keep a slow but steady pace.  Just keep moving forward. 
  • Second, work on your life nutrition.  Hydrate and nourish your spirit in the Word of God daily.  His truth will give you the extra energy boost you need to make it through a day.  Keep coming back daily though- each day has its own set of troubles and challenges.  Come to God daily for your manna. 
  • Lastly, use God's Word to train your brain to keep pushing even when it's hard and you want to throw it the towel.  Turn your worry into worship by recalling scripture or singing a praise song or recalling God's goodness.  Don't be overcome with your circumstances- let God overcome your circumstances with His presence.  Life is hard but we can be "more than conquerors" through God's presence and power in our lives. 

So here's to you, Long Run...  thank you for
  • showing me that I can be strong even when it's hard,
  • reminding me that it is important to keep looking forward (I will trip & fall if I run backwards),
  • and teaching me that "I can do ALL things through Christ that gives me strength". (Ph. 4:13)

  • What your favorite thing about training for a marathon?
  • What is your favorite mantra that keeps you going even when you want to quit?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Busyness

We have been on the go since my last post.  Usually I am counting the days for school to start but this year I am enjoying the time I get to spend with my boys.  We didn't over commit on camps or sports this summer- we are really just spending time at home- sometimes just not doing much at all.

This has been a nice break from the craziness of school- the kids had challenging years in 2nd & 4th grade.  Homework and testing seemed to cause more stress which led to interesting afternoons before heading off to baseball, soccer, etc.  It seems like the more we push our kids, the less time we have to connect with our kids.  I have a bunch of friends who are taking the homeschooling plunge which seems like it could alleviate the amount of stress & activity.  But I wonder if we are just becoming "wired to do" that we don't know how to not schedule activities, play dates & camps to our lives.  What example are we setting to our kids if we never allow them to just be kids- playing, inventing, creating & relaxing- before they have to head off to a world of 24/7 emails, texts, and calls.  One that rarely sleeps and doesn't expect you to as well!

Enough about that...  here are some pictures of some fun things we have done in July.  We have had good times with friends and looking forward to spending time with family in the next few weeks.  August is just around the corner so watch out- summer will be gone before you know it.

4th of July 5K race

Waiting for the awards after the race
On July 4th we ran the 5K in Lutz.  Matt ran the 5K in 27:40 which was about 3 minutes faster than his time last year.  I ran it is 22:55 which gave me 2nd place in my age group.  Jake ran the 1 mile race with his friend, Will.  After the race, Jake got his picture taken on a tractor by a local newspaper.  His picture ran in the Lutz News the following week!

Fishing with Friends
A few days later we took 3 friends (all brothers) out fishing near Honeymoon Island.  We met up with 2 other boats off of 3 Rooker Island and spent the day swimming.  Great day to live in Florida.

Matt & Jake's first swim meet
Matt & Jake competed in their first swim meet this past weekend.  It was a mini-meet so the competition was at their level and everyone received a ribbon for participation.  This was their first meet and they did great- mostly they had lots of fun!  Glenn was fishing in a tournament in Stuart, FL with his dad and uncle.  They received 3rd place in the snapper division.  We got fresh cobia and snapper for dinner this week- YEAH!

Matt at Top 10 Camp
Matt is at our church's overnight camp for 4th-6th graders called Top 10 Camp.  It is a 3 day/2 night camp that runs at the church and the kids have a ton of fun. 

Hebrews 4:12
Lastly I had a great opportunity to speak about something near and dear to my heart, the Bible.  Our church (Van Dyke Church) has been in summer school this summer- a series called God 101.  Each week Pastor Matthew teaches on a different aspect of the Christian faith- this week's message was "What is the Bible? How Does it Reveal God?".  To go along with each weekly message, there is Extra Credit available online at www.vandyke.org.  Each week there is a video that discuss the message's question and a study guide to go deeper with the topic.  I was asked to participate in the video for this week's message.  So if you would like to see my video discussion on the Bible, just go to www.vandyke.org and you will see me with my friend/mentor, Lynne.  Click on the video to watch the clip. 

Marathon training is going well- it's hot & humid. 

My new weapon- cute shoes!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Here we go.....

So, today it starts- that's right- training for the New York City Marathon.  Wait, didn't I already do that?  Yes I did but unfortunately we did not get to run it.  There were great issues at hand like Hurricane Sandy and all the damage & destruction she bought to town. 

  • April 2012- My husband and I were both accepted into the New York City marathon by the lottery system.  I believe it is a 1/9 chance of being picked so it was awesome that we both were selected the same year.
  • July to October 2012- We trained to run and finish the marathon with a respectable time but ultimately the goal was to finish and have fun.
  • November 2012- Hurricane Sandy hits the east coast causing havoc to the Northeast and canceling the NYC marathon.  It was the right decision- just made too late by Mayor Bloomberg and crew. 
  • After the first of the year, we find out that we can re-enter the marathon in either 2013, 2014 or 2015.  You can also take your money & run.  If it wasn't New York, if we hadn't both got in & if we weren't CRAZY then we would have shouted REFUND.  But we decided to go for it & use our entry for this year- we are officially running the 2013 NYC marathon.

Fast forward to today- July 1st, 2013.  We have officially started our training.  For the past few months we have just maintained and strengthened our existing running bases plus adopting some cross training.  Our goal for this year's marathon has also changed as well- I say this just as my husband says "This would be a nice little marathon if we weren't trying to run a sub 4 marathon."

That's our goal- to run a sub 4 hour marathon.  Our plan is to train efficiently and eat nutritionally plus mix in cross training like swimming, biking & yoga to ward off injuries.

Today's run was an easy 5 mile run which we were able to do together.  Since the boys are getting a little bit older, we might be able to run together close to home.  I am thankful that we can enjoy running together as a couple- it has been a way to stay connected outside the daily grind of household roles- husband/wife, mommy/daddy, housekeeper/bread-winner. 

So stay tuned- I am sure there will be much more to come. 
Long runs = Long talks with God
(gives me something to blog about)
Meanwhile, pray for us to be of strong body & mind and to run our race that has been marked out for us!