Saturday, May 28, 2011

Encouraged to be Brave and Bold for Jesus

Galatians 6:9 reads, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” And yet, that is usually just how I feel… tired of doing what is good; exhausted with trying to make the right choices; done with making the effort above and beyond. What’s the point? I wonder. Is it really worth it? Will it even matter? Does anyone even care?

It’s easy to get wrapped up in myself and want to quit. Quitting is standard these days anyway. People quit on just about everything… from their diet to their family. Why don’t I? It would be easier, wouldn’t it? “Let’s not get tired of doing what is good.” I repeat it to myself. Those words are uttered in attempt to encourage others but when we don’t see the “harvest of blessing” it just feels easier to give up.

That’s why I was thankful for my friend’s message to me the other day. It wasn’t necessary but it was needed. The reminder to persevere and the hope of blessings yet to come were evident. “Listen around minute 12” were his instructions to me referring to the attached MP3 file (11:43-13:15 to be exact). I listened to my friend’s name being referred to and recognized the reference to our friendship.

I met Mike during our freshman year in high school; in Mr. Lapicki’s Biology class to be exact. Mike was talking about a music group and I got excited. “I love DC Talk!” I responded. His look expressed his confusion and cluelessness as to my reference. I felt stupid and he continued his conversation with his friends about the group, ZZ Top.

When I think of our friendship, I remember feeling awkward about this initial meeting. I recall my dismay in the class we shared, when I raised my hand alone to state that I believed in creation. (Whether anyone else raised their hand or not, I don’t recall for certain. However, I vividly remember feeling alone.). There are memories of the way Mike admired my childhood friend, Janelle, from day one and the joy in seeing their strong marriage today. Rarely, (if ever) do I think about the impact my relationship with God played in my friend’s life.

As I listened to this brief audio clip, I was encouraged. For me, I simply invited a friend of mine to a place I enjoyed going. For him, he saw a girl being brave and bold for Jesus. It wasn’t the only encounter I had in high school that made me appear that way to others.

I’ll never forget the way a pothead stood up for me one Friday afternoon in another class. (He actually wore a baseball cap with an image of weed on it.) I had come to expect the weekly time that almost seemed set aside for “bash on Tristi and her religious beliefs” by my classmates and yes, even my teacher. This boy stood up and spoke on my behalf, “At least she stands up for what she believes in. Which is more than can be said for the rest of you.” While I don't even remember this boy's name, he encouraged me to stand strong in my beliefs.

Somewhere between high school and now, I lost my tenacity to live boldly for my God. Fear has made me shy in speaking of Jesus. What will others think of me? Will they think I'm too pushy? What if they no longer want to do life with me? As I sit back timidly shaking my head, the messages that are opposed to God's Word threaten to deafen His message of Truth. Hanging my head and holding my tongue is not what God called me to do.

"Be strong. Take courage. Don't be intimidated. Don't give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down; he won't leave you." Deuteronomy 31:6 is one of my daughter’s favorite verses. I need it these days… I often feel alone. However, I’m not alone. God is right there with me.

My mind and my emotions are not a good place to locate truth. I may think I know what others think of me but I really don’t. Besides, it doesn’t matter what they think. In the end, I will stand before the only One whose opinion matters. “We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:4b

My friend, Mike, reminded me of why it’s worth it to live bold and courageous for our God. In the same way his wife encouraged me to live boldly for God in high school simply by doing it with me, his encouragement inspires me now. It’s my prayer for everyone I love: to experience a growing relationship with God. Life seems so empty without it. With God, however, life has purpose and hope.

We need to encourage each other to do the right thing. It’s easy to find the encouragement in today’s world to take the “easy way out”. Persevering through the trials to develop character is where we need help. Relationships are where we experience it. Live it out daily in gratitude, in love, in word and in action. “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

Thanks, Mike, for encouraging me. Thank you, friends and family, for doing life with me… especially when the going gets tough. Thank you, God, for giving me hope and purpose and being right there with me through it all.

“See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” – Hebrews 3:12-14

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Third Thursday Thoughts: Favorite recipe



Today is this month’s Hearts at Home blog hop. On the third Thursday of every month, I have the opportunity to write on a specific topic and link up with other bloggers and Jill Savage. This Third Thursday’s Thoughts are prompted by the question, “What is your favorite homemade dish? Share your recipe!”

Lasagna, bread, sausage and all the heavy Italian foods are the delicacies served at gatherings with my mom’s side of the family. My husband came from a Swedish family where the foods don’t contain quite as much spice. While my husband didn’t complain about the pasta I served every night in the early years of our marriage, he did request that I at least use a meat sauce. It took some years to combine the meals we enjoyed.

When I served “skinny” pancakes for the first time, my husband was thrilled that I made a Swedish food. Unbeknownst to me, the pancakes that we rolled up log style, topped with syrup and powdered sugar, were a favorite of his as well. The exception was that his family always had lingonberries on hand. Needless to say, these pancakes (I was now educated originated with his ancestors) became a popular meal in our home.

Expectations of this comfort food come on Christmas Eve with my family, Saturday breakfast, Sunday lunch, or even a weeknight dinner. My children beg for the meal and I have heard no complaints about the alterations I gradually made to use whole wheat flour in the recipe. If you are looking for an easy meal that will be enjoyed by all, cook up a package of sausage or bacon and serve it with these pancakes and some fruit on the side to make it complete.



“SKINNY”/SWEDISH PANCAKES
3 eggs
¾ cup flour (I use whole wheat)
1 ¼ cup milk
1 Tablespoon sugar

Beat eggs until thick and yellow. Add milk. Then flour, sugar and salt. Cook over medium-high heat in continually buttered pan. (Melt a pat of butter each time before you add just shy of a ¼ cup of batter to the heated frying pan.) Serve with syrup and/or powdered sugar or with your favorite berries.

SYRUP
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp mapeline
Bring water with sugar to a boil. Stir in mapeline and remove from heat.

(Note: I double the recipe for my family of 5 which usually leaves some leftovers)

Do you have a favorite recipe?

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On Rain and Rainbows

Check out my friend Kelly's blog today. She has some great insight on the rain and rainbows.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Defeating Soul Search to Victory

“If I’m honest, I’m feeling defeated lately. That’s if I’m being honest – which I usually don’t do. I’d much rather eat.” These were the words I typed to my friend the other day as she checked in to keep me accountable. She responded with “Can you pinpoint why?” I really couldn’t pinpoint the source of my feeling. It was just a pity place I’ve visited too often to wallow in.

Being faced with this question, I’ve had to do some soul searching. Romans 8 instructs that “...in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” If victory is my truth in Christ, defeat is nothing but a lie. Why, then, am I overwhelmed with a feeling of defeat?

Housework defeats me as I awaken every morning to the same mess I fell asleep in. My scale continues to defeat me after three years of half-hearted effort to overcome. All too often, I watch the backs of those I intentionally invested time and effort in as they walk away and I’m left defeated in relationships. Defeat is a ministry I am passionate about dwindling in numbers. It is the anger I display toward my husband and children when my desperate desire is to reflect my God. The lie I all too easily believe, is due to the everyday factors that I’m just not good enough while I play the comparison game to others.

Author Dee Brestin is doing a study of idolatry at her blog. Three common deep idols she refers to are: control/power, comfort/security, and approval/affirmation. I never really thought much about idolatry in these terms, despite my familiarity with them. My heart sank as I realized defeat is the result of idol worship.

All too easily, I give in to the desires of my flesh. When I’m hungry, I eat. I sleep when I’m tired. If I’m cold, I turn on the furnace. As the seasons grow warmer, I simply switch to the air conditioning. Comfort/security is most certainly, sadly, an idol in my life. Laziness, despite what others see, is my greatest declaration of allegiance.

My need for control/power is revealed daily through my anger. Defeat sets in because I have no control over others. Desperately, I want to make them share my desires in life. I think I know best how others should live and it frustrates me to watch them in opposition to my desires. My aspiration for control/power is revealed in my overbearing response.

While the idol of approval/affirmation is not as blatantly evident in my life, it still exists. I want my relationships and the ministry I am involved in to affirm my efforts. It is important to me that others think highly of me. Defeat is only possible because my efforts strive to please others instead of seeking God’s endorsement.

It is rather disheartening to realize I am giving my allegiance to idols outside of God. Even as I type the words, I struggle to admit that I am worshipping other gods. Each time I say “no” to God and “yes” to these other…gods, I will continue to experience defeat. Victory is found in God alone. Each “yes” I give in response to His requests of me bring me that much closer to my desired feeling of triumph.

“The usual solution is to attack the surface sin - perhaps a better budget, a better diet, or a better alarm clock - but because you have not addressed the deep idol of COMFORT/SECURITY, and allowed God to be your comfort, your security, that idol will cry out when restricted and win.” - Dee Brestin

“For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” – 1 Corinthians 15:56-58 (NLT)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Focus

"Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don't get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil." - Proverbs 4:25-27

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Gift from the Heart


1# Mom
Written and Illustrated by Nikelle Carlson

My mom is special. She helps me grow. She is special to me. I am her gift from God. She is my model, one of my paths, and my key to life.


I [heart] mom


My mom is in MOPS (Mothers for Preschoolers). She helps us learn about the Lord. She is a Christian, which means she chose to be Jesus’ best friend for life. She reads us books, feeds us, sometimes she is funny, and helps us with our chores.





My mom helps me when I am sick. When I had the stomach flu my mom stayed with me the whole time and helped me feel better. She also helps me in school. When I’m having trouble with my homework, she comes and helps me.



I [heart] Mom (Mother unOrdinary Mosthelpful)

CHAPTER 2 – Jaycie thinks

Mom prays for me when I am scared. Then it helps me feel better. I also get better dreams.


I [heart] mom 2

CHAPTER 3 – The end

Dear Mom,

We hoped you like this book and love us. Give us big hugs when you finish reading this book.

Love,

Nikelle, Jaycie and Ande

We [heart] you

MOM IS THE BEST MOM IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD (one word each on its own page)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

My Mother's Influence

“She’ll be your best friend one day,” my dad’s voice insisted. Sitting in my parents’ room, forced to stand facing my mom, it was a lecture I’ll never forget. I assume it was my disrespect towards her that warranted his speech. While I only tolerated his words in that moment, they are a truth of our current relationship. Daddy’s approval may have been my life’s objective, but it was (and is) my mother’s influence that shaped me into the person I am today.

It was my mom who taught me to think of others more highly than myself. (I’m still working on this.) At church, mom’s gentle prodding pushed me from my comfort zone to befriend the new kids. Willing to serve wherever there was a need, my mom demonstrated the heart of a servant.

In our family, mom was content to watch dad receive credit for the work she did to make family memories a reality. Always comfortable in the background, mom taught me the importance of sacrifice. She celebrated holidays according to dad’s desires and put the needs of her children always before her own.

While she doesn’t like to take center stage, it is her confidence in taking the platform when necessary that passed on to me. She taught me that any issue of importance to God is worth taking a stand for. Her example showed me that truth and justice are to be sought at any cost.

Mom was willing to do the hard thing. When the words of others neglect to coincide with the Bible, she taught me to question and compare them to God’s Word. Truth is precious to my mom and I learned the power found in Scripture from her.

Her quiet example (and boldness when necessary) taught me the high importance of my relationship with our Savior. A prayer warrior, I am very aware that her cries to God on my behalf have carried me through this life. Unbeknownst to me (until I had children of my own), my mom had the greatest impact on my life.

In the year my dad battled cancer, mom put her life on hold. At his side, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, her actions spoke louder than words. In those moments, my mom lived out Jesus command and the very definition of love. “This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:12-13

Witnessing mom’s strength (which she readily shared came from her God) in the days following dad’s departure from this earth, brought me to tears. While I knew her pain ran deep, she relied on God to carry her through each day. Rather than get swallowed up in sorrow and pity, mom lived as she always has: serving others.

Mom invests herself two-fold for her children and grandchildren in light of dad’s absence. Heavy with the loss of this key relationship in our lives, she stepped up to live that much more fully for our God. Dropping stories to my girls about their Papa and eternity, my mom serves the same role in their lives as she did in mine. My mom lives to imitate Christ. In turn, her children and grandchildren are left with no denial as to her hope.

The Apostle Paul writes in his second letter to Timothy, “I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.” As was with Timothy, I pray it will be true of my own daughters as well. Our mothering matters for generations to come.

Mom,
Thank you for your example to me throughout the years. While I continually sought dad’s love and affection, you faithfully offered yours. As I searched for my identity in every direction possible, you lifted prayers on my behalf to the One in whom you knew my search would culminate. I am a Christ-follower today in large part because of your influence. Thank you for teaching me that living for God is something I never need to shy away from. You are irreplaceable in our lives. I love you and thank God for you!
Love,
Tristi

Thursday, May 5, 2011

In Jesus Name

I stood there dumbfounded. Our “friends” who celebrated our wedding just a couple of short years earlier were now in support of an outrageous accusation against us. My husband and I were denied the opportunity to even defend ourselves. In a moment, we were excommunicated from the church of our marriage union.

Trusting anyone in a church setting again took years. Christians are supposed to be known for their love but, in that moment, I felt no love. While there were some who extended their care and concern, the multitude of betrayal blurred the kindness offered by all too few. Hands down, this experience was the most painful, deep and damaging wound inflicted to that date.

Today, however, I am able to thank God for that experience. The pain in my heart was cause to truly seek Him. It was through that specific incident that Christianity became more for me than just head knowledge. The message of 1 Corinthians 13 came alive for me through my heartache. “If I… possessed all knowledge… but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.”

My journey to healing taught me that my allegiance could not be to any group of people. My loyalty was to God alone. (“We must obey God rather than human beings!” – Acts 5:29b) It also became clear to me that Christians will never define Christ. At the same time, Christ should be the reflection of every Christian. (“For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son.” – Romans 8:29)

Turn on the television set and some show, somewhere will have a portrayal of someone claiming to be a follower of Christ. Christians are represented as crazy, self-righteous or just plain ignorant. In the media’s depictions, rarely will you see a sincere example of a true Christian who talks and acts in a manner that honors Jesus Christ.

Claiming to be a Christian does not make it so. All over the world, people are talking and acting in the name of Jesus. The problem is just that: it is all simply talk with a big act. Too many claim the label of Christianity with no willingness to follow Christ’s example. People, too often, declare that they are a reflection of our God only to bring Him shame.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” – John 13:18.

Christ-followers are flawed examples of their risen Savior. While God will not let me down, humans will. Christians are not perfect. They are saved by grace, the same as me. God knows we’ll screw up. We are far from perfect. The mark of a Christian, however, is repentance, forgiveness and grace.

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:1-8

Please, if you choose to wear the name of Jesus, wear it well.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Apostle Paul's Words on My Struggle

"I don't really understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can't. I do what I don't want to - what I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience proves that I agree with these laws I am breaking. But I can't help myself because I'm no longer doing it. It is sin inside me that is stronger than I am that makes me do these evil things.

I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn I can't make myself do right. I want to but I can't. When I want to do good, I don't; and when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. Now if I am doing what I don't want to, it is plain where the trouble is: sin still has me in its evil grasp.

It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love to do God's will so far as my new nature is concerned; but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God's willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin.

So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I'm in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free!

- Romans 7:15-25 (The Living Bible)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dummy?

I feel like a dummy.

While watching The Amazing Race with my husband the other night, I could identify with the buried mannequin. On the show, teams worked a staged rescue from an avalanche. As I watched them pull half the dummy still needing to unbury the other half of the body, I felt like that suffocating dummy.

My life gives me the feeling of being buried alive. Some days I think I will never dig out. Every day I am so overwhelmed by the tasks at hand that I don’t even know where to begin.

So often, I feel defeated, unable to even attempt to make a little progress somewhere. Feeling like a failure is one of the many lies I have fallen prey to. I remind others of the Truth, so why is it such a struggle to believe it myself?

Today I am working to overcome the lies. My prayer today is that God will help me to quit believing the lies and start basking in the Truth of His Word. Truth is a key step toward overcoming this suffocating feeling. Seeking help from God goes hand in hand.

I am not a helpless dummy.

"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." ~ John 8:32

"I waited patienty for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry." ~ Psalm 40:1