Sunday, April 25, 2010

Singing through the rain

The Lord has blessed us with such beautiful weather this past week! A couple weeks ago, the weather was quite the opposite. I learned an important lesson that day and thought I would share it with you all....

It was another cold, gloomy morning. The sun, hidden behind the clouds, hadn't shown its face much at all the past couple days. The rain seemed like it was never ending. When would the sun shine again?

I sat, eating my breakfast, looking out at the dark clouds, which seemed to prophecy of coming rain. It was beginning to drizzle outside when I heard a bell ringing at the door. I looked over and saw my dog, Boo signaling (by ringing the bell) that he had to go outside for a bathroom break.

I grumbled as I got out of my chair and walked over to where Boo was waiting.

"You just had to wait until it started raining, didn't you?" I asked my dog.

Obviously, my dog didn't answer back, so I continued putting his leash on. By the time we got outside, it was pouring. Or at least, that's what it seemed like to me.

As Boo walked around, sniffing for the best spot, I continued to complain.

"Why is it always raining? Is it ever going to be nice weather here? It's so cold out here! Why is Boo taking so long?"

I continued to think these miserable thoughts, until I heard something....something that changed the ugly mindset I had had that morning.

What I heard was not a magnificent or extraordinary noise, but a simple, yet beautiful one.

The sound I heard was a bird singing. I have heard a bird sing many times. The melodious little tunes from these small creatures are one of the first sounds to greet spring and one of the last to wish us farewell before the start of winter. Yet, this tune was different to me; different because this bird was singing through the rain.

Even though the weather was gloomy and rainy, this little bird had such joy about something that he felt the need to sing. This bird was not just chirping or squawking. This little bird was joyfully singing.

In the mental bog of despair I had been drowning in, the bird's sweet melody was like swimming in a clear pool; refreshing and inspiring. Now I know it was just a singing bird. But when I heard it begin to sing, I thought to myself, "Why on earth would a bird want to sing in weather like this? What does he have to sing about?"

Then a thought struck me. How many times in the past week had I been "singing through the rain" or small trials of my life? Certain memories flooded my mind of the past week; the dishes that had been done, the pile of laundry that was ironed, etc. Through all these different chores, had I had the joy of the Lord or was I grumbling my way through each one? Unfortunately, many times the latter had been the case.

As I stood there thinking about all this, another question popped into my head. Do I have the right to be angry because of something as minute as the weather?

Then it hit me. I am a daughter of the King of Kings, saved and sealed by the precious blood of the Son of God, and I am complaining about the weather, which God has set to be as it is! What an awful slap in the face of Almighty God! Even if every possible disease racked my body and every disaster befell me, if nothing good ever happened to me, yet I had the assurance that I was eternally saved and my countless sins forgiven in the sight of my Creator, I should never want for joy, never lack in the privilege of exulting in my Redeemer. However, I have been blessed so abundantly that to be miserable over the weather is pure selfishness and one of the sins that nailed my beloved Savior to the cross.

A familiar verse came to mind as I stood pondering over all this.

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe."

~Philippians 2:14-15

In this verse, Paul is imploring the believers of Philippi to do everything without complaining or arguing. Why? So that they might become blameless and pure in a crooked and depraved generation, in which they shine like stars.

This is such a challenging verse! Paul is not saying that we need to work hard at not complaining or that we shouldn't complain most of the time. He says we need to do EVERYTHING without complaining!

So, I challenge you, as well as myself, to examine your lives to discover how much you complain. Now, I know you might be thinking that you don't complain much. That is exactly what I thought before I began examining my life.

Here's a practical way to glorify God, even when you are beginning to think negatively. Let me tell you though, if you want to be successful in this practice, you need to continually commit this to the Lord. Ask for His help, because without Him, we can do nothing that would be valuable or bring glory to Him.

Before you begin your day, ask the Lord to help you examine all your thoughts, words, and actions in light of His Word. As you go through your day, try to notice every time you begin to think, say, or do something negative. Stop what you're thinking, saying, or doing and reverse it into a positive. Let me give you two examples. I will use the story from above. Let's say that I had the opportunity to replay that morning. I would have or should have looked something like this.

I sat, eating my breakfast, looking out at the dark clouds, which seemed to prophecy of coming rain. It was beginning to drizzle outside when I heard a bell ringing at the door. I looked over and saw my dog, Boo signaling (by ringing the bell) that he had to go outside for a bathroom break.

I grumbled as I got out of my chair...ok stop! As my thoughts turn negative and I begin to grumble/complain, I should instead think of how I can turn the situation into a positive one, a situation that I can praise the Lord. Since I was complaining because I didn't want to take my dog out, here is a list of thoughts that would have turned the negative situation into a positive one.

"I can be thankful because I have been blessed to own a dog! Many people would love a dog, but don't get the opportunity."

"I can be thankful because I am able to take the dog out instead of him going in the house. I am very blessed to have a house-trained dog!"

"I can be thankful because I am able to stand, walk over, and take my dog outside. Some people are paralyzed and are not able to walk."

Then, when I was taking Boo outside, I should have changed this thought process:

As Boo walked around, sniffing for the best spot, I continued to complain.

"Why is it always raining? Is it ever going to be nice weather here? It's so cold out here! Why is Boo taking so long?"

Instead, I should have turned these complaints into thanksgiving to God! Here are some thoughts that I could have used.

"I can be thankful that it is not raining any harder than it actually is."

"I can be thankful that the "bad" weather we're experiencing is only rain and not a hurricane, hail, or snow!"

"I can be thankful that I don't live in a state that is always dry. The rain helps grow the plants, trees, and other foliage."

The list could go on and on. This is one example of turning a weakness into a strength. Every time you begin to think negatively, you can turn that thought around and use it to praise God for what He has blessed you with! Over time, this practice will just become a habit!

So, I challenge you this week to examine your thinking as well as your words and use them all for the glory of God! I challenge you to sing through the rain....

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Imitator of God

During my morning devotions yesterday, I was reading Ephesians 5. This is what I read:

"Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."
~Ephesians 5: 1-2 (NASB)

I have read these verses many times before, yet have never really taken them literally. When I read them yesterday morning, I caught a glimpse of the weight of Paul's words.

"Be imitators of God," Paul commands the Ephesians. This is no light order. Instead, this is a Christian's highest calling!

Imitate: to follow as a pattern, model, or example; to be or appear like; resemble

This is the process of sanctification; the process that will never fully be completed until the redemption of our bodies.

Yet, while on the earth, we as believers, are called to serve Christ, to imitate Him with our lives! This is a daunting task, but for believers we can hold onto the promise that "He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6)

As I was reading Ephesians 5:1, I was thinking to myself, "How can I relate this verse to my own life? What are some practical ways of imitating Christ in my everyday life?" The rest of this blogpost will be dedicated to answering those questions.

In one sense, there are many ways to relate the verse to your own life. Yet, in the other sense, imitating Christ and giving your all to Him is not something that you can just fit into your everyday life. It requires a heart change.

Paul is an excellent example of this devotion, this love for God, this incredible mindset. It is seen clearly in his epistles. Here are some of the verses that are perfect examples of this.

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21)

This is an amazing declaration. For Paul, Christ is not a part of his life, Christ is Paul's life. In other words, Paul was completely and totally surrendered to Christ. Everything he did, everything he said, everything he thought, every breath he breathed was for the glory of God and the furtherance of his kingdom. I'm not saying that Paul never sinned, but I am saying that Paul realized that Christ is the sole reason why we are alive and lived his life for his Savior!

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20)

Jesus Christ purchased His sheep, His children on the cross. As Romans 6: 18 says, "You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." Even though we have been adopted into the family of God, we as Christians are still slaves of Christ. As such, we need to surrender our all to our Savior and King!

"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." (Philippians 3:7-8)

These verses sum up the point from Philippians 1:21: to live is Christ.

This is no simple thing to do though. Applying this principle to your life is one of the hardest things to do. Like I said earlier, it requires a changed mindset, a changed heart.

Do you count everything as loss compared to Christ? Is Christ your everything, your All in All or do other things take first place in your life?

This blogpost was written in hopes that it would challenge your way of thinking, the way you live, as it has challenged mine.

Becoming an Imitator of God Application (Here are some ideas to apply to your life):
  • Give God everything. In order for Him to be your First Love, you must remove the idols and other things that have taken Christ's place in the past. In prayer, ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of previous or existing idols and sins you need to deal with in your life. Ask forgiveness for these things and make restitution, if needed. Commit your previous idols to the Lord and ask Him to give you the strength needed in order for them not to become your First Love again.

  • Examine your schedule. Are you too busy for the Lord? Have you been spending time with Him everyday or have you been allowing other things to get in the way of spending time with the King of Kings? During our move, that was one of the hardest things for me. It was so easy to allow other things (ie: painting, unpacking, etc.) to get in the way of my time with the Lord. That is the most important and special thing I get to do in my day. I, an unworthy and utterly wretched sinner, get the privilege to proceed into the throne room of Almighty God, the Creator, Savior, and Lover of my soul! Yet, how many times have I made the excuse that I was too busy to pray, too busy to speak with the Lord and receive the blessings of spending time with Him? I have so little to give to Him, when He has given everything for me? How wrong, how terribly wrong!

  • Memorize Scripture. The Bible is as sharp as a double-edged sword, and "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16) When battling with temptation, Scripture is the best weapon to equip ourselves with.

  • Look at the Fruit of the Spirit and discover what qualities you fall short in. I did this a couple months ago and it was so helpful for me. After I wrote down a list (yes, a list) of character qualities I need work in, I did my own study for each one, looking at what God says about each character trait along with its opposite.Pray that the Lord would help you to conquer your weaknesses and make them your strengths.
Character quality that needs work: joyful heart in all circumstances
What does the Lord say about joy? Philippians 4:4, Proverbs 17:22, Galatians 5:22
What does the Lord say about a complaining and grumbling spirit? Philippians 2:14-16
What verses should I memorize to battle a complaining spirit? Philippians 2:14-16, Colossians 3:17

In conclusion, I wanted to post a song that has been very powerful in my own life. I wasn't able to figure out how to upload the song on this post, but I do have the song in my playlist. To listen to the song, just scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the song "My Passion" by Travis Cottrell. I believe that this song ties up everything perfectly. May Christ be the passion of your life!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Rattlesnake Mountain and Lake

Last night, my family and I drove to Rattlesnake Mountain to see if there were any hiking trails. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that there was a trail right next to Rattlesnake Lake as well as the mountain. (It was only about 7 minutes away from our house...what a blessing!) It was a beautiful setting with mountains in the background, a stunning lake in the foreground and some lovely foliage all around us. Here are some of the pictures Ari took.

Rattlesnake Mountain!

This is not Rattlesnake Mountain, but one of the surrounding mountains...maybe Mount Si???

Picture of Rattlesnake Lake and a surrounding mountain...with clouds moving in.

Charity, sitting on one of the stumps next to Rattlesnake Lake.

The beautiful color of Rattlesnake Lake!

Boo sure was excited to run around in the dirt/sand!

Then there was the fun job of catching Boo! :)

Of course, being in Washington, we would see a recycle bin on the trail.

I love this picture that my sister took of a daffodil!

Walking the trail!

The history of Rattlesnake Lake was also very interesting! In the picture above, where the stumps and water are, a town used to thrive in the early 1900s. The town was called Moncton (as you can see in the picture below.) On higher land, there was a dam called Masonry Dam. Although the dam was watertight, water began to leak through the surrounding hillsides like a sieve and within two months had flooded the town of Moncton in 1915. Rattlesnake Lake is what's left of the town.

Family Picture!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Pictures of our First Sunday at HOFCC

My dear friend Keilah (one of the girls from our church) emailed me the pictures from the first Sunday we went to HOFCC, a couple weeks ago. Thank you Keilah for allowing us to use your excellent camera! By the way, Ari is not in many of the pictures because she wanted to take the pictures. :) Here are some of the pictures that she emailed me.

#1: Keilah and Ari

#2: Keilah and I

#3: Me, Abbie, Keilah, and Mason

#4: Silly shot...

#5: Group shot with me, Keilah, Keenan, Caleb, Benjamin, and Abbie

#6: Swinging Abbie round and round...she's so cute!

#7: Me, Keilah, and Sarah

#8: Silly group shot! :)