Walking by Faith

“So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-7)

Walking by faith isn’t easy for someone with my background. It means trusting someone other than yourself…in this case, Someone. In the past several years I’ve been robbing Peter to pay Paul; oftentimes, finding Peter’s pockets empty, too. This is true financially and equally true where time is concerned.

Maybe more so.

It’s not easy being a homesteader, working towards that day when that homestead might also be a source of income; a full-time college student; a writer; blogger; minister–while also working a full-time job with a 2 hour round-trip commute. I’m not complaining, mind you. I love what I do. And I won’t always be a college student. But there are plenty of days where I wearily look at that alarm clock, that commute, the mountain of homework due by week’s end and think, “I can’t do this anymore!” Burn out happens more often than not.

The week before Christmas I caved in to that burn out. I had a two-part final paper due on plastic pollution. It was due Sunday evening by midnight (online degree program). I started working on it a couple of weeks’ in advance, researching, gathering data, pictures for the PowerPoint presentation that was due with the paper…and found myself on Sunday night thinking, “Damn! This is another all-nighter.” Exhausted, I looked at the work again, the time; my body was trembling, my head swimming with fatigue. And I made a rare decision for myself: I went to bed early, got up in the morning and handed in the assignment a day late, knowing it would mean a 10% loss of grade.

But I didn’t care. I was that tired.

Some part of my weary mind gave it over to God. He knew I’d been working on this steadily. He knew this wasn’t a case of my usual tendency to procrastinate. And, suddenly, though the lower grade didn’t sit well (I tend to be the Hermoine Granger type…), I found something in me that was willing to accept it.

Because a good night’s rest was more important.

I got a perfect score anyway. The professor’s comment started off with a “Wow!” and a “this deserves full marks”. (Okay, so I’m bragging again but, truly, it is only by His grace that I managed to get such a high mark when class policy is set for a 10% loss of final score…unless previously arranged otherwise with your instructor; this wasn’t pre-arranged.)

Anyway, I am sharing the PowerPoint presentation here. (I hope it plays okay…I’ve never tried attaching a presentation to my blog before) Though Environmental Science is my minor, each class has inspired me more in reducing my carbon footprint…and is giving me yet another direction to take this blog. Concern for the environment, for all the many species of life that are becoming extinct–or at least are classed “endangered”–due to global warming, is one of the main reasons why I homestead. I want to be part of the solution, not the problem. And, if I can raise greater awareness of the problems Mother Earth is facing today, maybe more people will take a stand and start lowering their carbon footprint, too. Enjoy!

And may God bless you & keep you!

SNHU Eliminating Plastics Presentation

PS If it cannot be opened/run via this blog, please someone leave a comment below; I will try to remedy. Thank you!

Advertisements

Christian Confidence

“Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that of ourselves we are qualified to take credit for anything as coming from us; rather, our qualification comes from God, who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of Spirit; for the letter brings death, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)

As someone who grew up with alcoholism and abuse in the home, confidence is a fleeting thing. You’re blowing your own horn one minute; the next, you’re plummeting into the abyss. As a Christian, I should neither be boasting of “my” works nor lamenting any perceived mediocrity; both are an insult to the Lord. Any talents or gifts that I currently possess were given to me by the Holy Spirit. They are gifts from God, not self. Indeed, these gifts are meant to be shared with others, to further His kingdom…not hidden away in some corner while I serve small, thinking I’m not good enough.

And yet, for those of us who perpetually battle confidence and self-esteem issues, that’s exactly what we do. We allow the enemy of our souls to keep telling us we’re not good enough, we’re not strong enough, smart enough, talented enough…

Enough already!

That little red guy with the pitch fork talks too much.

If God is nudging us to do something, He’s telling us we are good enough, strong enough, smart enough and/or talented enough. Because He is giving us the strength, intellect and/or talent. And He will never fail. He doesn’t need us to do whatever the task; He wants us to do it. And it is through our obedience to Him that we are blessed. It’s that simple.

When that ol’ Devil starts whispering his insidious lies, call upon the Lord. Pray for that strength, courage, or whatever else you may need to succeed. Ask the good Lord to show you where your heart is, what He wants for you. And then really listen to the answers He places on your heart.

For someone like myself–and there are plenty out there who have had similar upbringings–trusting someone–even Someone–is often the equivalent of trying to climb Mount Everest with naught but a toothpick for support. It is overwhelming to even consider because we base our trust on our human relationships…instead of the One relationship that should matter most of all…and will never let us down.

I always discount my dreams as too lofty, too impossible. It’s a pipe dream, never happen. There’s someone prettier, more talented, etc. than I am. I blame my present financial situation: I don’t have the money. And that other commodity: I don’t have enough time. And I allow myself to be defeated.

Every.

Single.

Time.

Worse, I’m telling God “no”…by believing the lies.

I’m praying for a set of spiritual headphones this year to drown out the Adversary’s “talk”. Jesus says, “I am enough!” And so is everyone else reading this blog post. What dream has He put on your heart? What does He keep nudging you to do? Where does He keep nudging you to go? Saying “Yes, Lord!” is the biggest hurdle to conquer. Are you up to the challenge?

May God bless you & keep you!

Remembering the Sabbath

“Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you.” (Exodus 20:8-10)

Remember the Sabbath day…and leave your cellphones, your tablets, etc. at the door. Seriously. There is nothing on your device that is more important than the message being spoken in church, regardless what church/denomination we are talking. I know I’ve preached this before. At least twice, in fact. But it bears continuous repeating. The enemy of our soul looks for any and every opportunity to distract us from God, our Father. Distracted worship ought to be outlawed like distracted driving is in many states (even if, like Connecticut, it isn’t strictly enforced…). We keep taking God out of the picture…and then wonder why the world is in such chaos.

Of course, if you’re an emergency worker, leaving your cell at the door isn’t a viable option; I get that. However, it should be on vibrate and in a pocket or a purse…not in your hand while you peruse your email messages or Facebook posts. Being on emergency call doesn’t equal a “get-out-of-church-free” card. The Lord wants us there, not just physically, but mentally, emotionally, and above all, spiritually.

And, while some may argue that they listen better when they’re on their cell (I’ve heard reasons of the mind not wandering as much), the light from your cell may be a distraction to fellow parishioners. You wouldn’t like someone playing on their cellphone and lighting up the movie theater after you paid top dollar for that latest blockbuster hit.

Jesus paid with something much more valuable than that “top dollar”; He paid with His blood, with His very life for us. And His word is far more compelling and important than any movie.

In most cases, it is only an hour of your time. I am reminded of Mark, Chapter 14, when Jesus was undergoing His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked Peter, James and John to keep watch:

“When He returned, He found them asleep. He said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.'” (Mark 14:37-38)

If one hour is too much time, be thankful this isn’t 19th century New England. Though the Puritan church of the 17th century had all but disbanded and compulsory attendance with it, 19th century Congregationalists (descended from the Puritans) spent two hours in the morning, took an hour to an hour and a half dinner break, and spent two more hours in the afternoon in worship service. There were no stoves/hearths in the church. Your meal was cold…because cooking was work and that wasn’t allowed on the Sabbath. And yet, people attended willingly. Today that may seem crazy to some but it is only one example of how the further away we get from nature and an agrarian lifestyle, the further away from Him we also get.

“Ever since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what He has made. As a result, they have no excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

There’s a bigger sermon growing from this…but for today, let us walk through those church doors with naught but our Bible in hand and His love on our hearts. Let us sit in comfort in a church that is typically well-heated with a modern day HVAC system…and go home to a hot meal. Let us remember the many blessings He has given us…yes, even modern technology, to enjoy after the sermon.

May God bless you & keep you!

Manifesting my Dreams

“And we have this confidence in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14)

I struggle to know His will for me versus my own hopes, dreams and aspirations. Did He put these dreams on my heart because this is where He wants me to go? Or am I hoping to super-impose my will over His simply because He provided the grace, the talent, the desire…whether we’re talking writing, art or homesteading? I guess, in some ways, I’m trying to read God’s mind. It’s almost as if I’m looking for permission to be a writer, artist and/or homesteader. And, in the long run, I don’t think He minds what avenue we choose to spread His word, to do His will. His will is that we love Him with our hearts, our minds, our souls–in short, every ounce of our being, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Last Sunday this awful cold–which is turning into bronchitis, I suspect–kept me from church. Mom and I sat and watched some daily devotional videos with Mark Hall from Casting Crowns. I am going to paraphrase him but we’re not writers. Or artists. Or bankers. Or whatever our profession. We’re Christians who write, draw/paint, or work in a bank. In other words, being Christian, serving Christ, should be first. That should be our identity. I like that because it puts us all on the same playing field. We’re all the same in God’s eyes.

So today I am a Christian who writes. And I finally finished the mural I blogged about many months’ ago. I’m also a Christian who paints:

The ultimate symbol of Christ’s sacrifice for us shining down on all of my dreams. I’ve spent a lot of time in holistic health, which tends to have a crossover with New Age beliefs. There’s a lot of talk about manifesting your dreams. In short, in many ways, it is a feeble attempt to superimpose our own wills over God’s. But His plans are greater than any that you or I may have. And, if it is His will, His means of getting there are much more effective. Still, it was rather nice to pour all of my longing into this folk-art rendering of where I hope to be one day.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Hall, M. (n.d.). “Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall Daily Devotional”. YouTube. Retrieved January 5, 2018 from: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9E60B7BC20898E21

A-a-a-Achoo!

“Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them; but on the seventh He rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20: 8-11)

Inevitable, I guess, that I should catch the same head cold as is floating around the museum. Also inevitable that it should be slowly evolving into laryngitis. “Inevitable” because laryngitis seems to be the plague of all singers.

You sing.

You get sick.

You lose your voice.

Granted, I’m not singing “pro” anymore. Or even semi-pro. So this doesn’t really affect me on any professional level. But the vox always takes the hit. Regardless. You’d think, given my voice doesn’t get the same routine workout it received when I sang in bands, that I might avoid the laryngitis once in a while. But, apparently, it doesn’t work that way.

And all of this nonsensical gibberish has nothing to do with the fact that I’m sitting here on the Sabbath using my “other” voice, the voice of a writer…and, technically, WORKING.

It doesn’t feel like work. It feels like fun.

Does that count?

Probably not…

However, I am rejoicing to be back at the keyboard. Blessed be the Name of the Lord. And, while I lament this illness that keeps me away from serving Communion this morning (I am scheduled), I also appreciate that His plan is greater than mine. He knows I have a cold. He knows some part of me is rundown and has been ignoring that “rundown”, stressed out state for quite some time now. He also knows that my heart is rejoicing to be back serving Communion–and Lectoring–again but, I believe in my heart, He is reminding me what happens when we neglect our health–mental, emotional, physical and, yes, spiritual. We get hit with dis-EASE. (You can take the girl out of the holistic health sector but you can’t take the holistic health out of the girl…) Just as each of us is a part of the body of Christ, so, too, does our own physical body have many parts…parts that need care, rest, and respect. When we neglect any part of ourselves, it causes a breakdown on all of these levels. Time constraints, and the current compromises of some core values, have caused this breakdown. It is time to put it right. And come up fighting.

But He says rest for right now. We’ll fight this together…whatever “this” is..in His time.

Not mine.

I think He’s trying to tell me to stop chasing my own tail. Give it all to Him: the financial burdens; the looming debts; the dreams and desires that always seem to get further away instead of closer; the feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and unworthiness; the perpetual square-peg-in-a-round-hole existence. Give it all to Him. Because, without Him, none of it matters. Those dreams just keep getting further away. And it is more important that He not be pushed further and further away by the pressures of the world.

Because I’ve neglected to put Him first in my day.

Letting go, giving control to anyone–even God–has always been my biggest struggle in life. I grew up in an abusive home–not beaten physically but verbally, mentally, emotionally and sexually abused. Staying tight-fisted, and playing it “safe”, has given me a very false sense of security. Every time I decide to step into the waters of life, take a step out of line, I expect fire and brimstone to rain down upon my head. Such stinking thinking is probably my biggest burden of all. And yet, I let the Adversary lure me with it. I stop just before making that final leap of faith, not trusting that Jesus is there to catch me. Each and every time.

I’m tired of that “standard of living” that “somehow got stuck on survive” (Kilcher, 1998). “We were made to thrive” (Casting Crowns, 2014). And, the only way to do that, is to let go…and trust in Him. All of my own efforts just keep burying me deeper.

These last two months, besides being somewhat of a tedious task in re-reading and editing past posts, have also been a time of reflection. I can almost trace the path of how I got into this human survival mode…instead of a spiritual thriving. I also see where I’ve often shared mostly the positive, the upbeat, the hopes and dreams, but seldom the failures. And He uses the failures, the imperfections. It is the down-trodden that He uses; He lifts them up, performs small (and some not so small) miracles through them. And in them.

To further His kingdom.

I keep chasing my tail, doing the same thing over and again…and expecting a different outcome. They say that’s a definition of insanity. I invite God to take control. Then, when everything is going smoothly, I push away from Him and try to take hold of the reins again. “I’ve got this now.” As if I can do a better job this time than He can. When has that ever proved true?

Definitely a definition of insanity.

He really does work in mysterious ways. I set out on what I thought would be a tedious task, intent only on removing any and all specific mentions of my current employer, so that their brand may not be compromised by anything written in this blog. I’ll confess even to some rebellion in the act: a refusal to give free advertising to that brand as well. More stinking thinking, of course, but He uses even that…and brings it around to more right thinking. No one person, or entity, is right or wrong…or perfect. It is our imperfections that make us whole…and beautiful. That doesn’t mean we quit trying to do right, to make right, or perfect; to alleviate suffering; feed the hungry, etc. But if we take that right or wrong, that imperfection, that suffering and hunger, and place it in His hands, the fight is already won. Sort of appropriate that I should finally complete this “tedious” task, this unexpected reflection and awakening, on New Year’s Eve day. I may have laryngitis but my fingers are singing across this keyboard. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

What a great way to start a new year.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Casting Crowns (2014). “Thrive.” Thrive. Beach Street/Reunion.

Kilcher, J. (1998). “Deep Water.” Spirit. EMI Music Publishing.

My Apologies for the Delay…

Good morning (or whatever time of day it is in your part of the world…)

In the middle of some major “renovations” here on this blog. As soon as they are completed, I will certainly include more information about them. For the time being, I thank everyone for their patience. New content will be added soon.

In the meantime, keep working towards that faith-filled, sustainable and compassionate future. We CAN be the change we wish to see in the world.

May God bless you & keep you!

Because I Am His…

“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the One who sent me.” John 15:18-21

“Hate” is pretty strong word but, over the last twelve to fifteen months since I started blogging in earnest (I had a lot of fits and starts…), I have had my faith called into question for advocating peace and neutrality in the midst of family strife. I have been ridiculed for some of my choices in life–such as not dating anymore. And, most recently, mocked for trusting in divine Providence.

I make no apology for any of it.

Let the world hate, question, ridicule or mock. The Bible tells me I will be blessed because of it. And, lest, anyone think that I am suddenly adopting a “holier-than-thou” attitude about my faith…

I am NOT!

It is simply that my faith is strong enough that I no longer care so much about another’s opinion of me. It’s not something I can control anyway (which is easier to admit to in theory than in practice as I didn’t suddenly sprout wings and a halo, or turn into Wonder Woman), so the best that I can do, is to leave it all in His hands. I trust, as always, that He has some plan afoot. Whether He is using these experiments to further mold me and shape me for some higher purpose, using these same experiences to mold and shape someone else by creating a new awakening in them, or a little of both, I am trusting Him with the outcome. He has brought me this far.

The flip side of this is that the hatred, questioning, ridicule and mockery HURT…especially when it comes from people I have stood by through thick and thin. And, paradoxically, from near strangers who make a sweeping judgment based upon limited understanding…or compassion.

Yup. There’s a ripple of anger running through here. I have a right to be angry. Jesus got angry with the money changers outside the temple…and overturned their tables. I am angry at the injustice but, I do not have a right to repay evil for evil by seeking to hurt someone else in return. That one’s difficult. I want to lash out and call names and be confrontational when it hurts…like that wounded animal backed into a corner.

The irony of it all is that in almost every case, I have had snippets of some recent blog post parroted back to me with a sneer or a bit of sarcasm. It’s nice to know I’m being read. It’s also a building block for that thicker skin needed to be a writer. Because not everyone is going to like or agree with everything I write.

And that’s okay.

You may hate me because I belong to Jesus. But I will continue to love Him…and you. You may mock my faith, but it only strengthens that faith. Ditto for the ridicule. I am not ashamed of Him. And, if you have questions regarding that faith, I will be happy to share it with you, but I won’t give it up–won’t give Him up–just to make you more comfortable. Because, in the end, it’s all about Him, and my relationship with Him. And that’s worth fighting for.

Maybe the hatred, the mockery, the ridicule and/or the questions you have in your heart are all His way of saying to you, “Follow me!” He will give you the rest your heart and soul needs for a better life.

And that’s a promise I’d be happy to share with you.

May God bless you & keep you!