The Greatest Commandment

Love the Lord your God will all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30

Monday, January 26, 2015

Do You Trust Me?

Wow. It's been a long time since I published a blog. I have felt the need to for quite some time, but still often just prefer to journal privately. Today is a different day, though. Here's why. Last night at youth group, the Pastor of Youth Ministries challenged us to write a story to tell a scripture or two, and then share it. Honestly, I don't know if the kids will remember to do it or not, but I have been thinking about it since our gathering! She said it can be true or fiction. So here goes... a TRUE story that has been a long time coming.

Back on the last day of July in 2012, I decided to go for a hike. In the months prior to this I had been unable to run because of a silly broken ankle, and because I had been released to start walking again, I decided to hit up my FAVORITE and most accessible trail; Deep Creek! (Yay me! I still get excited when I think about going up there!) Anyway... as I usually do, I left work and sent a text to a friend who also worked in the area to let him know where I was headed. While Deep Creek, which is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Forest, is usually well traversed year round, I always let someone know where I am going, because you just never know...

So... I headed up the trail and just happened to run into the same person I had texted and we chatted for a minute. He asked if I was going to hike "Sunkota Ridge," and I told him that I was going to instead hike "Indian Creek." He told me I might run into some park rangers further up, as they were looking for a missing hiker. As I started back on the trail, I kept thinking, "Who gets lost at Deep Creek?"

The entrance to Indian Creek is around a mile up the main trail. It veers uphill to the right and is pretty much an uphill hike until you get to the top, which is about 3 1/2 miles. We have had some wonderful training runs on Indian Creek because of its absolute and intense conditioning capacity. Up I go on the trail, passing an entrance to Sunkota Ridge, and pondering briefly about abandoning my plan and heading up the half mile to the middle of that trail. Ultimately, however, I chose to stick to Indian Creek because I had not told anyone I was going up Sunkota... and quite frankly, it's dead silent on that trail. I was afraid that if anything happened, I wouldn't be able to get help!

When I got to the top of Indian Creek, I could hear my seasoned Deep Creek friend's voice saying, "Indian Creek loops around and connects with the Deep Creek Trail. It's about a mile long." Granted, while I had heard him say that numerous times, I had never actually hiked the loop. In my head I started figuring time... I figured a mile around to the other side and then 2.5 back to the car... or something like that. It was about 5:30-6 on this summer evening, so I decided I had enough time to go all the way around. It was pretty cool being up on the trail that far, and I quickly passed my first camp site- all the while thinking, "I would love to come camp up here sometime!"

After about an hour on the loop I realized that it didn't just loop around like I had imagined. Oh it looped alright... in about a million different switchbacks! A text came through from my friend who was checking to see if I made it out... so I responded with something like, "I'm somewhere on the loop." He immediately responded asking if he needed to come get me. Me, Ms. Independent (read pride), said, "No........"  Eventually I made it to what I thought was the top of Sunkota Ridge. Don't ask me how I thought I knew where I was, but I DID think I knew where I was. When I started down the trail that I was so certain I knew, I managed to slip off the bank partially, and twist that same ankle I had previously broken. Ouch. By this point, however, I realized that daylight in the woods was nearly over, and that I would ultimately need help getting out. In pain and unable to see well, I asked my friend to have park rangers meet me at the turn around. Truly, I tell you, TRULY... I thought I knew where I was.

Within 5 minutes of me asking for help, the day light was gone, and my cell phone was almost dead. I sent an SOS text, and to this day, I'm still not sure if the text made it out or not. There was not enough signal to get a call out, and there was barely enough at that point for a text message. My phone died quickly there-after, leaving me in complete darkness... in the middle of a National Forest.

So... here comes the fun part. I started walking/stumbling/scooting down this single trail, thinking I was going to end up at a specific spot I knew on the main trail. While I wasn't quite frightened at this point, I was worried; more specifically about falling again. As I continued to move down the trail, I tripped and stumbled several times, but felt as though so long as I could keep going, maybe my friend had contacted the rangers and they were going to be at the bottom waiting. Worst case scenario, or so I thought, was that I would make it to the main trail and have to hike down in the dark. Not fun to think about, but I felt as though at least I knew the trail well enough to make it down.

Maybe twenty minutes of walking passed, and I heard rustling in the leaves. Listening very carefully, I tried to gauge if what I was hearing was big or small. I didn't have to listen long. The barking and "gruffing" noise that came next was less than ten feet away, and was that of coyotes. My mind raced about what I should do. When you come across a bear in the woods, make lots of noise. A coyote, however, I wasn't sure about... make noise or be silent? Run? Scream? Pray? With the hairs on the back of my neck guiding my choice, I kept walking... and praying. This time I was scared. My prayer was as simple as that; "God, I"m scared."

God calmed me as I walked with one simple question; "Do you trust me?" Our conversation was pretty straightforward. "Yes." "You're going to be ok. Just keep walking." "Ok."

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all.

Eventually I came to a place that seemed like a good place to stop. You know the old boy scout adage... "If you get lost in the woods, don't move." Or something like that...? I stood and called for help for a while. I sang for a while. Interestingly enough, the only song I could think of was a special song that I know very well... but I could only remember one line; "Sweet Jesus, my shelter, you are my faithful friend... The refuge that I run to when my world comes closing in. Why should I be afraid when I know I am saved by these arms that take me in... "  I sang it loudly. Over and over and over.

Psalm 91: God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!

Psalm 121:5-6 God’s your Guardian, right at your side to protect you— Shielding you from sunstroke, sheltering you from moonstroke.

Isaiah 25: 4-5 (and my one of my favorites... as it also says God's hand rests on this mountain!) They’ll see that you take care of the poor, that you take care of poor people in trouble, Provide a warm, dry place in bad weather, provide a cool place when it’s hot. Brutal oppressors are like a winter blizzard and vicious foreigners like high noon in the desert. But you, shelter from the storm and shade from the sun, shut the mouths of the big-mouthed bullies. (and COYOTES)

I'm not really sure how long I was in this spot, because I had no watch or other time telling apparatus. What I do know is that I sat down, and then laid down hoping to get some rest. My mileage at this point was probably close to 7 or 8 miles, but I'm not really sure. While I was resting and praying, I abruptly had a strong feeling that I needed to leave that area. Every ounce of me felt as though I was in danger, and so I got up and began walking again. This time the downhill terrain became more steep and rugged, so I slipped frequently. Frustrating it was, but more than anything, my heightened sense of fear was driving me. My feet kept going, walking through small streams or water-run off on the path, often losing balance or bumbling along the tree roots. I'm not positive I was always on the path, but eventually I began walking next to water. Unfortunately, I couldn't tell which way the water was flowing. In the pitch black and now directionless state of mind, I kept going.

The entire time, and by entire time- I mean EVERY SECOND, I was praying. Same conversation as before. "God- I'm scared." "I know. Just keep walking. You're going to be ok." "But I'm scared and I can't see and there are things out here that will eat me and what if I fall of the side and what if I freeze and what if, what if, what if???"

God was impeccably consistent. "Do you trust me? You're going to be ok."

1 Samuel 30:6  David strengthened himself with trust in his God.

My consistency was not as pure, except that I was able to consistently get myself worked up over and over again! Every time I reached the point of panic, however, He calmed me and gave me enough peace to keep going. Once again, I am not sure how far I walked, or for how long, but I kept going until I came to a place that felt safe. It was a wide open area by the water that let enough moon-light in that I could finally see my hand in front of my face. It appeared that I was in a crossing, but I couldn't tell which way to go. For a few minutes I thought about going further, and stood on a bridge for awhile trying to gain a sense of direction and calling for help. At some point I walked a little ways down what I thought was a path, but when it became overgrown and impassible, I turned back. A sign that was toward the middle of this wide area became my resting point. It was too dark to read, so I just sat down and propped myself up for the night.

Continuing to call for help, at some point I thought I saw some light that had not been there before, but I never could distinguish from where or even what it was coming. The light wasn't bright, and didn't appear to move. The moon was out, and while I couldn't figure out how it could reflect in the way I was seeing it, I eventually decided that help was not coming and I needed to rest. For all I knew, my friend had gone on to bed after I told him I didn't need help, and nobody knew I was out there. It was during these lonely hours that I actually began processing the fact that I might die out there. It was... weird.

Psalm 91: 1-7 You who sit down in the High God’s presence, spend the night in Shaddai’s shadow, Say this: “God, you’re my refuge. I trust in you and I’m safe!” That’s right—he rescues you from hidden traps, shields you from deadly hazards. His huge outstretched arms protect you— under them you’re perfectly safe; his arms fend off all harm. Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night...

Panic continued to come and go throughout the night. The worst of it came while I was laying on my side trying to rest. I could not hear much more than the loud water that was next to me, but the NOSE I felt sniffing my back was enough to nearly cause a cardiac arrest. No joking... there was something sniffing me. (This actually happened twice!) My entire body froze. No sound could be made, and you can bet your bottom dollar that I didn't move! (For everyone's sake, can we just say it was a cute little raccoon?)

Same prayer. "God, I'm so scared." Same conversation. "Do you trust me?" "Yes, God. I do." Same peace.

Psalm 91: 14-15  “If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,” says God, “I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you...

When the dawn allowed me to see my feet, I got up and attempted to read the sign on which I had been leaning. I'm not sure what the whole thing said, but I remember distinctly the words "Clingman's Dome, and arrow pointing left... and 7 miles." Holy. Wow.

My tired and dehydrated body started walking again, as if it were on its own mission.  My prayers, which had included begging God that I wouldn't run into any animals, became very specific in that I wouldn't run into a bear during those morning hours. I knew I was simply too exhausted to get away from anything. At some point I passed a sign that told me a camp site number (56), which later confirmed how far out I had wandered. My feet stayed on the path that took me up and down the mountain, close to and then away from the water, and in a direction that I was very uncertain. About the third time the path veered back up into the woods and away from the water, I stopped and cried for the first time. While we talked incessantly, I finally just told God I needed to get back to my car because I didn't think anyone was looking for me. He responded very clearly. "They are looking. They are worried. Keep walking. You're going to be ok."

So I did.

Psalm 62:7-8 My help and glory are in God —granite-strength and safe-harbor-God— So trust him absolutely, people; lay your lives on the line for him. God is a safe place to be.

Hours later I cried for the second time, but this time it was because I had reached a trail that I recognized, and for the first time since I entered the loop trail, I knew where I was. They were tears of joy. Looking back, this is also where I had lost any common sense that I had left at the time. As I walked down the path, I saw these two ladies hiking toward me. The very first thing I thought was not, "Great- I can send for help," but "I hope that they can't see how dirty I am or smell me." I was dirty and stinky... with wet feet... and really? THAT is what I cared about?? They greeted me and I greeted them... and kept walking. Oh my. A little while later I passed another couple of people... same thoughts. Same process. Oh well. I sat down on a log for a little while to rest, estimating that I had a little less than two miles left. After I started walking again I heard my name.

"KRIS! OH MY GOD SHE'S OK!" Two friends came running toward me at that point, both with water and energy gels. (I was dealing with nausea now because of the dehydration, so all I could take was water.) Here goes my common sense again... instead of realizing I had been "found," and sitting down to wait for a ranger, I just kept walking. Ha. At least I can say I stayed alive, even if I was dumb as a rock when all was said and done! Eventually a truck came up the trail and I did get to ride down, at which point I found my parents and the three friends that came out in the middle of the night to look for me.

There were also four search and rescue teams.

Over the course of the night, I hiked approximately 20 miles. The search team used the ping from my cell phone and could see approximately how far I had gotten before my phone died, but didn't believe it was accurate. They looked anyway, and it turns out, the lights that I saw that I thought was the moon's reflection were actually the lights from their four-wheelers. It looks like they were about a mile above/away from me, though, which explains why I couldn't see them well and why they couldn't hear me nor I them because of the loud water. From what I remember, I hiked out around 9:30 in the morning... The highlighted trails on this map show approximately where I started and where I spent the night... although I'm not sure I'll ever truly know. At some point I would like to hike it again (with people and appropriate gear) and camp in the place I grew so intimately trusting of my Maker.

I'm going to save the story about how angry my friends were... especially the one that I had texted. He was so mad he couldn't speak to me for a couple of weeks. Worried, too. Later on, when we were able to get together and process it all, hearing him describe how they were looking over banks for a body... well... I get it.

I'm going to talk about trust. (in case you hadn't picked up on that! ha!) Obviously, my situation could have turned out differently. It could have been very tragic for all involved... and I recognize that there are things that we go through in life that often don't end as well as my story did. What matters, though, is not the outcome... but the process in getting to the outcome. As a Christian, there are things I cannot imagine going through without knowing that God is walking me through it. The death of a child. Divorce. Cancer. Job loss. You name it...
The thing is, and we just happened to talk about this in church yesterday, is that God doesn't cause pain and suffering. He often allows it in our lives, though, because He knows that we can grow closer to Him and be shaped into the people He created us to be. Our experiences, good and bad, help us to minister to others. They help us to learn trust. They help us become mature

James 1:2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

They help us to learn that God's grace makes us perfect, even in our weakness, and HIS strength will get us through anything. Even the stuff that we BEG God to take away. Jesus himself, right before he was arrested, tortured and then crucified, begged God... 
Matthew 26:39 "My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?

Seriously. Even Jesus begged God. Haven't we all begged someone- be it God or another person- to have a situation changed? "Please don't let him die."  "Please help me pass this class."  "Please make her come home."  "Please... help."  The point of God's grace- which is when God gives us what we don't deserve- and mercy- which is when God doesn't give us what we DO deserve- is so much bigger than our current situation. Jesus knew what was about to happen to him and I have to imagine he was scared. I sure as heck would have been! He asked God to get him out of it... but also trusted God with the bigger picture. The bigger picture that time was for our salvation. The bigger picture for me lost in the woods was to learn how to trust God with my entire being. The bigger picture for you is whatever God intends for your life. The question, however,  is not "What is the bigger picture...". The question is, "Do you trust?"

Our fears are real. God doesn't expect us to NOT be scared. He just asks that we lean on Him while He reveals the bigger picture. We may not ever truly understand why some things happen, but we have to trust that God's plan is bigger and better than ours.

In the two and a half years that I have lived past my experience in the woods, I can honestly say I have a different approach on trusting God. That is not to say I don't have my panic moments... just as I did on that overnight journey. I do. What I have learned... and in my house this was throughout more broken bones, injured children, serious health issues, car accidents, job loss and serious financial crisis... is that the bigger picture is still in the dark room developing. While I may still not know or understand what has passed or what is to come, I understand the incredible feeling of PEACE that has come from truly and whole-heartedly TRUSTING GOD

Psalm 56:10-11  I’m proud to praise God, proud to praise God. Fearless now, I trust in God; what can mere mortals do to me?

What can I do to help you hear God say, "Do you trust me?"

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In All the Wrong Places...

A couple of nights ago, I was running out to meet a friend at her house to make a hula-hoop. Yes, a hula-hoop! She is a fellow colleague who has used this technique with her clients, and I was thrilled that she was willing to show me how to make them! Very cool, VERY therapeutic, and very fun!!See??

However… this is not what I’m blogging about.

Now... you’ve got to realize I’ve been on crutches for 6 weeks because of a broken foot and ankle. (don’t run in high heels…) It takes A LOT of effort to get to and from the car (anywhere, really), and if I have to carry anything with me, it’s that much harder. So… I’m looking around the kitchen for my keys and they aren’t where I usually put them. I looked in the bedroom and couldn’t find them in there either. Assuming I had left them in the car, I crutch out the door, down the steps and across the gravel driveway to my car. (I can’t park in the garage because it’s too narrow to get my crutches through!!!) Finally, I make it to the car. Guess what? NO KEYS. I look under the seats, looked in the console… everywhere. NO KEYS. Ugh.
Back inside the house I go… another small feat. So I get inside and basically look in all of the same places and maybe a few more. Nope. Can’t find them. I was beginning to think I’d lost my mind. Better yet, I need one of those clapper things that will find your lost stuff!! Where in the world could they be?? What was I wearing? I looked in jean pockets, jacket pockets… everywhere. After about 10 minutes of searching, not only was I worn out, I was at a loss to where those stinking (but ever so important) keys were. Back out to the car I went… perhaps I didn’t look hard enough. Again… I looked in the same spots. NO KEYS. Finally, I decided to look in the back of the car to see if I had a bag or anything that my spare keys might be. (don’t even ask why I don’t know where the spare keys are…) I hobbled to the back of the car, opened the hatch… and TADA. There they were. Why on earth were they in the back of the car???? All I can figure is that when I got home the day before, I must have put them there while I picked up something else and forgot them. Who knows?!? But at least I found them! 

The funny thing is… they were right there the whole time! I was just looking in the wrong places! And I WORE myself PLUM OUT by doing so.

About 10 years ago I was living in Chattanooga, TN. We lived in this old house that was built in the 1930’s. I LOVED it. 

Not only was the house quirky with all of the little hiding places that old houses have, it also had TONS of beautiful flowers that came up year after year. Tulips (my fav!), lilies, antiqued Roses, you name it…  Every year during that pre-spring – post winter season, the yard would fill up with Daffodils. I LOVE those things! Not just because they are pretty, but because for me, it’s always God’s reminder of what’s to come! A beautiful spring and summer with gorgeous blooms everywhere you look! So every year when I see them, I get so so excited!!

Well… the last year that we were in the house I was struggling with leaving Chattanooga. I simply loved it there, and didn’t want to leave my friends and “family.” That year, during the Daffodil time, every yard had these beautiful reminders that spring was right around the corner. MY yard, however, had nothing. I waited and I waited. Where were they? I actually became even more bummed than I already was… all because of those silly flowers not showing up at MY house. Why couldn’t I have them?? Actually, I think I dwelled on it so much that it became more about everything wrong in my life than it was the flowers… but, needless to say… I was not happy about the lack of their appearance in MY yard. (MY yard… it’s all about ME, right?? Haha)

 So… I had finally given up on the flowers. I pouted and started the process of preparing for a move. One morning I was upstairs cleaning and packing the girls’ bathroom when something out their bathroom window caught my attention. I looked out to see what was in the back yard but didn’t see anything. However, my eyes drifted to the very far corner of the yard… way back in the place that we really hadn’t focused on that year because we were working so hard to make the front look spic-and-span to sell the house… and guess what was back there? You got it. DAFFODILS.

God spoke to my heart in that very moment.

You have been looking for happiness in all of the wrong places. It’s been here the whole time, right under your nose, but you wouldn’t open your eyes to see it. Why do you stay focused on what you don’t have, rather than what you DO have? You just might be surprised to find that what you DO have is all you need... and what you have been looking for all along. 

Romans 15:13 says “May the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Just like those durn keys, I was looking in the wrong place to find my prize! I was looking for hope, joy and peace in flowers, people, Chattanooga, etc… but I wasn’t looking for it in God. He is the one who can give us everything we need for complete happiness. When I finally gave up, the keys and the flowers both turned out to be right there, with a message from God in them both. “You are looking in all the wrong places…”

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”  Romans 5:1-4

I know that a lot of times, I look for happiness in the wrong places, especially in people. The lost keys this week were a wonderful reminder of this, and I am thankful for the gift of Holy Spirit, who opens the eyes of my heart when He speaks. Ever so gently, His whispers remind me, guide me, lead me and grant me peace. True peace.

Are you looking in the wrong places?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Battlefield In My Mind

So...God did some work in me today because I had some stinkin thinkin going on and was finding myself down in the dumps big time. I tend to fight an ongoing, invisible battle. Its not one I'm proud of, but I do know that I'm not alone in this. It's the battle I fight in my head.

 I thought I would share this with you for the days you are struggling. He led me to the scriptures and talked to me through it. The scriptures are listed below what He said to me. I know that God can use my struggles to minister to others, and I'm not the only one out there who deals with depression or letting their minds take them to dark places. My mind becomes almost like an intense battlefield. God will win the battle for me, but only when I stop, listen and LET Him.

I hope that when you are feeling rotten this will help pick you back up as it did me.

He said this, in this order, through His word:

You cannot have a negative mind and a positive life. Your thoughts will be what you become. 
 Proverbs 23:7: for he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost.“Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.

You are depending on yourself, not ME. You are giving in because you are forgetting HOPE. Use my word as your weapon against the enemy. Tear down your strongholds with my truth. Purposely think right and speak them aloud in confession. I have work I need to do through you and I need you to be strong and mature. Persevere as Job.
Romans 8:1: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus
Psalm 42:5: Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God,  for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
James 1:4: Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
Phil 1:6:   being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Phil 2:3:  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves

Positive thoughts produce positive lives. You used to be positive and full of faith and hope. Bad things happen. But they work for good for you who love ME. You are not to fall apart, but instead, be readily adaptable and adjustable. Do not let the bad things that have happened to you keep affecting your new life in Christ. He is your.counselor, your comforter, your strength. I sent Him to guide you, to convict you and to lead you to righteousness. Through HIM the work that I began in you will be completed.  Ask Me for help to resist the sin of speaking negatively about yourself. If you keep this up, you are going to hinder the good things I have in store for you.
Matthew 8:13:Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.
Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose
Romans 12:16:  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud.
 2 Cor 5:17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.
John 16:7,8:  But I tell you the truth: it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.
 Phil 1:6: being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Hope is to keep you steady in times of trial. I want to show you mercy and loving kindness but you keep running from me. My word will heal you and rescue you from this pit of destruction you are in. I know you can't understand all of this, but you must choose to believe. Pray in Jesus' name and by the power of His blood, you will be protected from mind binding spirits. Meditate in my word day and night. Ask me for Wisdom and I will give it to you and show you what to do.
Acts 17:11: ...for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true
Romans 4:18-20: Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead, since he was about a hundred years old, and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God.
Hebrews 6:19:  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.
Proverbs 15:15,  A fool spurns his father's discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.
Phil 4:6,7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
John 8:31,32: To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Psalm 107:20: He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.
Romans 8:26: In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
James 1:2-8 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My Own Little World

A few months ago I was in Asheville shopping. It was a fairly cold day, but I don't think it was snowing or anything. I had been in the mall for awhile and when I came out, there was a homeless guy wandering from person to person in the parking lot. I knew he was going to approach me, so I had already come up with several excuses for why I couldn't help him by the time he got to my car. He was either intoxicated or was suffering from a pretty serious mental illness... or probably both. He wasn't rude at all, but rather used manners, and when I turned him down (umm... I don't have any money... seriously? I just came out of a SHOPPING mall and said THAT?? Lame.), he simply nodded and walked the other way, looking for someone else.

Whew. Off the hook.

Until I came out of the next store, that is... There he was again! Still circulating and asking anyone he saw for some help. This time I paid attention to what he was saying. "Do you have any change or a dollar so I can get something to eat?" The nudge inside of me said, "What are you going to do?" My brain said, "Drive fast." Afterall, I am a female, and I didn't want to put myself in harms way.

Well, an hour or so went past, and I hopped from store to store. Finally, it was time to go home. I stopped by the gas station for a quick fill-up, and guess what? There he was AGAIN. Ugh. And there came that nudge. Again. So what do you think I did?? I quickly hit the pay & pump and jumped in my car to avoid eye contact. No eye-contact means he'll leave me alone, right?

I sat in my car while it filled up with gas and watched him circulate from individual to individual. What I saw was heart-breaking. What I saw was what I was guilty of myself. Judgment and shunning. People were "shooing" him away as if he were a dog. One person actually stood there while he filled up his own tank and angrily told the guy to get away, that they had no use for him. His wife sat in the car and gave shameful stares at the guy. The looks she gave him will stay in my memory forever. It was simply horrifying. At that moment, the thoughts that entered my head were things like, "He's a human being! What makes us better than him, just because we aren't in his situation. I don't care if he's drunk or crazy or whatever, he deserves to be shown love. This is a PERSON."

The nudge was still there. Obviously.

"What are you going to do, Kristin?" (that's when I know it's God. He never calls me Kris... I know my mom would appreciate this.)

I answered back. "I don't know. I can't give him money."
God: "Why not?"
Me: "I really don't have any cash. And I don't really have much money to begin with."
God: "Are you hungry?"
Me: "Yes, actually I was thinking of going in to get a snack for the drive home."
God: "He is, too."

ok. ok. So I decide to go into the store and get both of us a snack. As soon as I walked in, the judging thoughts came back to me.

Me: "What should I get him. He is homeless and hungry and begging. I should just get him some lance crackers, or something cheap from this stand over here... nothing much, but ...
God: "What are you going to get for yourself?"
Me: "A coke and some chips! Why not treat myself?"
God: "Get him what you buy yourself. He doesn't deserve any less."

When I walked outside, a little shaky and certainly humbled, I was prepared to hand over the snack and bolt. Thing is, he was GONE! I actually questioned God about why He would have me buy something knowing the guy was going to be gone! So I got in my car and thought, maybe He was just trying to teach me a lesson on showing love and mercy. It's weird, because part of me was relieved, but most of me was disappointed. The man was actually on my heart.

God: "He is walking, you know... he couldn't be far. Go look for him. I will guide you."

So following God's directions, I turned up a road that I had no clue to where it would lead... Sure enough, within just a few minutes, I saw the guy outside of a bowling alley. The manager was standing out front with her arms crossed, making sure that he wouldn't get near the front door, and giving him a stare down similar to the one the lady in the car at the gas station had given. Ugly. Plain and simple. Ugly.

I rolled down my window and motioned for him to come to my car window. I had to do this several times as he looked around for under cover cops or something. Clearly, he didn't trust me. Finally, when he got to my window (and the manager was ready to come assist by the "ready" stance she had taken), I simply gave him a coke and a bag of chips and said, "Here. Try to stay warm tonight."

The look in his eyes is another one of those images that will never leave me. He was speechless. He tried to say something, but got choked up, and just looked at me with a side-ways kind-of question... like he wanted to say "really??" but couldn't.

I'm absolutely not lying to you when I tell you the lyrics to the song that was on the radio as I rolled up my window. This is the part of the Matthew West that was actually playing.

"Stopped at the red light, looked out my window
Outside the car, saw a sign, said "Help this homeless widow"
Just above this sign was the face of a human
I thought to myself, "God, what have I been doing?"
So I rolled down my window and I looked her in the eye
Oh how many times have I just passed her by
I gave her some money then I drove on through
in my own little world there's
Population two"


I have been very hesitant to share this story publicly for many reasons. The first and main one is because of what Matthew 6:1-4 tells us.

Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don't make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won't be applauding. "When you do something for someone else, don't call attention to yourself. You've seen them in action, I'm sure—'playactors' I call them— treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that's all they get. When you help someone out, don't think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out. (The Message)

Several months ago I had a friend call me out on this. While at the time, I was not making a production of my serving, it came across that I was, which is also not good. I have checked with God several times on this, and He wants me to share the story for many reasons, but mainly because of where my heart was. He (and I) believes that other people can totally relate to it, and by sharing this, perhaps another heart will be changed. Mine sure was. I have served poor populations for years and years. I have "pretended" (my opinion) to serve the homeless by periodically serving in soup kitchens or handing out food, but my heart has never been truly, truly in it. You see, I always placed some sort of judgment on this population. Always. Most of the time, without even meaning to, I "rank" people. A hierarchy of the human population, so to speak. As I said, it's never been intentional, but I still do it. Distinction. Human supremecy at it's best... by a proclaiming Christian. Some people will argue that this is acceptable, as there are just bad people in this world and if we are always giving hand-outs, they will never learn or change. But this guy in Asheville, remember? Either drunk... or crazy... or both? I didn't know squat about him and I still judged him, or more clearly put, classified myself as a more soverign individual. And I've done it my entire life.

I finally decided to share the guilt I carry because of the way I have ignored God's word. Over the last couple of months, not only have I heard that song a million more times, God continually nudges me to do more. Matthew 25 tells us very clearly what He expects from us: (again, from The Message)

When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left. "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what's coming to you in this kingdom. It's been ready for you since the world's foundation. And here's why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.

"Then those 'sheep' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?' Then the King will say, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.'

"Then he will turn to the 'goats,' the ones on his left, and say, 'Get out, worthless goats! You're good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.'

Then those 'goats' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn't help?'

"He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.'

I don't know what exactly it is that God is calling me or leading me to do here, but I DO know that He is changing my heart daily. The man in Asheville was a wake-up call to how hardened and cynical my own heart had become. I am thankful that God has forgiven me, though, and even more thankful that He loves me enough to discipline me gently. Finding fault in others is something I am guilty of, and He reminds me frequently.

"Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone." John 8:7 (NIV)

All in all, I was living in my own little world. Admittedly, I still do. But God is working in me and through me. As I said earlier, there were a lot of reasons I am sure He wanted me to share this, but I believe the main one is because perhaps someone out there will begin to let Him change their heart as well. I have begged Him for years... "God, break my heart for what breaks yours."

Well... He has.

Matthew West's "My Own Little World.

In my own little world it hardly ever rains
I've never gone hungry or always felt safe
I got some money in my pocket shoes on my feet
In my own little world
Population me

I try to stay awake through the Sunday morning church
I throw a twenty in the plate but I never give 'til it hurts
and I turn off the news when I don't like what I see
it's easy to do when it's
population me

What if there's a bigger picture
what if I'm missing out
What if there's a greater purpose
I could be living right now
outside my own little world

Stopped at the red light, looked out my window
Outside the car, saw a sign, said "Help this homeless widow"
Just above this sign was the face of a human
I thought to myself, "God, what have I been doing?"

So I rolled down my window and I looked her in the eye
Oh how many times have I just passed her by
I gave her some money then I drove on through
in my own little world there's
Population two

What if there's a bigger picture
what if I'm missing out
What if there's a greater purpose
I could be living right now
outside my own little world
Start breaking my heart for what breaks Yours
give me open hands and open doors
put Your light in my eyes and let me see
that my own little world is not about me

Friday, March 30, 2012


“You’re so A.D.D. you can’t even make it to the second ‘D!’”

A statement made by a friend once upon a time… but it’s true. I admit it. I can totally relate to the dogs in the movie, "Up." I do not have the hyperactive component, but I definitely have the inattentive type. Sometimes it is a struggle just to get through an hour! I consider myself an intelligent person, and because of this, I have formed coping skills over the years to help me be more successful. However, often times I choose (yes, it’s a choice) NOT to use my tools… and in turn I wind up in trouble! I struggle with things like talking on the phone and driving… as there is no telling where I will end up if I’m not purposefully thinking about where I am going. My dear friend, Alicia, has rescued me numerous times from those occasions.

One time I was leading a youth leader meeting. We were actually having a pretty important conversation regarding leadership and the time commitment needed for the upcoming year… but we were outside… so I’m sure you can imagine my struggle! So… long story made short… I was mid-sentence when this enormous Q-tip went flying by! Actually, it was a bug of some sort… but it honestly looked like those things we clean our ears or our newborn’s belly buttons with. My attention immediately went to this flying cotton ball on a stick! The problem was, as I said, I was mid-sentence… and it probably sounded a little like this; “Before you make this commitment for next year, I would really like for you to pray about it and honestly answer some tough questions. Not only do I need to know that your heart is fully into this ministry… but the kids OH LOOK AT THAT BUG!!!”

I still haven’t lived that one down.

A couple of weeks ago I went on a women’s spiritual retreat. We were in this beautiful cabin on the top of a mountain (I’m NOT exaggerating!) in Pigeon Forge, TN. It was almost impossible not to get lost in the beauty and glory of God from the view alone! The weekend was entitled “Saturated 2012.” We went there to be fully submersed in the Holy Spirit. Boy howdy, were we ever!!

One of the first things we did that weekend was sit in silence, eyes closed, palms open, listening for the Holy Spirit. Can you imagine what this is like for someone with ADD??? I have a million different things going on in my head! You want me to sit in silence for how long?? 20 minutes? Right.

Well… I had to at least try. So… I sit, eyes closed, palms open, contemplatively listening. Here come the random thoughts… Who knows what they were… but they sure were distracting. So I asked God to block out the thoughts and the rest of the world (I mean, even a little sneeze will send my brain into la la land sometimes…). As soon as I asked for it, He gave me a vision. It was a cross, and He said to me, “Focus on me.” Once I focused on that cross, it became easier to listen. Actually, He wasn’t really speaking to me a lot at that point (other than a repetitive “Focus on me”), but was pointing out to me some of the distractions that I brought with me that weekend. The message was very clear… it was to focus on Him, and not worry or think about anything else. He has me in the palm of His hand. (This went on several times… )

Then another vision came. At first it was a glimpse of Jesus’ face. But the face was also surrounded by white, and the white appeared larger and larger until it looked like HUGE angel wings. As it got closer and closer to me, I realized the wings were more like arms, and they were embracing me. It felt like He was giving me a giant hug, and all I had to do was sit there and receive it. I felt like a little girl reaching up to be held by her father.

A little while later, a friend approached me. She said her eyes were itching during our silent time and as she was rubbing them, she opened them and caught a glimpse of me. The image of me sitting on the floor with palms turned up gave her a strong reminder of me as a little girl… reaching up to my daddy.

Wow. What a powerful presence the Holy Spirit is.

Over the next few days, I am going to try to put my experience into words. As much as I like to write, I am struggling to come up with words that can describe some of the images I was given over a 2 day time period. At first, I thought maybe I am not supposed to be sharing this… or the words would come more easily… but every day I feel the nudge to sit down and take some uninterrupted time to get it into writing. I don’t know if it will take me one blog or several to adequately describe, in detail, what gift I was given… but I do promise to begin the task at hand.

In the meantime, enjoy a short clip involving a dog with ADD from the movie “Up.” J

A Talking Dog!



Sunday, March 11, 2012

Training Wheels

Wow. It’s been over a year since I have blogged online. Oh, I’ve still been writing… but it’s been in my little brown journal… just for me! I’ve been feeling the urge to get back on here for a while now, so here goes…

So… a few weeks ago, on a beautiful day here in the mountains, we took our bikes and went to the park. Andy just got a new bike for Christmas so he was ecstatic that we were going! He had his cute little spider-man helmet (and horn!) on in the car before we even got there! The girls are pros on their bikes so they just took off. Andy, however, is new to a bike with training wheels. He had a tricycle before, but now he’s a big boy!

Off he went! Until… that is… he came to his first “hill.” I say hill, because that’s what he called it… but really… it was more like a tiny little bitty slope. Really. It’s not even noticeable when walking. But the Bubs noticed it and was scared. He got off of his bike and walked down it. At the “bottom,” he got back on and rode around the loop again… until he got to the slope… (are you seeing the pattern now?) Erin and I both tried to convince him he would be just fine if he rode down it, but he was too intimidated by the steep mountain in front of him. I even offered to hold the back of his bike while he went down, but it was just too much to consider. He looped around and around (walking down the hill, of course) for about 30 minutes. But THEN… one time… he got off of his bike… and started asking questions. “How fast is it?” “Will I fall?” “How do I know I won’t fall?” “How do I know it’s not fast??” “etc…………………………….”

Finally… he worked up the nerve. He. Rode. Down. The. Hill. !!!!!

Well… kinda. He freaked out about mid-way and did that “I’m losing control” thing that we do when we lose control on a bike… steered into the grass and promptly crashed. Once he realized he wasn’t dead… or even hurt… he got up, asked if he could try again, and walked his bike back up to give it another go. Mind you, I was standing at the “bottom” of the hill, in the curve, trying to coach him to a successful finish! (like a good mom, right??)

He was slow at first, but eventually he figured out his bike, his balance, the slope and the brakes. Over and over he went down that hill, getting faster with each attempt. I stood there at the bottom on pins and needles, waiting for the big crash and whatever stitches would go along with it. I kept wanting to run up and hold the back of his seat and control his speed, direction and wobbling! But… I didn’t. I taught him what he needed to know and I had to let him learn it himself.

That’s when it hit me.

As I stood in the corner of this gianormous alp (what? It was big to him!), I was overcome with a realization of this must be what it’s like for God to watch us flounder and flop before we figure out what it is He has taught us. It would be a lot easier if He just made it more elementary for us… but there is something about the pain that helps us learn in a more permanent manner. He knows everything about what our pain feels like, but He also knows that if He does what we want Him to do, which is make it all easier, we won’t grow into the magnificent and beautiful butterflies that He intends for us to become.

On a youth mission trip a couple of years ago, a young lady (Maggie) was helping us repair a rotten section of a family’s roof. The roof really needed to be completely demolished and rebuilt. It actually would have been a lot easier if we could have taken the whole thing off and started fresh… but that wasn’t the plan. The supervisor for the mission gave us instructions to salvage what we could, replace the rotten wood with new, and then re-shingle. We did a lot of “sistering boards,” which meant taking the strongest portion of the old wood and attaching new wood to it to provide strength. During the process, there was a lot of frustration and discouragement, as not only was our task incredibly hard, it also would thunderstorm about every 45 minutes. I think we spent more time tarping and re-tarping during the first 2 days than we did roof repair. Anyway… one afternoon late in the week, we were all staring at yet another section of completely rotten wood. All we could see was how bad things looked. Several times throughout this week a hand or foot went through the roof, which only gave us more work to do. As leaders, we were beginning to be completely overwhelmed, which is never good... On this particular afternoon, however, an interesting observation was made. There were butterflies everywhere. They had been there all week, but because it wasn’t raining, they were abundant in number. They were gorgeous Monarch butterflies and it was hard not to just sit and stare at them! Finally, one of the teenagers in the group asked the obvious question, “Why are there so many butterflies around here??” My co-leader was very quick to respond, “They feed off of rotten wood… and there is nothing but rotten wood all over this house.” Silence fell upon the group as we took in the meaning of what my co-leader had said. Maggie was the one who broke the silence.

“That’s the beauty of the rot.”

Now I doubt she even has a clue that her statement has stuck with me as long as it has. In fact, I’m not sure she even knows how profound it was in the first place! However… her simple sentence reminds me over and over again that there is something beautiful in EVERYTHING. We just need to notice it. When we are struggling to just get through the day, look for the good. Always find more blessings than bummers, because if you don’t, you can’t grow and change into what God has planned for you.

God tells us this, too.

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. Psalm 119:71

Neither this man nor is parents sinned,” said Jesus, “But this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” John 9:3

This is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, I am strong.” 2 Cor 9:10

Consider is pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may become mature and complete, not lacking in anything. James 1:2-4

Bless those who persecute you. Bless, and do not curse. Romans 12:14

He heals the broken hearted, binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

So do not fear, for I am with you: Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

God is always with us… no matter what… and can make the scary hills less scary… and can help us learn how to maneuver down them, no matter how steep or tough the challenge.

No matter what, though, look for the beauty in the rot.