Behind the Scenes

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We have no clue how the pieces of our life fit into God’s plans. His plans are beyond our understanding.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”~ Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV

Pastor Tiana shared yesterday that the Israelites were facing oppression at the same time God was unveiling His plan for their freedom. When the Pharaoh of Egypt enslaved the Israelites, one of his first acts was to kill all the baby boys being born. Moses was born in that era. His mom placed him in a basket, put him in the water and hoped someone would save him. God’s plan was not in the mind of Moses’ mom. She wanted her son to live, even if he couldn’t live with her. She had no idea he would be the one to free the Israelites from slavery years later. God did. Here is a mom, anguishing over the imminent death of her son and choosing to release him in hopes he could live. God saved him, not just to comfort the grieving mom, but also to further His plan and save His people.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

~Exodus 2:5-6 NIV

Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s household. When the time came, God used Moses to release the Israelites from slavery. Moses’ path wasn’t easy or straight forward. Neither are our lives. We encounter suffering for many reasons. Most reasons we will never know or understand. Sometimes it’s for us to grow. Sometimes it’s for God’s glory. Sometimes it’s to further His plan. Sometimes it’s to help someone else grow (those are hard ones to swallow). Sometimes we have NO idea why it happened. This is where trust in God comes in. Do I trust He has a plan that is better than mine? Do I trust that God is faithful, just, loving, and true? If you don’t, suffering will always feel futile. If you do trust Him and His plans, suffering can have hope and joy in it. You may not know why (you probably won’t know why) but you can trust there is a bigger purpose.

When you see how God works in Moses’ story, in Israel’s story, it’s awesome. God put them into slavery at the same time He brought their deliverer into the world as a baby. He had a plan. He has a plan. He sees the big picture. We can’t. We aren’t capable. We may get glimpses of pieces of the plan from time to time. Those days are fabulous. Mostly, we are in the dark. However, we serve a God who loves us and is trustworthy. I just know the next time I’m facing a struggle (I’m in a few right now actually), I will trust that God is raising up a path out of pain, struggle, suffering. I just don’t know what that path is yet. While we wait, while we grow, while we suffer, while we celebrate – God is at work behind the scenes.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Pain Required

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I have a kidney stone. Yep. It hurts. If you have ever had one, you fully understand. If you haven’t, it is worse than labor pains. I have had 3 children and this is my 2nd kidney stone. Kidney stone wins with pain level. Mostly because it’s persistent. Also because there is no precious baby as the goal. Just a stone. So, I got some meds to control the pain and some meds to help it make its way through my system. Reality is – it has to make its way out. I prayed for God to make it pass quickly and I prayed for the pain to subside. Those two things are contradictory. For it to pass through, it’s gonna hurt. It’s a spikey calcified stone moving through my body. I realized to get to my goal, I have to endure some pain.

What in your life is necessary but requires pain to get there? It may not be physical pain but the emotional pain of loss. Maybe mental pain/exhaustion to obtain a new goal. I hate the phrase “No pain, no gain.” That offers me 0 motivation when I am seeking to get stronger physically. I may have sore muscles when I start working out again. I understand that but I’m not at all motivated by that. To get physically fit, I will need to endure the pain of saying no to other things to make room for exercise time. I will need to endure the pain of taking more time to prepare a healthy meal and saying no to quick, easy fast food. If I want to learn a new skill, I must endure the mental energy required to study, read, learn, and process the new material. For me to pass this stone, I need to endure the physical pain of it moving through my body.

The verse in the image above gives me hope.

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~ Hebrews 12:1b-2a NIV

Jesus endured pain. Pain I pray none of us ever know. Physical pain. Emotional pain. He had the end goal in mind – joy, being with God, making a way for us to be with God. We won’t experience anything like Jesus did for us. However, our pain is real and we must endure it to reach goals. My goal – pass this stone. Pain is required. However, I press on with perseverance to the goal. Whatever is before you that involves pain, press on to the goal. Seek Him to find your endurance to reach the joy set before you.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

In Person

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I had the pleasure of attending an in-person church service for the first time in a long time. My friend attends Calvary Westlake (https://calvarywestlake.org/) and I joined her there this Sunday. The church was not full like this picture. We were near the top and not near others so we could freely remove our masks and worship. I have missed that. While I know many of our churches (mine included) have opened up, I haven’t returned. One reason I did this past Sunday was two-fold 1) to see my friend and 2) the church is huge so I know I could social distance. I’m glad I did.

I didn’t know all the songs but sang my heart out. It felt so good to worship with my voice, body, and in community. When the body of Christ raises voices together, you can feel the Holy Spirit move. The pastor that taught truly hit a home run. The topic was money but the takeaway was how are you going to change as a result of what you heard today. Being in person and with dear friends made my day.

I am still part of a Lifegroup via Zoom. It’s a great group of women and if we tried to switch to in-person, it wouldn’t work. We live all over the Los Angeles area. So we meet in person quarterly. Those are precious days. My church is meeting in person but I have yet to venture back. For now, I am loving eating breakfast with my son and doing church together on the couch. I will continue to seek community but it will be in different forms now. My question is how are you connecting with the body of Christ?

If you are doing church at home, fabulous. It’s wonderful. However, you need to be seen by someone at some point as well. Join a Zoom Bible Study. Start a Zoom with friends from church just to connect each month. Meet at a park with others for a social distanced lunch. For those that are comfortable, return to your church building. Shake hands or fist bump others. Connect with the body of Christ.

We need that. We need each other. However you are “doing church” these days, make sure some of it includes community. Church isn’t enough. We need to be seen and known. Get back out there. Even if that means Zoom. It’s time to resurface in your community of faith if you haven’t yet.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,

not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,

but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

~Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Extra hour

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What did you do with your extra hour? Sleep longer? Enjoy a bit more of daylight? Whatever you did, I hope you are feeling refreshed. I couldn’t sleep in too much because of my internal clock but I did sleep longer than normal. So nice to have a refreshing sleep. Most of us didn’t really take advantage of this extra hour, life continued as normal.

Finish this sentence, “I had an extra hour in my day every day I would…”

No judgement on your answer. We all have dreams of what to do with more time. My season of life would determine how I would answer.

Single: Hang with my boyfriend or spend more time trying to find a boyfriend

Married no kids: Spend more time together and well, you know

Mom babies: SLEEP

Mom of toddlers: Leave the house to be alone in silence at the beach

Mom with teens: Either do a fun activity with my kids (unless they are 15 – I don’t know why but that age is so tough)

Mom with college kids: Spend time with my young adults who don’t live at home year round anymore and when they aren’t home, hang with my friends

One need that doesn’t change, no matter our season of life, is time with God.

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!

My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord;

my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,

where she may have her young—a place near your altar,

Lord Almighty, my King and my God.

Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. ~Psalm 84:1-4 NIV

When you find that extra time or even extra energy, use it to be with God and to refresh your soul.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Long Week

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It’s early. I am a morning person but starting work at 5:30 am is early even for me. I am an instructor of Microsoft Applications. I am teaching students in a different time zone. I start class at 6 am all week. I’m on camera saying “good morning!” at 5:30. It’s physically draining. I know what this week can hold. I have prepared the best I can. Got some frozen meals so I don’t have to cook later. Just turn on the oven, pop it in and dinner. I lay out my clothes the night before so I can roll out of bed and into them. I even put out a prayer request to my praying friends. Yesterday, I released it all to God. I asked Him to guide my week because I will be in a fog most of the days.

What does your week look like? Are you anticipating a few bumps in the road? Do you have an early appointment? A nerve wracking meeting this week? An assignment due at work? If you know the week has something in it with the potential to knock you down, prepare now. Make easy dinner plans for the day that’s crazy. Pray. Ask others to pray. Be intentional so you don’t get side lined.

Whatever your week holds, let Him hold your week. Let God be your refuge and fortress. Let Him cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge. Let Psalm 91 encourage you to dwell with Him every day of this week.

1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.” ~ Psalm 91 NIV

Dream Big! Pray Big!