The Church Search

Now that Josh and I are pretty well settled in Birmingham we’ve been doing the Church Search.  I think this is possibly one of the hardest things to do when moving to a new city, especially when you’ve had great church homes in the past.  You always end up comparing the churches you are visiting to the ones to your old church home(s).  Doesn’t that seem a little wrong?  COMPARING churches to one another?  It definitely feels weird to me. Finding a church home that fits your family is really important and really does require some analysis…but how can you do this in a way that isn’t judgmental?  After all, aren’t we called to LOVE one another…not JUDGE?

On our search for a new church home I’ve tried to be really respectful and not criticize the message or the congregation. The reality is, every church is not going to be a good fit. Hello – that’s why we have a ton of different denominations – all believers don’t approach faith in the same way.  These churches we’ve “tried out” are obviously providing nourishment to their congregation…even if it didn’t seem like the right fit for us.

While we haven’t found our new church home yet, I’m confident we will.  God will find a place that nourishes us, provides us with community, and has a worship service and message that reaches to our core.

Well hello, again!

I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus from this place and I apologize for leaving you hanging!  We’ve just got a whole lot on our plate right now. Joshua just got a new office space – which means we’ve been busy painting!  I also have a lot going on for school right now.  Took one test last weekend and have another one coming up on the 13th.  Lots of prayers needed for the next one!

BUT…I did want to stop in a share some great words that really hit home today.  We’re reading Henri J.M. Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved in Bible Study and it’s been a great read so far.

I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with the content of this next test.  I often end up feeling a bit inadequate and discouraged.  But I need to continue to remember that God has chosen me and created me for a specific purpose.  It is so important to remember that my happiness and worth are found in a Savior that loved me before I was even a thought in my parents’ mind. It is not found in the results of a test.  I think this passage pairs well with the beginning of Isaiah 43, where the Lord says, “I have called you by name; you are mine.”

I am the Lord’s and I am beloved.

 

Thankful Thursdays

I’ve been reading this great book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp.  You can read more about the book on her website, but here is a little bit about the book (from the website):

“Ann Voskamp’s story is not happily ever after.  As a child, her sister was crushed under a truck in front of her and her mother.  Consequently, her mother checked herself into a psychiatric hospital and her father couldn’t find God.  As an adult, she stood beside her brother-in-law as he buried his first two sons.  Voskamp is a wife and mother who does not grin through the pain but battles to believe that in God is joy, and that there are as many gifts amid the grittiness of life as in the moments of celebration.

In One Thousand Gifts: A Dare  to Live Fully Right Where You Are, Ann strives to find the meaning of life and fully embrace the surprising truth from the final scenes of Jesus’ earthly life.  In the hours before Jesus’ execution, he took bread and gave thanks.  This fresh, heart-wrenching book unveils the long forgotten wonder that through the imitation of Christ’s thankfulness, we too can experience a life of joy.”

As I’ve read this book (I’m not too far in, still reading!), I’ve had a desire to create my own list of thanksgiving.  To be honest, sometimes it can be a challenge to come up with things we are TRULY thankful for.  Sometimes it’s challenging to be thankful at all, but I desire to LIVE FULLY and I truly believe that can be done by giving thanks to our amazing Creator for the things He has provided in our lives.

So, I will be sharing pieces of my thankful list every Thursday.  I’ll also try to share pieces of her book that have really left an impression on my heart.  I encourage you to pick up Ann’s book and read it yourself, but if nothing else, examine the things YOU are thankful for.

So to start it off, today I am thankful for:

  1. This cooler fall weather, especially the mornings
  2. Catch up phone calls with far-away friends during my evening drive home
  3. An adorable little sister who sends me silly face pics throughout the day.  She keeps me young.
  4. Early morning snuggles

I’ll hopefully have a way for you to link up with me next week…not quite there yet!

A little green goes a long way

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately and I think it stems from not spending enough time outside.  I’ve been neglecting my workouts or choosing to workout at the gym instead of outside.  I find joy in being outside.  I love being in God’s creation and I’m almost always in a better mood after taking a walk or run.  Even a drive through the country lifts my spirits. I put an end to that lack of outdoor activity yesterday.  The above pictures is a view of the field next door before I left for work.  Beautiful, right?  I love walking to my car and seeing that pretty long grass every morning.  It’s great.

Stairs at Percy Warner Park. I have fond (or not so fond) memories of track trips to those stairs during high school. We were forced to run them, suicide style. Trust me…it was hard, and I was in super shape at the time!

After work I met up with a friend and ran through Percy Warner.  We stayed on the road and hit some awesomely steep hills, but it really helped me re-energize and renew focus on health and fitness.  So thankful for accountability of a friend to keep me motivated.  Sometimes I find it hard to stay committed on my own.  I need someone there beside me to keep me going and push me to work harder…or even to workout at all.

I think part of this funk is also related to my spiritual life.  I haven’t been very committed to reading the Word or to prayer.  Prayer and the Bible are essential to a good relationship with Christ, and I haven’t been as devoted to that relationship as I would like to be.  I need to find a good independent study to do.  I want to dive deeper into the Bible.  Any suggestions?

Secrets of a Contented Life: Enjoy the Journey

Note:  I am a bit behind in these posts, week 3 should have been posted LAST week!  I wrote almost the entire post last week, but didn’t have a chance to wrap it up, so you’re getting this a week late.  Apologies!

This week marked week 3 of the sermon series at church…and man, it was a good one.  We continued to explore Ecclesiastes, working through Chapter 9.  As the title suggests, this week theme was Enjoy the Journey.  Dr. Thielen had 4 main points to share with us about enjoying life, all taken from Ecclesiastes.

 Ecc. 9:3, 5-7 This is an evil in all that happens under the sun, that the same fate comes to everyone…The living know that they will die…Never again will they share in all that happens under the sun…Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do.

This passage is a reminder to appreciate the simple gifts of life.  Enjoy the gift of life has given you NOW. We all know that life is not forever.  There are always reasons to put off happiness and joy.  We have all fallen to the statements: “I’ll be happy when I graduate college and have a job” or “I’ll be happy when I’m married”, “I’ll find joy with the children”, “I’ll truly enjoy life when I’m retired.”  Sure, these life events may bring happiness and joy.  But why WAIT?  God wants us to enjoy every minute of the life He has given us.

Ecc. 9:8  Let your garments always be white; do not let oil be lacking on your head.

Remember to CELEBRATE.  Garments of white and oil on ones head are symbols of festivity.  Life is full of pain and struggle, there is certainly lots of negativity we can focus on.  But God is a God of JOY!  He wants us to celebrate the goodness in life, not focus only on all of the pain.  Celebrations are shown throughout the Bible.  In John 2, Jesus attends a wedding and turns water to wine so that the celebrations may continue.  As Christians, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, as well as his resurrection.  So remember to celebrate all the great things God puts in your life.

Ecc 9:9  Enjoy with the wife whom you love.

Here, Ecclesiastes says to Enjoy your RELATIONSHIPS.  The passage reads wife, but we should enjoy all relationships, not just marriage.  Focus shouldn’t be on the hustle & bustle of chores, but on spending quality time with those you love!  It’s the memories you make with people that you’ll remember…not all of those tedious chores that “have to get done.”  Let the dishes set a few hours, they’ll still be there when you return.

Ecc 9:10  Whatever your hand finds to do, do with all your might.

Let’s WORK WITH ENTHUSIASM.  Sure, some of the things you have to do (those dishes you let sit to enjoy time with those you love) aren’t so fun.  But what’s the point of going through life only exerting half the effort and usually getting half the result.  I think everyone has had an experience in life where they wish they would have worked harder on something.  We all fail at this one, FOR SURE!  But the point is to attempt to work hard, putting your whole self into whatever it is you are working on. I would like to add PASSION to this.  We should work passionately, giving not just our time but our energy and devotion to the task at hand.

Let’s ENJOY THE JOURNEY, making sure we enjoy the simple gifts of life, take time to celebrate, enjoy our relationships with family and friends, and work with enthusiasm.  Strive to live in the moment, not pushing the good stuff off to the future.  Enjoy life NOW!

The Secrets of a Contented Life

My minister is doing a really great sermon series over the next couple of weeks.  It started 2 Sundays ago and is running for 4 weeks.  The series is entitled “The Secrets of a Contented Life”.  I missed last weeks sermon and caught up this week by listening online and really enjoyed the message.  We’re reading through Ecclesiastes during this series and this week the focus was on Ecclesiastes 4, which in the NIV version of the Bible is titled “Oppression, Toil, Friendlessness” and the sermon was “Prioritize Relationships”.

Relationships are something I value highly.  I have always found friendships important and have always tried to maintain my relationships.  I will tell you, keeping a friendship strong over distance can be challenging and the desire to maintain the relationship has to be going both ways.  Josh and I began our relationship apart and spent 5 years of our relationship in different cities.  During college, my closest high school friends were spread out in different cities, and after Josh and I moved to Dallas, I was further separated from college friends and my friends from growing up.  It’s hard work to keep up with those you care about.  I have definitely failed plenty of times at staying connected and am so thankful for the forgiveness of my friends and our ability to pick right back up where we left.

As Dr. Thielen said in his sermon, it is vital to maintain those relationships because without them, feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness creep in.

It turns out, loneliness is a big issue in America.  Dr. Thielen discussed 3 key factors that lead to loneliness:

  1. We are lonely because we live in a culture of radical individualism.  Relational aspects of human life have been lost because our culture is self focused.  In other words “It’s all about me.”
  2. We live our lives with extreme mobility–we move all the time, which cuts us off from the community we’ve created.
  3. We live in a culture of intense competition–it’s hard to be intimate and close to people when you see them as competitors.

All of these factors lead to what is said at the end of Ecclesiastes 4:8 to be “a miserable business”.  The key to living a good substantive, meaningful, and contented life is to harvest and maintain relationships and Ecclesiastes gives us some guidance.

Eccl 4:9…Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor

This is often used to represent marriage, but it definitely represents friendship on a broader level.  After all, your spouse is one of your closest friends…yes?

Eccl 4:10…If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

We all stumble and fall in life.  We surely aren’t perfect and these trials help build our relationship with God, as well as our relationship with others.  Having the support of friends and family helps ease the stress and pain of those trying times.  This verse brings to mind a sermon Dr. Thielen did during the fall: The Land Between.

Eccl 4:11…Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?

This points to the more physical warmth, but it’s important to acknowledge that friendship provides warmth emotionally, as well.

To sum up the sermon: If we are going to have a meaningful, substantive, and contented life, we absolutely NEED to prioritize relationships in our life.  Maintaining good relationships with friends, family, and co-workers is hard work.  Time, energy and effort are required to prioritize relationships.  In fact, they require ENORMOUS effort.  Relationships need time, the need forgiveness, and they need grace. And in the end, other than our faith in God, relationships with others is what matters most.  When we get to the end of our journey…our life achievements do not matter,  the RELATIONSHIPS we’ve made will be what matters.  Without relationships we will lead a lonely, disconnected life.

“All of the lonely people, where do the all come from” -Beatles