Tag Archive | Jesus

Where I Am Spiritually, Next Time Ask ME

iStock_000019755169SmallMy church just finished up a series called, “Oh The Wonders I’ve Seen”.  It was a really good series, and I’m glad I was there for each message.  But one message really stood out to me, so much so that I got a copy of the message and I am listening to it in my car.  I’ve gone back and watched it online as well.

In the message pastor Tome talked about how we have not because we ask not.  The bible spells that out for us.  And that God always answers prayers, be it yes, no or maybe, they do not go unanswered.  He also touched on the fact that motives behind our prayers might be why we aren’t getting what we want if we do ask.  He talked of a recent trip to a 3rd world country and the miracle that was the answer to prayer there for a little boy.  But he went on that the greater wonder, the bigger miracle was not the healing of the child, but that this little one’s father came to Christ.  That the greatest wonder on all the earth is when a heart is turned to Jesus.  Because on our own we would never do that!

Over the past week my son experienced an in your face reality check about our mortality.  His wife’s cousin died in a freak accident at the age of 42.  It was heartbreaking to say the least. The family is all very close.  Because of complex connections I won’t go into here, many from my previous church family were in attendance at the funeral.

During that event a number of the past spiritual family approached my son expressing how good it was to see him, and how they had been thinking about his parents and wondering how they are and praying for them.  Funny, if you wonder how I am, why not just call me yourself and ask?  Praying for me? For what exactly, as you know nothing of my life or where I am at this time.  One even expressed a bit of surprise when my son mentioned at a gathering after the funeral that he needed to get back home as I was watching his kids and needed to be at church the next morning where I volunteer.  Surprise in that this person wasn’t sure of my spiritual status, per said person.

Seriously, if you are at all concerned with the eternal status of my soul, and you should be about anyone who has professed Christ, why have you not made it  your business to find out?  I honestly, and perhaps wrongly, believe that it is because I do not attend your church that you find there to be cause for concern.

So let me assure you all, my soul is fine.  It is a soul that has repented, been redeemed, saved by grace and through nothing of my own.  It is strictly on the merits of Christ and His shed blood that I will stand one day before the judgement throne and hear “well done”.  Any good I have done once the gold is refined will have been in Christ and not of my own flesh.  I am a sinner, through and through.  I am saved by the blood of my Savior, through and by Christ alone, and I am now a daughter of the Most High God, a daughter of the King.  Outside of Christ I am completely imperfect and worthless.  Thankfully I am IN Christ and therefore priceless.  My name is written on His hands.  And because of where I have come from and where I fell too before taking my prodigal self back to Him, my desire is to serve Him, to go where He wants me to go.  Oops, for those stickler types, allow me to qualify that:  I was drawn by God back to Him, I didn’t do it myself.

The next question I want to answer is the one I have heard regarding where I now worship each week.  “Do you know what they teach there????”  well GASP!!! YES!  I know because I attend there.  Do YOU, dear concerned one, have a clue what is taught there or do you assume that because they have free coffee and soda, and don’t teach the same way you do, that ohmygoshtheycantbesaved?  Yes, they do have free coffee and soda, which serves to help in encouraging fellowship!  People actually smile, say hello, welcome you and talk to you there.  They make a joyful noise unto the Lord each week with a band.  You have an organ and piano, we have drums and guitars.  You sing hymns, and so do we.  You are taught verse by verse from scripture.  We are taught topically from scripture.  Each week I leave there, feeling full in the tummy of my soul, and challenged in my daily walk with the Lord.

I attend with someone who would have turned tail and ran from your church because she’d have been judged harshly for her tattoos and piercings (yes, she would have I’ve been there and been judged too, many times for less).  She not only gets up and goes when she is exhausted, but listens, learns, soaks it up and has a bible now that she is reading.  She came for the free coffee, but comes back now every week because piece by piece her soul is being excavated and she is hungry for more.  Free coffee, soda, bibles if you want one, and CDs of sermons from previous weeks.  FREE.  It’s a very different take on church, but from what I have read in the bible, way more in line with the early church as far as the hospitality, fellowship and JOY in the worship time.  And the teaching, as stated, is topical and from scripture.  They don’t expect everyone who comes in the door to believe as they do, or for that matter to even believe there is a God.  They do expect you come with an open mind, open to learning about God and Jesus.  They expect if you do stick around that you are growing as you receive the Word of God and teaching.  Trust me there is nothing that tickles the ear, but plenty that convicts and then nourishes the soul.  Then I end up frequently going to lunch with one or both of my kids and their families, talking about the message, and through the week even further discussing it.

Where is Marti spiritually?  Where God wants her.  Following Christ, reading the Word, and prayerfully trying to follow and imitate Christ, ever so imperfectly but with a strong heart’s desire to do so perfectly.

A sister in Christ who moved to Tennessee stays in touch, holds me accountable and when she wonders how my walk is going, she reaches out to ask!  She gently but firmly called me out on an area of sin she saw in my life that convicted me much and through a desire to walk the walk, I removed that sin from my life.  I love her deep love for the Lord and willingness to love me and share this journey with me.

Next time you wonder how I am? Pick up your phone and call, text or email me.  I would believe you really are concerned if you did that much.

By the way, it’s REALLY good coffee!  😉

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November Goals

I joined this Linky Party on my Marvi Marti blog as well.  Different set of goals but LOVE putting it all in writing and making myself a tad more accountable!

My November Spiritual Journey Goals

  1. Read my Bible daily!  Follow the Facebook group Romans study and do it, daily!
  2. Ladies Bible Study – go every Friday, no excuses!
  3. Church on Sunday mornings – no excuses. A cold? Great, sit alone and don’t breath on anyone but go!
  4. Prayer time, daily!
  5. Catch up on the home group reading – and GO to the home group night!
  6. Write at least 3 times a week on this blog page!
  7. Finish memorizing Psalm 103.
  8. Memorize Psalm 121.

There we go, good start!

I Am New And It Rocks!

*found this in the draft section of my dashboard here on the blog, not sure why I never posted it but seems appropriate to put up tonight as I’m in the Word of God preparing for the worship services tomorrow*

I LOVE THIS SONG!!!

Back when I first returned to church, I clung to it.  Now, all the more it is perfect for me.  The lyrics speak to me.

I am not the woman I was a few months ago, or a few years ago.  The worst things you can say about me and what I have done, I won’t deny them.  In fact I freely admit in my writings on both blogs where I have been and what I have done.

I am no longer ashamed of who I was or what I did or where I have come from.

But I’m not her anymore.  In Christ we are made new, and I’m being remade daily into who I should be.

I have a long way to go, I am a work in progress.

“I Am New”

Now I won’t deny
The worst you could say about me
But I’m not defined
By mistakes that I’ve made
Because God says of me
I am not who I was
I am being remade
I am new
I am chosen and holy
And I’m dearly loved
I am newWho I thought I was
And who I thought I had to be
I had to give them both up
Cause neither were willing
To ever believe

I am not who I was
I am being remade
I am new
I am chosen and holy
And I’m dearly loved
I am new

Too long I have lived
In the shadows of shame
Believing that there
Was no way I could change
But the one who is making everything new
Doesn’t see me the way that I do
He doesn’t see me the way that I do

I am not who I was
I am being remade
I am new
I am chosen and holy
And I’m dearly loved
I am new

I am not who I was
I am being remade I am new
Dead to the old man,I’m coming alive
I am new

Forgiven beloved
Hidden in Christ
Made in the image of the Giver of Life
Righteous and holy
Reborn and remade
Accepted and worthy, this is our new name

This is who we are now…

By: Jason Gray, Joel Hanson

God’s Amazing Timing

For weeks I’ve felt a tug at this prodigal heart to return to church.  And not just any church but the church family I knew and loved in the past. The one that has prayed for me and my ex husband since we walked away years ago. The same loving faith family that welcomed me back almost 2 years ago, before I ran away again.  That same family that once again welcomes me with open arms and tears, and prayers.  Oh how they have been praying and waiting for God to bring me back on track.  Thankfully they never seem to give up.

I had started a Kay Arthur study a few weeks back, Lord, Only You Can Change Me, and also started reading again the book Dan gave me last time, The Way Back To God, Psalm 51 by Clarence Sexton.  Awesome stuff, both of them.  I actually considered working through 3 of Kay’s studies, the other two are Lord, Heal My Hurts and Lord, Give Me A Heart For You but I’m one  woman with a limited amount of hours in a day.  24, just like you.  So I figured it best to stick to those and get in them in depth and take my time chewing on each lesson.  I’m so glad I did, it’s been life changing stuff all over again. These helped me to open my heart again to focus on my faith.

Wednesday evening I went to the midweek service, which was the home groups that meet once a month.  They are starting a new book, Walking Like Jesus Did; Studies In The Character Of Christ.  I also attended the  women’s bible study Friday, and they are just kicking off, this time in Unit 3 of a great study called Gospel Transformation.  

Interesting to me how many new things are starting just as I return.  And all are things I NEED more than I ever realized.  God’s timing is so perfect.

During the past few weeks I’ve really struggled with ME.  My “it’s all about ME” attitude, the idea that my world revolves around me and “if you don’t like it take a hike” line of thinking.  PRIDE much? Yes, I know.  And then my prayer of late, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief”.  I heard that many times over in bible  study Friday, and it is nice to know that while I was away from being fed, my sisters in Christ all struggle daily with many of the same things I do.  When the ladies were doing a quick  review of the last unit and what had touched them in it and unit 1, something stuck out to me regarding the whole “ME” complex I have had.  Idolatry.

The book says, “An idol is anything we believe we need, apart from Jesus, to make us happy, satisfied, or fulfilled.  An idol arises when we desire something more than we desire Jesus; when we fear things rather than God; when we worship ourselves rather than Christ; when we put our trust in anything other than God; when we serve anything other than Jesus.”  The book provides some areas of fear, trust and desire that may be idols to us.  All I can say is wow.  SO many areas that I could check off either in a direct or indirect way.  It is suffice to say that ME has to get bumped aside.  I  know this, knew it weeks ago, and I have to do away with my self centered thinking.  But first comes the root of this ME idol.  That root would be pain.  The pain I still carry around and even cling too, of my divorce.  I am not so sure that I wanted to hurt, as that it is just familiar, like my teddy bear, so I can hold it.  Do I still feel I was wronged? Certainly. But what does it matter? It is done, over and I needed to let it go.  Forgiveness didn’t come easy, but in the past few weeks I truly was able to just let it go and accept the healing that comes from God and not anything of myself.

Before I made the journey back last week, I knew it was not about me anymore. It was about Christ and my walk with Him.  This time when I went it didn’t just feel like ‘home’, this time it felt like I had never left.  I realized at one point that I had to remind myself I had been away a long time, because it felt as if I had never left there and had just been there last week.  And while  kids have grown up and there are been changes to people, so much still felt the same, as if there had been no absence for me.  That was when I realized that I am right where I belong.  And as I sat there, taking it all in, wearing my Harley Davidson long sleeved, v-neck shirt and jeans, with my wild, bleached blond hair, I knew that I can still be me, who I am.  I don’t need to lose the person God created, that Marti is who she is because she was fearfully and wonderfully made.  God doesn’t want me to not be an individual, He wants me to be HIS individual.

I Color Outside Of The Lines

I am an oldest child.  My poor parents cut their parenting teeth on me, and survived not only me but 3 more offspring.  They did well though, no one ended up in jail and we’re all pretty responsible members of society.  At  least we fake that part well most of the time 🙂

I have always been one that is a tad different, maybe even eccentric at times.  I tend to think out side of the box, dance to the beat of an odd drummer, and I color outside of the lines.  All this is a good thing, or can be, if I keep it under the lens of a biblical perspective.  On the simplest of terms, what would Jesus do.  I am not overly fond of that WWJD thing but it works for now.  Perhaps it would be better said, what would a daughter or son of the Most High do, what is the most Christ like, God honoring thing to do?   I love jewelry that is crowns, but not because I think I’m the self-appointed queen of anything.  I love crowns because they remind me that I’m the daughter of the King of the Universe, and that one day every crown I’ve earned will be cast lovingly at the feet of my Savior in heaven.  I wear a cross necklace not to tell everyone around me that I’m a believer (my behavior should do that), but so that when I see it in the mirror, I am reminded to look closely and be sure my reflection is mirroring my Lord and Savior.

Nearly 2 years ago I returned to my home church briefly.  It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it was but I let too much get in the way of it being the life line.  Part of issue I had was that when I went back expecting things to be as I left them, and they were not.  When we left it was “Pete and Marti with the party”.  When I returned it was a solo,  emotionally and spiritually battered mess.  I left and it was various friends, one couple in particular.  I returned and our former best buds were divorced and it was him alone in the pew with his kids.  Other members had left, and there were many new faces.  Then as I was trying to regain my spiritual footing in the midst of feeling judged (my heart issue), a former friend turned enemy decided to send my pastor an email making sure the church knew that they had a wretched sinner among them.  She, claiming to be a born again, God-fearing believer herself, wanted to be certain it was known that I was a former swinger, and that I had ‘attacked’ her on twitter.  It rocked the boat for me just too much.  The wounds of losing my husband in a divorce, the former dear friend turned enemy, the attempts to smear and attack (not to worry they already knew about where I had been), I was unstable and just didn’t last long there before going all lone ranger Christian.  How did that work out for me? Not so good as you can well imagine.

Here I am now, just 2 months shy of the 2 year mark of trying to return, but this time I went back ready.  I am prepared for the storm of judgment and attacks that may or may never come my way, either from others there, others in my life, or that former friend who herself is neck deep still in that swinger lifestyle.  My heart is very aware of where it needs to be each Sunday.  I’m back to being in God’s Word every day, or that is the goal.  I openly admit I miss one now and then but most days it is the case and I’m in the middle of some good bible studies that help too in reaffirming my faith.  This time I’m prepared to stick it out, because I’m not here for anyone by me and the Lord.  I’m there to worship Him, and be fed.  Anyone having an issue with my past, or how I dress, or my wild, bleach blond hair, well that is their issue not mine.  That is between them and God to deal with, not me.

Sadly, when one lives a life of coloring outside of the lines, they leave themselves open for other people to judge.  Okay even those that color meticulously inside of the lines also are objects of others scrutiny.  Anytime you are different from those around you that is just human nature to pick it apart.  Different draws attention.  But different is not always a bad thing.

I dare to be the line pusher, rule breaker and that can be both bad and good.  I have always colored outside of the lines, but not always in a good way.  When we sin we color outside of the clear lines set down by the Lord in His precious Word.  That is a big mistake.  It causes damage, it is sin, and sin always has consequences.  But when I stay within God’s lines, yet color outside of man’s lines? Well that can be a good thing.

I’m going to be doing a series of posts about coloring outside of the lines.  Some will be about my journey off the path and into the pig pen, some will be about my journey back home as a prodigal daughter.  Both are really one big picture of coloring outside of the lines.  But maybe, just maybe, when I’m done, you can see that it isn’t always a sin when the color goes past the boundary, sometimes it can be a beautiful picture if you stand back and look with an open mind.

Understand…

I really intended for 2012 to be the year I went back to church.  I boxed up all of my excuses at the end of 2011.  Here we are 6 Sundays passed and I have yet to attend.  I had planned to return to my old church and try it again, but then I didn’t.  I let another person’s judgmental attitude toward me become my excuse.

It isn’t that I do not wish to be in a body each Sunday and worship the Lord.  I know that I’m not there for me, I am there for the teaching, for the time of worship and for the fellowship with other believers.  But it is hard when people judge you.  Even if you did in fact do some not so godly things, in fact out and out sinful ones.

It did not help to be in the midst of my “crazy time” after the divorce.  I thought I was all healed up emotionally and mentally and ready to face the world and start over.  I could not have been more incorrect.  Echos of “you are a nut case, everyone thinks so” rattling through my head.  I was not and am not a nut case.  But yes I did act crazy, it is what the divorcing people do, especially those that do not want to be getting divorced.

I never wanted that divorce, I believe that anyone who calls themselves a believer cannot possibly justify a divorce anymore than they will be able to justify gay marriage.  Yet those that are believers have a tendency to only apply God’s Word as a menu to fit themselves.

I had to come to terms with the failed marriage and the many very sinful ways of life my ex and I led and going to church only made that harder when others there were looking down their noses and judging me for things I was doing now.  I don’t need anyone questioning my walk.  I’m a sinner, saved by God’s grace, but I am very much in need of my Savior.  I was before I was saved, I was before I walked off the path, I was as I was off the path and I am as a prodigal child trying to make my way back on that path.  Don’t expect sinners to act like something other than what we are, sinners.  But rather than being quick to judge, slip off those holier than thou  shoes and walk  a while in mine.  Come talk to me, know where I have been, see what I saw, hear what I heard, then perhaps you will understand and not be so fast to judge but instead walk out the love of Christ to me when I need it most.

Thankfully, my Lord and Savior doesn’t call the perfect, the ones in those holy shoes…He calls the ones  who are sick and dying in their sin to come to Him.  And out of a pit of hell and sin my hand was up and searching from the darkness to find my way back from the wilderness.

I don’t know how a believer can stumble so far down to where I was for years, but I know that I’m not there anymore.  And that when temptation dances past me to return it makes me sick to my stomach.  I know I cannot go back.  For now, I sit in the middle of the path and hope and pray to find a body of believers that can look past the outside and understand that I come back, a prodigal, that can offer much in the  way of ministering to others that fell from the path and rolled down the hill into the swamps of sin.

I do not know where that came from, I saw it on someone’s Facebook or Pinterest, but it expresses how I feel.

I’ll be in church this weekend, somewhere.  I haven’t  made a decision but I will go and keep going until I find the place I can call home.

What Brought You Back?

I’ve been asked this a lot recently, especially by some of the younger adults, the ones I taught in Kids Club or assisted in the Jr./Sr. High Youth Group…What brought you back?  They didn’t really know much other than one day me and my family just up and left.  We turned in our membership certificates and walked away from our church family.  In the years that I’d been away, close to 6 years it would seem, much water has passed under the bridge.  That water was mostly dark and polluted, clouded with a lot of sin and sinful ways of life.

The better question would be, what kept me away?

In a word:  Pride (aka: self love)

Nothing but pride can really be to blame.  Sin took me away, pride held me there.  My heart, that most deceitful part of me, turned me from what I knew was sound and right, and took me on a long and twisted path through a very dark and godless place.

There were many reasons that we chose to leave our church family, but each boils down to one thing, ME.  Issues with the music (it was too slow for me, all those hymns, not upbeat enough or contemporary enough), the teaching (I felt unfed and uninterested) the people (hypocrits, gossips, unloving). I wasn’t living a Christ honoring life, there was a private, sinful side that was well hidden from everyone, that I entertained.  Sure I went where my spouse went, and I could easily point a finger in judgment and blame him, but then no one put a gun to my head either.  One can carry that whole submission to your spouse thing too far when it is used to cover your sin.  And for a while, when dissatisfied in that dark way of life, I inwardly tried to cover my sin with that.  At any time I could have walked away.  I blamed the music, people, teaching, ex..when in reality the problem was within me, my own sinful heart.

First…submission ends at sin’s door.  I have no problem being the godly wife that submits to the husband’s authority.  But when the leader/head of the wife begins down a wrong path, that is  right where the submission ends.  I was enticed by sin and once it was conceived in my heart it gave birth to a wretched way of life of my own chosing.  I should never have taken those first steps, which started with the mind with fantasy.  What is it about God’s people that when they fall, sins of a sexual nature are where we stumble?  Maybe because the most intimate display of love for each other is the one most used by the devil.  Once you destroy that fabric,  the physical bindings of the marriage, the rest will unravel.  Trust me on this, it is true. 

When I focused on MY likes and dislikes, rather than on the Lord,  I was no longer on solid ground, I was standing on sinking sand.  See, the worship service isn’t about me at all. It is about GOD, it is about WORSHIP.  Worship of the Lord, adoration and praise of my Savior, not about me.  I focused on ME, not Jesus.  My heart was in a wrong place outside of the church, already on a road to destruction.  I had  taken my eyes of Christ and put them on me.  He was no longer the object of my passion, I was.  Worshiping the Lord  through music  isn’t about the beat, how fast or how slow, how old or how contemporary….it is about the content of the words I’m singing to God.  Those words of the old hymns are timeless treasures.  But I was hung up on me and missed that.  YES there are many wonderful contemporary songs, but the point is not the music, it is the words I am singing, from the heart, that matter.

God’s word, no matter what passage, is right, holy and perfect.  But I wasn’t leading a life that sought His Word, I was seeking my own desires.  I began to find fault with the teaching, then the teacher, the elders, and the church family.  The further away I withdrew, the quieter that still, small voice of God  within grew, until I could no longer hear it at all.  I heard instead my own thoughts, desires, and followed myself.

There were times that the Lord sent a  gentle nudge my way to bring me back.  A brief light pierced the darkness but I shyed away. Light uncovers things and I certainly did not want anyone to see my sins, so I turned away and hid.  I knew in my heart of hearts that I was far from home, squandering the priceless gifts God had given me, but caught up in the sin it was hard to go back.  The further away I got, the more I sinned.  When at last I brushed off the last of that sinful way and turned around, pride got in the way for a while.  I was terrified of being judged.  I knew that many were aware of where I had been. 

I feared what others that might know would say, what people might think.  When I left I was married and  my spouse had  sat as chairman of the deacon board. We had been very active in the body of believers, and now I was divorced and smelled of the pig pen I had been living in, my sin.  Pride  wouldn’t allow me to take the steps to return.

Thankfully a dear friend (actually many) had prayed long and hard since the day we left.  This one dear friend was nearing the end, ready to give up and accept that perhaps I wasn’t meant to come back.  God was faithful to her, and the others, and when she was reaching the point, His divine  intervention allowed circumstances to roll into place and we reconnected.  The Lord used her and my favorite comfort food, to open the door and let the light shine inside my heart again.  Instead of hiding it, I confessed it.  And I listened to the wisdom of God, shared through this beautiful vessel of my long lost sister in Christ, and it grabbed hold.

2 days later I walked back into my former church.  I was very apprehensive and afraid of being judged.  Again,  pride got in there.  I have nothing to fear of the judgment of others, believers or not.  I have a judgement coming my way, we all do,  one I need to be concerned about, and that  was only a piece of what she had shared over dinner.  Nothing I wasn’t aware of, just nothing I was thinking about as I should have been.  The Father is gracious to His children, and as I entered those doors my heart and soul knew peace.  I felt  like the prodigal child come home.  There may have been those that stood in judgment that day, but I never saw them.  I instead saw open arms,  warm embraces, and no shortage of tears of joy that I was home again. 

I want so much to say to those young people who have slipped away, the ones whose parents I now worship with once more….swallow your pride, put to death the self, and please, come home again.