Friday, January 11, 2019

So loved...

Last year was quite a year for me. I learned to trust God in new ways that were at times very challenging. I didn't write much here because much of what God showed me in my struggles was private and not something to be shared online. And when I tried to find more general words, none really came.

Another part of last year was starting a college adventure. But first some background and context.

I got married right after high school and had kids soon after, so I never went to college... even though my parents and almost every one of my aunts and uncles and grandparents did. I had a lot of pressure to go to college because I was considered to be a very smart and bright student... but I had no idea what I would go to college for. So it was almost a relief to fall in love and get married instead. People quit asking me what I was going to go to college for. I'm sure I disappointed a lot of people, but they hid it well and my marvelous family supported me.

But now my kids are almost grown. I've been in the workforce for 10 years now and worked my way up to senior management. I learned what Human Resource Management was, and I discovered a passion for what it is supposed to be... being an advocate for the workers in a company... helping upper management make their company a good place for the workers.  That's not what many people think HR is, but that's what it is supposed to be, and I have become extremely passionate about it over the last 10 years of being in the workforce.

So a little over a year ago I discovered a desire to go to college for business management... to see what things I didn't know that would help me, and to get a degree to validate and compliment everything I've learned in the workforce and in life. I knew that whether or not I could do it depended on two main things:
1. Money
2. Time

It's hard to say which is the bigger challenge. Our finances require that I still continue to work 40 hours per week, and I don't want to give up the volunteering and singing that I do. Thus, where would either the time or the money come from?

So I filled out my FAFSA and a few college applications, since that is the only way to find out how much it would actually cost. And I started really praying that God would lead me... take the desire away if it was not from Him and not in His plan for me, or open doors and lead me if it was.

I was flabbergasted to find out that I qualified for reduced pricing on classes, due to my age. My kids didn't qualify because of our income, but I did.  I had to get transcripts from high school, 24 years ago, and I had to take tests to see if I was college ready. Turns out all the tutoring I'd done for my kids as they went through high school worked quite well as college-prep, and I easily passed all the college-ready tests.

So last year I took my first college classes at the local community college. I aced them and realized that the traditional college setup is difficult for working adults. You spend a LOT of time reading and listening to lectures about things you already know, but you have to do it because it's part of the class... and you don't have as much available time as a full-time college student because you're already working a 40-hour job and have a family.  Then WGU announced it had partnered with the Ohio Department of Education, and I realized that here was a way that I could get a bachelor's instead of an associates, in this field that I've become passionate about, and it wouldn't cost any more than an associates at the local college would cost. And more importantly, it's set up for working adults to prove what they already know and save time, and focus on what they don't know, so they can get a degree within the life they already live. It looked like it would fit my life and what I wanted... but I kept praying, Lord, lead me. I don't want to step out of Your will, because You're going to have to continue providing both the time and grace and the money.

So all of last year was this process and journey, and I was supposed to start at WGU January 1st. But there was a delay in getting my transcripts transferred, and my start date got pushed back to February 1st. I was partly sad but partly relieved to have another month "off" because I was feeling stressed due to a lot of private family issues going on. That stress led me to back to prayer... stress has caused major health problems for me in the past, and I didn't want to wind up there again. So two weeks ago when the date got delayed, I prayed in my journal:
Lord, please be patient with me and give me confirmation in these next 3 weeks if I really am supposed to start this degree. 
I meant... like... Him just speaking to me. Showing me in any one of the millions of ways that He speaks to me, that I was still on the path that He had for me.

But yesterday, I got this:
A $2,000 scholarship to WGU.

I'd filled out the massive application for the principle of the thing. I'd told my kids to fill out scholarship applications because you just never know. No matter how long the odds are, you never know because it is in God's hands. So I filled it out and wrote all the essay answers.  I'll be one of 55,000 students. I'm not sure how many new students had applied, but the odds were definitely long.  And yet... they picked me.

I have laughed and cried so many times since this arrived in my email inbox. It's not even the money that has me so overwhelmed. I was going to edit an extra handful of reports on a regular basis to pay that $1000/year. I felt a little bit intimidated by adding that to my life AND adding the school work, but I could do it. I thought. (But wasn't sure, hence my prayer two weeks ago.)

Now I don't have to do both. Here I am, about to start a new semester at a new school, and my entire out-of-pocket cost for this semester I'm about to start will be $65. Total. E-text books are included so that's not even added.

I feel like I did when He went car shopping for me, picked out a car in amazing condition with everything I wanted that was $2,000 below average prices, arranged everything so it was the lowest-stress car purchase imaginable... and then He made the dealer voluntarily take $500 more off after they'd already received my purchase agreement at the higher price.

God is just SO faithful, and SO patient, and SO kind, and SO good, even despite my busy-ness and my doubt and my struggles this past year and all the tears I've wept out to Him...

Living with Jesus does not mean life will be easy. Far from it. But it means He is always there, and there is always comfort in the sadness and hope in the midst of dark circumstances and peace in the midst of turmoil, and it means He is always bringing me to deeper and deeper levels of trust, and then proving Himself faithful to the trust I have in Him in ways beyond my wildest dreams.

Friday, January 04, 2019

If you struggle with anxiety or depression...

Passion 2019 just finished. I might be 20 years "too old," but I love Passion.

Anyone who is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts or anxiety (regardless of your age), Session 1 had a message for you.

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Prince of Peace...

For those who need peace...

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Celebrating in the darkness...

I am going to repost this again, just because it seems like more people than ever are looking for hope this Christmas.

Perhaps you, whoever you are, are wondering this:

How can we reconcile celebration with everything that is happening?

To me, the answer is simply because everything that's wrong with the world illustrates how desperately the world needs a hero.

Doesn't it? What person among us sees these things happening and doesn't yearn for somebody to come rescue everybody and set everything right?

The thing is, the world has a Hero... but many do not know it yet.

How can Jesus be the hero? many will ask. Look at what's happening. What hero would let such things happen?

The answer, for me, is to realize that we're still in the dark part of the story.

When most do not recognize the Hero for who He is.

When the final victory is yet to come.

When most cannot fathom how victory could ever come.

When many do not even know a Hero exists... or believe one could exist. How could there be a hero when this is happening?

This is how stories play out, isn't it?  Nothing's ever easy. The hero isn't a hero because everything's great. He's a hero because of the very darkness that engulfs the world of the story.

History is indeed a story, and Jesus is the hero of the story. History is His-story. 

He's the Ultimate Superhero, actually.  

Does that seem a stretch? It's not.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
We think it's awesome when a superhero can control the forces of nature. We are impressed when the hero uses superpowers or magical forces to hold things in place... maybe to keep a building from falling so someone can be saved... or maybe to freeze an entire situation so something good can be done. We love to read stories where magic can be used to create something out of nothing. 

Why do so many of us love these kinds of stories? 

Because our world needs a hero. 

Because we have inside of us a love for what makes our Savior so amazing.

We are attracted to power, because our Savior holds the ultimate power of the universe and we were made to love Him. But I think a lot of people don't realize the raw power summarized in that passage.

Read that verse again.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

For by Him all things were created,
both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—

All things have been created through Him and for Him.

He is before all things, and

in Him all things hold together.
The entire universe was created by Him.

This display of power isn't just a past event.  His power is what's holding it all together. Keeping galaxies and electrons in orbit.

Superman's power? Nothing compared to His.

Pick an X-men or an Avenger... or put them all together. Absolutely nothing.

His power is so staggering that every superhero story ever created is but a human's poor attempt (if they only knew it) to come up with something that reflects a tiny bit of Him.

Take Magnito as an example.  The moviemakers created this scene where he used his power to hold a thousand missiles in place in the air, then turn them where he wanted them to go. If you haven't seen the movie, just trust me. It was really impressive. (Or watch the scene on YouTube if you want.)

Now watch this, and realize how much Jesus' power is holding in place. 

His power is more than just staggering. It's mind-boggling. Beyond our ability to fully comprehend.

We can understand Magnito's power because it is limited. Even though it isn't real.

Jesus' power is real, but we have a hard time understanding it because it is limitless.

And just like the heroes of our stories, He temporarily laid that power aside and surrendered everything He was... to save the world.

The important thing to remember as we watch this messed up world, is this:

His story isn't over yet. 
The finale is still to come. 

This is where the hope lies. This is why we can still celebrate the fact that He came, even as cities and nations and alliances and economies fall apart. His coming - His birth, death, and resurrection - were the middle of this story we're living in. And it's always darkest towards the end of the story, isn't it?

All this darkness? All this destruction and pain and suffering? All this emptiness and hopelessness?

This is why the world needs a Savior... 

One whose story isn't over yet. 

Five years ago, when I was finally able to comprehend who He actually is, I fell so in love...

With Jesus...

Like I never had been before. He totally awes me.

I asked God to give me a Christmas song that expressed this, and I'd like to share it again. A simple recording is here if you want to hear how it goes, but it's the power in the words - straight out of Scripture - that I want you to hear.

He is the hero of your story, too. If you let Him be your hero.

All He Was
© 2011 Kathleen Peters (since US copyright law doesn't recognize God's right to it)

Once outside of time began a story    (John 1:1)
It’s been told a thousand times and ways, or more
A virgin birthed and angels sang    (Is. 7:14Luke 1:342:13-14)
The wise men saw and shepherds came  (Matt. 2Luke 2:15-16)
But the hero who lay within her arms 
Had already made a sacrifice of love:     

He was the Maker of the universe    (Col. 1:16John 1:3)
The Master of the stars     (Ps. 136:7-9)
The voice of endless power     (Gen. 1:3)
And everlasting love     (Jer. 31:3)
Before foundations of the world were laid      (Rev. 13:8)
Beyond the veil of time     (Ps. 90:2)
He knew the world would need a Savior’s touch      (Is. 9:2)
So He surrendered all He was.      (Phil 2:7-8)

He said that He revealed the face of God    (John 14:9)
That’s why the crowds responded to His power and love    (Matt. 4:25)
The sick were healed and blind could see   (Matt. 4:23Matt. 15:31)
The lame made whole, possessed set free (Matt. 21:14Mark 1:32)
Yet they took Him and nailed Him to a cross   (Matt. 27:22-31)
But He prevailed over death and conquered all!    (2 Tim. 1:10)

'Cause He's the Maker of the universe    (Col. 1:16John 1:3)
The Master of the stars     (Ps. 136:7-9)
The voice of endless power     (Gen. 1:3)
And everlasting love     (Jer. 31:3)
Since the foundations of the world were laid 
Beyond the bounds of time
He rules as everlasting Lord of all      (Phil. 2:9-10)
Yet He surrendered all He was…  (Luke 4:17-21)

         To bring good news to the afflicted     (Is. 61:1)
         And peace for the broken    (Is. 61:1)
         There’s freedom for captives     (Is. 61:1)
         The favor of God    (Is. 61:2)
         There’s joy now for mourning      (Is. 61:3)
         And strength for the weary      (Is. 61:340:31)
         He’s made us the righteousness of God   (2 Cor. 5:21)

He's still the Maker of the universe    (Col. 1:16John 1:3)
The Master of the stars     (Ps. 136:7-9)
The voice of endless power     (Gen. 1:3)
And everlasting love     (Jer. 31:3)
When the foundations of the world were laid     (Rev. 13:8)
The Father looked through time     (Is. 9:2-7)
He saw that you would need a Savior’s love...     (Rom. 7:24-25Gal. 2:20)
         So Jesus came to be the Perfect One      (2 Cor. 5:21)
         What He did for you will always be enough…  (Rom. 8:1-4)
         Because He gave you all He was.     (1 Cor. 1:30)

And here's another song for you, from Hillsongs:

Friday, October 19, 2018

In the wilderness...

John and Lisa Bevere and Matt (didn't catch his last name) shared this message on Facebook yesterday. It's both encouraging and challenging. It also gives five ways to know if your dream or promise is really from God.

Regardless of whether you feel like you're in the wilderness or whether you feel like you're in the Promised Land, I still encourage you to watch this short video:
Sponsor a Child in Jesus Name with Compassion