How Are We Made Right With God?

 

Winter church

But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners… Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. ~ Rom. 4:5, 13-14, NLT

I no longer try to convert other Christians to the Church of Christ.

Growing up I was taught that the Church of Christ was the only church going to heaven. We had a corner on the market and all the others were wrong for various reasons. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered most churches teach this belief to some extent but put their own church in the “in” group.

Even as a young adult, I believed this message so much that when I was first dating my husband and I discovered he was going to a community church, I freaked out and broke up with him. He had done nothing wrong other than going to a different church. I’m thankful we did stay friends and kept talking to each other. Now we’ve been married for almost 15 years. Though we both go to the Church of Christ, it is no longer because we believe they are the only ones who are “right.”

So what does make a church the right one? Why are there so many out there trying to convert members of other churches to theirs?

As I’ve dive deeper into God’s Word I’ve learned, the name over our door doesn’t matter as much as we think. Any church who tells you you’re made right with God for any reason other than putting your “faith in God who forgives sinners” is not teaching the truth.

If they are telling you that you must show up three times a week, tithe 10%, sing with or without instruments, dress a certain way, say special words in prayer… they aren’t teaching truth. Yes, those things are beneficial. I’m not saying we should stop doing them, but I am saying if our reason for doing them is to be made right with God then our faith is in the wrong thing.

But what about all those things we have to do? What about following God’s law?

Jesus says during the last supper, “A new command I give you: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (John 14:34)

Then in Romans Paul writes,

…If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commands say, ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.’ These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfill the requirements of God’s law. Romans 13:8-10, NLT

Jesus and Paul are saying God’s law boils down loving others. Yes, we have examples of what that looks like, and yes, Peter and Paul both gives lists of how to practically live out loving others in our everyday lives, but these lists are not prescriptive checklists for us to be right with God.

The different churches seem to choose to focus on different parts of the New Testament over others and create checklist out of them. The Church of Christ focuses on meeting three times a week, especially on Sunday because that’s the example in Acts. They also choose to take communion every week, and most sing A Cappella because that’s the example given by the early church. However, I don’t believe any of those things are necessary to me being made right with God.

I do believe meeting with other Christians is good and needed. I can’t exactly love others if I’m never around them, and some of my seasons of growth in Christ have come from our regular church meetings. I do believe that taking communion is important because Christ asked us to remember him in that way, but I don’t think the frequency that we take it matters. I do believe we need to praise God, especially out of thankfulness for what he’s done for me, but with instruments or without is not important—it’s my heart.

Paul writes further in Romans:

I know what enthusiasm they have to God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. For Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given. As a result, all who believe in him are made right with God. Romans 10:2-4, NLT

As I study Galatians and Romans, I’m learning being right with God is about where I put my trust. Not the name over the door. Today, consider are you putting your faith in Christ to make you right with God or are you putting your faith in a prescriptive to-do list?

Being at Peace with God

Peaceful Strem

Do you know that you have peace with God? If you’re a Christian, no matter the circumstances that are swirling around you—a struggling marriage, a sick child, financial problems, depression, infertility, life changes—you are at peace with God.

It’s not something you have to earn or do enough to reach. It is your state of being as his child. Romans 5:1 promises it as part of our inheritance in Christ:

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.”

Let that truth sink into you today.

You’re a Christian. You’ve been made right in God’s sight by putting your faith in what Christ did for you. THEREFORE, you have peace with God. No strings attached. No checklist to fill out. No performance bar to reach. It is your state of being.

Yes, we need to love God and love others. But those loving actions are grounded in knowing who we are in Christ. Even Christ’s loving actions were grounded in his relationship with God.

Consider this, John 13 tells the story of the Passover feast and some of the last words Jesus spoke before his crucifixion, but as the story begins, John writes:

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to go back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.” John 13:3-4, NLT

Did you see it? He knew who he was in relationship to the Father, where he had come from, and where he was going, then he began the journey to the cross.

Friend, you can have the same certainty. God does not ask you to earn peace with him through loving your family, friends, and community well. Instead, after he’s finished washing their feet, Jesus tells his disciples,

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:34-35, NLT

Jesus first loves and then asks us to love, not to earn his peace but because we already have it.

As you go throughout your day, love others not from a place of obligation but from knowing you have peace with a loving God.

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Hi Friends, you may have noticed that we took a break during the month of July. We hadn’t “taken off” in several years, so we took a much needed vacation. We’re back now, but due to several projects in the works, you may expect 2-4 posts a month instead of the previous 4 posts. My project is a Bible study on Walking in Relationship with God. So many struggle with what freedom in Christ really means, and we’re going to unpack that in this study. Cindy is learning the ropes of a new job and praying about how to dive deeper into prayer. And Amber is working on several projects. One is her Equine Therapy business, Equuis. If you’re in the Austin/ Fort Hood, TX area and are considering seeing a counselor, you might want to talk to Amber about Equine Therapy. 

School is starting soon for many of us. My prayers are with you as you gather supplies and find your new “normal” as the school year starts. 

Grace and Peace,

Tara

God’s Story ~ Some Encouragement for Your Week

God's Story 2

This month I’ve rounded up some of our most popular God Stories from the past four years to share with you. These are stories from women who have been in your shoes, stood where you are, and have seen God show up in their lives. They aren’t endowed with superior strength, but like you, they serve a God who is. These are His stories…

“When I Started Listening” by Kristi Dye: This is one of my favorite of God’s stories from the last several years. I can’t tell you how often God brings to mind the lesson he taught Kristi about being a student of our children.

“God’s Story ~ Kelly Tyson”: In this one Kelly shares about her struggle with anger. Something many of us can relate to. Find out the lessons God taught her through a painful encounter.

“God’s Story ~ Sandi Schwab”: God’s story in Sandi’s life is about his steadfastness in the face of difficult and painful changes, even the loss of a child.

I pray you are blessed by God’s stories shared by these women this month. If you would like to read more of God’s Stories as shared by our readers over the past fours years click here. If you have a God Story you’d like to share, I would love to hear it! Please click here to find out more.

 

To The One Who Didn’t Get Away

To the one who didn't get away

I hesitate to write this post. My purpose is to show that good men are out there. Many times I hear women talking negatively about their husbands, how they are lazy, useless, or negative influences in the home. My husband is not perfect on any measures (though if you ask him he is “pure of heart”), and we don’t have the perfect marriage, but I can admit, I have a pretty good guy. I imagine many of you do, too.

Here is to the one who didn’t get away. To the one who brings me flowers (and my favorite adult beverage) when I start my day at the vet with sick dogs and have to bury a farm kitten before going into 6 client sessions. To the one who didn’t laugh at me for needing him because we lost a kitten who I had only had for a week, or mock me for being stressed about a sick dog that both went to the vet “just in case.” He simply loved me.

Here is to the one who smirks when I add one more thing to my already busy schedule, only to be there to load my truck with everything needed for my next party, or client, or event. He knows what to load for each not because I have told him, but because he pays attention.

Here is to the one who loves me on days that I am working through another wave of emotional healing and am filled with anger towards no one in particular. I have cursed at him, yelled at him, and told him I don’t want him anywhere near me. He says nothing, but will pick up a Mexican Cola for me on his way home from work the next day.

Here is to the one who makes plans for San Antonio trips with a backstage look at the Penguins. He doesn’t care about penguins, he cares about me. To the one who does laundry on weekends because I am running around with one of my many businesses. The one who cleans the kitchen and makes dinner plans. To the one who mows our lawn and gets estimates for gutters, even though he doesn’t think we need them.

Here is to the one who will make an 18 hr round trip in one day to pick up a Golden Retriever. The one who supports me in running halfway across Texas to rescue a mule. The one who meets me for lunch when I have a cancellation. The one who says “whatever you want babe” when I ask about ordering books, or shoes, or whatever I feel I need.

Here is to the ones who goes to work every day at a job they may not love because they love their family. To the ones who stay home and watch sick kids, so their wives can work that day instead. To the ones who drive a worn out vehicle, so we can drive the safer one. To those who tell us when we are wrong and hold us accountable.

Here is to the ones who set healthy boundaries for us, when we can’t seem to say “no” ourselves. To the ones who are at ball games and parties. To the ones who quietly do what a Husband is to do in leading his family. The ones who don’t get much recognition in social circles as everyone else is complaining.

Here is to the good guys, the ones that didn’t get away.

When God Goes Before Us Into Battle

soldiers going to battle

Once more the Philistines raided the valley; so David inquired of God again, and God answered him, “Do not go directly after them, but circle around them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move out to battle, because that will mean God has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” So David did as God commanded him, and they struck down the Philistine army, all the way from Gibeon to Gezer  ~1Chronicles 14:13-16, NIV

Picture it. David’s army is geared up and going out to battle. They reach the poplar trees as instructed.  All of a sudden David and his army hear a large army marching toward them from behind. They swing around, expecting an ambush and see nothing, yet the sound gets louder and louder. They then realize it is passing over them. They hear the loud marching in the treetops way above their heads. Then the sounds begin to fade and they snap out of it. They realize that just as he promised, God sent his army ahead of them to fight for them. They follow quickly.

I don’t know about you, but at times when I have needed to fight a significant battle in life is when I have felt the least qualified and able to do so. I wanted God to go fight that battle for me. In fact, I have gotten a little irritated because I was responsible for fighting the battle. It was mine alone. And I didn’t know how I could possibly do so and why God would not simply take care of it.

But read again the astonishing story above about the battle that David and his army needed to fight against the Philistines. God was going to help them in the battle, however, he was not willing to let David and his army sit in their tents while His own army fought the enemy. God knew that his army was going to go before David and fight, however, David and his army had to still gear up, get on their armor, and march out to battle.

It doesn’t take long wondering to come up with at least a few good reasons why God does not go out to fight our battles for us while we sit on the couch watching TV:

  1. One of the quickest ways to make a person weak is to do for them what they are capable of doing themselves. In years past, I have worked in geriatrics. One of the best things a nurse can do for an older patient is gently, firmly encourage the patient to do what they are capable of, then just a little more. Even though the patient may think the nurse heartless, this helps him/her maintain and gain strength.
  2. We humans get a sense of entitlement very easily.  What originally we are very thankful for soon becomes accepted as the norm and then it is a short trip to feeling that we deserve it.
  3. For someone to do for us what we are capable of doing ourselves steals the sense of accomplishment we get from completing a difficult task. If we do not attempt something, how will we ever know whether or not we could accomplish it?

Does knowing the above make me like putting on my armor and marching out to fight whatever the next battle is before me? Many times, no. But I do it anyway. Stormie Omartian has written an excellent book titled, Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On. That is an apt description of how it feels when I’m gearing up one more time for battle. Many times I do not know the outcome or the way, but God provides for me just enough light to illuminate the step I am on. Then, when it is time for me to take the next step, God helps and God leads, but he will not take the next step for me. God in his mercy knows how to grow his people. {Click to tweet!}

Hugs,
Cindy

Our Future Bible Study Plans: Verse by Verse

time with God

You’ve probably noticed that since I took a full-time teaching job in January things here have slowed down. And they have. I’ve spent the last 6 months getting my feet under me and figuring out what life looks like being a wife and mother while also working full time. As many of you know, it’s not for the feint of heart! You simply can’t do it all. And I don’t. I have my own little “cheats” to help take the burden of doing everything off my shoulders.

So what does this change mean for OverACup? Don’t worry we’re not going anywhere. But this change in my season of life has given me insight into many of your lives that I didn’t have before. One thing I have quickly learned is that week-to-week studies, especially long ones (ie. Search for Significance…Did anyone finish it? I still have a giveaway hanging out there if you did!) though very good, aren’t very doable for many of us. It simply isn’t the season of life we’re in right now.

However, the more I study about “Living in Relationship with God” (future study coming!) the more I see how very important it is for us to connect with God regularly. We are the heart of our families and where we go our families follow. However, we cannot live out the life God intends for us without knowing and connecting with him. This doesn’t mean we need to spend 30 minutes to 1 hour every day. That would be nice, but you can still grow in your relationship with God in 5-15 minutes a day, too.

My heart is to encourge you to spend time with God and grow in relationship with him by spending time regularly with him. My quiet time is in the morning before my kids get up. It’s just 15 min most days while seated at my kitchen table or out on my porch swing, but when I miss those few minutes, my family notices. And in those few minutes each morning, I grow and am changed.

I wish the same for you, too. This past week we’ve begun something new in our OverACup Facebook group. Instead of doing a full out study, we’re going to meet each week over just one verse. Just one. I’ll post the verse over the weekend, and then as we have time throughout the week, we can all share what thoughts God spoke to us during our quiet time and how it impacted our lives that week. This way if you’re doing another study but still want the accountability and encouragement our OverACup group gives, you can have it. Also, if you fall off the wagon for several weeks (or months), then you won’t be lost when you come back. You can just pick right up where we are.

Each week you can take the verse and journal over it, post it around your home or car where you can see it, spend time in prayer over it…Whatever is your best way to learn and meditate on God’s Word, do that! By memorizing and focusing on these verses we’ll be reminding ourselves of the inheritance we have in Christ and will be equipping the Spirit inside us with God’s Word to fight off the Devil’s darts when they come our way (Eph. 6: 14-18).

We would love to have you join us for this ongoing one verse per week study. No extra emails. All you need to do is request to join our OverACup closed Facebook group. Then just look for the verse I will post each week.

Thank you so much for being a part of our OverACup community. I hope this change in our study helps you connect with God and deepen your relationship with him. I’m praying for you all!

Grace and Peace,

Tara

God’s Story ~ Kristin Weis with The Demand Project, Part 1

God's Story 2

Jason and Kristin Weis

 

Last Fall I sat down with Kristin Weis, one of the founders of The Demand Project. She explained that The Demand Project is an organization located in Tulsa, OK, whose mission is, “Fighting to eradicate sex trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children.” They do this through four areas: Prevention, Prosecution, Rescue, and Restoration.

As we talked, she shared her and her husband, Jason’s, God Story of how The Demand Project began. Their story is an amazing journey of God’s provision. Join me this month for Part 1 of their story about how God first prepared and called them to this work…

Tara Cole: Were there ways you saw God preparing you for this ministry beforehand?

Kristin Weis: I did! In the church we were going to, we got involved with Whiz Kids. We were tutors. We also started to work at the Children’s Hospital, and even if we would go in and hold babies all day, we would do that.

Then we did another mission through the church. It was called Lifeboat 14. Lifeboat 14 is named because that is the only lifeboat that came back for the Titanic victims. We had an apartment complex where our church would bring the ministry to the apartment complex.  We rented it out through the church, and we would bring the kiddos in and do Bible studies with them, teach them how to cook, play games, and pick up trash in the neighborhood.

We were trying to change the lives of the people just in that community. I think that’s where our strong sense of changing our own community versus going out and telling the whole world how to live while we’re dying right here came from. I think that’s probably where that was birthed. So in working with kids, we knew that we would do something in this, and Jason and I did all this together.

One thing that is awesome about Jason and I is you don’t always find that spouse who has the other half of your mission. The other half of your calling. It’s interesting how The Demand Project is built because we have the Prevention, Prosecution, Rescue, and Restoration.

We both do the assemblies and the prevention, but then he takes over the prosecution with legislation, the cyber investigation, and the law enforcement. Then I come in with the rescue and restoration part of it. So we’ve broken the organization out to be two-fold. It’s four titles to it, but he’s got a whole half and I’ve got a whole half, and we meet in the middle and do it together. So it’s pretty amazing how God did prepare this.

Tara: I saw where you all had heard the news report in 2004 of a little girl who was abused, and then you picked up your family and moved from Colorado to Oklahoma. Why did you all choose Oklahoma?

Kristin: I know. What a strange place to go to a training ground?

Tara: Yes!

Kristin: When we saw that story, and we believe she was two, and we heard everything that happened, we heard about the thousands of people who watched [the abuse] online. We’re fighters so that just boiled our blood and made us so angry. We didn’t know where to turn, we had no idea what to do, but we knew we needed to do something.

So I was going to see a prayer minister, and I told her that we wanted to figure all this out. She was praying for me, and she could see that there was a lot more to the calling on our lives than what we knew. Her strong, strong suggestion and I say it nice like that, but it really wasn’t a suggestion, it was God saying, “This is what you’re going to do.” She said, “You need to go to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Go to Victory Bible Institute (VBI), and you need to go and get trained up for what you’re about to do because the very thing you’re fighting can destroy you if you’re not careful.” I didn’t really know what she meant at the time because I’m thinking, “Nothing is really going to destroy us that we’re fighting.” But you don’t know how perverted it is and how emotional the fight gets.

Even just driving in today, I was having one of those mornings. I hadn’t even put on my eye makeup yet because I was having one of those mornings. Jason is overwhelmed with cases with predators, and the case doesn’t just start and end after he gets them. Then you’ve got to do all this stuff in the meantime while we’re trying to do all these events, and I’m trying to work with my rescued girls, and it’s just getting to be overwhelming.

And I don’t know why, but I passed by a house in Jenks. I had a really horrible feeling, and I imagined almost the story we had seen [on the news], and it just crushed me. All the way to work I was feeling that empathy for a child starting their day out being raped. You know most of us start our day out by eating breakfast, getting our clothes on our back, putting on our shoes, maybe we’re yelling at the kids to get in the car, “We gotta go!”  But the trauma these kids have to go through every day.

So when she said that I don’t think we quite understood the depth of it.

But then we got to VBI. It was a miracle how it happened. It was right when the housing was plummeting. No houses were selling around that time. We were in a cul-de-sac in a nice neighborhood in Castle Rock, CO, and when we put our house up for sale. Well, let me back up…

When she tells us we need to move to Tulsa, Jason says, “Absolutely, no way, are we moving from Colorado to Oklahoma!”

Tara: Right, it’s the opposite!

Kristin: (laughter) Yeah, totally opposite. My family was in Colorado. My mom had Sjogren’s disease, so she was dying, and we had the only grandchildren in Colorado. So this was not going to go over well.

When she said to go and Jason said, “No.” It took one year from the time she told us to go and for every door to shut on Jason to get him to the breaking point of understanding we needed to go. But in the meantime, we started to do off campus classes through VBI, and it just wasn’t enough. It was awesome to learn the power of the Lord. We were going to church. Jason had never been to church before he met me. So we knew God, but we didn’t have the revelation of the relationship with Jesus.

Tara: I understand.

Kristin: You get that. Very different. So we started to get the revelation as we were with the prayer minister. We started to change churches and go more charismatic and more Holy Spirit led.

After that year, I went back to the prayer minister, and she said, “This is the time for you to go. You need to go home and tell Jason he is to quit his job. You’re going to bear the burden of all the money until you leave. Get all your affairs in order, and you need to go.” I said, “Okay, let’s just stop this right now. That is plenty for me to do. Because now I’ve got to go home and tell him.”

So I go home and sit him down, and I say, “Here’s the deal. The kids can go to school at Victory…” He broke emotionally, and he said, “Let’s go!” So that was that moment where we put the house up for sale. Like I said, no houses were selling, ours sold within a few weeks. From the time we figured out we were going to go, it was six weeks. We had told the family. They thought we were going to ruin the kids. My mom could not believe I was leaving her. We got the house up, came to Tulsa, found a house, enrolled the kids, enrolled ourselves, and we’re here within six weeks. It was huge, and we had been in Colorado for quite some time.

So we ended up going to VBI and trying to dive into what was this trafficking thing is, and that’s where our path began.

 

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Next month we will continue with the rest of Kristin and Jason’s story about how God worked in their lives as they came to Oklahoma and learned what trafficking was.

If you’d like to learn more about trafficking today and how you can help, please visit their website: TheDemandProject.org. There you will find out more information about trafficking in the US and Oklahoma, and ways you can give and help.

The Demand Project also has a Golf Tournament coming up on Monday, June 27, that you can register for to help support this organization that is doing so much for the victims of trafficking. Here are the details about it:

When: Monday, June 27th – Registration (7:30am) 18 holes (8:30am)
Where: Golf Club of Oklahoma

Why? Proceeds from this tournament will go to fund The Demand Projects Cyber Team. A group of elite, current and retired Law Enforcement and Military Officers with vast experience in targeting, investigating and prosecuting online predators that seek to exploit children for sex. People like Sandi McGann .

Link to Register

Per Person – $225

Foursome – $900

If you register before May 30th you will receive complimentary admission to the night before PAR-TEE that includes dinner, entertainment, and a silent auction.
*Photo Credit: TheDemandProject.org/about

When Intentions Turn to Regret

 Regret

 

Today, I attended the celebration of life of a woman who left this world too soon. I never got by to tell her “bye.” I didn’t take the opportunity, even once I knew she was in hospice, to stop in. I felt I would be a nuisance. I thought she would have plenty of people around and it would be awkward for someone who thought themselves to be a stranger to see them in that state. I made many excuses, but I didn’t go. And now it’s too late. I told her husband, an old rancher I would stop in at the farm someday. I know what someday means for me. It’s not that I intend to not do these things, I have every intention. Then, it’s too late.

I intend many things. I intend to learn a language, I intend to study more, I intend to get up early, I intend to run each morning, I intend to keep up with family, I even intend to write this post which has been running through my head since I found out my acquaintance passed away. I intend, but then I don’t do.

I get caught up in the business of life, in the hustle of reaching my goals and finding my way. I don’t intend to leave relationships behind. But I do. I feel the guilt of what I don’t do, but I don’t make a change. I don’t intend to stay on the same path. But I do.

 I know that in me, that is, in my fallen human nature, there is nothing good. I can will myself to do something good, but that does not help me carry it out. I can determine that I am going to do good, but I don’t do it; instead, I end up living out the evil that I decided not to do. Romans 7:18-19 (The Voice)

Here we see Paul having the same struggle. It is comforting to know I am not the first one and likely not the last to deal with this.

As you go through your week, share your struggles with us in the OAC community here or on Facebook. Let’s pray for one another to become more of what we need to be and have busyness take less of a hold in our lives.

Let’s  Pray:

“Father I ask peace for those of us who struggle with priorities and get caught in the hustle and bustle of life. I ask you give us direction and help us focus on what is important this week. In Jesus name.”

 

 

 

The Many Faces of Evangelism

Soul winner preparing the soil

I have gardened and landscaped for a long time now. Living with an unstable man for many years, we moved often. This gave me the opportunity to hone my gardening skills, as each place we moved to was another blank canvas for me to practice gardening and landscaping on.

An important lesson I learned by the sweat of my brow is that there is a part of gardening called soil preparation that is time-consuming and hard work that looks nothing like the job of seed planting or harvest. I also learned the hard way that if I did not take the time to prepare the soil properly, then I was simply wasting my time in planting – there would be no harvest, which for me meant no flowers, because I major in annuals, perennials, and bulbs with a tuber or rhizome thrown in for good measure.

So today I just completed serious repair work on a garden in a day and a half with the help of my dear husband that just ten years ago would have taken me half that time by myself. And I needed a lot more breaks!

These days when putting in a new garden or flower bed, I use the lasagna gardening method. In a nutshell, a lasagna garden is created in layers: Identify where the new garden needs to go, do not shudder because there is a healthy crop of Bermuda grass growing there, mark out your garden area and beginning with a layer of cardboard, cover the potential garden spot. Now after this, the official lasagna garden books and people have specific formulas that make for the best gardens. I diverge and bit and use some of what I have on hand, like leaves from our two large maples, some top soil, a good compost, and sometimes some peat moss. The idea is to layer, one at a time, these ingredients for your garden. Do not bother with stirring them together, simply make your layers, then plant.

A year or two ago when I originally put in the garden in question, I did not have all the cardboard needed for the bottom layer, so I substituted plastic leaf bags. Don’t do this. It is a bad idea. Whereas the cardboard breaks down and allows plant roots through, plastic does not. My tall plants had too shallow of roots and toppled over.

Now we come to this weekend. My job was to dig up and cautiously save the plants I wanted to keep, then identify and pull the plastic out from under the layers of soil, replace with cardboard, then add more layers of soil. My old body which has mostly sat doing schoolwork for the last six years or so was in shock, asking me what in the world did I think I was doing?! So I took up my fence, then rested. I pulled the plastic out of the garden, then rested. I put the layer of leaves down (do you know how heavy those bags can get from autumn to spring, being snowed and rained on?). Then I rested. At this point, my husband came to check on my progress, had mercy on me, and hoisted the bags of compost, then top soil to the proper garden spots. I opened the bags, dumped them out, and spread the layers. And so it continued through to the finish. Whew!

It took me, with my husband’s help, a day and a third to prepare the soil and less than an hour to plant the seeds and water them in.

Why do I tell you all of this? Because it is like the apostle Paul mentions in I Corinthians 3:7, 8:

“So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.”

Paul is speaking of winning souls for Jesus here.

I tried for many years to be a seed planter/harvester for Jesus. I took my children along with me on door-knocking, soul-winning campaigns, and I still believe in those. I also believe it is excellent training for children. On rare occasions, I would actually have someone come to Jesus. I am a slow learner, but after years of trying with little to no success, it occurred to me that, just maybe, seed planting/harvesting was not one of my kingdom gifts.

I know, I know, seed planting and harvesting get most of the attention, and we are all to be harvesters, at least that is what I have heard a lot of through the yearIriss in the religious tribes I have been a part of. But what if that is not my gift? Paul says that one planted, one watered, and God gave the increase.

Like the lack of success that I had in gardening when I did not bother to prepare the soil, so it is with human hearts. If all of us are focusing on planting seed and harvesting, who is preparing the soil? And remember, soil preparation is time-consuming, hard work, and looks nothing like the job of seed planting or harvesting.

I would encourage you to explore your gifts when it comes to evangelism. Don’t let fear stop you! Try seed planting. Maybe you were given that gift. But also try harvesting, watering, and soil preparation. You may have been given a gift that looks nothing like harvesting that is vital for kingdom growth. And remember that it is God who gives the increase.

Hugs,

Cindy

God’s Story ~ Just Let God

 

Just Let God

 

There was a season in my life when everything seemed hopeless and grey.

My exteriors would have belied the hurricane of emotional turmoil swirling in my heart and mind.

I had a loving husband, three young children, a solid roof over my head, a ministry calling and worthwhile work in which I was engaged, and many people around the world who loved and cared for me.

And yet, the demands of life seemed overwhelming, pulling me down into a vortex of hopelessness.

I felt the first hints of this impending storm around the time when our children were 5, 3 and just under a year old. During this season our ministry colleagues retired, and we took on the full responsibility for carrying a local outreach to international college and university students.My husband and I had always been partners in this service, but he also held a full-time job as a high school teacher. In the practical day-to-day, the bulk of the demands of both kids and ministry fell squarely upon my shoulders.

My husband and I had always been partners in this service, but he also held a full-time job as a high school teacher. In the practical day-to-day, the bulk of the demands of both kids and ministry fell squarely upon my shoulders.

It all felt like too much. The little ones vied for my time and attention. I wanted so badly to do a good job being their mommy.

But email requests kept pouring in from students, some local, some soon-to-arrive. Relationships with volunteers, donors, and local churches required constant attention, too. I felt overwhelmed by expectations to carry on the ministry at the level we had experienced so far.

Too many people needed me. I had lost my sense of self.

 

Sucked Downward

 

As this sense of desperation grew, I began to feel dead to life. Dark and dangerous thoughts often popped up in my mind. “Just turn off that cliff…No one else understands…No one cares if you disappear; they will not even notice.”

I remember one particular day I was standing in front of my washing machine, transferring what seemed to be endless loads of clothes into the dryer. Inside I knew I should be thanking God for the gift of those little lives.

But what screamed in my head? Sinister messages: “Life is so useless. Everything is the same. Nothing changes.”And yet, even then, as a follower of Jesus. I knew, intellectually, the Hope of the World should dwell in me. Why was I so dark?

And yet, even then, as a follower of Jesus. I knew, intellectually, the Hope of the World should dwell in me. Why was I so dark?

In my mind, I understood that an intense, spiritual battle for my heart was being waged. But in the midst of it all, I felt so helpless to change.

Perhaps you’ve experienced this too. Your exteriors tell the world, “I am happy. Life is good.” But inside there is a raging storm.

 

How could I escape this downward spiral?

 

All I can say is God, in His mercy, rescued me from this morass. I cannot claim I followed a 12-step program or even offer some quick-and-easy solution here.

But still, I did learn a few major life lessons as I traveled through this time and moved into a new and lasting season of wholeness, purpose and vision.

 

1) The first step was recognizing the battle.

 

And admitting I needed God’s help to overcome.

Although, I had become dull to the spiritual work of our loving God during this time, my husband and I soldiered on in daily prayer. We enlisted prayer from a few others with whom we were close as well. I knew we were fighting a spiritual battle.

As the school year wound down, my school teacher husband was around more, and this seemed to lighten the load and my spirits. I felt the darkness lifting. Some.

I had been training for a triathlon in early September. It would be my third. I felt this might help break through the cycle of darkness.

But the morning before the triathlon, I woke up with the most intense neck pain I’ve ever experienced. Immobile. Healing from that took almost four months of working with a chiropractor and physical therapist.

A friend who noticed I was hurting (and not just physically) suggested I consider attending a “women’s silent retreat” his wife, much older than I, attended regularly. She found it to be a profound experience. Maybe so would I.

 

2) The next step was allowing myself time to be still and listen.

 

To listen to the right voice. To listen for what God – and He alone – was saying to me.

The retreat came at just the right time, in the heart of fall, as the days shortened and the temperatures began to dip. Although my recovery from the neck injury was not complete, I was feeling much better and decided to go.

Being still and listening was not something I had been good at. I’m usually an energetic Type A. My season of despondency only seemed to heighten a frantic worry over the checklists of my life.

The design of this retreat was brilliant. An overall framework with brief (15-20 minute) sessions, followed by one–two hours of open, “free” time, to hear how God is speaking to you. Although the leader had prepared an extensive set of materials, she advised us to use them only if God directed. She wanted us to be open to His leading.

And then, on a drizzly early November day, God spoke to my heart.

I was gazing out the window at a deciduous tree with just a few leaves hanging on.

“You are that tree. My life is still in you, but you have lost your joy.”

Whoa! It was clear and simple as day. Over ten years later, I can still remember the exact words. And they were so true.

I pondered them for a while. God was, of course, right. But what was I to do with that?

I prayed. I journaled. I searched Scripture. I called out to God from the depths of my being. I cried. Oh boy, did I cry!

The next day, He answered my question. Again, in an unmistakable way.

I was walking out in the woods on a clear “after-the-rains” morning. The crisp air filled my lungs while the sunshine filled my heart.

God directed my eyes to a particular redwood tree. Rising in front of me, this redwood tree commanded reverence.

Then, the Voice. “I am making you into that tree. Let me.”

That was it! Although I’ve experienced many “God moments” before and since, His message to me has never been clearer. I had my answer.

 

3) The final step is trusting God’s promises and clinging to them.

 

Since that time, I have been letting God turn me into that evergreen redwood tree.

I cannot say the path has always been easy. Nor can I deny moments when self-doubt has entered my mind.

But really, self-doubt should be there. It is God we must trust after all.

I claim the promise He made to me to make me into the redwood if I would just let Him. This is backed by so many promises in Scripture: He is with me “even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps 23:4), He has a plan and purpose for my life (Jer. 29:11), He is working “all things together for [my] good” (Rom. 8:28), “He who began a good work in [me] will be faithful to complete it” (Phil. 1:6),  “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…” (Eph. 2:10), and so many others.

I’m not yet the complete evergreen redwood tree He intends. But since that time I’ve learned to stay my mind on my Master, and He has granted me perfect peace (Is. 26:3) even in the toughest times.

I hope this will encourage you as well. He wants to make you, too, an evergreen redwood tree, healthy for others, to live out your calling and be effective as a builder of the Kingdom of God.

Just let Him!

 

 

Caroline DePalatisCaroline DePalatis is Founder and Interculturalist at Culture Weave, a new venture offering tools, training & community to help those with a heart for the world better connect across cultures. A graduate of Stanford University and the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey (CA), Caroline has walked with Jesus since college, is a wife of 30 years and a mom to three awesome high school & college-aged emerging adults. She loves sharing from her life experience and over 20 years of intercultural service and work with International Students, Inc. to inspire and equip others. She also finds herself on a perpetual quest to discover the finest dark chocolate opportunities on the planet. Website URL: http://cultureweave.com/

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