Saturday, June 23, 2012

nehemiah: a heart that can break (session two).

Week #2 of Nehemiah bible study is complete, and this one had me digging pretty deep. I actually needed to take a break mid-week because it touched upon some things that I've been struggling to make sense of recently (and yes, one of those things happens to be my desire to adopt). The Things I've Learned Lately for this past week is quite long, but bear with me because it's good stuff!

Things I've Learned Lately [Session Two]
  • Executing one's vision demands thoughtful assessment and proper planning.
  • Until you assess the damage and examine the degree of brokenness, you cannot begin to know what a job will entail.
  • Discussing things over with trustworthy people is a wonderful gift, but sometimes God drops a dream in our hearts that we must pray over and develop, that we must cultivate by His Word and direction before we share it with others.
  • Disgraces, tragedies, and abuses take place all around us - things that should not be. God's church is to work at setting things right as we seek His kingdom here on earth.
  • As New Testament believers, we recognize that our task is ... to bring restoration to people's hearts through Jesus who takes away our sin and shame.
  • Nehemiah didn't merely send help, but he chose to share in [the Jews] suffering and recovery process. We can't miss this extreme display of sacrifice as we consider how we are identifying with the poor and suffering in our own lives.
  • If we're not assured of God's presence, we will find a thousand reasonable opportunities to turn back.
  • Little is as important to a city as guarding the places where people come and go. That translates to every individual in that we need to guard our hearts. What are you allowing in and out? Are your doors open to the uplifting, truth-telling, and life-giving, or to what corrodes your soul?
  • A good leader understands that the work can't be stopped because a few oppose or refuse to be involved. Kelly says that she is that person who doesn't like to move forward without everyone's support and approval (I hear her on this, because I'm that person too!), and she states that this can be idealistic and codependent.
  • Sometimes we have to meet a need whether we're suited for the job or not. Talk about going outside your comfort zone, right?!
  • When struck by a shared hardship, unrelated people can bond in an instant over the common goal of recovery.
  • We are all called to be compassionate, kind, and zealous for the things of God, but our life experiences and gifts will naturally cause us to care more deeply about some things than others. And this is okay!! Whatever you are zealous for, work at it earnestly.
  • Sometimes you have to draw back, keep quiet, and pray, but other times God asks you to get out there and stand your ground.
  • When looking at our opposition, it's helpful to understand the reason behind their angst.
  • Words can be the most damaging thorns pressed into our hearts, often hurting far more than any physical blow. If damaging words cause us devastating pain, physical threats cause downright fear. If we need God's healing truth for the former, we need His physical defense for the latter.
  • God was always Nehemiah's first stop; action always followed, it never led.
  • When major opposition comes our way, it's essential to know we're in the right place, doing the right thing. This will give us strength in our weariness and confidence in our fear. Nehemiah's vision wasn't shaken because he was convinced of what God had put in his heart to do.
  • The difference between building and rebuilding is rubble. The problem with rubble is that it hangs around well after the initial destruction. It's important for us to deal with our personal rubble or we may find ourselves still climbing over it 30 years from now. Address it by doing something about it.
  • Even well-meaning people can unintentionally draw us away from God's will in our lives.
  • The excitement over a thrilling, even God-ordained, project can wane when you hear opposition. The rubble can get overwhelming; most of us are doing more rebuilding than building in life. Fear can pluck from the roots up the stuff God has put in your heart to do. And even well-meaning loved ones can rehearse the reasons as to why what you're doing is not a good idea anymore. Don't lose heart, and remember that "He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it." (1 Thess. 5:24)

Monday, June 18, 2012

nehemiah: a heart that can break (session one).

I have so much to update you all on, since I haven't posted anything since June 7th (which is just oh so long ago!) The truth is, I've been blogging over here because I've just been so worried about my sweet Claire. But now I'm back, so here we go!

I started Kelly Minter's Nehemiah bible study with some of my team members - and if you're looking for a study to do, let me recommend this one. And, to make it easy for you, you can buy it here! There are seven sessions, and each session is composed of five lessons. I figured I'd share some little gems at the end of each session, because this study is just fantastic and is teaching me volumes about the Lord and about myself.

Things I've Learned Lately [Session One]
  • A broken heart is often the very thing God uses to restore the broken. We can't underestimate the power that pours forth from a broken heart.
  • With information comes responsibility; if we know, we are required to do something.
  • Nehemiah was a great leader because of his heart - he had a God-inspired heart that couldn't bear the thought of letting people suffer. His actions were driven by the passion that arose from seeing their need.
  • We will accomplish little of eternal significance apart from prayer. Oswald Chambers once said, "Too often we treat prayer as the preparation for the work of the church. Do you not see? Prayer is the work of the church."
  • I shy away from prayer because of a lack of trust with God. This is something that I've been aware of for awhile, and with God's help, I am working on it daily. It's been hard at times, but it is so worth it.
  • My lack of awestruck moments isn't because God is lacking in awesomeness but because I settle for so much less.
  • We can't appreciate the great cost of forgiveness if we think our sin barely needed it in the first place. And oh, do we need it.
  • It's vital that we devote time prayer for others - one of the beauties of intercessory prayer is that it builds community as it divinely attaches you to those for whom you are praying.
  • Prayer is a commitment that can't be based on feeling because we won't always feel it. My frequent prayer is that of Luke 11:1 - "Lord, teach us to pray."
  • Kelly asked, "Of what are you afraid when it comes to the gospel?" After giving this a lot of thought, I realized that I'm afraid of feeling the loneliness and sadness that I often feel when other people don't understand me because of my faith.
  • God can accomplish far more than what my highest thoughts and most skillful actions can achieve. I am being led by Him.
  • When embraced by God's grace, the call to serve is no longer a guilt-trip but the gospel.
  • There are some desires that are placed in our heart by God. It is so important to pray these desires into being as God leads us toward our future! For me, these desires include going on this trip to Africa and someday being able to adopt a child. I'll keep praying!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

speechless with gratitude.

I am sitting here (again at my desk), and I am astounded. I just checked my fundraising site online, and today I reached $2290 of $3600. I mean, I knew that God would provide, but to see Him provide through so many of my friends and family and even people I don't know (!) is another thing completely. It takes it to the next level, you know? I'm absolutely speechless -- and as my grandmother knows, I am rarely speechless! This is something that means so much to me, and to see that other people believe in this mission too is so exciting!! I hope everyone realizes that, even though I'm the one who is actually going on this trip, you all are coming along with me through your prayers and support. That's why I wanted to start this blog - so that as I process everything from the preparation to the trip itself to the post-trip experiences, you all can come on this journey too. I hope you are as thrilled as I am to be a part of this adventure! I am so thankful.

Friday, June 1, 2012

kicked out of the driver's seat.

I was feeling a little discouraged last night, which tends to happen when I think I can see what God has planned and then... well... things don't happen as I predicted they would. I trust that God has a plan in regards to my hopes for the future, it's just very hard for me to not know what it is! So last night, I needed some encouragement and I needed a friend. This morning, when I came into work, I met up with my pal Shannon (who I still think is an angel in disguise). She handed me a bag of goodies with this note:

It was an excellent reminder that God hears me, knows what I need, and provides for what I need. I'm learning that it's not my job to be in the driver's seat or to be in the backseat shouting out directions. Instead of letting my mind wander about my hopes and dreams for Uganda, I need to focus on today and how God is preparing me for the trip. That is all that God is asking of me in this moment. And if I do this, as He has asked, there won't be any room for discouragement because I won't be getting ahead of myself.

Thank you Shannon, for letting God work through you! And thank you God, for working through Shannon!