You Know Who You Are.. Be That

I’d love to tell you I received this revelation while sitting on my back deck during my quiet time, with my Bible open, a cup of coffee, and my notebook. But I didn’t. I got it while watching the TV show Blue Bloods.

I was watching one of my favorite shows, Blue Bloods, when I heard the line “You know who you are; be that” from Police Commissioner Frank Reagan, known IRL as Tom Selleck. Blue Bloods is a crime drama following a family of law enforcement officers in serving the city of New York in different capacities. The show is in it’s twelfth season and I’ve been a fan now for years.

In this particular episode, a detective who had spent time previously working for the commissioner was shot in the field. Commissioner Reagan rushes to the hospital and catches her before she’s rushed into surgery. She is bleeding, holding her wound, and looks terrified and that’s when he tells her, “You know who you are; be that.”

Listen.. whoever told you that you can only hear from God sitting in a meadow with a journal may need to expand their idea of how God works! God can use anything to talk to us. Look in the Bible! Angels, Burning bushes, donkeys, children.. The truth is that as long as we’re listening, he’ll speak.

This line has captivated my thoughts now for a bit. Sometimes I feel like we are constantly searching for this ideal self. We read books about how to be better, look better, feel better, and do better but as children of God, we can obtain all of this and more in his word.

When we know who we are (children of God) we can simply be that (heirs to the promise). We are heirs to God’s promise of grace, freedom, love, acceptance, favor, and the list goes on. We have the mind of Christ! We only have to know that we do and use it.

I’ve stopped chasing this imaginary future self who looks a certain way or does certain things and have decided to just be who I am.. a beloved child of God. I’m leaning on who I am in him and trusting him to show me what’s missing (and abounding) in my life. So know who you are today.. and Be That!!

He Will Restore

Listen to this blog post on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

I have been stuck in the book of 2 Kings with the Shunammite woman for months now. I suppose “stuck” is not the best choice of words. Stuck has a negative connotation and implies that someone is in a place they’d rather not be. So I’ll say that I’ve been “stationed” in the book of 2 Kings. There is a purpose, a responsibility assumed when someone is stationed, like in the palace guard or in the army. I feel like I can’t move on from this story because God keeps showing me more things the longer I stay there. (That’s a whole different message!)

As I get ready to leave the land of Shunem, I wonder where God will take me next. The final installment of this series ends with the last event recorded from the Shunammite woman’s life. In 2 Kings 8:1-6, the Shunammite finds herself in need of one last miracle from God. 

The Shunimmate woman was instructed by Elisha to go and find somewhere to live because there was going to be a famine lasting seven years. So the woman listened, went with her family and they stayed in the land of the Philistines for seven years.

When the seven years were over she came back to her home and land and found that it had been seized. We don’t know a lot about why her land was taken but theologians think that during times of famine, when many houses and land were abandoned the king would often seize land and use it for whatever he needed. 

Also, in the book the 1 Samuel when Israel first asked for a king, Samuel warned them against it because a king could do whatever he wanted. He could take their children, their animals, and their land so this was also just one of the consequences of having a king rule over Israel instead of allowing God to be their king. 

When the Shunammite returns to find her land has been taken, she decides to go to the king to beg for her house and land to be returned to her.

Have you ever listened to God’s instructions and things got worse? Don’t kick me out of the church yet? I have. And if you’re honest, you probably have experienced this too. But let me assure you, obedience to God is always the best option, no matter the outcome.

God will not ask us to obey in an area where he does not already have a plan. We sometimes think that everything is always linear but regardless of the ups and downs, God is always working things out for our good. We don’t obey God simply to get blessed even though that is a reward for obedience.

1 John 5:3 says,In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands.” We obey God because we love him. When I ask my kids to do something for me, they don’t wait to see what I will do for them first. They just do it. I may not reward them for days or weeks! I may even have to fuss at them later that day, but their obedience is not based on what they expect to receive but on their love and respect for me.

The Shunammite woman could have been upset that her land was taken from her but she had an experience of God always meeting her needs so I have to think she knew he could do it again.

As the woman is making her way to the king, the king is watching TV. Not really. He was having Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, tell him about all the things that Elisha had done. So he was listening to a podcast. Gehazi was telling him about the time that Elisha raised the Shunammite’s son back to life, when in the middle of the story, she walks in the door.

Unbeknownst to Gehazi, he was acting as an intercessor for the Shunammite. He was opening a door for her to receive favor from the king. Doors are being opened that you know nothing about.

The Shunammite didn’t know that she had an intercessor. She had someone that was already preparing the groundwork for her to come in and make her request. And we have someone interceding for us. 

“Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34)

Jesus is always already putting things in motion for us. He’s moving some people out of the way and putting others where they need to be.

I think about the story of Daniel when he was fasting and praying for 21 days. In Daniel 10:12, the angel tells Daniel “Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.”

The answer to your prayers are already on the way. You may not see them, you may not know them, you may not know where they’re coming from. But they are already on the way. God has great things in store for you and he wants to bless you in ways that you haven’t even imagined.

When the Shunammite finished telling her story, the king assigned an official to her case and told him to give her back everything that belonged to her. She didn’t have to beg or plead or cry. All she had to do was show up. 

The things you are begging for God wants to bless you with (and more). Not only did the king return her home and her land to her, he gave her all the income made from the land for the last seven years. She got more than she was planning to beg for! God knows how to bless his children. He knows what we need and how to get it to us.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20)

Everything is Alright

Listen to this blog post on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

A few years ago, my husband and I were getting ready to close on our home is Southeast Wisconsin. We had moved from Houston, Texas to be closer to his family and after months of living in an apartment so small that I could see everyone no matter what room they were in, we were excited to get a bit more space. The day of the closing, we were sitting in the car when he got a call from the lender that they were unable to verify his employment and needed a contact to do so before we closed.

No problem, right? Well, he was set to resign in 5 days. And he didn’t have another job! I could see his demeanor change. At the time, I didn’t know what was going on. I asked him if everything was alright and he said, “Yes. Let’s go in the bank.” To make a long story short, his employer verified he worked there, we closed on the home, and despite resigning 3 times, he now works remotely for the same company.

There has been a lot of resistant towards positive confessions or affirmations. Many people think declaring positive statements are naive or just wishful thinking. I’m not here to argue as to whether or not they work, but I do know that the Bible tells us in Proverbs 18:21 that “the tongue has the power of life and death.” The Bible also says in Proverbs 15:4 “Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.”

I read an amazing book last year by Jon Acuff called Soundracks. He talks about replacing negative patterns of thinking with helpful, positive ones, or as he calls them new soundtracks. This idea is not new. Philippians 4:8 encourages us to think positively as well. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

In 2 Kings 4, there is an account of someone who did just that. Instead of focusing on what was going wrong, the Shunammite woman (I talked about her in my blog Make Room) confesses boldly “Everything is alright!” when literally everything was falling apart. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about her story and the incredible testimony of God’s provision, healing, and restoration in her life.

But until then, I want to encourage you to start confessing God’s promises over your life. Here are a few I rehearse regularly. you can borrow them!

  • Jesus is with me, and he is enough (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • I am well able (Numbers 13:30)
  • His joy is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10)
  • He carries my cares (1 Peter 5:7)
  • I am the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Make Room

Listen to this blog post on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

There is an amazing story in 2 Kings 4 that I’ve read a number of times. We meet a woman who isn’t even named but whose story stretches across a few chapters in this book. The Bible calls her the Shunammite and while we don’t a lot about her background, the story gives us a few details that helps us to get to know her better.

I won’t quote the entire passage, but it’s found in 2 Kings 4:8-17. I’ll paraphrase for the sake of time, but make sure you read it for yourself! One of the biggest mistakes Christians make are believing everything they’re told so please do your homework.

In this story, the prophet Elisha is a frequent visitor to the land of Shunem and a wealthy woman and her husband often host him for meals. The woman suggests to her husband that they should make a room on the top of their home so he has a place to stay whenever he stops by. While laying in his new room, Elisha asks his servant, Gehazi, what they should do for this woman to thank her for her hospitality.

She tells them she doesn’t need anything, but Gehazi tells Elisha she doesn’t have any children and her husband is old. He tells the Shunammite that at this time next year, she will have a son. And just as he said, it happened.

I love this story. It is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I say that about a lot of stories but hands down, I think this is it. At least until I come across another one I love! God has really been nudging me to get uncomfortable lately. To step outside of my little world and really look for opportunities to be a blessing to someone. There are 3 things the Shunammite woman did in this story that have encouraged me to be more mindful about how we treat and serve others.

SHE PROVIDED NOURISHMENT AND REFRESHING In November 2021, I ran my first marathon (you can read about it here!). Every 2 miles or so along the course, there were aid stations set up for runners. Aid stations had volunteers that provided water, gatorade, fruit, energy gels, or medical help for anyone who needed it. There were helpful, kind people there to help the runners keep going. One of the stations I ran through had a hockey team that formed a bridge with their hands for runners to go under as they yelled our names and cheered us on.

This woman provided an aid station for Elisha. She made sure that when he was in town, he had somewhere to go to be refreshed and energized (2 Kings 4:8). This is a practice that we have to return to as the body of Christ. When people come in contact with us, they should leave feeling refreshed and encouraged.

We have the responsibility as the people of the Way to feed them the love of Jesus, kindness, faith, the word of God, encouragement. But far too many Christians feed others their opinions. We set up aid stations with our ideas, political beliefs, and judgments. So instead of leaving feeling refreshed and strengthen, people leave feeling unseen and malnourished.

When we give people the life giving, soul quenching truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, they will leave us with the hope for change. Proverbs 11:25 says “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”

SHE LOOKED FOR AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE A BLESSING

This week, I planned to get up early to get some things done. I have a hard time writing at home so I like to go across the street to the coffee shop to write without distractions, then head over to the gym. I packed my bag the night before but couldn’t find my headphones. I knew I had brought them upstairs but couldn’t find them anywhere.

I looked in my kids’ room, the office, under my pillow. I looked in the closet and even the in the bathroom drawers. Nothing! I finally gave up and decided to work headphone free. Gross.

When I cam back home, I tried to find them one more time. Lo and behold, I found them under a lone sock on my dresser. After more minutes than I cared to spend looking for them, I had finally found them. What’s my point? We have to look for an opportunity to be a blessing.

The Shunammite woman (I wish she had a name; I’m tired of typing that!) didn’t wait for Elisha to come to her! She urged him to come to her home. She approached him. A lot of times, we expect people to come to our places of worship, bursting down the door to hear about Jesus.

Can I tell you a secret? They’re not coming. People who don’t know Jesus are not usually running into churches just because they drove by one. They are running into you and me, at Walmart, at the gas station, at the pharmacy, at our kids’ schools. We have to urge them to come. We have to look for an opportunity to bless them with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians‬ ‭5:15-16 says,‬ “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” Every time we leave our home, there is an opportunity to bless someone. But we’ve got to be on the look out.

SHE MADE AN INVESTMENT, EXPECTING NO RETURN I don’t know how many of you have ever invested in the stock market but I’m sure you know that the point of investing is to get more back. You expect a return. When a farmer plants corn, he expects to get more corn.

But in this story, this woman makes an investment into someone’s life without expecting anything in return. the Bible tells us that when we sow generously, we will reap generously, but that shouldn’t be the reason we sow. We give out of our love for God, not because of what we can get from him.

Theologians believe that this woman and her husband actually built a room on their roof. My husband and I are remodeling our basement right now, and let me tell you it is a lot of work! We’re building walls, a bathroom, doing electrical work, windows, lightening, like everything! So imagine that when this couple decided to make a room, it took both time and money to put it together.

She not only made a room for him, but furnished it as well. According to my trusted sources at Google, it costs on the low end about $10,000 to remodel and furnish a bedroom. That’s a big investment. And she did it because she wanted to honor Elisha, not get something from him. As a prophet who was known for performing miracles and hearing from God, I’m sure he was used to always doing things for people, but this woman wanted to do something for him.

Philippians 2:3 reminds to “Do nothing out of  selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” There will be times when God will prompt us to pour into someone that would never be able to repay us, and that’s ok. He sees our hearts and our work. We read in the story that because of her kindness and generosity, she was rewarded.

Moe then ever people need to experience the love of God and the life changing truth of his word. It won’t come just from church services and programs, prayer meetings and planning sessions, but from radical hospitality and opening our homes and hearts to other. Next week, I want to share someone’s story who did exactly that.

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Saying Yes to God

Listen to this blog post on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4:7-10

We’ve declared this a Year of Yes for God. We’ve identified the distractions and how to overcome them. So how do we actually say yes? Thankfully the answers are found in the book of James.

Yield – We have to yield to God. This is the first directive we’re given in James 4. Yielding is another way to say submit. Submission is the action or fact of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person. I’ve heard it described as coming under the mission of another. To be sub/under another’s mission. 

When we drive, there are yield signs. Yield doesn’t mean to slow down. The yield sign is telling us that there is something else already happening. There are cars already moving at high speeds and if you are entering, you need to join in with what’s already happening.

When we submit to God, we are agreeing to join in with what he has going on. We agree to do what he wants us to do. Micah 6:8 is one place in the word that tells us what God requires of us. God requires that we act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.

When you walk with someone you get to know them. One of my closest friends I have is because we ran together. We started to train for a race together and during that time, we got to know each other on a deeper level. 

Enter His Presence– James encourages us to come near to God. When we come near to God, we enter his presence.God’s presence is not some mystical place or weird room with candles and soft music.God’s presence is wherever you prepare for it. His presence can be at your dining room table as you read your devotional. His presence can be in your car while you praise on your way to work.

When we come near to God, we are showing him that not only do we trust him, but he can trust us. 

Sacrifice– And here comes the hard part. Look at James 4:9 “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.” None of that stuff is fun! But honestly, saying yes to God often requires sacrifice.

Saying yes to something requires saying no to something else. Saying yes to attending worship service consistently requires saying no to staying up all night on Saturday. Saying yes to making time to read your Bible requires saying no to binge watching your favorite show. Saying yes to managing your finances requires saying no to overspending and accumulating debt.

Saying yes is not always easy either, but saying yes to God, whatever he asks is always most beneficial. God has asked me to do a lot of things outside of my comfort zone, but every time I’ve said yes, I’ve never regretted it.

Whether God has asked you to start a ministry, focus on getting out of debt, serve as a foster parent, or minister to single mothers, I can assure you that your yes will not be in vain.

Distractions in the Year of Yes

Listen to this blog post on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

We were riding to church on a cold morning recently and my son asked me what my last name was before his dad and I got married. I was deep into explaining the importance of keeping my maiden name in my new married name when he interrupted, “I just saw a dog’s breath in the air!”

In a moment’s notice, he went from caring to hear about our family history to watching a dog breathe in the cold air. I was shattered!

But aren’t we all like this? Especially this time of the year if you’re reading this in January. We can be so focused on our New Year’s Resolutions. We’re hitting the gym, reading our Bible, eating better. Until we get distracted.

This is one of Satan’s favorite tools to use against God’s people: distraction. He may not get us to curse someone out or lie to your spouse, but he can get us distracted. His first recorded deception is of him distracting Eve from what God said.

When we get to heaven, I think Eve is going to go off on everyone who’s used her as an example of distraction. But we’re the same. God instructed them not to eat from one tree. God has given us instructions that we gloss over all of the time. Instructions regarding our finances, health, children, we take as optional suggestions.

I have a few ways that often distract us from giving God our best yes. And you know how I roll; they all start with S! Remember, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes???) so The enemy just revamps things as times change.

Social Distractions – You had to know it was coming! Never in the history of man have we actually been able to carry distractions everywhere we go. When I’m talking about social distractions, I’m referring specifically to social media.

YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok and whatever else is out there or coming has stolen so much time from people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been sitting at a table with people and instead of engaging in conversation, they are scrolling.

We are so concerned with what everyone is doing when as people of Faith, we should be worried about what God is doing. Paul tells us in “to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you,” (1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬). But social media encourages us to do the exact opposite. We are in other people’s business and not working with our hands. I guess swiping could be considered work by the scientific definition but I’m not going there!

Aaron, the first priest of Israel and brother of Moses, had a major social distraction. In Exodus 32, he was so concerned with what the people wanted that he helped create a golden calf for them to worship. When Moses was taking too long on the mountain talking to God, Aaron collected their gold jewelry and melted it to form a calf to serve as their god.

When Moses came down from the mountain, he said to his brother “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?””
(‭‭Exodus‬ ‭32:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬) I love Aaron’s response in the next verses! He blamed the people and then lied. Really, you should read the Bible. It can be hilarious!

But isn’t that what Eve did? Isn’t that what we do? We rarely take responsibility for our distractions. We try to justify them or make excuses. My pastor from my previous church would say an excuse is a dressed lie with a hat on.

I’m currently practicing a time of fasting and prayer and one thing I cut out in addition to coffee, meat, sweets and intimate relations is social media and TV. I’m already not a huge consumer of either but I can get sucked in rather quickly if I allow myself. But by putting those things aside for a period, I’ve found myself talking to God more and in his word.

Schedule Distractions – Here is a sample of an average day for me in November 2019:

  • 7am- Kids to school
  • 8am husband to work (we had one car for 4 months!)
  • 8:30-11:30 Work at coffee shop
  • 11:45-12:45pm School Organization meeting
  • 1-2pm work out
  • 2pm pick up kids
  • 3pm Cook dinner and clean
  • 5pm Showers for church or rehearsal
  • 6pm Church or rehearsal
  • 7pm Church or rehearsal
  • 9pm Veg on couch until I can get upstairs

I was busy and overwhelmed and this didn’t include gymnastics and birthday parties and my stuff! But I recognized it. I began to trim back my schedule until I wasn’t busy and overwhelmed anymore. I cut out extra things I was involved in that didn’t fulfill me or add value to where I was going until all that was left was what was essential.

Busyness isn’t a new problem. When Jesus was visiting his friends in Luke 10, one sat at his feet listening to him while the other bustled around in busyness. She was so busy serving the Lord that she didn’t have time to sit with him. She was so busy preparing that she didn’t stop to praise the one she was preparing for.

I don’t know what your schedule is like but I can almost bet there are things in it that are not benefiting you. I’ve learned I don’t have to go to every party and I don’t need a reason why. Our schedules should work for us, not us for them.

Take a look at your current schedule. If you don’t have time to do things for God and for yourself, it’s too full. I heard this quote “If you are too busy to pray, you are busier than God wants you to be.” -Wanda Brunstetter.

Satisfaction Distraction – We all want to feel comfortable and satisfied but when our satisfaction distracts us from saying yes to God, something is wrong. I live in Green Bay Packer country in Wisconsin. I’m not lying when I say that our church has less attendees on the Sundays the Packers play. Some people are just more interested in being entertained than coming to worship. Its mean but it’s true.

We satisfy our desire for more sleep by skipping our morning prayer time. We satisfy our desire for sugary snacks by choosing a cupcake over an apple. We satisfy our desire for worldly materials by going into debt for things we don’t need rather than managing our money well. Every day we make choices based on what will satisfy us, not on what will sustain us.

But the Bible tells us these things will never satisfy us, only God can. “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”
(‭‭Psalms‬ ‭145:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

But don’t feel bad. I’m certainly not trying to make you feel that way. I just want us to be aware of the traps we can easily fall into when we take our eyes off of Jesus. Paul had to correct the church at Corinth for the same things. But they were really going crazy!

The Corinthian church was full of new believers who were leaving an old way of life for a new life in Christ. But they were struggling! They were suing each other, people were creating divides based on spiritual positioning, and they had some major sexual immorality going on!

Paul corrected this church and let them know that while being satisfied is not necessarily a sin, not everything we do to satisfy ourselves is helpful.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23

I ran across a wonderful acronym just this week. Think before you speak. And for our use, I’ll say think before you speak or do.

  • TRUE- Is it true?
  • HELPFUL- Is it helpful?
  • INSPIRING- Is it inspiring?
  • NECESSARY- Is it necessary?
  • KIND- Is it kind?

Let’s agree to not let distraction rule over us in 2022. Examine your life to see what area you struggle most in and ask God to help you set boundaries so you can give him your best yes.

A Year of Yes

Listen to this blog post on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

I recently watched the movie “Yes Day” with my kids. I was hesitant to watch it because I didn’t want them getting any ideas! The premise of the movie is that for one day the parents agree to say yes to everything their children ask. The parents set a few rules about how much money could be spent and a distance they could travel, but other than that the answer had to be yes.

The morning of the Yes Day, the kids enter the room with a poster board containing their 5 Big Asks that were to be revealed later. And the movie continues with a lot of foolishness and falls and family fun ending with a good lesson and maybe a tear or two shed. As I was watching this movie, I began to wonder if this is how we sometimes approach God.

We want a YES DAY from Him. And not just a YES DAY, but a YES LIFE. We want every request answered the way we want it and within our timeframe. I have a very active imagination so I imagine myself entering heaven with a bright green poster board, approaching God’s throne: “Here are my Big Asks for you, Lord. I want more money than I know what to do with. I want my kids to be smart and talented and get into a good college. I want my business to be booming! I want my marriage to be picture perfect. And can you please keep me healthy despite the trash I continue to consume everyday? Oh and I ask this in Jesus’ name, so now you have to do it.”

I don’t think any of us would really approach God like this. At least I hope not! But I wonder if he ever feels like we do? As a parent, there are times when I do. I have actually told my kids “Do not ask me for anything for the rest of the night!”. I don’t think God would say that; he’s far more patient than I am!

But as I thought more about this, I began to wonder what would happen if we gave a YES DAY to God? What if whatever Big Asks God had for us, we did them. What if when we saw the homeless person and felt the pull to buy them dinner, we did it? What if we prayed for the cashier at Walmart that is clearly having a bad day?

In September 2015, I was at a conference hosted by my church called “Say Yes”. If you haven’t been to a Women’s Conference, I highly recommend you try one out. It’s on my to do list for this year. But during the praise and worship, I clearly heard the voice of God tell me, specifically, He needed me to say yes. I can’t explain it but I could feel that whatever I would be saying yes to was going to be big.

Three months later, my husband asked if I would be interested in moving across the country to his hometown. I already knew the answer. I knew this was what God was telling me to say yes to. A few months after moving, my father in law/pastor asked me to start a Women’s Ministry at the church. I was terrified but I said yes.

I’m reminded of another woman in the Bible who knew what it was like to say yes. Mary, the mother of our Savior, was approached by an angel of the Lord at a very inconvenient time. She was preparing for her wedding to a carpenter and I’m sure she wasn’t expecting this interruption. But what began as an interruption became a life changing invitation.

Mary had questions. Oftentimes when we’re asked to do something for God we will have questions. Google has spoiled us! We can get the answer to any question in a matter of seconds. How tall is Jennifer Aniston? (She’s 5’5″, I know you wanted to know!) Thankfully, God is gracious and doesn’t want us in the dark. We don’t always get the full details but there are times when God tells us exactly what to do.

In the first chapter of Luke, Mary asks the angel how could she become the mother of the Messiah since she is a virgin. The angel tells her “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35).

Then Mary gave the answer I believe God desires from all of his children. “I am the Lord’s servant” (Luke 1:38). Now I don’t know anyone with a servant nor have I met a servant, but I do know that servants serve. Servants respond to the call of their master with yes.

One of our greatest examples in scriptures, the apostle Paul, who wrote almost half of the New Testament, opened many of his letters introducing himself as a “servant of Jesus Christ” (See Romans, Philippians, and Titus). And Paul was next level! He started churches, taught people how to live a God-centered life, proclaimed the gospel to the Gentiles, all this while being imprisoned, shipwrecked and victim to an occasional beating for doing these things to further the kingdom!

But like Mary, Paul knew the benefit of being a servant of God. They both knew that obedience was better than sacrifice. Servants say yes. Servants seek to please their master. Jesus himself came to serve. Matthew 20:28 says, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

We don’t even have to give our lives for many, only to one. But I won’t lie to you. It’s becoming increasingly harder to say yes to the things of God. There are so many distractions that even 25 years ago weren’t an issue. We have to be even more deliberate about how we spend our time so we can give God our best yes.

Next week, I’ll continue this line of thinking with “Being Distracted from a Year of Yes”. There are things that the enemy uses, and not all of them are bad, that can cause us to miss out on the opportunity to give God a Year of Yes.

Building the Temple: Pt 3 Take Care to Prepare

Listen to this blog post on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

My mom just flew in to visit the kids after Christmas. I had to buy some new sheets for the room she sleeps in because the old ones were well, old. Aside from this, I didn’t do much to prepare for her visit. Now, if I’m honest, I don’t ever take a lot of time preparing for her to come. She visits sooo much! And I’m glad.. she’s my kids’ best friend. She comes so much that she has a library card here!

But typically when someone comes to visit my home, I take some time preparing for them. Washing sheets and towels and probably doing extra cleaning that I don’t normally do, as if they’re going to under the shelf in my pantry! I stock up on groceries and coffee and try to have an idea of what to do for entertainment. If you’re like me, you make a list of everything that needs to get done before guests arrive. It becomes a part time job!

If we do all of this preparing for guests to stay in our homes for 3 or 4 days, how much more preparation should we make for the 365 days that each year brings? Now that the holiday season is winding down, we have a great opportunity to prepare our lives for the new year. Whether you have gigantic, almost impossible goals or smaller, more practical ones, I guarantee you will be more likely to succeed if you take some time to prepare.

It’s easy to make a list of what you’d like to see in your life, but the preparation comes in when you figure out HOW you will accomplish this list. “I want to read the Bible more” is a great goal for the new year, but it’s not enough? What time of day do you want to read? What books of the Bible will you read? How many verses will you read? How many chapters? I know it seems like a lot but if you don’t prepare for how you will carry out your plans, you are leaving your success up for chance.

When Solomon started building the temple, he not only followed the plans given to him by his father, David, he made other preparations. He gathered the people of Israel to seek God and gathered horses and chariots and all of the supplies necessary to complete the temple (2 Chronicles 1).

He wasn’t leaving the building of the temple of God up to chance. Look at what he said in 2 Chronicles 2:5. “The temple I am going to build will be great, because our God is greater than all other gods.”

The temple that God has given us (our bodies) should be great. Our families should be great. Our finances should be great. Our relationships should be great. Our churches should be great. Why? Because our God is great! You don’t have to have all of the answers, because you can seek the God who has them. But you can take some time to prepare as best as you can and leave the rest to Him.

Happy New Year!

Building the Temple: Pt 2 Plan to Prosper

Listen to this blog post on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

“Plans are established by seeking advice; so if you wage war, obtain guidance.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭20:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It’s here! It’s finally here. My Christmas gift from my husband just came in the mail. Most people wouldn’t be excited to get the same gift every year but I like consistency!

For the past few years, I’ve been using the Christian Planner. This isn’t sponsored but people at the Christian Planner, feel free to hit me up! I use this planner because it allowed me to go from carrying around a to do journal, sermon note journal, budget journal and planner to having one place to keep all of these things.

So every year, this is what I ask my husband to get me for Christmas. There is nothing more sas tidying than opening a new, fresh, empty planner. I mean, there are but I just really love this planner!

Like the New Year, my new planner is a chance to start fresh. For many of us, the next few weeks are either going to be the groundwork for a great new future or the continuation of a stagnant, unproductive, mediocre life.

I know that sounds rough but it’s true. One of my favorite quotes says, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Some people take this to the extreme and try to plan out every detail of their day and life, making them a slave to their plans. You also have the person who makes no plan at all and proudly, albeit mistakenly, labels it as spontaneity.

Either side of the extreme is not beneficial and will have you further away from your goals than you would hope.

Did you know God was a planner? He told Jeremiah “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬)‬‬

And we are supposed to be imitators of God (Ephesians 5:1). If God has taken time to make plans for us, we should take time to make plans for our lives to steer them in the direction that gives him glory in every area of our lives.

Make sure you check out the podcast where we go a bit deeper into how you can plan for your best year!

Next week, we’ll talk about the next step: Take Care to Prepare.

Building the Temple: Pt 1 Pray Before You Plan

Listen to this blog post on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

David said, “My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it.” So David made extensive preparations before his death. – 1 Chronicles 22:5

Once David was informed that he would not be the king to build the temple of the Lord, he did the next best thing: he began making preparations for it. The Bible says he gathered wood, gold, silver and gems so that when Solomon was old enough to take over, everything would be ready.

When the day comes for Solomon to take his position as king, it was time for to begin building. But he does something else first. HE PRAYS. He has the right job, the right supplies, the right crew and yet he still stops to inquire of the Lord.

I’ve mentioned before that I homeschool my kids. As a planner, I usually have their entire month planned out and I review each week on Monday to be sure I have what I need. But one thing I’m learning to never overlook is beginning our days with prayer. Especially if I’m teaching something new! “Lord, help me to teach equivalent fractions with clarity and minimal yelling. Amen.”

I think some of us reserve prayer for major situations or a crisis. But we’ve been instructed to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

God doesn’t place any stipulations on what we can bring to him. Big or small, he cares and wants to help us. As the New Year approaches, I want to face it like Solomon did when it was time to build the temple. I want to start with prayer.

Solomon asked God for wisdom in how to lead the people of Israel. He didn’t just pop up and make a bunch of new rules as king and then ask God to bless it. He asked God what he should do.

When you prepare for the new year (or new week or new day), ask God how you should make your goals and what they should be. Psalm37:4 says “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Many people think this only means God will give you what you desire. But I also believe he will give you WHAT TO desire.

I’ve started the year with fasting and prayer every year since I became a believer in 2006. It’s a great way to quiet down from the holidays and reset for the new year. It’s a great way to hear from God about your life and to get direction. Like Solomon, it would do us good to take time to inquire of God before we barge into the throne room with a list.

Next week, we’ll talk about step to: Plan to Prosper.

Building the Temple

Listen to this blog post on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

David said, “My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it.” So David made extensive preparations before his death. – 1 Chronicles 22:5

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And yes, I sang that as I typed it! I really love Christmas time. For me, it’s the point in my year that signals it’s time to relax. I would say I go against the grain at this time of year that is usually spent bustling around to parties, stores and shows. A study in 2019 showed that 88% of respondents believed the holidays are the most stressful time of the year!

I have my yearly traditions of decorating, gift giving and fellowship just like most people, but I decided a long time go that I would not give into the belief that this time of year would be stressful. I’ve worked to be very intentional about centering our celebration on Jesus and his magnificent arrival into the world. That means saying no sometimes to the busyness that tries to creep in this time of year.

During this time of year, I usually spend some time reflecting on what has happened during the year. Goals I’ve completed and the ones that will carry over. Fun activities or trips with the family. I also spend some time starting to prepare for the next year. What do I want to see happen in my finances? My homeschool? My fitness? My faith?

One of my favorite quotes comes from Chris Voss in his book, Never Split the Difference. “When the pressure is on, you don’t rise to the occasion. You fall to the highest level of preparation.”

Every year, thousands of people write New Year’s Resolutions. I think what many people are writing is actually a wish list. By definition, when you make a resolution or resolve to do something, you are deciding firmly on a course of action. Resolutions should be more than just a cute list at the front of your planner. They should be accompanied by a plan of action. If you want to reach your goals, whatever they are, you have to prepare.

Every year, I prayerfully choose a word to guide my year. For 2021, my word was prepare. I wasn’t sure what this meant but knew from experience that God would show me throughout the year. This year, I committed to improving this blog, started a podcast and ran a marathon. I also have seen our homeschool blossom into a loving, calm, fulfilling environment that my kids are thriving in. But none of this happened accidentally. I began preparing for the change I wanted to see.

We are given a great example of this in the Bible. King David wanted to build a temple for the Lord but was told that his son, Solomon would be the one who would build the temple. Instead of being upset about what he couldn’t do, David began to pour himself into something he could do: make preparations for the building of the temple.

Over these last few weeks of 2021, I want to help you begin to think about where you’d like to see yourself this time next year by looking at the building of the temple in Jerusalem. The Bible tells us that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). Let 2022 be the year that you prepare your temple inside and out for what God wants to do through you.

Trust in the Lord

“I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.””
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭91:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬


In today’s world, it’s hard to know who to trust. One day, coffee is good for you. The next day, it causes cancer. One channel says it’s the end of the world. The other channel says everything is great.

I don’t know about you but this can get exhausting. I decided a long time ago that no matter what was going on, in the world, in politics, in my personal life, I was going to trust God. When our faith and trust is in God, it will put your mind at ease. You won’t be easily shaken by what you see or hear because you know God is in control and he is who you trust.

Find more inspiration and hopefully a few laughs on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

My First Marathon

Listen to this week’s blog on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

It is the day after my first marathon. I hobbled down the stairs, made a cup of coffee and grabbed my laptop. While I doubt I will ever forget the events that transpired yesterday, I decided I wanted to get them down while they were fresh.

They say finishing a marathon will change your and they, whoever they are, were not wrong. While I am not even a full day removed from the marathon, the experience definitely changed me.

I got to the race at about 6:15am and found the team I was running with, Team World Vision. It was nice to not be alone and I got to meet all of the online people I’d been interacting with for the past several months.

After a quick prayer and gathering, we headed to the start line. Oddly, I didn’t feel nervous at all. I was ready to run and pretty excited.

The gun went off and we ran. I felt fresh and ready. My training went ok considering all of the interruptions I had during it. Three funerals, an injury, and three colds (one of which I was still shaking). But I felt good!

The first few miles were quite pleasant. The weather seemed to be holding up well and the expected snow seemed to be a possible wrong prediction. But around mile 8, the heavens opened.

Despite the snow/sleet and the brutal winds, I was still feeling ok and was on pace. Miles 1-13 flew by and before I knew it I was at mile 18, which was the longest run I’d done in training. With a wet face and feet, I kept pushing forward.

I could tell that these 18 miles were much more difficult than my training run of the same distance. The snow lasted from about mile 8-17 and was accompanied by some very intense wind gusts. By 18 miles, I felt physically drained. The snow and wind beat at my body for almost 10 miles and I was feeling it.

Luckily, a wonderful man named Mohammed, whom I will NEVER EVER forget was running close by and we began talking and encouraging each other.

I stopped at about 18.5 miles to take some pebbles out of my shoe, but when I slid my ankle back into my shoe, my left calf seized up as tight as a rock! I had never gotten a cramp during running so this was new territory.

With tears forming in my eyes, I began to message my calf and told it “Loosen up, right now!”. I used my mom voice to tell it who was in charge. I stood up and continued to remind my leg of its responsibility to keep me moving.

The cramp left, but the exhaustion stayed. My legs felt decent but my feet felt like lead. I knew as long as I could keep my mind strong, I’d be ok.

My family called to find me and as I approached about 19 miles, they drove by. I smiled and yelled at the kids from the road and it really brightened up the atmosphere. It’s amazing what being around the right people can do! (Another blog for another time!)

I pressed on and a bit before the 20 mile mark, my family had parked and were waiting for me. I stopped to hug my kids and to tell my husband that I was struggling. To this point I was still on my target pace, but I could see the crew removing the 20 mile tracking strip that’s used to update spectators of where there runner is. I literally had to run around the person removing it!

When I got to mile 21, the proverbial wheels fell off. I stopped to use the bathroom, hoping the change would bring on a second wind. It did not.

At this point, it crossed my mind to quit. I’d seen a lot of people drop out back when the weather got rough. It would be understandable. These running conditions were not ideal. I’d like to say that I fought hard the whole way through. I was mentally tough and nothing was going to break me down. But truthfully, I considered it.

As I sat in the port-a-potty, I had a decision to make. I can keep going or I can give up. But truthfully, I had already decided I was going to finish. I decided when I signed up for the marathon. I decided when I did the training. I decided when I pre-purchased the 26.2 sticker for my car!

I came out of the bathroom and kept going. I was doing ok, walking/running with my new friend. We talked about our running, families and got excited as we could see the capitol building in the near distance, which was the finish.

Feeling confident, I kept moving. Around mile 23, disaster knocked on my door again. And I let it in. The race crew was beginning to pick up the cones. One of the guys came to us to let us know that they needed to pick up the cones and mile markers so we needed to stay on the sidewalk to finish.

I’d been using the cones to guide me to the finish, and as a directionally challenged person, I knew if I had to read a map to get pack, I was toast. I burst into tears. Like, my dog just died tears.

Mohammed immediately checked on me. He thought I was hurt or something bad had happened. through my sobs I explained that I was scared I wouldn’t know the way to finish. He reassured me that we would follow the map and finish the last few miles together.

I wiped my tears and thanked God for sending me someone to help me when I was struggling. I apologized to Mohammed for falling apart and let him know I was ok!

My family called me at around 25 miles because the race was no longer tracking me since I would not make the cut off. I assured them I was doing fine and was on my way. The race crew had radioed in that we were coming so they left the finish line up.

At this point, I knew it was a good time to open the letter my daughter gave me days before the race. “See you at the finish line!”

I picked up my pace a bit and as I turned the corner onto the street where the finish line was, I could see my family. Tears welled up in my eyes. I knew I was almost done.

The workers who were still there cheered me on like I was running for gold! As my feet crossed the finish line, the floodgates opened and I couldn’t contain my emotions. I’d finished a marathon!

It was harder than I thought and I’d ran slower than I’d hoped, but I finished. I didn’t quit. I didn’t give up.

At the beginning of this year, I couldn’t run a mile and a when I finally could, it took me 15 minutes. I’d come so far and felt so proud. Since I didn’t finish the course by the cutoff time, I got a DQ by my name in the results. It stands for Disqualified. But for me, it means Didn’t Quit.

I felt like the psalmist in Psalm 27. “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living.” ‭‭(Psalms‬ ‭27:13‬)

I learned so much from running 26.2 miles about me, life and what I hope to give in the time I have on this earth. I’m excited to see what’s next!

Joy in the Lord

“Joyful are those who obey his laws and search for him with all their hearts.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

‬It’s the Christmas season. I know we haven’t gotten to Thanksgiving yet but ads, commercials and stores are definitely telling us it’s time. The loud, colorful commercials want us to believe that we will find joy this season by getting or giving the right gift.

But we will only truly be joyful when we set our hearts to obey God’s word and seek him. He is the source of our joy and contentment.

Find more inspiration and hopefully a few laughs on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

Run YOUR Race

Head over to my podcast for 5 ways to RUN YOUR RACE!! Seeking God, Loving Others.

“…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In 48 hours, I’ll be running my first marathon. I can’t believe that after almost 8 months of training it’s time. It’s time to run my race. My training has been interrupted more times than I care to remember but I’ve made it through.

I’ve learned so much over the past few months about both running and life. Many of the blog posts I’ve written were worked out during a run on the trails.

As I’ve been preparing for this race, I’ve come across Hebrews 12:1 quite a bit. In fact, the planner I use has a monthly verse and this month’s verse was Hebrews 12:1! Coincidence? I don’t think so.

This verse is such a powerful reminder that each of us has our own race to run that God has marked out for us. But many of us are too busy looking at other people’s races and envying their results.

I’ve found it so freeing actually running my own race. Both physically and spiritually. I use a running app that is basically like Facebook but for runners. We can see our friends’ runs and comment and like but I’ve heard many people say they feel bad about their own run after seeing others’ stats.

When we compare ourselves to others, it actually slows us down in our own race. We end up doing too much too soon or losing focus on what God wants us to do.

If I look at and envy the free time my friend has while her kids are at school, I won’t be content in homeschooling my children even though it’s the race God has marked for me.

If I envy the lavish vacation someone on Facebook posts, I won’t be content with sticking to the financial goals God has marked out for my family.

When we run the race that God has marked out for us in our homes, business, career or family, we can trust that he has everything figured out.

I know a few people who have a running coach. If ever I win the lottery, that will be one of my splurges. A running coach can create a plan tailored specific to your goals. You don’t have to think about what workout you need to do or how far you need to run; you just look at your plan. And if something comes up that interferes with your training, your running coach adjusts things and moves them around.

Now, a running coach is not in my budget (yet) but I do have access to someone who has created a tailored plan for my life. I don’t have to worry about what city to live in or what job to take, I can just look at his plan. I don’t have to know how long it will take for my blog to get noticed or my book to get published. I can look at his plan and know that “he who began a good work will carry it to completion” (Philippians 1:6).

When something interferes with my race, he can move things around so that “all things are working together for my good” (Romana 8:28). If you haven’t caught on, I’m talking about God! God has every detail of my life, and yours, mapped out and when we stay in our lane, stay in his word and stay in his presence, we WILL run our race and run it well.

Wisdom for Everyday

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It’s important to read the Bible. But you can read the Bible in more than one way. It can be read as history, literature, geography, even entertainment! Some of those Old Testament stories had more drama than some reality shows!

But it is when we read the Bible as a living document that is applicable to everyday life that we really gain the benefits God’s word offers. We can apply his grace that is sufficient to everyday problems. We can access his peace that surpasses all understanding when trying times come.

God’s word is meant to come alive as we read it. And in turn, we too come alive with hope, wisdom and direction.

Find more inspiration and hopefully a few laughs on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

Seasons Change; God Doesn’t

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.””
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It’s fall here in the Midwest, a season I had very little experience with growing up in Texas. I love this time of year. There is a street that we take to go to the library that we call “Tree Tunnel Road”. The trees on either side of the road meet above the road, like they are reacting out to each to each other. During the fall, the leaves trade their green wardrobe for yellows, orange, red and purple.

In a time when things can change overnight, it is reassuring to know that God is always the same. He is faithful and his great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4) are not conditioned on what is happening in the world. Take heart! His promises are still YES and AMEN!

Find more inspiration and hopefully a few laughs on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

If You Love It, You’ll Do It

New Podcast Episode at Seeking God, Loving Others!!

“If you love me, keep my commands” -JESUS

It’s that simple. If you love something you do it. No one has to force us to binge our favorite show or nag us to eat our favorite dessert. I’ve never begged my son to play is favorite video game or pleaded with my daughter to color with me. In fact, it takes very little persuasion for us to do the things we love.

I recently completed a 18 mile run for my marathon training. To my surprise, it went really well. I had been having some setbacks in my training, so running this distance at such great ease was very reassuring for completing the 26.2 miles I have awaiting me in a few days.

I posted my run on Facebook and a few people later told me they couldn’t believe I ran that far. “I could ever do that!” was also a common phrase. I remember when I first started running, I felt the same. A marathon? NEVER! But then again, I hadn’t fallen in love with running yet.

Almost 4 years into my running, I can truly say I love running. I love running in the heat or the cold. I love running fast and slow. I love running here and there, I love running everywhere! Sorry for getting Dr. Seuss on you, but it’s true. I now love running. t is no longer a struggle to put on my shoes and get out the door, no matter the distance.

When you love something, it’s not a chore. When Jesus told us in John 14:15 that we show our love for him by doing what he says, I believe he had this idea in mind. That the things we love are easy to do. We don’t need to be better about reading our Bible more; we need to fall in love with the Bible. We don’t need to try to make it to church more than once a month; we need to fall in love with the church, who Jesus calls his bride. We don’t need to be better about giving the tithe to God; we need to fall in love with obeying his word and blessing his kingdom.

We sometimes overcommit ourselves and schedules things we don’t even love. Or even like for that matter. I heard something that I will clean up a bit for this clean blog: IF IT’S NOT A “HECK YES”, IT’S A “NO”! I learned a few years ago that life is too short to fill with obligations and undesired commitments (I’m not talking about responsibilities like work, parenting, etc. if you don’t love these things, you can’t quit, you just need to ask God to help you make some adjustments elsewhere!).

When we fill our lives with the things we love, life doesn’t seem as demanding. Memories can be made because we aren’t just rushing to the next thing. We make time for what matters most. This week, commit to doing something you love, or would like to fall in love with, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Read you Bible, read a book, color a picture, do a puzzle, play a game with your kids. You don’t need more time, you need to love it more!

The Right Door

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭42:11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I loved watching game shows when I was you get. I always like when the contestants got to choose their prize by selecting from a group of closed doors. The audience would yell at them and they’d look around frantically for the right guess.

I feel like that’s how many of us live our lives. We don’t know what to do so we look to others frantically for help in making major decision. Where to live, where to shop, where to send our kids to school.

I wrote a few days ago about choosing peace. What I love about making this decision is that I already know what’s behind the door. The psalmist was going through a rough time but he made a choice that gave him hope.

He didn’t have to guess what would happen if he opened the door to hope, he knew his soul would be revived. This day, my prayer is for you to choose hope and walk through it. Nothing is too hard for our God. Your miracle could be on the other side of your hope.

Seek First

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:33‬ ‭NIV‬‬

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? Do you charge into the restroom full speed? Do you stretch? Meditate? Pray? Grab your phone? Every morning we are presented with a new opportunity to start the day off in a way that will fulfill us or drain us.

When we choose to put the things of God first, the rest of life will come together. I can always tell when I haven’t been seeking God first. It feels like little by little, the other areas of my life begin to crumble.

We don’t have to go back to flip phones or delete social apps from our devices, but what if we seek before scroll? What if we read a scripture before taking that selfie? What if we pray before we play that game? When we take care of our spirits, our bodies tend to line up as well.

Let it Out!!

“For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭10:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I’m so glad people can’t hear my internal dialogue. Don’t worry, I’m not thinking mean or crazy thoughts! But some of the thing I dream to accomplish or big goals I have are laughable.

But I’ve learned something very powerful over the past few years. Sometimes you just have to let it out. Sometime, you just have to say out loud what you want to do and I’ll take it a step further, you have to TELL YOURSELF that you will do it.

I could believe in heart all day that I could run a marathon, but if it stays just a thought, it may never turn into action. But when I tell myself and others that I am going to run a marathon, that confession holds me accountable to make sure it happens.

Maybe you need to tell yourself that you are a great mother, an accomplished author, a tidy person. Just taking that thought and making it a statement can change everything.

Mileage that Meets Needs

Find more inspiration and hopefully a few laughs on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

This Tuesday, I ran the longest I’ve ever run and will run until I complete my marathon in a few weeks. I’ve been training since May and while I’ve been met with a few setbacks, things have gone pretty well. My 18.5 mile run went surprisingly well and left me feeling confident and ready for my race.

I am running my first marathon with Team World Vision, an organization that my husband and I have supported for almost 13 years. I was made aware just this year that I could raise money for World Vision to provide clean water for people who otherwise don’t have access to it.

I also learned that 6 kilometers was the average distance that a person walked without access to clean water. That’s 3.5 miles of walking for dirty water to bath in, wash with and cook with.

I knew immediately that I had to be a part of this. I saw that I could run with a team in Madison, WI. When I went to sign up for the half marathon, a. Slight hesitation caused me to consider the full marathon. I had run a half before and just felt a pull to go a little further. I signed up for the full.

As I’ve been training, I’ve tried to stay focused less on my stats and paces and more on the reason I’m doing this. I want to help people who need help. I want to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Jesus said this “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew‬ ‭25:40‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

It’s important to remember those who can’t help themselves. It’s important to be apart of something bigger than ourselves. I’m excited to run my race at my pace and for the hundreds of people who will benefit from us coming together to help provide clean water.

If you’d like to donate, click here to learn more about World Vision.

Believe and Live

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?””
‭‭John‬ ‭11:25-26‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

I’ve been to 3 funerals in 2 months. I think I said this yesterday but today’s verse in the Bible app seemed to be in the same vein of thinking.

Seeing people leave this earth is hard. Whether it’s at the end of a long battle with illness or unexpected, experiencing the death of a loved one is never easy. I am, however, encouraged knowing that the 3 people whose lives were celebrated had a relationship with Christ.

I know that although they are no longer here, they chose to receive the resurrection and life while they were here. It doesn’t make grieving easier but it makes going forward capable.

This has stirred a new urgency within me to be more diligent in sharing the gospel. The book of Acts says that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. We just need to share that name!

Find more inspiration and hopefully a few laughs on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

Sheep Among Wolves

““I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭10:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I was at a funeral today. It was my 3rd funeral in the last two months. Death has the unfortunate ability to make you reconsider everything you’re doing. Your lifestyle choices, how you spend your time, how you spend your money.

I’ve found myself being more present and mindful in whatever I’m doing. If I’m running, I’m just running. If I’m playing library with my daughter, I’m just checking out books. I’m working to make sure my mind isn’t in other places when it needs to be where I currently am.

At the funeral I was at today, the person being honored was to some a father or grandfather, to others a pastor and leader, but to everyone who made remarks and those in attendance, he was a servant. He served not only his local church, but the global church, organizing decades of trips to Mexico.

As I listened to everyone remember him and then read this scripture today, I was encouraged to be more diligent and mindful about presenting the gospel to those who don’t have it.

Jesus sent his disciples out like sheep among wolves. We have a commission elsewhere to do the same. Our job as Christians is not to judge the world and shame them, but to share the love and gospel of Jesus Christ.

I have friends that need Jesus. I pass by people everyday who need Jesus. I don’t know about you, but this sheep is leaving the pen and going to the wolves.

Find more inspiration and hopefully a few laughs on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

Psalm 103:13- Compassion

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;” -Psalms‬ ‭103:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The application of this word could change the world. Instead of placing blame on people or trying to figure out how they got in what they’re in, what if we showed compassion. What if we didn’t judge a single mother, but asked if she needed babysitting help. What if we didn’t label the man asking for change a beggar, but bought him a coffee and offered a prayer?

God has been so compassionate towards us. The rest of this verse says “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”
‭‭

God could easily bring up every wrong thing we’ve done or said, but he doesn’t. He chooses compassion. He chooses to love us. And since we are made in his image, we should extend this same grace to others.

Find more inspiration and hopefully a few laughs on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

Asking, Seeking and Knocking

““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” -Matthew‬ ‭7:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

My son is a professional asker. He has no hesitation when asking to go somewhere, do something or buy something. And if the answer is no, he will wear you down slowly but sweetly! Eventually, he usually gets what he wants (within reason).

Many people think this scripture is about money and material things. We can ask God for ANYTHING! Need peace? Ask, seek and knock. What about joy? Ask, seek and knock. How about focus to get a few things finished? Ask, seek and knock.

God is concerned about we are concerned about. I bet he wished we would come to him with everything. Not just big, insurmountable problems but even things as small as a headache.

Find more inspiration and hopefully a few laughs on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

Plan for God’s Purpose

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭19:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As a planner, I believe God looked through the channels of the future, saw people like me and made sure this verse was put in the Bible! But I’m learning that I’d rather have God’s purpose lead and guide me than my own plan.

We can’t see what’s down the road but God can. I truly believe there have been accidents I didn’t get into and encounters I didn’t have because God’s purpose prevailed. He is ALWAYS thinking about what’s in our best interest and sometimes that is not found on our to-do list.

Find more inspiration and hopefully a few laughs on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

Note Taken!

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,”
‭‭James‬ ‭1:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It’s easy to believe some lies we tell ourselves. “I’ve always had a short fuse”; “I just tell it like it is, good or bad”; “I just run off at the mouth!”.

But James says that EVERYONE should shut their mouth, make listening a priority, and calm down. Well, he didn’t say it exactly like that.

How many times have your words put you in a situation you didn’t care to be in. Hurt feelings, unintended commitments, just being wrong! If we can pause and give our brains and hearts a minute to process, maybe we can respond more kindly and even more appropriately in different situations.

If I can quote another great thinker, “You can’t learn anything when you’re talking. That’s a fact of life. As long as you’re talking, you’re not listening.” Ok, it’s just Rocky Balboa from “Creed” but it’s still true! Faith in Films! Coming soon 😉

Thanks James (and Mr. Balboa). Note taken!

Find more inspiration and hopefully a few laughs on my podcast Seeking God, Loving Others.

God’s Goodness is Tailing You!

“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭23:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I love seeing the word “surely” in the Bible. It’s a guarantee! We are guaranteed that the goodness and love of God is following us.

Have you ever been driving and someone is all up on the back of your car? Next time that happens, remember, that’s how God’s goodness and love and mercy are following you. ALL UP ON YOU!!

Occupancy Limit Reached

Yesterday, my kids and I went to Bath and Body Works to buy a fall candle. Candle buying is a family affair for us. My kids spend way too much time, smelling Every… Single… Candle.

At the entrance of the store, there was a sign posted that stated the store had an occupancy limit of 31. Over the past year, I’ve seen these signs more visible than before. The occupancy limit usually depends on the size of the store.

I read a scripture this week that has been a real game changer for my week. Have you ever read a passage in the Bible that jumped off of the page and into your heart and mind? I know I’ve read it before but I’ve never noticed it.

“Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭5:19-20‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The last line of this verse is what I noticed. “God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.” I’ve been asking God all week to occupy my heart with gladness. To occupy means to keep busy or filled.

Too many people allow their hearts to be occupied with the wrong things: fear, doubt, news, social media, worry, and the list go on. And it becomes evident in their conversation. I have become very intentional about what I allow to reach my eyes and my heart.

Jesus said this: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (Matthew‬ ‭12:34‬ ) So I’ve been asking God to occupy my heart with gladness this week. I’ve been focusing on his goodness. I’ve been focusing on the blessings he’s put in my life.

When a building reaches its occupancy limit, it means there is no room for anyone else to come inside. When we allow God to occupy our hearts with gladness, there is no room for fear or negativity to occupy it.

I encourage you to pray this prayer this week and ask God to fill your heart: “Lord, I ask that you would occupy my heart with gladness. I refuse to allow negativity, fear, doubt, worry, stress or anything that doesn’t come from you to take residency in my heart. My heart belongs to you and thank you for filling it.”

What You Thought Was Dead

Check out this week’s podcast @ https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jasmine-lozano-seeking-god-loving-others/id1562418663

In 2016, we moved into our current Midwest mansion. It’s not really a mansion but was one of the few houses we looked at where our visitors didn’t have to use our bathroom so it was a mansion to me!

One of the major selling points of our house was the beautiful apple tree in the front yard that didn’t yield crab apples but actual, grocery storish looking and tasting apples. 

Fast forward two years, and my storybook apple tree stopped producing apples. It looked tired and dry and my husband thought we would have to cut it down. 

Before giving it the axe, he decided to try a few things first. He removed the old mulch and replaced it with new mulch. He cut off the parts of the tree that were clearly dead. And lastly, (and you better not laugh at my man!!) he spoke to the tree. He told it to come to life and produce apples. He told it to do what it was created to do. 

And by the next summer, we still didn’t have apples. I know I set you up. You were expecting a harvest of apples like we were. But it didn’t happen. But he continued to talk to the tree. 

This summer, guess what happened? WE GOT APPLES!!! And this fall, WE ARE EATING APPLES!!! 

Our tree didn’t start coming back to life immediately. It took time. It took patience. It took faith. 

I’m reminded of the story of Lazarus in John 11. You can check out my podcast for a more in-depth discussion on this (small plug!). But when Jesus got to Lazarus’ town of Bethany, he was beyond dead! The Bible says he had been in the tomb for 4 days. 

When Jesus saw Lazarus’ tomb, he spoke 3 simple words to his friend. “Lazarus, come forth.” And I love that the Bible tells us that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is in us (Romans 8:11)! 

There are dreams in my life that sometimes seem like they’re dead. Or are at least on life support underneath all of my responsibilities. But I think about what Jesus told his disciples when he heard of Lazarus’ death. “He’s sleeping” (John 11:11)

Could it be that what you thought was dead is just sleeping? That business, that book, that blog, that podcast, that invention or service? They’re not dead; they’re sleeping, waiting on a word of life to breathe on it and wake it up!

I believe that our apple tree began producing apples again because my husband told it. Neither of us is particularly skilled at gardening but we do know that power of words. And you can speak to the things in your life that aren’t producing and I believe with you that they will come forth!!

Stop Pacifying the Pain; Fix the Problem

Check out this blog on my podcast: Seeking God, Loving Others https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jasmine-lozano-seeking-god-loving-others/id1562418663?i=1000534243735

At about 9 weeks from my first marathon, I am knee deep in training. How appropriate that I’ve begun to have some discomfort in my right knee. I was having a great training cycle and even though the miles were increasing, I was looking forward to the challenge. Then after running about 20 miles in a 4 day period, my knee signaled to me that something was wrong. I put ice on, massaged it, elevated it, did all of the things I could think to do to treat an injury until after some research, I found that I wasn’t actually treating my injury. I was treating the symptoms.

I will spare you the scientific, medical terminology and explanations and give you a run down. There is a connective tissue in the leg that runs from the hip to the knee called the Iliotibial Band, or IT Band for us common folk. Basically, this tissue is what we use to make our leg do the motions for running or cycling. So it’s kind of important. 

I found that pain on the outside of the knee (exactly where I was having it) was a symptom of IT Band Syndrome, or ITBS for short. I know, it sounds super scary! ITBS happens when the muscles surrounding the IT Band are not strong enough to support the activity you are trying to do. Basically, it happens when you do too much too fast and your body isn’t prepared. 

The only way to truly recover from this injury is to strengthen the muscles that support the IT Band. You can ice, medicate, stretch, even rest, but you will only be treating the symptoms and never addressing the real issue.

This “healing” approach is not unique to just this running injury. Year after year, many people do everything they can to pacify pain, rather than fix the problem. 

  • We think we don’t make enough money (symptom) when really, we never learned how to manage money (problem).
  • We think losing weight is just too hard (symptom) when we haven’t addressed our unhealthy relationship with food (problem).
  • We think we’re too busy to put time into spiritual growth (symptom) when truthfully, God is not a priority for us (problem).

When we go through life just trying to stay on top of the symptoms, we never experience the true healing that God offers. In the 11th chapter of 2nd Samuel, King David encountered some major issues when he attempted to only treat the symptoms of the affair he had with Bathsheba.

This is an abridged summary (Please refer to an actual Bible with an officially recognized translation)

David was supposed to be at war with the troops but stayed home and saw a lady taking a bath on her roof. He asks who she is and is told she is the wife of one of his soldiers, Uriah. He has her come over and gets her pregnant. Then he starts freaking out (treating the symptoms). 

But he has a plan! He can ice it; he can find something to cover up what’s really going on. He has Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, brought home from battle so he will sleep with his wife and think the baby is his. 

But when Uriah comes home, he refuses to rest in comfort while his fellow countrymen are on the battlefield, and sleeps at the city gate. But David has more home remedies for this setback.

He gets Uriah drunk and tries again to have him go home to sleep with his wife, but when this fails, he moves to more extreme measures. He arranges to have Uriah put at the front of the battle so he is more likely to be killed.

Once his plan is “successful”, he thinks he’s remedied his problem. He thinks he’s taken care of the problem that is plaguing him. But he has only treated the symptoms. 

The prophet Nathan comes to David and pretty much checks him. He lets David know that God is not pleased and because of his sin, the sword will never leave his household (constant drama) and his unborn child will die. 

When David hears this, he finally takes the ice off, locks up the ibuprofen, and finds the root of his problems.

“Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”” (2 Samuel 13:13) 

David’s problem wasn’t Bathsheba, the affair, the unplanned pregnancy or even the murder. David’s problem was that he sinned against God. He had drifted away from what he was known for his whole life: allowing God to be his strength. He spent so much time trying to treat the symptoms of his sin, rather than going to the only cure for it.

Like recovering from an injury, it’s important to assess what is really going on in our lives when we experience discomfort or pain. Have we strengthened our faith muscle to be able to rely on the power of God when things get tough? Have we paused to be sure we’re not overextending ourselves?

My husband taught a message this week and one of the points was to “Pay Attention to the Tension”. Tension or pain isn’t meant to take us out. They are signals that something is not right. They are an opportunity for us to course correct and get back on track. 

While I recover from this small injury, I’m being mindful to not just treat the symptoms but to strengthen the area that needs to be built up. Otherwise, this will be an unnecessary, ongoing problem. Decide today to stop treating your symptoms and fix the problem.

Training Tips

Check out my podcast, Seeking God, Loving Others! This weeks episode based on this blog: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jasmine-lozano-seeking-god-loving-others/id1562418663?i=1000534243735

This week in my marathon training, I had a midweek 6 mile run and unintentionally chose a path that has a few hills. I’m a lazy runner if I’m being honest and typically, I try to find routes that stay pretty even or go down in elevation! But being that my November marathon does feature some intense hills, I know I have to get more effective at running them.

As I was running up a steep hill, I began to regret my decision. Hills are hard! Hills hurt. Hills take more effort. Hills slow you down. Why can’t all races be on a level course that requires little to no effort? You already know where I’m going with this, don’t you?!

Life does not progress on an even course. There are times when we are running well and times when all we can do is walk. There will be times when there is plenty and times when we get to practice contentment! We don’t always get to run downhill. Sometimes we will have to tackle hills.

Jesus told us this in John 16:33. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

Jesus wanted us to know that in this world, we will have trouble. Not we might have or could possibly have trouble. WILL. Look at his life! The Pharisees were constantly stalking his every move. The Sadduceus’ main mission in life was to try to trip him up. His own disciple turned him in to be arrested. The people laughed at and mocked him and don’t forget he was put on a cross by the same people who laid palm branches under him!

It’s easy to say we want to live like Jesus, but do we though!? Jesus was able to endure all of this and more because he had already put in the training. He had already practiced on the hills! 

Jesus spent time in prayer and fasting. He knew the Scriptures like no one else! He prioritized communion with his father. He surrounded himself with like minded people (although they sometimes got on his nerves!).

His life was neither smooth nor easy. And neither will ours be. I wish more than anything it could be, but instead of wishing for the impossible, I’d rather prepare for the inevitable. 

Just like I’m preparing my body to run 26.2 miles by eating properly, sleeping well, and training up for the distance, we can prepare our lives to weather the storms life will send. 

No matter what you are going through, know that God has given you everything you need to overcome. It won’t always be uphill.. But if you train for the difficult seasons by staying consistent in his word and staying connected to him, you will make it to the top. 

On the Path

On Saturday mornings I run with a running group. It’s one of the favorite parts of my week. We run in a different location each week, then have coffee afterwards. After taking a long break from running, it’s been really refreshing to be running with my group again. 

Every week, there is a Facebook post telling us where we’ll be running, where to park and the route we can take. Some of the routes we run, I’m familiar with and others, not so much. Sometimes I run with a partner that has a similar pace but when there’s no one who I can run with, I just settle in between the faster runners and the walkers. 

This Saturday, I tailed a guy who’s a bit faster than me but not too fast that he’s not usually within eyesight. It also helped that he was wearing a neon yellow shirt! About halfway through the run, I lost sight of him. And this was a route that I’d never run. There were some twists and turns on the path that caused me not to see him.

While I had never run this route, I knew that as long as I stayed on the path, I’d be ok. I knew that even though I couldn’t see my “guide”, I wouldn’t get lost as long as I stayed on the path. 

I’m in a season where I don’t always know what I should be doing or not doing. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing exactly what God wants me to be doing and other times I feel like I’m just coasting in complacency. But lately, he has been reminding me that as long as I stay on the path he laid out for me, I don’t have to stress.

Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.” I know, with 100% confidence that God has ordered my steps, and knowing this helps me to stay encouraged even when I don’t see him moving. I know that the path he’s posted will get me to my destination.

Who’s In Your Boat? Part 2 of 2

LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST @ https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jasmine-lozano-seeking-god-loving-others/id1562418663?i=1000528345473

Last week, I talked about what happens when the wrong people are in your boat or your life, using the story of Jonah. Jonah never belonged on the boat to Tarshish and his very presence put others’ lives in danger.

If you have a specific destination or goal for your life, it’s imperative that you only take along the right people. The wrong people will only cause you unnecessary problems, setbacks, and cause your route to be filled with disorder, devastation, and delays. 

“You are only going to be as good as the people you surround yourself with, so be brave enough to let go those who keep weighing you down.” -Ziad K. Abdelnour

This week, we’ll discuss what kind of people you should not allow in your boat and also, what kind of people make good sailing companions. If you know me, you know I love some good alliteration, so for your reading and podcast listening pleasure, they all start with “C” (You are welcome). And they’re Biblical, too! 

WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE ON YOUR BOAT:

COMPLAINING PEOPLE

Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. (Numbers 11:1)

It is easier to complain than to do something. It’s true. Complaining about something only takes your opinion. Changing something takes action. There is a time to speak up when something needs to be corrected, but I’m talking about complaining just for the sake of it. 

I live in Wisconsin where we really have just two seasons. We have about 3 months of people complaining how hot it is and 9 months of people complaining how cold it is. We have entire websites and apps dedicated as places to complain. Have you ever noticed how many 1 star reviews places get? People often spread bad news faster than good news. 

When the Israelites were in the desert after leaving Egypt, they were set to take over the promised land but the Bible tells us that a group of complainers spread a bad report through the camp that caused the people to become fearful. As a result, they wandered the desert for 40 years.

Complaining is contagious. Why? Because misery loves company. Instead of figuring out a solution to a problem, complainers only talk about why something is the way it is. These type of people will not add value to your goals, they will only place unnecessary obstacles in your path.

COMPLACENT PEOPLE

The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Exodus 16:3)

Let me start by saying I am not talking about contentment. Contentment is defined as a state of happiness and satisfaction. It’s being grateful for what you have. I recently watched a documentary featuring a man living independently with Down Syndrome. When asked if he wished his life was different, he responded, “I’m happy with my life right now until something better happens.” That is my definition of contentment.

But complacency is something entirely different. “A complacent person is very pleased with themselves or feels that they do not need to do anything about a situation, even though the situation may be uncertain or dangerous” (collinsdictionary.com). 

The Israelites were reminiscing about the food they had in Egypt but they forgot one thing. THEY WERE SLAVES THERE!! They were longing for the complacency they had in Egypt. They were promised a land flowing with milk and honey, but they were longing for meat with a side of bondage. 

We’ve been promised an abundant life (John 10:10) but many believers have become complacent with a life far below the abundance we can receive. Complacent people often won’t challenge you to do and be better, just good enough.

CARELESS PEOPLE

“Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” (Proverbs 4:26)

I am a planner. I like to have an idea of what to expect for the day, week, month and year. As an aspiring writer, podcaster, ministry leader, business owner, and homeschooling parent, planning helps me to see my endeavors grow. 

One of my favorite quotes says that if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. Careless people will definitely keep your boat from arriving at your destination. Careless people very rarely have a vision or plan for their life. 

I was talking to someone who has a dream that to some looks insurmountable. It is a big, bold, “only God can do it” dream, and they’ve encountered some push back from people they’d hoped would encourage them. I shared this with them: People who don’t have a goal or vision for their own life often won’t add much value to yours.

CONTROVERSIAL PEOPLE

“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.” (2 Timothy 2:23)

“What do you think about Christians drinking?” This is a trick question. When someone asks you this, they don’t really care what you think. They want to open the door to lay out their seven point presentation about the Troubles of Tonics. 

Some Christians love arguing about the Bible. Not defending it to unbelievers or debating it with an atheist; arguing with other Christians who despite their different beliefs on baptism will still be with them in heaven.

I steer clear of people who are intent on being argumentative because I know that it doesn’t get us anywhere. Controversial people often look for faults in others rather than seeing them through the loving eyes of God. They see the world as us and them. People who think like they do and everyone else is stupid or wrong.

WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE SHOULD BE ON YOUR BOAT:

CONSECRATED

“‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 20:7)

Holiness is not a bad word. I say this a lot because it is true. I am holy. And if you are saved, you are too. My kids don’t have to do anything to prove they are my kids. They are my kids because they lived in my womb for nine months and share my DNA. But because they are my kids, I do have expectations of them. 

And yes, God has expectations for his children. The Bible calls us a peculiar people. That doesn’t mean we are supposed to be weirdos who freak people out as we chase them down with a track entitled, “Be Right or GET LEFT!!!”. But there should be something distinguishable about our lives. 

I have friends from all walks of life, but have to be very mindful of who I trust with my vision and goals. Like-minded, consecrated people will give you the encouragement you need and you can trust it because you know they’ve been with God.

CONSISTENT

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain”. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

Consistency is key to reaching your goals. You need faithful, hard working people around you that will help encourage you and keep you accountable. 

COMPETENT

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16,17)

God wants his people to be well equipped and prepared to serve. I think some people never reach their full potential not because they can’t but because they don’t prepare. 

My kids are still young but I’m teaching them how to prepare for a productive life. I want them to know how to organize their life and their thoughts. I want to show them how to build their relationship with God and the importance of serving him well. 

COMPASSIONATE

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

In my opinion, compassion is one of the characteristics of Christ I’d love to see implemented more in the church. Jesus was a compassionate leader. He looked at the people around him that were hurting and he didn’t blame them or shame them; he had compassion for them. 

I’ve been very fortunate to know many kind, compassionate followers of Christ that have given me grace when I needed it. You need people in your life that will pick you up when you fall. 

My pastor used to say, “We’re a fellowship. All fellows in the same ship.” When we take inventory of who is in our boat, we can see why we’re making headway towards our destination or experiencing delay.

Keep Going

Sometimes you can’t see changes as they’re happening. I started taking a picture of this tree after every run starting in March. Good runs, bad runs: Same picture. The first picture is from March; the second from today. I didn’t notice much change in this once barren tree from day to day, but 4 months later it is full and providing shade and comfort.

I don’t always feel like I’m moving forward with my goals but one thing I know is that consistency will get me closer to them. I’m learning that I don’t have to sprint to the finish line. I can continue to move towards it at a sustainable pace.

We are becoming better each day. Each day is not perfect and it never will be. And that’s ok. But as long as we keep going, keep doing, keep loving, keep growing, we will see results!

Happy Monday!!

Who’s In Your Boat? Part 1 of 2

LISTEN TO THIS PODCAST @ https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/jasmine-lozano-seeking-god-loving-others/id1562418663?i=1000528345473

There’s a familiar story in the book of Mark where Jesus and his disciples are crossing the sea of Galilee and encounter a storm. I’ve heard amazing messages about how having Jesus in your boat will help you weather any storm. I’ve heard about how having Jesus in your boat will give you a peace that will surpass your understanding.

This story definitely shows us the benefits of having the right person in your boat. But what happens when you have the wrong person or people in your boat? This is what happens to a group of sailors in the Old Testament.

The story of Jonah is probably one of the more well known Bible stories even among non-Christians. You could go into Dollar Tree today and probably find a childrens copy of it. If you aren’t familiar with it, here’s a brief summary:

  • God tells the prophet Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell them to repent of their wickedness or be destroyed. (Jonah 1:1-2)
  • Jonah throws a fit (my words) and does the opposite by sailing to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3)
  • The Lord sends a storm strong enough that well trained sailors are terrified and Jonah is below deck, taking a nap. (Jonah 1:4-5)
  • The sailors start throwing cargo off the ship and wake Jonah up to tell him to pray but find out his disobedience is the reason for the storm.(Jonah 1:6-10)

And this is where we will pick up the story. When I read the Bible, I like to not only look at the narrative, but consider the point of view from other characters. As I began to read this story, I wondered what it was like for these sailors. They are just sailing to Tarshish with goods and cargo, just going about business as usual. But because of who they’ve allowed to sail with them, they encounter a major setback.

They weren’t the ones who disobeyed God (well, directly. We are told that they are pagans or people who do not follow God). They weren’t the ones who rebelled against God’s instructions. Jonah was. But because of their proximity to him, they get caught up in his consequences for his disobedience..

Have you seen this happen to anyone? Has it happened to you? Is it happening right now? Sometimes, we make choices that will cause a negative outcome in our lives. We spend more than we can afford. We waste time scrolling on social media for hours watching others live out their dreams. We overindulge in unhealthy food that causes our health to suffer. But what happens when we endanger others because of our decisions? 

At first, the sailors have no idea why this is happening to them. They try to lighten the load of the ship by throwing things off. They are praying to their gods to save them. But once they find out Jonah is the cause of their problems, they have to make a choice. Jonah tells them that the storm will stop if they throw him overboard. 

This is where I put myself in the story. 

Jonah: “I’m a Hebrew and I disobeyed the God who made the sea and the land and the entire universe.”

Me as a sailor: “That’s cool, I heard about you guys and Egypt and sticking it to the Pharaoh. But you did what!?”

Jonah: “Yeah, God told me to share his message of salvation with the people of Nineveh, but I don’t like them, so I’m doing my own thing. Sorry you got caught up in it, though. Just throw me overboard, and everything will calm down for you.”:

Me as a sailor: **Picks Jonah up, tosses him over the side of the ship and heads to Tarshish to sell my lavender bath bombs**

END SCENE 

But this is not what happened. At least not initially. The sailors do what so many people do when they’re given advice on how to turn a situation around. 

Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.” (Jonah 1:13 emphasis added)

They were told exactly what to do to cause their lives to be at ease, and they ignored it. I’ve seen people in bad relationships (both platonic and romantic) that are not benefiting them or leading to anything positive. When told it’s time to cut ties with that person, they INSTEAD try other things. They hope that bringing that person to church will help or planning a weekend getaway will help improve things when the only thing to do is politely remove them from their life.

As the sailors notice that their efforts are not improving their situation, they eventually do what they should have done in the beginning and finally get rid of the person in the boat causing the problem. Side benefit: The sailors begin to acknowledge God, offer a sacrifice to him and make vows to him, which is the Old Testament version of a “come to Jesus” moment.

Jonah never belonged on that boat and his very presence put others’ lives in danger. Next week, I’ll talk about the kind of people you should not allow in your boat and also, what kind of people make good sailing companions. 

If you have a specific destination or goal for your life, it’s imperative that you only take along the right people. The wrong people will only cause you unnecessary problems, setbacks, and cause your route to be filled with disorder, devastation, and delays.

“You are only going to be as good as the people you surround yourself with, so be brave enough to let go those who keep weighing you down.” -Ziad K. Abdelnour

Staying Consistent in Conflict

“Successful people do consistently what others do occasionally.” -Craig Groeschel

There are more quotes about consistency than I could throw a stick at but this is one of my favorites. Whether we want to write a book, lose a few pounds, or get our house in order, consistency is the key. We don’t have to overhaul everything about ourselves to become the person we want to be; we just need to consistently do the actions that will get us there.

The problem is many of us fall off the wagon the moment a wrench is thrown into our plans. Most of us would agree that the past year has definitely frustrated the plans for many of us. I found that some of my good habits suffered severely while others continued out of necessity. But once I set myself realistic goals and grew to be disciplined in accomplishing them, I began to see my life start coming back together.

King Hezekiah was one of the many kings chronicled in the book of Kings who had a major setback almost throw his life into chaos. He had served God faithfully by destroying articles of idol worship that led the Israelites astray and he faithfully kept the commands of the Lord. He sought the Lord when he was in trouble and did things by the book. The Bible even said there was no king like him in Judah, neither before or after. Talk about a great resume!

Everything looked to be going Hezekiah’s way until one day he got sick. Some people don’t miss a beat when they get sick. I am not one of those people. When I get sick, I can’t walk or talk and I milk every ounce of help I can get out of my family. 

Hezekiah must have been doing pretty badly because the prophet Isaiah shows up and tells him to get his life organized because he was going to die from his illness. I wonder if this news surprised Hezekiah. When we think of prophets, we often think they must be coming with a good word from God. I’m sure he expected to hear a “Get up and walk” or “You’ve been made whole.” But that was not the word God had for him.

After serving God faithfully and even helping the Israelites to return to serving God faithfully, you would think things would work out well for him. There’s a strange misunderstanding that as Christians, we will never go through a hardship or trial once we accept the Lord Jesus as our savior. That somehow, magically, all misfortune will avoid our lives to allow us to live blessed and highly favored. While I do believe we have a once unattainable favor and grace in our lives when we get saved, I don’t believe we are placed inside of a Christian bubble wrap that keeps all bad things away from us. That’s just life. People get sick. People get hurt. People die. Christians included. 

But the difference is, as children of God, we have access to someone who has the ability to change our situations. And Hezekiah knew this. Hezekiah went back to a habit that he practiced consistently his entire life. He prayed. The Bible says that when the prophet Isaiah left, Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and reminded God of all he had done to walk right before him. Look at his prayer:

“Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.” (‭‭2 Kings‬ ‭20:2-3). For those who think that our tears don’t move God, I have to disagree. Who, as a parent, sees their child crying out in pain and turns a blind eye? God, as our heavenly Father and creator, cares about the things that concern us. That’s why we’re encouraged to cast our cares upon him, because he cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7). ‬ 

Hezekiah had always gone to the Lord in times of distress. In times of threats, he went to God. In times of battle, he went to God. So this conflict had no different strategy. He went to God. It seems so simple, right? I’m not trying to oversimplify anything you might be going through, but I want to encourage you to stay consistent in seeking God. 

If you haven’t been consistent in your time with God, today is a good day to start. Sometimes we treat our spiritual health like our physical health. “Wow! Is that scale accurate? Do I need my eyes checked or are those late night snacks catching up to me!? I’m going to start working out this Monday. I’m going to run 3 miles and drink a gallon of water and eat only salads for lunch! But Monday is the 17th so maybe I’ll wait until the 1st of next month so I can get everything together.” 

We put things off, waiting for an ideal time to start. We want to wait until everything is perfect, the weather is perfect, the budget is perfect before we start making changes. But we can begin to be consistent now. Right now! Take out your Bible and read one verse. I’ll wait!

Okay. Now do the same thing tomorrow. Take out your Bible and read one verse. Do the same thing until reading a verse everyday becomes consistent. Then add another verse and let it become consistent. Perfection and consistency are not roommates. In fact, perfectionism is the upstairs neighbor that plays his music too loud and walks too hard to be living on the 3rd floor! 

Discipline yourself to remain consistent even in conflict. When the storm has passed, you will be much further along than if you had waited for clear skies before even starting.

Go and Make, Not Come and Take

I talk to everyone about everything. If we are standing in line at Target next to each other, I will know your life story and we will connect on Facebook before you leave.

I’ve always enjoyed meeting new people, even if just for a few minutes before our lives separate for eternity. Or will they?

While I need to reinstate this practice more regularly, I often end my conversations with strangers by asking this question: IF THERE WAS ONE THING I COULD PRAY FOR YOU, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

I’m not embarrassed to ask this either. I’ve seen so many Christians break into a full sweat when they are asked to pray. We aren’t afraid to share shopping deals, political opinions or criticisms but sharing the good news?! We’d rather just secretly give them a glossy invitation to visit our church and run back into the black of night.

I’m not against inviting people to church. But what if they don’t come? I was invited to church for 8 months straight, every week. I always had excuse. Plans with friends. Plans with drinks. Plans with the cat. Anything to get out of going to church. That’s where the hypocrites are!!

People will turn down invitations but they will rarely turn down prayer. In fact, NO ONE has every said to me, “Actually everything in my life is working out perfectly. My kids, my money, my health, my job, my relatives are all exactly like I want it. Find someone else to pray for.”

In fact, I often end up praying for very dire situations and ending up hugging a crying stranger in aisle 9 of Walmart. We don’t know what people need at first glance, but God does.

This interaction allows me to ask them the most important question they will hear in their lives: Do you have a relationship with Jesus? Prayer is a wonderful gateway to show people you don’t just care about them visiting your church or coming to an event, but that you care about their life and eternity.

Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 28:18, a verse known as the Great Commission, to go and make disciples. A commission is an authority to act for, in behalf of, or in place of another. Jesus basically told us to keep doing what he was doing since he was leaving.

Cue the rant!! (Don’t act surprised; you know I like a good rant!) It’s time to leave the comforts of our cozy churches and events. It’s time to get serious about presenting the gospel to people. We can’t wait for the stray visitor we don’t recognize that probably came from another church to come through our doors.

There are people dying and they don’t know Jesus. They are going to hell. Yes, HELL! It’s a real place and if we aren’t vocal in inviting people to know Christ, they will end up there.

I had a dream this week that I was being raptured. Well, I think was being raptured. I began floating off of earth and proceeded to low earth orbit (LEO for my fellow space nerds) then on to deeper space. I started freaking out because I had no type of protective gear. How was I even alive! I figured I had to be on my way to heaven but when I looked around I was alone.

That’s all I remember of the dream. But it made me question: How many of us are going to heaven alone? Are our families coming? Coworkers? Friends? Neighbors? I have friends that aren’t coming and it makes me sad. I’ve cried many times at the thought of it, asking God to open their eyes to the free gift of salvation I’ve shared with them.

I think we (the church) have misrepresented the gospel. We encourage nonbelievers and believers alike to come and take. “Come to Jesus and you’ll get everything you ever wanted! New car, nice house, vacations! Just come to our church and we’ll show you how!”

I’m definitely a believer and supporter of the message of prosperity and abundance but that’s just half of it. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”

God isn’t opening the windows of heaven to shower us with blessings just for us. They are for every good work! And the best work we can do is the one he commissioned for us to do: Go and make.

Find your Faith

I live in a smaller city in Southeast Wisconsin and get on the freeway maybe once a month or so. It’s a far less busy pace than the larger Texan cities I was raised in! So when I started learning more about using my telescope, I learned very quickly that living in the city really added limitations to what I could see with my telescope. 

I thought I’d be better off because I didn’t live in a large city but discovered that even being located between the two big cities of Chicago and Milwaukee caused my experience with the night sky to be hindered. Light pollution is a term used in astronomy to describe the brightening of the night sky caused by street lights and other man-made sources, which has a disruptive effect on natural cycles and inhibits the observation of stars and planets.

In 2001, a scale was created by John Bortle to help amateur astronomers evaluate the darkness of an observation site that measured the night sky’s brightness in a particular location. The Bortle scale is a nine-level numeric scale that ranges from Class 1, the darkest skies available on Earth, through Class 9, inner-city skies. So the farther away you are from big cities and lights, the more you can observe the sky without interference.  

Just like in astronomy, location is everything when operating in faith! Our world is filled with all kinds of pollution that will hinder us from seeing the future God has for us. We’re bombarded with advertisements that tell us we can have the best car for 6 years of financing, causing financial freedom to be harder to see. We’re told our old phones need to be upgraded, creating further distance between us and contentment. We can scroll for hours, looking into the lives of others, liking the pictures of the vacation we wish we went on or the child’s birthday party we wish we’d thrown.

Sometimes, I miss the days when you only knew what was in your house and maybe a few friends. Now we have access to the homes and lives of people from a wide spectrum of income categories, varying degrees of debt and EVERYONE’s opinion! I promise, I’m not going on a rant about the downward spiral of humanity and our increasing dependence on technology that is creating a culture of discontent, overly informed individuals. I’m not! But I will say that where we position ourselves spiritually, mentally, physically, and financially, will have a major effect on what we can expect to see in our lives.

We have to be intentional about positioning ourselves in a place where we can find our faith and be able to live it out everyday. I’m not telling you to move to a ranch in Wyoming far from civilization and live a life of solitude so you can be closer to God. But I am saying that we must position ourselves in the optimal place to be able to use our faith most effectively. 

I’m reminded of a person in the Bible who made a decision to change her position and it resulted in her becoming the ancestor of one Israel’s most famous kings. In the book of Ruth, we meet a young Moabite woman who is faced with a tough decision of whether to return to her home and people after the death of her husband or relocate to an unknown land with her mother-in-law. 

Now here’s the part where you expect a mean mother in law joke, but I’m sorry to disappoint you! I actually love my mother in law and we have a great relationship! Ruth must have had a good relationship with her mother in law, Naomi, because she went on to Israel with her. 

We learn that upon arriving to Naomi‘s home in Israel, Ruth ends up working in the field of one of their close relatives to make ends meet. She is greeted with kindness and favor from Boaz, the owner of the field and close relative, who makes sure that she is taken care of as she worked in the fields. 

Over the course of time, Boaz and Ruth marry, and she becomes the mother of a son named Obed. Obed becomes the father of a son, Jesse and Jesse becomes the father of a young, shepherd boy who would grow to be Israel’s most famous king and the writer of much of the book of Psalms, King David. 

Because of her decision to change her location, Ruth became the great grandmother of a king. What impact could you have on the outcome of your legacy by positioning yourself today to operate in great faith? 

Are you believing by faith that you will enjoy financial freedom? Position yourself around individuals who have accomplished financial freedom and can help guide you along the way. Are you believing that you will be healed of an illness? Position yourself next to someone who God has healed so that you stay encouraged when it gets tough. 

When you find the right position, it’s amazing what you will see. Goals and dreams you thought were unreachable become clear. Unspoken aspirations find the freedom to breathe and grow, and you can trust God to fill the gap of the impossible as you position yourself in his presence and in His word.

BOOT CAMP: Wk 5 Worship

Check out this week’s podcast on Anchor!

In March 2006, I pulled up to a nice looking brick church. The parking lot was almost empty so I knew I was early. I just sat in the car for a while and watched people begin to arrive and go inside. They looked nice enough and some even smiled at me through the glass, as if they knew the hesitancy I felt about joining them. I finally went in but I sat in the last row so I could leave if I got uncomfortable. An older man came up and encouraged me to sit closer. After I ran out of excuses as to why I’d rather sit in the back, I gave in and moved to the 3rd or 4th row.

The lights went down and a young Hispanic guy with thick black hair came up and began to sing and play the keyboard. He could have been singing in another language as far as I was concerned. I hadn’t ever heard these songs and honestly, they didn’t make sense to me. “I am a friend of God?” But I thought God was mean! “I worship you because of who you are?” What does that even mean! Well, at least the keyboard player was hot! (It’s ok, he’s my husband now! I can say that!)

As I stood there, surrounded by people with their eyes closed and arms lifted up, my heart began to burn. Literally. It’s hard to put into words what I felt inside. When I think about it now, I’m reminded of the story in Luke when two men were walking on the road to Emmaus after Jesus had been crucified. Jesus appeared to them, but they didn’t know who he was. Jesus went on to walk with them, talk with them and even eat with them, but it wasn’t until he disappeared from their sight that they realized they had been with the Lord. One said, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

That’s what I felt. A burning, an urging. I was in the presence of God, and even though I didn’t understand what was happening, I knew enough to know that I needed him. I asked Jesus into my life, right during praise and worship. With tears flowing down my face, I sat down when the music ended, knowing something was different. I looked up to see the same older man who encouraged me to move closer begin to teach, realizing now that he was the pastor of the church! At the end of the service, he asked if anyone wanted a new life in Christ, and I basically ran to the front of the church!

This is why worship is so important to me personally. I met Jesus in worship. I hadn’t heard a sermon or powerful teaching. I met Jesus as my heart softened and worship filled the room. I’ve heard testimonies of people being healed during praise and worship. In the Old Testament, the army of Israel sent the worshippers out first before battle!

There are any ways to worship God, but I am talking specifically about praise and worship in regards to music. I sing on the praise team at my church and have been involved in leading worship for over 15 years. I would say I’m a bit more charismatic and demonstrative during worship, but when you come from where I came from, you’d understand.

Worship is an outward expression of an inward revelation. When we understand who God is and all that he has done and constantly does for us, our response would be nothing but gratitude. Setting the atmosphere is such a vital part of our weekly worship of God.

Worship cannot be something we do only on Sunday morning. I ran a half marathon in 2019 and am training for a marathon now. I remember during the half marathon seeing people limping and crying towards the end. You can tell they hadn’t trained and prepared properly. I can tell Sunday mornings who hasn’t trained as well!

I make it a point during the week to spend time worshipping God in my house. When I get to church Sunday morning, I’ve already meditated on how good he is. I’ve already thanked him for salvation and delivering me from my sin. I’ve already welcomed his presence into my day.

This week, focus on making praise and worship a part of your week. It’s better than focusing on problems and worrying! We can make the decision everyday to fill our mouths and homes with praise!

BOOT CAMP: Wk 4 Prayer

Check out this week’s podcast on https://anchor.fm/jasmine-lozano4/episodes/Boot-Camp-The-Importance-of-Prayer-e114hgr!

Have you ever gotten a friend request on social media from someone and you had no idea who they were? Maybe you share a few mutual friends or live in the same city, but you just have no idea how you know them? I have 787 friends on facebook to date. Of those 787 people who like my posts and pictures, I probably talk to less than 10 on a semi regular basis. Most of them don’t even have my phone number and if they called me, I wouldn’t answer because my phone has a spam setting for unknown numbers.

In the age we live in, the title of friend has definitely expanded to include people we would have called acquaintances in times past. The mom I talked to at the park for one hour 4 years ago is now my friend for life. The lady at the grocery store who gave me a coupon will see pictures of my kids when they graduate college in a decade. That’s actually kind of creepy; I’m going to go unfriend her now! The truth is, according to numerous polls and studies, most people have less than 5 close friends. 

It’s strange for many people to think of God as a friend, but He is the most trustworthy and faithful friend you will ever have. James 2:23 tells us that Abraham was called a friend of God. Could God say that about us? That our relationship is beyond that of an acquaintance but has depth and history. There is an amazing conversation between two friends, God and Abraham found in Genesis. 

In Genesis 18, Abraham and Sarah have just been visited by three visitors who shared the good news that she would be a mother in her old age. But God didn’t only have good news to share with them, but also a heads up. The visitors inform Abraham that God will soon destroy the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sin. Why wouldn’t this be great news, you ask? Punishing the wicked and making room for the righteous sounds like a win-win! But the problem is that Abraham’s nephew, Lot, who came with him from Haran was living in Sodom. Naturally, Abraham becomes worried for his family. But because he has developed a relationship with God, he does something that we have the ability to do anytime: He asked God a few questions. He asks God if he would spare the city if he found 50 righteous people. When God agrees, Abraham continues to lower the number until it’s down to ten people.

Did you know it was okay to ask God questions? People have told me my entire life not to question God, but the most successful people in the Bible, asked God questions. Moses asked God how to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. David asked God if he should attack the army that plundered and carried away his family and the families of his soldiers. Gideon asked why had all of the bad things happened to Israel if God was with them. James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

I’ve always found it interesting that it was God’s decision to let Abraham in on his plans to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Could you imagine having that close of a relationship with God that He wants to let you know what he has in mind to do? God doesn’t have to consult with us before making any decision, but because of his relationship and covenant with Abraham, he didn’t want him left in the dark.

Faith is not a huge mystery that we have to stumble through, hoping to bump into God’s will and plan for our lives. God doesn’t want his children left in the dark. The Bible says that we have been taken out of the kingdom of darkness and placed into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). Our position in faith gives us access to come to him wherever we are and whenever we need answers. Hebrews 4:16 encourages us to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Our faith is strengthened and we develop our relationship with him by prioritizing our time spent talking with him.

BOOT CAMP: Wk 3 Finances

Check out this week’s podcast @ https://anchor.fm/jasmine-lozano4/episodes/Boot-Camp-The-Importance-of-Giving-and-Money-Management-evms05

I know, I know! No one wants to hear or talk about money. And I think that speaks volumes as to why so many people struggle with it. Money, giving, tithing, saving, investing, and debt has become an off limit subject for many people, both in and outside the four walls of the church.

For years, money issues have been listed as one of the top reasons married couples divorced for both Christians and non-Christians. The majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and wouldn’t be able to handle a $500 emergency without using credit. In the last 5 years, over 2.5 million people have filed bankruptcy.

But it’s not just individuals and families who are struggling financially. According to ChristianityToday.com, more churches close their doors every year because they are unable to pay their bills than for any other reason. 

I find it surprising that even though about 40% of Jesus’ parables dealt with money, the people of God struggle with finances in the same manner as the people of the world. I’m not pointing the finger. I only recently have been able to become debt free through God’s provision and grace.

When I became a Christian in 2006, my church offered both a new members class and a class for new Christians that introduced me to the principle of tithing. I’ll be honest; it sounded crazy at first. Giving 10% of “my” hard earned money to a church that seemed to be doing okay seemed counterintuitive. 

But something happened when I gave my life to Jesus. I decided I would believe what he said. If he said it was more blessed to give than receive, I believed it. If he said I should give and it would be given to me, I believed it. I was taught in these classes that tithing was more about a person’s heart than a person’s money. 

Jesus said that our heart was where our treasure was. In plain English, how and where you spend your money shows what matters to you most. For some people, recreation, vacation or entertainment is their priority. For some, it may be their children’s activities or personal hobbies. I spend money on all of these things, but not before I return to God what belongs to him already.

The Bible tells us in Deuteronomy 8:18 that it is God who gives us the ability to get wealth. It’s because of him we can wake up, physically move our limbs, and even have the particular set of skills we need to allow us to provide for our families. And yes, I’m aware I quoted Liam Neeson.

Once we understand that everything belongs to him, it becomes less difficult to actually trust him with all we have. Tithing is simply a measure to show God not only are we thankful for what he’s blessed us with, but that we trust him in handling it as well. 

When my family was getting out of debt, I was amazed at the supernatural increase we experienced and remembered something God promised in the book of Malachi. 

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” (Malachi 3:10-11 emphasis added)

I shouldn’t have been as surprised because God did exactly what he said he would do in His word. Because we had been faithful for years in tithing and giving, God was true to his word and poured out a blessing we couldn’t keep to ourselves. I’ll go into more detail in this week’s podcast with my special guest!

I encourage you to listen to my podcast this week as I dig deeper on the issue of finances. My guest and I will talk more about giving, saving, debt and other areas that God wants us to be successful in.

BOOT CAMP: Wk 2 Bible Study

Check out this week’s podcast @ https://anchor.fm/jasmine-lozano4/episodes/Boot-Camp-The-Importance-of-Bible-Study-evkn6i

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”Hebrews‬ ‭4:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In November 2019, my family visited Newport State Park in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. It was one of the most magnificent experiences I have ever had. The park is located on the very tip of the Wisconsin Peninsula.

Because this park is designated as a dark sky location, artificial light is heavily discouraged. They ask that if you must use a flashlight, be sure it’s pointed to the ground. There aren’t even any lights on the bathrooms or in the bathrooms, which made it pretty difficult taking my 6 year old to use the unlit bathroom in 28° weather!

Because the weather was so cold at night, we would go back to the car for a few minutes to warm up, but encountered a major problem. Every time we’d turn on the car, my dim lights would still remain on. We knew there had to be a way to turn these off, but we just didn’t know how.

I’ve always been paranoid about keeping the owner’s manual in the car and with the help of it (and google) we found the way to keep the lights off when we started the car.

The owner’s manual for your car helps you to figure out the details of your car that you don’t know. Most of us know how to put the car in drive and we can figure out how to turn the windshield wipers, but there are some areas of our car that we have no knowledge of.

The same is true in life. For many people, there are areas where they are simply not knowledgeable. Maybe you grew up in a home where finances were never discussed so as an adult you struggled trying to make ends meet, get out of debt, or save money. 

Maybe you grew up eating fast food every meal, and now that you’re in your 30s or 40s, you’re finding out that type of diet is not sustainable. Whatever the case may be, we are privy to a wealth of information. Looking up how to solve almost any problem it’s just a few fingertips away. But there are some problems that go deeper than just a Google search. 

For me, there is no other book that can help me understand my money, help me to flourish in my relationships, help me to raise my kids, help me to change my diet, and a host of other problems that plague many of us. That book is the Bible; the word of God. 

2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 

That means every word of the Bible was inspired by God. There is a point to every book, chapter and verse, even the long, boring ones that seem to go on forever! (I’m sorry if you’re offended I called some of the Bible boring, but if you disagree, you’re lying. Come on, Leviticus!?) But they are there for a reason. 

We’ve been given the word of God as a tool to hear the voice of God and familiarize ourselves with his promises and yes, even his consequences. While we have been redeemed from the curse of the law (Galatians 3), there are still consequences to disobeying the word of God, just as there are benefits to obeying it.  

Isaiah 40:8 says “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” 

We see nature changing all of the time in front of our eyes. We also see culture, trends and opinions change just as frequently. While everything around us is unstable and subject to change, the Bible is the one constant we can rest our faith on.

I challenge you to make reading your Bible everyday a priority this week. Decide beforehand how long you will read, where you will do your reading and what book you will read. Don’t leave your spiritual development up to chance. Be intentional about pursuing God’s word and see the difference it will make in your day.

Let’s chat: What are some obstacles you face when trying to be consistent in your Bible reading?

BOOT CAMP: Week 1 Fellowship

Check out this week’s podcast on Fellowship! https://anchor.fm/jasmine-lozano4/episodes/Boot-Camp-The-Importance-of-Fellowship-eujl2r

You need to go to church. Period. No nice introduction or anecdote, no statistics or kind encouragement. If you are physically able, you need to take your body to church.

As I’m writing this post, I am aware that many churches have been closed for a period of time due to the coronavirus pandemic. During this time, many believers have had to worship around their TVs, computers and phones.

Technology really came through! Many churches were forced to rethink their approach to reaching the masses and as a result, many were able to reach more people than ever before.

My husband and I love watching other services online. We like to see what other churches are doing, what their stages look like, what they’re teaching, the songs they’re singing. 

But as much as I enjoy watching different services online, there is nothing like being in the physical house of the Lord. While I’m grateful that we were still able to worship virtually during the time it was necessary, we were never meant to walk this Christian journey alone. 

Paul had Silas. Mary had Martha. Peter had James and John. And we need connection. It is so important to be surrounded by people who can help encourage you and strengthen you when you need it. 

Jackie Hill-Perry said it best. “God himself has never been alone. He has Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We are never less like God than when we isolate ourselves.”

The Bible is full of examples of believers gathering for worship and encourages us to stay connected. Hebrews 10:25 ESV says, “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

When I first became a believer, I lived at the church! Youth chaperon needed? Sign me up! Sunday night classes? I was there. I wanted to learn everything I could about faith and how to live this new life. I needed to find people who had experience. I needed to find people to grow with who were new to faith like I was. The bottom line, I needed to find connection.

I also needed accountability and encouragement. I was amazed that after a bad day, I could turn to a sister in Christ rather than a substance. I learned very quickly why the believers in the New Testament were always together and breaking bread.

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42 ESV

When the Holy Spirit first came to the new Christians, the Bible says they were together and on one accord. While they were not necessarily meeting in what we would define as a church building, they were together; they were the church. 

My faith was strengthened every time I heard an encouraging message Sunday morning; it was strengthened everytime I went to a Sunday night Bible study; it was strengthened every Wednesday night when I heard testimonies of God’s provision and protection. 

Physically going to church and developing relationships with people in all levels of faith helped me to continue to grow and develop my own.

I often hear people give countless excuses as to why they couldn’t make it to church. My volleyball coach used to say, “Excuses are like belly buttons. Everyone has them and they’re all full of lint.” I’ve been told there is a harsher analogy for this, but this blog is rated PG! But he was right. 

We can tell ourselves and others countless reasons as to why it is so difficult to get to the church, but most times the hard truth is this: If you didn’t make it to church, it’s because you didn’t want to go.

I know. It sounds tough. Where is the grace? I’ll lighten up a bit.Thankfully, we are not made righteous by what we do or by what we don’t do, otherwise, we’d be saved by works and not faith. Our righteousness (right standing) is received by the simple act of salvation, our relationship as children of God.

I think about my own children. Neither are old enough for a cell phone so I’ll ask my son if he will text me when he gets one. He said, “Oh, you know it! I’ll blow you up!” He recently got his own ipad and has proven he was not lying. I wake up to about 10 texts on average every morning!

My daughter, on the other hand, is not much of a chatter. When I ask her the same question, my heart sinks a bit. “Maybe,” she’ll say casually without even a smirk to let me know she’s joking. I really hope she is!

But this is how many Christians approach corporate fellowship with God. Maybe they will go to church this week. Maybe they will give. Maybe they will join the Bible study. Despite the relationship with him as his children, many people have put off making a commitment to church attendance and involvement, leaving it up to how they feel when they wake up Sunday morning. Read this passage from Psalm 92:

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree, he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing. -Psalm 92:12-15

So what is the opposite of being fresh and flourishing? Spoiled and withering. What a contrast. Am I saying your life is going to completely crumble and fall apart if you don’t go to church? No. I know non-Christians and Christians alike who don’t regularly attend church and they seem to be doing okay.

But as a believer, God did not call us to just do okay. He called us to a better life. John 10:10 tells us he came to give us a life that is more and better than we ever dreamed of. 

While personal discipleship is important for growth in faith, corporate discipleship helps to expound on that growth. When I became a believer, I made a decision that I would be at church every Sunday. Period. My Sunday morning attendance was not based on what external factors may have happened the night before or morning of. I was going to be at church. I was going to meet with my father.

Just as we commit to our jobs, appointments and even sports teams, God’s children must commit and prioritize their decision to follow him. Not out of obligation or requirement, but out of love and honor. 

Do you face challenges when it comes to prioritizing weekly church attendance? Let’s chat in the comments!

BASIC TRAINING

Listen to the podcast episode for this blog post: Welcome to my Podcast! https://anchor.fm/jasmine-lozano4/episodes/Welcome-to-my-Podcast-euiitg

Christians are often called the army of God. We sing songs as kids about being in the Lord’s army; we are told in scripture to fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons (Ephesians 6:10); we read about God strengthening his followers’ hands for battle (Psalm 144:1).

The Bible is filled with language and imagery about battle and war. There are few groups that form the bond and unity like the military. While one of my least favorite genres of movies is war movies, I have seen my fair share of them (often not of my own volition). 

Consider the United States military. There are different branches and ranks. Soldiers are equipped to perform different tasks based on their abilities. There are snipers and skilled weapons specialists, but there are also clerical and medical experts. There are soldiers who disarm bombs and soldiers who prepare meals that are the bomb (I’m from the 90’s, sorry!).

But there is one thing every member of the military has in common; THEY ALL COMPLETE BASIC TRAINING.

Basic Training or boot camp is designed to prepare military recruits for service.  Depending on the branch of the military, recruits are put through months of training tailored to that branch to give them the basic skills they will need to be able to perform effectively.

The different branches vary in what is required physically to complete Basic Training. The Navy has a requirement that recruits must be able to tread water for 5 minutes. But all branches require a timed run ranging from 1.5 to 3 miles. 

Whether a soldier is swabbing the deck (I got that from a movie, though it may have been a pirate movie) or filing a report, they all need to be able to run. They all need to be able to endure long distances.

As the church, it seems we have discounted the importance of Basic Training for the believer. Once someone finds their faith and is planted in church, it is crucial to train new recruits in what’s required and expected in the army of the Lord.

Could you imagine joining the Army and immediately being put on a plane to a combat zone, given a gun and dropped off? You would be totally unprepared. 

But unfortunately, the church does this to many new believers as they sign up to join the Army of God. They come to church and are bombarded with cliches and theologies when they can’t even find the book of Matthew yet.

If we want to be effective in sharing the gospel with hurting people, we have to be trained in the basics of our faith.

When I was saved 15 years ago, I was very privileged to be at a church that invested in Chrstian education. I was able to take classes about prayer, serving, and evangelism that helped build the foundation I needed to be able to serve the Lord and run well.

This is an area of faith I am so passionate about. Teaching believers the basics of faith. How to pray; how to study the Bible; why we give and serve. For many people, the benefits of the Christian life stop at the point of salvation. They can trust Jesus to save them from hell, but are not taught how he can sustain them on earth.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a Boot Camp series on basic training for Christian living. God has such a great life planned for his children and we learn about it through his Word, fellowship and prayer. 

My prayer is that you will not jog casually through your faith journey, but run well with endurance. I hope you can join me in the comments for some good discussion!

Fitting In When You’re Feeling Out

In 2016, my family and I moved to my husband’s hometown in the Midwest. While I already had friends and family in my new home, many times I felt, and honestly still feel, out of place.

In 24 hours, I was living in a new place, driving on different streets, and worshipping at a new church. I knew that God wanted us to make this move. I felt like Abraham when God called him to move from Ur to Canaan, but at least I knew exactly where I was going.

What I didn’t know were the emotions that would show up when I got there. Homesickness wasn’t on my moving checklist. I hadn’t packed for feeling out of place. We were moving by faith, knowing that wherever we were planted, we would be available for God to use us.

But change and growth isn’t easy. Otherwise, everyone would do it. Everyone would have finished their book, completed their marathon or opened their restaurant. Not only is change not easy, but not everyone will want to join you for the ride. 

We often think going from glory to glory is linear. But the truth is, sometimes we will take two steps forward and one step back. 

I heard a message a few weeks ago from Steven Furtick, the pastor of Elevation Church, teaching the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis. I have heard this story too many times to count, but never heard this observation.

In the first chapter of Genesis, God created everything and it was good. In the last chapter of Genesis, after all Joseph had gone through in his life, Genesis 50 says God used it for good. Joseph was envied by his brothers, sold into slavery, and wrongfully put in prison. 

From Genesis 1 to Genesis 50, we read about the fall of man, the first murder, the flood, the tower of Babel, and Sodom and Gomorrah. Yet despite all of the disaster and tragedy:

God never stopped being good

He is faithful and will finish the work he begins in us (Phil 1:6). Just because he doesn’t finish it on our time schedule, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. When we are feeling out of place, we have to remember where we fit in God’s story. 

If you don’t know your place in his story, let me give you an abbreviated preview. 

You are an heir of Jesus (Galatians 3:26)

You are free in Jesus (Galatians 4:7)

You are precious in God’s eyes (Isaiah 43:4)

You are God’s special possession (1 Peter 2:9)

You are a friend of God (John 15:13)

You are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Run Your Race

I recently began running again after almost a year off due to the pandemic. I am a new runner. I started in 2018 and have run a few races, including a half marathon. When I started I could barely run a quarter of mile without feeling like a lung was going to fall out of my body, so when I ran 13.1 miles (well, 13.84 miles, the course was off #humblebrag), I couldn’t believe I had come so far.

Fast forward to 2021, and I feel like I’ve never run. EVER. In my life. I’m slower, I’m tired, and it is hard. I just want to wave a magic wand and go back to where I was this time last year. 

But I can’t. And sometimes, that’s discouraging. I looked at the numbers from my half-marathon and saw that my slowest mile of the 13+ plus miles was still faster than my current mile! I had to make a decision: Give up and just live in the past or keep moving and get better everyday.

I chose the latter. 

I was reminded of a verse in Philippians about what I was experiencing. The people who know me well know that I have a verse for everything! There’s no situation I’ve come across where I was unable to find comfort and guidance in the Bible.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (PHIL 3:13-14)

While it can be helpful to look back from time to time to remember and reflect, it is not always beneficial. It’s easy to get trapped in the mistakes or failures from years ago or envy a better time of your life. But the apostle Paul would tell us not to waste time on things that don’t propel us to our destination.

When I looked at my racing numbers through a different lens, I was encouraged to know that since I trained and got better before, I could do it again. And I could do it better. What’s in front of you is going to be better than what’s behind you.

We all go through ups and down but what matters is whether or not we move forward through them. Don’t allow yourself to get trapped in the closet of the past. Put one foot in front of the other and run your race.

What Are You Wearing?

I recently went to a Milwaukee Bucks game. I’m a Dallas Mavericks fan so I personally don’t own any Bucks gear, and out of principle, never will. But one thing that stood out to me was that to the onlooker, there was no room to doubt who the Bucks fans were. It was easy to identify them as fans by what they were wearing. 

In the Old Testament, we meet a king who was identified by what he was wearing, but unfortunately, it almost cost him his life.

“So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went ahead and attacked Ramoth Gilead. The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Wear my kingly robe; I’m going into battle disguised.” So the king of Israel entered the battle in disguise.

Meanwhile, the king of Aram had ordered his chariot commanders (there were thirty-two of them), “Don’t bother with anyone whether small or great; go after the king of Israel and him only.””

When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they said, “There he is! The king of Israel!” and took after him. Jehoshaphat yelled out, and the chariot commanders realized they had the wrong man—it wasn’t the king of Israel after all. God intervened and they let him go. (2 Chronicles‬ ‭18:28-32‬ MSG)

You can tell alot about a person by what they wear. Their interests and hobbies can often be assumed based solely on their attire. Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, was a victim of mistaken identity because of what he was wearing. 

This led me to wonder what are we spiritually wearing as Christians? Are people able to identify us as followers of Jesus Christ? Do the people on our jobs or at our schools know that we have a relationship with Him? Is it radically obvious that we’ve had an encounter with Jesus?

Because Jehoshaphat has agreed to go into battle dressed as the king of Israel, he now has a target on his back. He is being mistaken as someone he is not, simply because of what he is wearing. 

Many Christians have failed to intentionally distinguish themselves from the world, despite their relationship with Christ.

Many believers still dress like the world, listen to the same music as the world, watch the same shows as the world and wonder why they still have the same problems of the world. We have done very little to set ourselves apart as we’ve been instructed.

Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you (2 Corinthians 6:17)

Jehoshaphat is dressed just like Ahab so that’s who the enemy thinks he is!!!! For many of us, the struggles we go through year after year are because we haven’t taken the time to make a clear distinction between us and the world.

AND THE ENEMY CAN’T TELL US APART!!!

It saddens me to look out at God’s people and not see God’s abundance. It hurts my heart to see the people of God struggling in their finances and their marriages and their faith, to see people attend church week after week and not be transformed and renewed. 

We’re supposed to live such abundant lives that we draw unbelievers to Jesus because they want what we have. But many unbelievers don’t want what we have because many Christians don’t have anything different from them. 

We have the same bad attitude, the same gossip, the same speech, the same worries, the same credit card debt, the same bad marriage.

We have not heeded to Romans 12:2 and allowed our minds to be renewed by the word of God. We have equated the word of God to a book of suggestions. For many of us, the word of God is nothing more than a self help book. “A verse a day keeps the devil away!” 

But the Bible is not a book of suggestions or advice. It is the living, breathing word from God on how we need to function and live as his children. But unfortunately, we have aligned ourselves with culture and customs and practices and people that are opposite of what we say we believe. 

And like Jehoshaphat, when the enemy comes, when trials come, when the battles come, we handle them like the world because we’re dressed like them. 

How do we get the right clothes to be prepared to live this life of faith?

We get them by reading our Bible, by praying in the Holy Spirit, by tithing, and serving. We clothe ourselves by fully following God with unwavering devotion and aligning ourselves with his word, regardless of what the culture is doing. 

But when we clothe ourselves in the wrong things, we will not be prepared for the attack of the enemy.

Many believers have failed to progress from the point of their salvation into sanctification (the act of being set apart). They’ve accepted him as savior but haven’t submitted to him as Lord. 

When we surrender our lives fully to Christ, we can’t help but to take off the things that cause us to look less like him. We start taking off the malice, envy, bitterness, wrath, anger, lying, and the old self.

We take off those old garments and we trade them in for a robe of righteousness, a garment of praise, and a crown of life. We make the decision that we are not going to misrepresent our father God, but will leave no room for doubt to the onlooker as to who we represent. 

May your priest be clothed with your righteousness; may your faithful people sing for joy. (Psalm 132:9)

Don’t Forget the Main Ingredient

Last night, my husband and I were sitting on the couch, finishing our evening coffee we have every night together when he gets home from work.

It wasn’t a busy day, but the kids and I had run some errands in the afternoon, so I didn’t really make plans for dinner. I figured I’d make tacos because we all love them and they’re fairly easy, but I didn’t have any ground beef.

As I neared the end of my coffee, I told him I didn’t have a plan for dinner so we were going to pick up food. I told him that I was going to make tacos, but didn’t have any meat.

“Isn’t that the main ingredient you need to make tacos!” he laughed, almost spitting out his coffee. WE both laughed and then ordered a pizza.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been preparing a message for my women’s event at church. Today as I gathered what I needed for my message, I sat back to make sure I had everything. Notes, check. Bible, check. Clothes ready, check.

I felt ready to go. Then I remembered I was forgetting the main ingredient. I paused and dropped down to my knees.

Lord, will you be with me tonight? Will you fill my mouth with your words? Will you meet us as we gather and meet the needs of your women?”

What started as a quick, almost forgotten prayer, turned into hours of prayer and praise and worship. I almost forgot the main ingredient that would ensure that no matter who did or didn’t show up for the service, God would be there.

Have you ever made something and forgot an ingredient or used the wrong ingredient? Missing an ingredient can ruin an entire meal. Leaving out prayer and worship can ruin even weeks worth of preparation and planning.

No amount of preparation or planning can replace the presence of God. Make room for him and invite him into everything you do.