Waiting Watchmen

Waiting Watchmen

I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning; indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.” Psalm 130:6

Watchmen for the morning. When read these words I feel a sense of excitement and anticipation. After a little study on these night watchmen, I learned that morning meant relief for them and a laying down of the burden of keeping watch. If a watchman falls asleep or lets down his guard, the enemy can get in. Things at night are dark and so there must be extra care given to paying attention, being on alert and watching for signs of danger. Once time ticks by and they know that morning is near, they begin to be attuned to the sky and literally watching for the first signs of daylight. This light brings rest, peace and it signals that they kept themselves and their charges safe for one more night. They wait expectantly and joyfully never doubting that the sun will indeed rise one more time.

Dark times are hard on so many levels. There may be physical or emotional pain, uncertainty, doubt, any of those feelings that leave the darkness threatening. While we know that our enemy is always lurking to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10), it feels worse at night because our senses are limited. I can’t see as well in the night time and therefore, I am more vulnerable. The same is true in my soul and when life gets dark, I can’t see as well and I am more vulnerable. And at that moment, hopeful and expectant waiting enters.

We have to be waiting watchmen in our lives. When darkness comes we have to remember a few key things:

  1. The night and darkness is never forever. Darkness is a chapter and it is not the whole book. Darkness feels overwhelming because it is heavy and tests our other senses besides sight. Darkness invites us to rely on what we know about God, what we hear Him saying and respond to what we hear.
  2. The sun always rises. It is only possible to wait in hope and expectancy when you believe fully and without any doubt at all that the sun IS indeed going to rise. You’ve seen it rise every day of your life up to this point and there is no reason to believe it won’t rise again. God will rise in your darkness and pour His amazing light all over you. His timing is just not your timing.
  3. Don’t watch alone. The night watchmen are just that…men, plural. It is so important that we all have one or two, or more, people who are on the same course we are watching with us. Perhaps our support people aren’t in darkness themselves but they are willing and open to sitting in our darkness with us, keeping watch for the sun to rise. And perhaps they are in their own darkness and between us, we can share the burden of keeping watch as well as share the encouragement of keeping watch.

Darkness is inevitable, night falls every 24 hours and so our lives will always have seasons of darkness. Getting through the darkness well is done by placing all of our hope in God and His word and then waiting hopeful and expectant for the sun to rise. It will rise friend, you just have to keep watch and not get lost in the darkness. Be a waiting watchmen for yourself and for those around you.

If you need a prayer partner, please email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com

Shalom,

KA

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The Cost of Shalom

Shalom

“The Lord lift up His [approving] countenance upon you and give you peace (shalom) [tranquility of heart and life continually].” Numbers 6:26

Shalom. This is an amazing word that many of us miss. Strong’s Concordance (7965) defines shalom as: completeness, wholeness, health, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, fullness, rest, harmony and the absence of discord. I don’t know about you, but I want all that this word has to offer! And yet, I offer a caution: there is a cost for shalom.

Shalom was the Garden of Eden, everything perfect, complete and whole. There was nakedness without shame or fear. Shalom. At the entrance of evil and sin, shalom was broken for all of us and we ceased to live lives described as complete, whole, healthy, etc. We entered in to a system where evil forces bombard our lives from the onset and spend all their time keeping us from ever establishing shalom again. What evil couldn’t foretell was Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate Shalom! Jesus provides shalom redeemed in our lives and yet, I offer another word of caution: shalom redeemed is a process, not a singular event. The implication here is that all processes inherently have pain and joy combined.

Last week I was blessed to experience shalom redeemed in my story and it came at a price and it came as a process. I am currently in school to obtain a certificate in counseling that is specifically meant to help people work through trauma. In the process of learning, we are invited to face our own stories of trauma and work through them with the grace of the Cross. It’s beautifully painful work and each time I’m in class, I come out a different person than I went in: shalom redeemed.

I had a picture of my relationship with my mom that was distorted at best. I believed her to be my best friend and that, in and of itself, is a distortion. Through the work in my class, and the help of an amazing small group, I had to face what I knew deep down: my mom never truly acted like my friend nor my mom. My mom was a tortured person who had experienced her own deep harm at the hand of her mother and she had no way to respond but by unleashing deep harm on me as well. This was a family cycle going back at least 3 generations that I’m aware of and I suspect more. It’s called a curse. I spent the better part of my 46 years alive covering and protecting the violence that she invited in to our lives and the alienation that came as well.

And then God walked in and shalom was redeemed. After four painful days of processing and reframing my view of my mother, I was angry. Angry that I had experienced her harm and yet called her friend. Angry that her harm and need to keep me to herself kept me from other people in my family. Angry that her harm made it easy to walk away from marriages because I had her to save me. And in my anger, I had to find way to bless her. Bless that she was damaged. Bless that although unhealthy, she did love me in her limited capacity. Bless that God had shown extreme mercy and grace by saving her and then calling her to heaven. Bless that I was saying, “no” to the vows, agreements and curses that existed in my family up to that point. Bless the pain and lay her to rest in the deepest way.

Shalom has a cost and the cost is your comfort. Walking through transformation and facing the evil in our lives is ridiculously painful and uncomfortable. And yet, the redemption of shalom is the invitation God has for all of us when the blessing says, “…may He give you peace (shalom)..” Are you willing to accept the invitation? Are you willing to look at your life and say yes to the invitation that God is extending of shalom? Are you willing to lose your life to find it? (Matthew 16:25) Are you willing to enter in to the process of shalom and allow God to truly unchain you from your vows and agreements that you’ve made with evil that you aren’t even aware of? Are you willing to bless the pain and evil? Don’t desire true shalom without knowing the cost because you can’t force it, you must be led to it by God with an open heart. Open to both pain and joy and filled with radical and ridiculous hope.

My prayer for us all is that we accept the invitation to a life of shalom. If you would like a prayer partner, please email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com.

Shalom,

KA

The Sisterhood of Striving

Cease striving and know that I am God.Psalm 46_10

“Cease striving and know that I am God;”-Psalm 46:10

If you’re like me, your brain just blew up. You can’t even imagine in your wildest dreams, which really you wouldn’t even dream about because it’s a nightmare, to cease striving. Striving is what you do! Doing is what you strive to do! Welcome to The Sisterhood of Striving.

Here’s how dictionary.com defines striving and I know, for all of my sisters strivers, you’ll actually get excited when you read these words:

  • Exert oneself vigorously; try hard;
  • Make strenuous efforts toward any goal;
  • Contend in opposition, battle, or any conflict; compete
  • Struggle vigorously, as in opposition or resistance

Oh man, can I just be super honest and say that I read these words and my head says, “Uh ya, isn’t this how we’re supposed to live??” Don’t you get excited at the idea of vigorously exerting yourself in strenuous efforts, through battle or conflict, demolishing resistance to accomplish a goal?!? As a doer, I say sign me up! Life is one big mud run and I want to be the muddiest, grossest, dirtiest person arriving within the top 5 over the finish line either establishing a solid baseline for future runs or beating my last time by no less than 60 seconds. (Oh ya, I speak your language Sisters!)

Some of you have just read the above and so deeply related that you’re wondering how I know you so well since it’s likely I’ve never met you. You’re also wondering what on earth could be the point of this blog. To you I say, sit down because I’m about to drop a bomb on your life that comes straight from God’s Word to your heart.

“Stop striving”, God said. Breathe. Rock in your chair. Hold a stone in your hand. Do whatever you need to do to gain some peace because when you, my sister striver, hear words like “stop striving” your heart pounds wildly and I’m betting the very first question you have is, “But what would I do?” And the answer is, “Be”.

There are a ton of dangers in being a doer and here’s just a few: you forget that God is in control, not you; you wear yourself out; you try to earn God’s love which is absolutely futile and impossible. Striving won’t bring me one iota closer to God ever, but it will take me away from Him. Striving is about me and what I can do and how much God will love when I do whatever I’ve decided is important. The desire behind striving isn’t bad, pleasing God, the core of the idea is bad because it’s impossible to please God by any other means than being present in His grace and being obedient.

Ah…obedience…there’s something I can do! Here’s the catch with this whole stop striving thing: you must stop striving in order to be present with God and then once you’re present with God, He’ll activate you and send you out. So now you’re probably thinking, “But wait! If I’m going to end up doing something, why can’t I just DO that now?” Obedience. Obedience to God’s Word which is inviting you to a place of being. If you can’t be with God, you can’t serve God because you’ll never hear God over the noise of what you’re doing for God without His leadership. Did you get that? If you can’t rest in God and just be in His presence, you’ll never serve Him the way He created you to serve because you’ll never sit still long enough to hear His voice.

God is plenty big enough to get all of the work of the world done without you. Sorry, but that is a truth. It isn’t meant to make you feel unimportant, it’s meant to make you feel less responsible for the world because let’s face it, you aren’t and God is. In the verses prior to Psalm 46:10, God describes all that He is able to do and let me tell you, none of it are you or I able to do. I believe He shows us His power and ability in these verses in order to make the notion of our ceasing to strive easier. Being, for a doer, is a massive act of faith. You have to believe that God is more able than you and that is a core belief change for many of us. So, don’t think you’ll “do” this thing called being with a checklist or a five-step plan because you won’t. Ceasing to strive will be a slowly and likely painful process where you moment-by-moment give your life over to the God who loves you more and is able to do so much more than you can even fathom. So don’t set a timeline to achieve being, it’s not possible.

Right now, pray and ask God to help you see the next step for ceasing to strive. He wants you to know Him and that He is God and I know He’s going to be jumping up and down with joy when you invite Him into your life in this way. This is a process and it is most likely a slow process so be kind to yourself and remember that God’s grace is covering you.

If you need prayer support from a sister striver, email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com.

Shalom,

KA

My Transformation Part 2 – His Faithfulness

God is Faithful

“For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” Says the Lord your Redeemer.” – Isaiah 54: 7-8 

“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” Says the Lord who has compassion on you.” – Isaiah 54:10

Excerpt from yesterday’s post in case you missed it. [For the next two years, I got through my days at work, my time with my daughter and school by living for the moments when I could drink. I didn’t drink at home and I never missed work, I drank on certain days of the week and every-other-weekend when she was away with her dad. On those “free” days, I drank to black out most nights. I was in so much pain I couldn’t stand being sober unless I was doing something fun with my daughter. I hated everything about being an adult because I had never been prepared for being an adult. I was miserable but I didn’t want to disappoint anyone so I made sure to have these neat compartments so that my friends and family didn’t know how much pain I was in and that I was drowning.]

In 2010, we started to occasionally attend church with my family. Even though I didn’t want anything to do with God, I wanted my daughter to know God. We lived about 40 minutes away from this church but it was worth the drive on Sunday’s to have the connection with my family. I was still hurting so badly and I didn’t know how to tell them but being around them relieved some pain. We started to get more involved in small groups and the kids programs and my heart was softening. I hadn’t quit drinking and most Sunday’s I left church in tears, but God was working.

By 2011, we were really involved at church. Every Sunday night, I would beg God to step in a fix my life. I needed to quit drinking. I needed to end a significant relationship. I needed to get my finances in order. I needed God. And every Sunday God would say no. You see, God wanted my life, I just wanted a quick fix. I knew He could sweep away all my junk and I would be fine but He knew I needed healing and I didn’t want that. I wanted to keep my pain because at this point, it was a friend. I was terrified of trusting Him because I blamed Him for so much that I just felt He was mean.

In April of 2011 I was arrested for a suspicion of a DUI. This rocked my world. I was terrified and so full of shame that I could barely breathe. I spent hours at a time crying when I was alone. I craved being alone so that I could just get swallowed up into the darkness. I was embarrassed and terrified I would lose my daughter. I felt like the worst person on the planet, the lowest of the low. I continued to beg God to fix everything and He continued to say no. I knew what He wanted and I was ridiculously scared to trust Him. I didn’t quit drinking at this time but I did quit drinking and driving. Having another arrest was not an option.

By November of 2011, my health was feeling the effect of the alcohol. On November 9, I was in the ER feeling like I was having a heartache or a stroke. I couldn’t remember huge pieces of my life. I couldn’t read a simple paragraph. I didn’t remember driving to work. In the end, I was having a massive panic attack and my heart was acting abnormally. After some tests the next day, the doctor called and told me that my heart was starting to harden in one corner and that it was due to how I was living. She was very cold and sober and just told me straight out that I was killing myself and that if I didn’t stop, my health would continue to decline. I was beyond terrified. The last thing I wanted to do was actually die.

I laid in bed, crying and crying out to God and He spoke to me clearly. He told me that I no longer had access to Him until I gave Him my life. He was turning away from me! You see, in order for me to give Him my life, I had to quit drinking, quit living recklessly, end a relationship and hardest of all…trust Him. I couldn’t grasp any of that and especially not the trusting Him. I laid in bed all day crying and sleeping. And then it happened, I realized I had no other choice.

In one swift movement, somewhat like ripping off the band-aid, I asked God to give me the strength to do all that I needed to do and that yes, I would give Him my life. Laying in bed, I made the phone call that ended the relationship I was in and said that I could have absolutely no contact again. I promised God to never have another drink. I begged God to help me get all of my finances in order and to be able to face the mess. And in that moment, God, in His amazing grace and love, swooped in and released me from darkness. It felt like when there is a power outage for a few hours and then the lights come back on. There is relief and joy mixed together with excitement and thankfulness. I had no idea what God was going to do and I didn’t care, I was feeling a peace I don’t think I had ever felt in my entire life. God was real and He was never going to leave me or forsake me. For a moment, He turned His face away and then, He redeemed me.

So, four years later, He’s allowed me to publish a book, build a blog, start a non-profit organization and best of all, He’s become my best friend and loving Father. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol and I haven’t spoken to anyone from that past life ever again. I’ve been able to face the pain of loss and grief and see how God was present all along. I’ve been able to walk with people as they leave addiction and show them how amazing God is and how much He loves them. I’ve been privileged to pray for hundreds of people. I live my life as a missionary in a foreign land because my home is with God and for right now, this is my journey. It’s amazing!

You can never go wrong with God. Never. He’s faithful always and He’s totally in love with you. If you need someone to talk to or you need a prayer partner, please email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com.

Shalom,

KA

 

My Transformation Part 1 – My History

“For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” Says the Lord your Redeemer.” – Isaiah 54: 7-8 

“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” Says the Lord who has compassion on you.” – Isaiah 54:10

This week four years ago was one of the more painful weeks of my life and yet, it was the absolute best week of my life. In one moment of obedience, I stepped onto the path God had been calling me to and received a level a peace and healing I had no idea existed for me.

Let me give you a little background first. I was blessed with neighbors when I was 4 years old who loved me beyond what is imaginable. They had no children of their own so we adopted each other as grandparents/grandchild. These people were amazingly loving and generous and were devoted followers of Jesus. They took me to church, prayed for me and loved me in ways that God knew I needed. This allowed me to learn about God at a really young age and lay a solid foundation for my faith.

I accepted Jesus as my savior when I was 14 years old. By that time, my folks had gotten divorced and my mom and I had moved to Alaska. While I loved my mom dearly, she wasn’t a stable force in my life. She had a gypsy heart and was typically most concerned with her needs above mine. She wasn’t a bad person, she just wasn’t your average mom. She always wanted a daughter and she always wanted her daughter to be her best friend. This may be fine when your daughter is an adult, however, it is crummy when you’re the kid best friend. She moved around a lot and so I moved with her.

From 14 years old until I was 39 years old, life ebbed and flowed as life does but I built a mountain of pain because of the movement. My very first boyfriend and love died suddenly when I was 15 years old. I got married young and divorced when I was 28 years old. I got married again a couple years later, and then divorced again when I was 35 years old. In between there, I had a beautiful daughter who is amazing. My mom retired early to move in with us and be a stay-at-home Grammy. Throughout all of this, I used alcohol off-an-on to medicate through pain. I started drinking when I was 14 years old and knew that it would help me feel better. Not healthy obviously, just momentarily better. By the time I was in my late 30’s, I was a heavy drinker and not being careful with my life. My mom took care of absolutely every aspect of our lives so I really had no reason to have to be careful, as far as I was concerned. I assumed my mom would take care of me forever.

In December of 2008, on Wednesday the 9th, my mom had a brain aneurysm in our living room and I never held another conversation with her again. The next day she went into a coma and 4-days later, she was gone. My life turned upside down and was flushed right down the toilet. To say that I had no clue is an understatement. My mom had trained me to be fully reliant on her and so to not have her around was…well…pain. I didn’t know my daughter’s schedule, I didn’t know where we banked, I didn’t know any of our bills. I didn’t know how to manage any aspect of my life except working and drinking. I remember standing on my porch a couple days after her death, watching snow fall and saying to God, “I don’t want anything to do with You ever again. You’ve just ruined my life in one swift motion. You didn’t need her in heaven, I needed her here and You took her from me. How dare You! Don’t ever do anything for me again because honestly, I think you stink.” And in that moment, I dove head first into the darkest darkness possible.

For the next two years, I got through my days at work, my time with my daughter and school by living for the moments when I could drink. I didn’t drink at home and I never missed work, I drank on certain days of the week and every-other-weekend. On those “free” days, I drank to black out most nights. I was in so much pain I couldn’t stand being sober unless I was doing something fun with my daughter. I hated everything about being an adult because I had never been prepared for being an adult. I was miserable but I didn’t want to disappoint anyone so I made sure to have these neat compartments so that my friends and family didn’t know how much pain I was in and that I was drowning.

I’ll post the rest of the story tomorrow, don’t miss it! If something I’ve said thus far resonates with you and you want to talk or have a prayer partner, please email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com.

Shalom,

KA

Rend Your Heart

Rend your heart blog

“…and rend your heart and not your garments.”-Joel 2:13

Rend. The dictionary defines rend as: to remove from place by violence (Miriam-Webster Dictionary). Rending is a Jewish custom that involves violently tearing clothing at the news of a death. It is an expression of grief and mourning and it is meant to allow for a release of anger that doesn’t harm anyone.

When I say the word, rend, it feels like a kind word and it’s most definitely not. Right before this verse, God has used Joel to tell His people to return to Him with fasting, weeping and mourning. This is clearly not a joyous reunion. The people have turned away from God and decided that they are better able to live life without Him. They have allowed other gods hold places of authority in their lives and God is rightly upset. This plea is directly from God that His people would come back, give up their sin-filled lives and love and follow Him again before there is any punishment.

This returning isn’t going to be easy. It isn’t going to be simple. God is directing His people to return with fasting, weeping, mourning and rending, it is a safe bet to say that there is going to be pain and heartache involved with this return. They have set up new habits and new rituals and fitting God back into their lives is going to mean giving those up. Even though they are sin and hurting the people, it is still going to be a hard process.

I completely understand where these people are at in their plight. They’ve turned so far away from God and filled their lives with sin, shame and pain, that they can’t see the benefit initially in turning back to God because the pain is in the forefront of their minds. There was a time in my life where I was so disillusioned with God and how He was working in my life, that I turned to things like alcohol and partying to sooth my pain. For over a year I begged God on a regular basis to release me from this life I had created and every time I asked, he said, “rend your heart, return to me with fasting, weeping and mourning and I’ll greet you with love and compassion”. I couldn’t see past the pain that was consuming me far enough to see that it was best to return. All I could think about was the pain of giving up my sin.

God used an arrest for a suspicion of a DUI and a health issue to get my attention and turn me around. He had to give me a foreshadowing of what was headed my way…jail, loss of my family, loss of my health. I was faced with a choice point: turn back to God and go through the pain of losing my sinful state or keep going in the direction I was headed and risk losing my life. And now, when I look at it from the outside, it seems like a no-brainer; TURN BACK! But in the midst, it was terrifying to trust God to first of receive me back, and secondly to restore me.

Once I said yes to God, rended my heart, tore myself violently away from alcohol and people who were the wrong people to have in my life, He rushed in and gathered me up in His amazing arms. He restored my physical health. He allowed me to get a lesser sentence and not a DUI. He released me from addiction. He set me on a path that has led me right here and I am so blessed, honored and humbled to be used by Him.

So now the question is for you…what do you need to rend in your heart before God and allow Him to remove so that you can live close to Him again? Are you willing to travel through the fasting, weeping and mourning in order to return to God? This is not a 10-step plan I’m inviting you to, it’s a violent removal of whatever is standing between you and God. And actually, I’m not the one inviting, God is. Will you go with Him and step into an unchained life?

If you need a prayer partner, please email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com.

Shalom,

KA

Unchained and Prostrate

 

Unchained and Prostrate“And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God,”Revelation 7:11

To be prostrate means to lay face down on the ground, in submission and reverence. It is also a position that takes place when a person is reduced to physical weakness due to distress or illness. This morning, I came into my usually morning time with God feeling distressed. So much of my today and my tomorrow are completely unknown to me and I’m struggling to stay present with God in all that He is doing and I’m weary.

I’m weary from the work in my life. I’m weary from the work in my daughter’s life. I’m weary from the work in the lives of those closest to us. I’m tired of the enemy finding new entrances and I’m tired of doing the deep work with God that is disrupting the ground that I had so carefully laid over things I didn’t want to process. I love God so deeply and I want with every fiber of my being to be all that He created me to be and, just being honest, I thought it would be easier.

I was sitting in my chair this morning just soaking in praise music and I heard God invite me to lay prostrate before Him. I immediately responded with no, that’s weird. Why do I need to lay on my face before you when I’m more comfortable sitting my chair? As a few minutes passed, I had this internal argument on why, or why not, to lay prostrate before God in my living room. In the end, I decided what I truly believed was God’s invitation. I got down on my face in my living and I fell apart at the feet of the One who knows me better than I know myself and loves me more than any other being every could. I was undone and wrapped in love.

God is absolutely in the business of tearing down our walls, covering us in our vulnerability and rebuilding our lives in Him. This is a terribly painful process some days and yet, He provides these amazing moments of peace and rest. I believe we are offered these beautiful opportunities often and we always have the choice to say “no”. I could have stayed in my chair this morning and I would have had a fine time with Jesus and we would have both known I wasn’t willing to fully submit. Instead, I ignored the voice in my head that was being rebellious, I got on my face and I met my Heavenly Father in a totally new space, unchained, prostrate and more deeply in love.

Say yes to God, I’m nearly begging you. Nothing you are holding on to is better than what God has for you. Nothing. No one’s approval is better than God’s. No earthly security is better than God’s. Nothing is better than God. Moving into an unchained life is not easy and, it’s worth all the pain and discomfort because it’s where He created you to live.

If you need a prayer partner, please email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com.

Shalom,

KA

Community, Unchained

All coming together to live stronger in Christ.

All coming together to live stronger in Christ.

“And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the feet, and they would be distributed as any had need.”-Acts 4:32-35

I’m a communal living hippy at heart. I love the idea of a large piece of land or a huge house lived in by many different families and people, all putting into the support of each other. And I don’t just mean putting money in, I mean putting time, giftings, support…the whole kit and caboodle. My heart is almost obsessed with serving people and showing the love of Christ in tangible ways to all people.

Here are two things I find really interesting about this passage in scripture: 1) not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; and 2) abundant grace was upon them because not one of them was in need. I think that these two points are the main ingredients of a life abundant in God’s love, grace, peace and mercy. They are the very definition of community!

Nothing that is technically “owned” by me if I’m focused on you and God. That includes my time, my attention as well as my money and my possessions. God says in several places that He doesn’t want our money or our sacrifices, He wants our hearts. That same idea is true of the people around us, He wants us to give them our hearts and then everything else falls into place. When I fully grasp that whatever I consider to be mine is God’s and yours, then I hold it loosely and I focus more on God.

Abundant grace is a natural result of a life that is full and not lacking. The more I have of things such as love, grace, peace, mercy and forgiveness, the more I am able to give those things right back out to the people around me. When my needs are met, I’m able to be open to meet your needs. God didn’t save us to have us build a personal kingdom on an island waving a flag of salvation for those, “over there”. God saved us so that we can be His hands, feet, hugs and meet the needs of the people around us and show them His love and lead them to His salvation. That’s community!

This weekend we have a global evangelist in our area for a 3-day conference. This conference is free and therefore, an amazing opportunity! The speaker has written loads of books and speaks all around the world plus on tv. She’s awesome and again, amazing opportunity! Months and months ago several of us put it on our calendars to attend. As the time got closer, I just wasn’t feeling like it was something God was wanting me to attend but I couldn’t really figure out why. My excitement level was low and I just honestly wasn’t interested in going. Crazy right?? The week of the conference, one of my dearest friends really had it heavy on her heart to go but she’s another single mom like me so it makes things like this a little more challenging. I immediately offered to stay home so that she could go and we could host her daughter. Easy breezy for me and our daughters are close so it was good all around. My time isn’t mine, I don’t own it, it’s meant to be shared and that’s what I did. I gave her my time and my care for her daughter so that she could go and hear God’s word for her.

Now, whenever we do something like this, we know that the enemy will be close by because the LAST thing he wants is for us to support each other and build a strong community. He also, obviously, doesn’t want any of us growing closer to God. The week of the conference, our friendships and our lives got rocked. Both of our daughters hit hard situations and revelations that we had not seen coming. There was a lot of drama happening at school for both of them and we, the moms, were getting pulled in. If God wasn’t central to us, if we weren’t both dedicated to community and living lives dedicated to others, we could have so easy gotten mad at each other and ruined absolutely everything for this weekend. Praise God, we both felt the attack and prayed against it both individually AND together. As I write this, the girls are hanging out and my friend is off at the conference.

Oh, and just to remind me that the enemy is roaming, looking for an entrance to bring destruction, just today she ran into a bump with care for her dog. I immediately, completely acting under the power of God and the desire for community like in Acts, said whatever it takes, we’ll take care of the dog. So, we’ll go a little out of our way to take care of her dog so that she can focus on being present at the conference. I don’t tell any of that story for anyone to say, “Wow, what a good friend you are”, because that’s not my purpose. I tell this story to show that we absolutely can and should live in community where no one has a need and everything we have is shared. That’s what God is calling us to and I don’t believe that it is soft invitation, I believe that is His absolute expectation.

Sacrificing ourselves, sharing our possession, time, love is the way to live in unchained community. Everyone is equal and has something to offer. Everything is offered up for the good of the community. Once we embrace this life, we live in the abundance of grace, unchained.

Take stock, honest stock, of what you consider your possessions and make sure you aren’t holding on too tightly. That includes the tangible as well as the intangible. God is asking you to live like the believers in Acts, “not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them” (Acts 4:32). God will make sure all of your needs are met.

Shalom,

KA

Unchained Contentment

“Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13

The only way to know that you are truly content in all situations is to have God lead you to a new place that you truly never imagined. I think it’s really easy, and I say this from experience, to say, “Oh ya, I’m totally content no matter what”, and in that sentence is danger. It’s a good danger because it’s a silent invitation to ask God to prove how content you can be in all situations.

A year ago, I was completely content having plenty. Who wouldn’t be? I made a lot of money, had a secure job, great benefits and no major expenses. It is just me and my daughter and we lived well…really well. We ate out a lot. We bought pretty much whatever we wanted. We went away on weekend trips pretty much whenever we wanted. I had very little care about physical needs and I was convinced that living with less wasn’t really possible. I had become accustomed to the abundance and I had taken it for granted. Then God stepped in.

When God asked me to cash in my retirement and walk away from my career, I was nervous but I was certain that it would all be fine and that I wasn’t going to be asked to make a major change, just scale back a little bit. So, we scaled back, went out less and thought more about what we bought. We were living with less and we were beginning to see how to be content. I had no idea how much more content with less we were going to get.

Today I did something I never planned on doing, I applied for food stamps. Even typing out that sentence is hard. Whether or not you are willing to admit it, most of us consider food stamps for “those people” and not for us. We may say there is no judgment, but there is. We’re judging ourselves as more secure because we don’t have to use food stamps, we’re praising God that we can take care of ourselves without assistance and we are unable to consider that God would call us to a place that would lead us to this level of need. And maybe all of those “we”s that I just typed are just me and no one else has ever had these thoughts but I seriously doubt it.

Today, as I was answering questions about my current situation, I had to admit that God had called me to this level of need so that I could grow deeper with Him. The question at the time was did I trust God enough to believe that He didn’t love me less and that He wasn’t punishing me just because I was applying for help. My ego and the enemy were firing at me that I was above this need, that I was better than and that I didn’t need this help. God was asking me to face my arrogance and get like Paul, knowing abundance and knowing lack and truly being content in all situations because I know that God is with me and I am truly able to do anything through Jesus because He gives me the necessary strength.

I know that God is using this time to grow me deeper and deeper and to build a stronger sense of vision and ministry. I’ve been tempted many times to just go get a job because my faith wavers and I’m not certain God is actually paying attention. And as soon as those kinds of words come to mind, I know that they are the enemy. God is showing me a full spectrum of life as well as inviting to deeper faith with Him. I have said before and I say it again as a prayer that I refuse to be a trophy for the enemy by giving in and walking away from what I am certain is God’s call.

I believe a job is close and I believe that right now my season in life is shifting and I’m walking into an abundance like I’ve never seen or known before. Not an abundance meaning a huge salary, an abundance meaning an increase of faith and impact in the world around me. Daily dying to my ego and the old ways of defining my self-worth is harder than I imagined. Knowing that God is with me every step and inviting me to go further and further with Him is amazing and humbling.

God is inviting ALL of us to grow in our level of contentment in life and this contentment is solely based on Him. Are you willing to do whatever God is calling you to? Are you willing to lose what you thought you could never live without in order to grow deeper in Him? The invitation is there for all of us, I’m praying that you accept and find unchained contentment.

If you need a prayer partner, email me at jesusreliant@gmail.com

Shalom,

KA

 

The Impact of One

“…He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’ And he got up and followed Him.” – Mark 2:14

One year ago, Jesus asked me to follow Him. No vision, no particular ministry, just a call to follow the One who had saved me. So, I did what any normal human would do…I panicked and then I got up and followed Him.

At that time, I was in a cushy job with a cushy pay check and cushy benefits. I had spent 20 plus years in the same field, 13 years at the same company and 8 years in the same position. The kind of work I did was required by the government so unless I just did a poor job, I had job security unlike most people. Who  in the world would leave? Only someone crazy enough to trust a carpenter from Galilee. Me!

As my time to enter this new world approached, I found that my heart was starting to really fall in love with homeless people. I had always given them money when they stood on the street corners or bought them food, but now I was starting to think about how to really help them as a people-group and not just a one-off situation. The time of year was fall so I decided to ask people for blankets. I figured that I would gather 25 or so and take them to the Union Gospel Mission to hand out. That was not God’s plan. In a matter of 6 weeks, I had collected money and blankets that combined, gave me over 250 blankets. YIKES! I was thrilled and faced with an awesome problem…where do I take them?

Not far from where I live is a homeless tent encampment and they received 100 blankets. With the remainder, I kept them in my car and handed them out whenever I saw a need. I volunteered at a food bank in Seattle so I had plenty of opportunity to hand them out. I also gave to other outreach programs who had their own folks they were helping. Why not spread the wealth?

This taste of direct contact with this amazing group of people captured my heart completely. I saw Jesus in each face and I fell more and more in love. By the time February rolled around, 2 months after leaving my job, I was submitting the paperwork to start a non-profit organization, A Giving Community. I had no idea what God was up to and I wanted to be part of it. I started hearing about local organizations that were in the trenches, rescuing women from sex trafficking, rescuing women and children from domestic violence and providing a place of love and care for foster children. These folks were doing critical work and they needed support. The vision was growing, we were expanding from only helping the homeless to helping organizations.

Fast forward 10 months and here’s where we are now:

  • Tuna Spread: a quarterly event where we take hundreds of cans of tuna fish and other items into downtown Seattle and just start walking around handing them out to the homeless people we see. As I write this, we’ve handed out 1,200 cans of tuna this year and in a couple of days will be taking another 700 cans plus coats, sweatshirts, pants, and bathroom items.
  • Frontline Support: we’ve provided outreach items to an organization that helps women leave sex trafficking (www.iwantrest.com). We’ve provided toys, cloths and food to an organization that supports foster children (www.handinhandkids.org). And we’ve clothed and fed a homeless tent encampment.
  • Resource: we’ve provided opportunities for people to volunteer their time at several different organizations and get involved.

All of this is to say, there is impact made for the kingdom in just one person saying “Yes” to God’s invitation to follow Him. My “yes” has fed and clothed hundreds of people this year, provided joy through Christmas gifts for children and allowed an opportunity for women caught in sex trafficking to feel loved. Don’t ever think you can’t make an impact because you can. I am proof of that! Am I going to single-handedly wipe out poverty, abuse and homelessness? Absolutely not. What I am going to do is show as many people as I can that they are loved and cared for in the only way I know how, meeting their immediate need even for just one day.

If God is inviting you to say yes, please do it. It might be the difference between someone having a blanket and food or going hungry and cold. There is no act of kindness too small.

If you need a prayer partner, please email me at jesusreliant.com. If you want to support A Giving Community, email me at jesusrelient.com and I’ll give you the details on how you can make a tax-deductible financial donation.

Shalom

KA