Monday, July 30, 2012

The Paths We Choose...

 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
What gain has the worker from his toil?  I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 ESV

So I decide to walk on this little walking track at a park near by. Its only about a mile or so. There were the usual folks there; the devout runners covered in sweat and spandex, the power walkers with their steely faces trying so hard to beat yesterdays time, and the mom's pushing over sized strollers and chatting about baby food. I turned up my ipod and set off to do my laps. I got about half way around the track when I saw this clearing in the woods behind a picnic table. Behind the expanse of trees surrounding the track was this amazing little creek. It was so beautiful in the dim, gray light of the morning. I took this shot just as the sun began to peek between the trees. I explored the creek for awhile and had a beautiful chat with Jesus. When I emerged several minutes later back on the track, it struck me a little odd no one even gave this woman emerging from the trees a second glance. Faces forward, calories to burn, personal achievements to make. Not a single glance. It made me think about our lives and how we are so set on staying "on track". We have many plans....agendas....quotas....promotions. We can be so fixated on our idea of what the future should hold for us and what we think we deserve. But what about the road less traveled?  Is there no sense of adventure left in us? No room in our hearts for uncharted territory? We want so much to figure it all out that most of the time, we steal an opportunity for the Lord to lead us. He's throwing us a surprise party and we've just blown it. He has so many mysteries He wants to reveal to us. He has so many plans for us. Why do we spend so much effort trying to beat Him to the punch or rush Him? We need to let Him take His time. Everything has its time. Everything has its place. He already told you He has a hope and a future for you. Wait. Watch. When He chooses...the sight will be glorious to your eyes and peace to your soul. You don't know the end of your story and there is so much left to tell. Its okay you don't know. He does.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A House on Fire...

"You don't have to advertise a fire..."
                               -Misty Edwards

So I have this dollhouse that my nieces and nephew like to play with. One day I was walking past it in the hallway and I noticed all these little red men in. At first I thought they were army men but upon looking closer, I realized they were firemen. I giggled and started to walk away but then decided to take this picture...something told me the Lord had something to tell me about it.

In a way, we are all firemen. We love to put out the flames. We love to stop the burning and the destruction. We can't embrace the heat. But what if we let the flames rise? What if we let them burn? What if we let them destroy anything and everything around us? 

OK....OK....I know what you're thinking. "Jeez, Amanda. Morbid much? How many episodes of Criminal Minds have you been watching?"

"Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain..."
 Psalm 127:1
But stay with me here. What if we became men of fire? What if we learned to embrace the heat and destruction? Well..spiritually speaking that is.

So many times through out the Bible, we see the Lord and fire go hand and hand.

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, the Lord gave them a pillar of fire at night to give them light ( See Exodus 13)

He also used fire to get Moses attention when He spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. 
(See Exodus 3)

The outpouring of the Spirit gave the disciples tongues of fire ( See Acts 2 )

You see when God moves, fire happens. He is an all consuming fire. (See Deut. 2:24 )

To the Lord, fire is a good thing. Its purifying. Its illuminating. It gets your attention. 

We get so bent out of shape when trials happen in our lives. We get angry when the heat gets turned up. But a little fire in the house is good. A lot of fire in the house is great. He uses the fires, or trials, of life to test our build our character. (Boy don't I know this is true... been through a few myself.)

"In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him.Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls." 1 Peter 1:6-9 ESV

There will be a fire to cleanse and a fire to ignite. He will destroy every unclean thing so He can set you ablaze with purity and conviction.

Be a man of fire. Let it consume you. Don't run away from it. Run towards it. Let it burn so hard people come running to watch. Let them get warm from the heat. Then show them how to get set on fire too.

Here's an awesome song for you. Jesus Culture performing "All Consuming Fire". See if this doesn't get a spark going :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


~So I had a reader request to write about adoption so, Lisa Landers, here's your wish :)

 A long time ago I heard a story that broke my heart. I'm not sure where I heard it and am a little fuzzy on the details (I was pretty young at the time) but 20 some years later its still with me. It was a story about babies who were born HIV positive and no one would adopt them. A family came and decided to take them home and sometime later found out that the babies were no longer positive for the virus.

Now, I don't know if I am even remembering this story correctly and new studies have shown that most babies "grow out of", so to speak, the HIV virus by 18 months of age. But I remember it got me to thinking. Does unconditional love have the power to change lives? Does that act of simply choosing to love the unlovable change the course of their destiny?

This stirred a fire in me. I wanted to be a momma so bad from that point on because I wanted a chance to love that way. I was so more than willing to adopt a child, no matter what their age, race or medical situation. I just wanted to love children. And in His own way, the Lord totally gave me that chance.

His name was Nick. He had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. He was attending the daycare I worked at that summer. I was a naive, egotistical, bratty child trapped in a 20 somethings body. He was a battered, angry and unstable 7- year- old trapped in a 13- year- old's body. I was on staff that summer with the summer camp program. I had about a bazillion kids I had to schlep all over kingdom come. Nick was brand new. Within his first 10 minutes of being in the center, he had to be physically restrained. He kept screaming and trying to run out the gym doors into the parking lot. I remember thinking "Holy crap, this kid's a mess." I was so pissed when I found out He was going to be going on field trips with me that summer. I was already dealing with a lot of bitterness and anger in my own heart and this wasn't helping. We battled all summer long. I mean battled. But then something happened, I had an epiphany.

I had met his sister who was attending another daycare at the time. A bunch of the different day cares in the area went to the same community pool. I saw her. She was dressed head to toe in black, in the dead of August. Her hair was uncombed. Her face filled with anger and loneliness. I watched her for awhile. She barely spoke to anyone. When she did it was rude and angry. Something deeper was going on. Over the next few weeks, I found out some more back story. Their adoptive mom was from the Ukraine, where all of their 4 or 5 adopted children were from. She had some issues. So did their adoptive dad. The biggest reason Nick had so many issues was that frequently they would forget to give him his medication and it would be hours before they would bring it. Usually by that time, it was pretty much useless because he was already a mess.

My heart began to soften to Nick a bit. The rest of the summer I began to dig a little deeper. I wanted to no more about the boy within. One day, I was sitting next to Nick, coloring with him. He stopped, looked at me and said " My father in the Ukraine used to burn me when he was mad. But then He killed himself. My mom says sometimes that if we aren't good, she's gonna send us back to the Ukraine."

My jaw nearly hit the floor. Well no wonder he was so angry. He wasn't a baby when he was adopted. He recounted the whole story for me in full detail. It was a memory. That poor child had literally been through hell. And instead of being adopted into the safety of a loving home, he had a daily reminder that it all could just go away if he didn't measure up. My whole opinion of him changed right then and there. I started praying for Nick all the time. I watched him. Studied him. I was determined. My tiger-mother instincts were roaring.

After the summer term ended and we went back to our normal after-school  classes, Nick went into the class for the older kids and I went on back to my First-Grade class. Nick was struggling so hard. I hated it. His teacher had no idea what to do with him. He couldn't get along with the other kids. One day, I went to the school director and told her my concerns.

"I think Nick needs to be with younger kids. There is too much pressure in his class for him to perform at a level that he just can't perform at right now. I think he needs a smaller class and more one on one attention. I would like you to move him into my class."

I was shocked at thew words coming out of my mouth. What in the crap was I going to do with a 13-year old in the midst of a bunch of First-Graders? But, she agreed and so I was stuck with my plan. So Nick joined our class and he was so happy. I was amazed at what God did almost immediately. Nick helped me with the other kids. He was so loving to them. When He got overwhelmed, I let him go off in the room and work independently. When He didn't want to join, I didn't force him. I just let Nick be Nick. And in return, I got a happy, respectful helpful little boy who showered me and his class with love. When one little boy couldn't get along with him, my director moved the little boy because she didn't want to disturb the good thing we had going.

I always say the Holy Spirit taught me how to teach Nick. He taught me how to love him too. Nick transformed before my eyes. He was a whole new boy. He also taught me how much love really does change us. I realized I was becoming a better person too because of that love. For the first time in my life, all the anger and bitterness was replaced with hope and purpose. Its because I finally realized how much I was loved too.

I had to move away later that year and I was terrified to leave Nick.About a year and a half later, I went back to visit him, uncertain of what I would find. To my relief,  He was the same loving, gentle and kind little boy I remembered and greeted me with a big smile and a "Hi, Miss Mandy!" I felt so much joy and pride in that moment. I guess that's a testament to the power of love. Its sticks.

In Romans 8, Paul talks about the Spirit of Adoption.

"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God..."
When we become part of God's family, that's it... adopted.We're in. He loves us unconditionally. His Spirit becomes part of us and affirms that we are his kids. I love the way the Message Bible puts it:

"This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children."
Our lives are forever changed by the realization of His love for us. Knowing who we are and what we mean to Him creates a confidence and sense of belonging in us. That knowing makes us feel wanted and safe. In that place, we become a well-watered garden planted in the richest soil. We flourish and bloom into the most beautiful things. Nick flourished because he felt loved and accepted just as he was. An environment was created for him to thrive in,  not just survive in. That's what the Lord has created for us. He gave us a home in Him. He has given us an inheritance. We are part of His family. We are related to the King of Kings. We aren't meant for the gutter. We are meant for the palace. Love changed everything.

You are adopted. He's not going to send you back. You are accepted. You are loved. Forever.

Never forget that.

Monday, July 16, 2012


Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?
- the wicked queen in "Snow White"

Me! Oh wait...that's not the point of this. But yes, that is a picture of my face. Its my favorite picture of me, to be exact. Know why? Because it highlights everything I love about my physical appearance and hides pretty much everything I hate ( most of that is because I photo shopped the crap out of it, but lets just pretend its not.)

 I have this thing where I look at the mirror and all I see are the things I like about myself, completely ignoring all the other things I don't like. And I know what you are thinking this totally sounds like a gift, and it is, in a way. That is, until I look at a picture of myself and I'm like dang "Who's that old, fat homeless lady? 

Sometimes its truly awful because I don't see me when I look at those pictures. I feel like another person trapped inside that ugly persons body. Sound familiar?

 I feel for the most part most women have distorted views of themselves. We are bombarded daily with these images of women scantily clad and photo shopped within an inch of their lives. They rarely post photos of ordinary looking women dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. Ordinary doesn't sell. "Sexy", flawless imaginary women covered in eighty pounds of makeup, push-up bras, self tanner and false eyelashes do. It sells because that is the world's standard of beauty. Fake. Not perfect. Fake. 

But what if we changed all that? What if we looked in the mirror and were proud of the woman staring back at us? Instead of focusing directly on each flaw or, as in my case, denying their existence at all...what if we accepted the image we saw looking back at us, flaws and all. What if we admitted that that woman was worth loving, valuing and respecting because she was created for that purpose?

"Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all  the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." Genesis 1:26 NKJV

Did you notice that? "Let Us make man in Our image". We were created in the image of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Trinity. All of who God is. We were created to look like Him. I don't know about you, but never in my wildest dreams would I classify the Lord Almighty as ugly. So why then is it so easy for me to call myself that? In saying that, am I implying that the Lord is capable of making mistakes because I'm not the Swedish supermodel I think I should be? 

Then their are those of us who think so little of ourselves that we rely on our looks for our self worth. Hours spent primping and plucking, plumping, lifting and sucking in, trying so hard to maintain and image of what we think beauty really is. If we aren't beautiful then we are nothing, right? But what is beauty anyway? Is it just about the state of your face or a state of mind? 

Proverbs 31 has become sort of the Biblical standard of the ultimate woman. But the 22 verses it takes to describe her have pretty much nothing to do with her looks. She is virtuous, trusted, handy, hard working, brave, generous, prepared, industrious, kind and wise. Her husband and children have nothing but my praise for her. But my favorite part of the entire passage is at the very end in verse 30:

"Charm is deceitful and beauty is passingBut a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised."

Her husband didn't honor her because she was hot. Her children didn't praise her because of the tint of her lip gloss. She earned their respect by the strength of her character and her willingness to serve the Lord in everything she did.

It is dishonoring and disrespectful to the Lord for us to see ourselves as anything but a treasure and a thing of beauty in His eyes (and ours). Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. If His Spirit is within you, how can you help but live in the freedom of His beauty reflecting through you? He loves us...and His love is transforming.We are His image....His reflection. He doesn't make mistakes. How can we hate and despise His design? 

"Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." 2 Corinthian 3:17-18 NKJV

If you don't know the me tell you, you are in for a treat. He gives you love, honor and acceptance free of charge. You can't earn it or buy it. You don't have to perform or qualify. You just have to accept Him. Accept His saving grace. Accept his love. You will never feel more beautiful in your entire life as you will when you know Jesus is looking at you.

Mirror mirror on the wall....who's the fairest of them all? Oh yeah...Jesus

"My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. You are fairer than the sons of men..." Psalm 45:1-2 NKJV

Saturday, July 14, 2012

I Think Its Going to Rain Today...

"Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm..."
Job 40:6 NIV

So I talked a little in my last post about how dry it had been here. Everything was so dry and dead, it looked like fall outside. I also talked a bit how I felt it was a reflection of the spiritual climate. I know I felt it. I was so parched and I didn't realize the extent of it. 

I went to "church" last Sunday for the first time in a very long time. I knew in my spirit the Lord was up to something. He most definitely was. I got seriously delivered. And I'm not talking about your momma's deliverance either. I'm talking He ripped me open, dumped out my guts and then put me back together again. I was a wreck. And I haven't been the same since. 

The funny thing is, it started raining that day and hasn't stopped since. 

When it talks in the Bible about the former and the latter rains  (see Deuteronomy 11 ), its referring to the early rains that fell in the fall when the crops were planted and the late rains that fell in the when they were harvested. One rain to prepare the soil, one rain to ripen the harvest.  In Joel 2,  Joel was delivering a word of the Lord to the people about the coming of the Lord. He was urging them to repent and turn their hearts back to the Him. When the Lord decided to have mercy on them, he restored their land and blessed his people once again with abundance

"Then the Lord became jealous for his land and had pity on his people....Be glad, O children of Zion,
and rejoice in the Lord your God,for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before....You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame...."

Tonight I decided to stand outside in the rain. I mean, I prayed so hard for it, I might as well fully enjoy it. As I stood outside, the now green grass soft beneath my feet, I thought about my life. I had been feeling really opened up and free since Sunday but the past couple of days I was starting to feel bound up again. I was just standing there, rain falling on my shoulders, talking to the Lord about it. I started to sing to the Lord. I just sang whatever came to my heart. And as I did, I started to feel the tension lighten and my spirit souring again. About mid way through my sound, a crack of thunder boomed in the sky and the rain began to pour. I had been singing about the rain washing me clean. I guess He decided to take me seriously. I was soaked.

I thought about Job and the hell he went through in His life. He was righteous and blameless yet the Lord allowed him to be stripped of everything he possessed. When Job began to fall into the trap of self-pity, the Lord used  the wisdom of Elihu and the history of creation to bring things back into perspective. In the end, Job repented and the Lord blessed him abundantly. 

I thought about Joel and his call to the people of Judah to repentance. Repentance was the key to restoration and the healing of their land. I thought about myself and how I'm prone to allowing myself to get dry or to give in to shame when I sin.  But by simply turning my face to heaven with a repentant heart and pouring out whatever waters of praise I have left, I can be sure the return will be an abundance of Living Water to heal my soul.

There will be so much rain in matter how long it takes to arrive. Rain to purify (think Noah), and rain to nourish and soften the soil and rain to sustain growth. Don't fight it. Let it come. No matter what, the end result will be a bountiful harvest. 

"Come, and let us return to the Lord;
For He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
 After two days He will revive us;
On the third day He will raise us up,
That we may live in His sight.
 Let us know,
Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.
His going forth is established as the morning;
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the latter and former rain to the earth."

                          Hosea 6:2-3 NKJV


Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Dry and Thirsty Land...


"O God, You are my God; 
  Early will I seek You;
  My soul thirsts for You;
  My flesh longs for You
  In a dry and thirsty land
  Where there is no water...."
                 Psalm 63:1 NKJV

The grass is brown and painful under my feet. It literally crunches when you step on it. I don't dare walk to the mailbox barefoot. I might lose a toe. You can almost hear the earth beneath screaming for water. We haven't seen rain in weeks. I frequently look to the Weather Channel for hope and comfort, but all I find is despair as the map is overwhelmingly red. The heat wave is dominating most of the country and temperatures have been steady in the 100's for the past week. 

I have been sitting here in my room, sweating and thinking about the irony of life. I feel as if the weather climate is imitating the spiritual one. In the midst of the majority of North America being seemingly cooked to death, heat was also rising over the passing of the new healthcare law. Now, this is the one and only time you will see me discuss politics in this blog. For the most part, I avoid the subject entirely. I have my opinions but I feel often that this topic of conversation does more to divide than to enlighten. 

I was pondering how angry people were over the passing of this law or tax or whatever the heck kids are calling it these day. My Facebook feed was just filled with angry commentary. People who never once had posted anything even slightly resembling political conviction were in an uproar of the injustice of it all. It is completely within their rights to share their thoughts and opinions on the subject, of course.  The bigger surprise was my lack of conviction on the matter. I saw the story and the news and my response was a very non-emotive "OK". 

So I thought to myself, "What is the proper response to this matter? Should I get angry? Am I really all that surprised?" 

 The reason I was so unresponsive was because I knew at the end of the day my anger over the laws passed by my government changes nothing. Though I am continually disturbed by what our nation is becoming, I was told in Hebrews 13 , Titus 3Romans 13 and 1 Peter 3 that I am meant to obey the authorities placed over me. The authorities placed over me have been elected by the people of this country, including myself. So what am I to do then? Do I start a picket line in front of the White House? Do I rant and rave to everyone I know and inform them of the injustice, as if they were unaware of it themselves? Do I write angry letters to senetors and congressmen expressing my distaste? I guess I could do all of those things. They might help. They might not.

Here's where I am taking my stance. My form of activism will be in prayer. The world is thirsty for Jesus. Even our leadership. They just can't see it. The ground is parched for the Living Water. They don't need our opinions. They need our prayers. They need us petitioning the Holy Spirit to speak to them and bring salvation to the lost. We need a revolution of Love to rise up in our country. We need the kingdom of heaven to come to Earth.

It says in  1Timothy 2: 1-2, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way".

If I truly want to see change in this country, it starts with me, on my face in prayer. That's the strongest weapon I have. If my words have the power to bless and to curse (Proverbs 18 ), then I will use them to  ask for mercy to fall on this country and wisdom on its leaders. I will ask for the love of Christ to fall on its people and salvation of souls. I will ask for forgiveness for turning a blind eye and not raising my leaders up in prayer daily. I will continue to share His love and the words of my testimony, in hopes to see lives changed and hearts won.

I don't know what will happen to our country. I have my guesses. By I am sure of our fate if we don't take action. Total destruction. Its not too late. Jesus hasn't returned yet. We must not grow weary in doing good. We have to act. But we cannot be effective if we lack conviction.

 Beloved, we must guard against getting dry and weary.We need to seek Him while He may be found. The lost need us. We need to ask the Father to wash us and renew our strength. Its time to stand up and fight.We stand up by kneeling down. Kneeling before the throne of God and asking him to spare our nation. We need to fight  against the spirits and principalities governing, not against flesh and blood. Our nation needs us. It needs Him more.

Quench this dry and thirsty land with your living water. We need you. Our hearts long and ache for you. I plead your blood, Jesus, over my sins and the sins of my nation. Send a revival of hearts desperate for you, Jesus. Awaken us. Awaken us. Quench our thirst.
In Jesus Name I pray,

That's my political conviction.