Friday, December 30, 2011

Joy in Trials...What?

My favorite book in the New Testament is James. I love this book. I can remember the first time I really read it. I’m not talking about the first time I actually read it, but the first time I really read it and began to internalize it. It honestly wasn’t that long ago, it was the summer of 2006.

I began reading. I soon learned James doesn’t mess around, he gets right to it. I had only read verses 2-4 and had to immediately stop. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” What?! I remember being shocked. I had always thought hardships and trials were horrible and not something to be thankful for. I always knew you should be praying during those trials, but my prayers were more like this:

“God, please oh please make the bad go away! I’m so sorry for whatever it was I did to deserve this. Just please hurry and end this, I don’t like it!”

I never thought of trials as opportunity for growth, to develop perseverance. In that moment I actually felt a sense of comfort. (I know that sounds odd, most people hate to have this scripture quoted to them during trials.) But I felt comfort knowing when trials came, it was an opportunity from God to teach me and mature my faith. Not just a horrible period of time in which I must sit, suffer, and dwell on my depression.

So, I was set. The next trial that came my way, I was going to consider it pure joy! God was going to be so proud of me (go ahead and laugh.)

BAM!! First Trial! I handled it so awesome. I was in fact super righteous with my new knowledge. Ha! Just kidding. My first reaction was far from joyous…or thankful…or anything positive. I reacted the way I normally did. I went into control-freak mode and tried to analyze and figure out a solution to the problem. How do I make this situation go away? I do not like unhappiness. I began my plea with God to take this trial away, and then out of the very back of my mind James 1:2-4 came rolling up. Ugh, here it was…why did I ever think I would enjoy this? This opportunity to trust God, to grow and depend on Him wasn’t what I really wanted to do. It took a real effort and change in my attitude to began putting this scripture into practice. I spent A LOT of time praying God would teach me contentment in the storm and to learn a new dependence on Him.

I began learning my focus wasn’t to be on the trial. My focus needed to be on God, and what He wanted to teach me through it. I was learning to trust God more and more. I began to see significant change in my relationship with Him.

Now that I’m further down the road I can see how God used those smaller trials to prepare me for a much larger, and longer lasting trial my family would go through a few years later. During the midst of that trial, the hardest and darkest moments, the times I did not understand, I took comfort in knowing God was developing perseverance in me. It was incredibly painful at times, but I was able to find contentment knowing God had a purpose and was rewarding me with perseverance.

I promise you now, I would not trade those trials for anything. The blessings that came out of each are too numerous for me to count. The circumstances weren’t always pleasant, but God has blessed me with wisdom I would not have, a dependency on Him that I didn’t know, and I came out with a deeper love and appreciation for God and what He is continuously doing in my life.

Trials are inevitable, I know I have many more to go through in this un-perfect life. You will too. I’ve heard it said, “You are either going through a crisis, coming out of a crisis, or about to enter into a crisis.” We will struggle through them, and some will be severely painful. But please remember every trial and test we go through, God is there. He uses them all to point us to Him. Don’t fall into the trap of allowing the trial to consume you. There are times you will have to fight for your focus, but let your focus be on Christ. Depending on Him is the only way to get through it.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose.” –Romans 8:28

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I was reading in the book of Luke the other day (side note: if you have a smart phone please download the YouVersion Bible app…it’s awesome and free.) I was in chapter 11 when I came across Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray. Almost all of us have read or heard the Lord’s Prayer. This is not the part I’m referring to today. It’s what came after that spoke to me.

Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’ “Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Luke 11:5-10

I believe Jesus was telling them/us we to be persistent. When we are looking for answers, praying over situations, or asking for something in particular we need to come to God often. We should be praying until we’ve gotten our answer (days, weeks, years.) It’s not because God is incredibly busy. It’s not because God is really old and forgetful and in need of our reminders. It’s not because God likes us to meet some prayer quota. “Okay, Cassie has now prayed for this particular pray 53 times now…that’s the number for this prayer…it’s time to deliver her the answer.” Instead, I believe it’s for our sake, for our benefit. It’s what happens in waiting period. When we are dedicated to our prayers it draws us closer to him. When we come to our Father time and time again, seriously seeking out His will, we learn to depend on him. We learn to appreciate Him. We spend time with Him, talking to Him. We learn more about Him and He reveals more about ourselves along the way. When God does answer the prayer, we learn sincere gratitude. When it’s a prayer you are so dedicated to praying and the Lord answers we are so much more thankful than if God just granted our every request instantly.

I came across this at the perfect time. I have been praying about something for several months. At times I have felt my prayer to be almost annoying because I keep asking and asking for God to answer or even give me a glimpse of an answer. I was feeling as though maybe I needed to back off. I’ve prayed this prayer what seemed a million times and perhaps it was time to take a break from it. Then I see Jesus’ very words telling me to be like the guy pestering his friend! I was immediately encouraged. (I love when I can feel God encouraging me; it’s the best encouragement.) God wants us to come to Him, and to keep coming to Him. His answers may not always be in the timing we desire. They may not always be answers we understand or want. But when we are in persistent prayer, we get the benefit of knowing this amazing, sovereign God a little more and more. So keep knocking!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Omission

One day my husband, kids, & I all loaded up to go to our local Wal-Mart. Now let me point something out: I do not dislike shopping at Wal-Mart, but I prefer to go alone (not with my children). So on this particular day we had done some shopping & lastly my husband needed to exchange an item. There were only a few people in line at customer service, but it was taking a very long time. My children’s good behavior was rapidly changing. You see, they each have this internal good-behavior timer set to 30 minutes from the second you step into the store. Once their timers go off, it’s over. You can expect fighting, pestering, whining, meltdowns, touch every item in sight, or wild-animal-trapped-in-a-shopping-cart behavior. My daughter, bored, began questioning everything & complaining. My son was loudly, jumping up & down in the shopping cart acting like a crazed monkey. Needless to say, I was flustered & ready to go home.

There was an older lady & her daughter in line directly in front of us. Her daughter seemed agitated to even be with her mother. The daughter was short with her words & often rolled her eyes when her mother would talk. The older lady was nice enough but turned out to be quite the talker too. She asked my daughter & me what seemed a million questions & told us all sorts of information about herself. She told me how much she loved children. How she used to babysit all the time before she moved into the nursing home. I also learned that she had just lost her husband the previous year. I could tell she enjoyed being around my children, but all I cared about was getting our item exchanged and leaving. I didn’t feel like engaging this woman, I was tired & ready to get my wild animals back to the zoo.

We finally got our item exchanged after what seemed like an eternity. I politely smiled & said good bye to the chatty lady, praising God that we could finally go home.

Later that evening, I was reflecting on the day & it hit me like a pile of bricks. I had actually been praying for a few weeks that God would give me opportunities to serve Him. To be his hands & feet. To show others his love. Oh, and what an opportunity I had missed! I was so consumed with my children’s behavior & my selfish “need” to get out of Wal-Mart that I missed the opportunity God had laid before me. I had committed the sin of omission. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do & doesn’t do it, sins. –James 4:17 She was right there in front of me, begging me to get to know her & I chose myself. Here’s what’s even sadder, my precious daughter loves to visit nursing homes. We always took her with us when my husband was a pastor. She would draw as many pictures as she could, & take them to the people in the nursing homes. She has a huge heart for the elderly.

This lonely lady was longing for attention & she loved to be around children. I should have asked her what her name was, where her nursing home was, & if we could come visit her on occasion. Huge opportunity…………………gone.

I actually cried that night so saddened by my sin of omission. I was mourning the opportunity lost & the blessing I was missing out on by getting to know that lonely soul. I actually begged God to let me run into her again for a “do over.”

Sadly, I have not seen her again. But I have learned that God is always giving us opportunities to reach out to others. Guess what? It’s usually when we don’t “feel like it.” When you are tired, grumpy, irritable, or like me trying to manage your wild children.

God considers omission a sin. When His holy spirit prompts us to action & we ignore it we are sinning. If God calls us to act, we need to jump on it! The times I had felt His prompting to act & I did, I have never regretted. It has always ended in a bigger blessing or an opportunity to grow closer to Him. I can tell you that every time I chose to ignore His instruction (like this time) I have deeply regretted it.

As a follower of Christ I want to learn from my mistakes & help other believers to learn from them too. Be sensitive to God’s instruction. Do not be so consumed with yourselves or your circumstances that you miss out on opportunities to serve God & others. In the times you “don’t feel like it” watch out, that’s usually when God provides an opportunity.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blog Re-Start

After a few years of blog hiatus, I have decided to dust off my old blog and start it back up. Over this last year I’ve been praying for God to reveal my purpose. I felt as if I’ve been wandering about, trying to figure out exactly how God wants to use me. At times I grew frustrated and depressed not knowing where I fit, but looking back I can see how God used it all to lead me to where I am now.

About a month ago I was driving home and I began reflecting on several things. I had just left a women’s conference and felt God teaching and revealing so much in my own life; things I knew God wanted me to share. I had desperately wanted to share with my group of ladies what God was revealing in my heart and I knew I was supposed to. But, even in just sharing with my own mother and sister-in-law in our hotel room I just could not get out what I truly wanted to say. So I told them I’d write about it when I got home. I have always better expressed myself through writing. I couldn’t wait till I got home to write, but more so I couldn’t wait to share what God had taught me that weekend.

So I did, and several ladies thanked me for sharing with them what God had taught me. I am always so honored and blessed whenever God chooses to use me to help others.

Over the next day, words from trusted friends of mine also began to creep in my mind as well. One friend had been telling me I needed to be teaching (insert panic attack here). Let me elaborate: I get extremely anxious even typing the word “teaching.” Anytime I have to even make a brief announcement to a group my tongue swells in size, I get incredibly hot, I always tear up (yes, even if it’s not sad,) I cannot maintain any sort of eye contact, and I absolutely cannot say what actually needs to be said. I’m so uncomfortable even thinking about it. But I knew it was there in my head for a reason.

I began to sort through it all and suddenly felt God leading me towards writing. Then I actually laughed at the thought. First off, yes I can better express myself through writing, but my grammar and spelling are horrendous at times. Next I thought, "No, this is just me fantasizing about being a writer." I had just been to this amazing event where all these ladies have written books. I tried to brush it off as just a dream. What would I write about? What does this even look like? Letters, blogs, books? I am so not qualified to be writing, my husband, now he is the writer. He majored in English for crying out loud!

I pulled out a note book and began writing. And I wrote and I wrote. I had words spilling out of me. I finally stopped and smiled; could this seriously be it God? I then got out my prayer journal (you guessed it, I can better pray when I write them too) and began to thank God for this new passion burning in me. Still being a skeptic (I can tend to be a doubting Thomas) I told God I needed a sign or some sort of affirmation that this was truly from him and not me just making this whole writing-thing up. I finished my prayer & shortly after I received a phone call. It was my niece. After talking for awhile we said our goodbyes and before we hung up she quickly said, “Oh, I read what you wrote, it was really good. “I can totally picture you as I’m reading it, with your facial expressions and everything.” I smiled (trying not to explode) and told her “thank-you” and we said good-bye.

I hung up the phone and just praised God for giving me affirmation, especially when I doubted. He did not have to do that, but He did. My God is awesome like that.

Some of you may laugh, knowing how unqualified I am to be a “writer.” And I will tell you up front, I certainly do not label myself a “writer” (especially since I love to start sentences with conjunctions). I am simply sharing in the best way I can what God is teaching me. I am a very imperfect girl (yes I am still a girl, even if I am 30) but I love my God. I want to glorify Him with my life and be the person He has called me to be. I mess up daily—which you will find out if you continue to follow me—but fortunately I am a sinner covered by grace. I love to encourage and help others, and I pray God will use me to do that with this blog. I can only be obedient to what He calls me to do; we’ll see together where that leads.