Friday Uplift, 1/23/2015

“For freedom Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1)
We have been set free by Christ, Paul writes to us in his letter to Galatians.
While it might just seem like a nice thing Paul says, it’s an important reminder too.
You are set free.
Free from illness
Free from depression
Free from fear
Free from whatever it is that is enslaving you.
You have been set free.
Christ is constantly coming into our lives and breaking the chains which entrap us.
But sometimes, I think we don’t see it.
We get stuck in our fear, in our sadness, in our shame.
And we willingly let those chains bind us up yet again.
This is what Paul warns against.
“Stand firm”
The Greek word is “steko”  and it means to stand against, to persevere.
Do not submit again to the life you had before Christ.
You are free!

My stepdad sent me this picture in an email this week.
He’s always finding me pictures or videos that he thinks might be helpful for my ministry… It’s awesome.
This, to me, fits so well with this verse.
I know many might see it as a picture about perspective, but to me it’s a reminder that I was once a prisoner, but now I am some thing different.
I have been set free.
The chains that hold me back have been broken, and there is nothing that can stop me now.
Boy do I need that reminder.
I need to have this picture in my head.
Because let’s be honest, life sucks sometimes.
It’s easy to sink back into despair,
into shame,
into fear or anger.
But then I remember Paul saying “steko”
Persevere.
Stay strong.
Don’t submit to the old ways.
Don’t go back.
Christ has come.
You have been set free.
So fly.
Revel in your freedom.

See you Sunday.

Natalia

P.S.  Do you ever have those moments where you aren’t sure you spelled a word right even though it doesn’t show up on spell check as wrong so you look it up to make sure?
I did that with revel. And yes, I spelled it correctly, but better than that was the definition of revel that Google gave me: “to enjoy oneself in a lively and noisy way, especially with drinking and dancing.” 

Um…. Ok! Sounds good to me!
Let freedom revelry begin!
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Friday Uplift, 1/16/2015

“the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2)
It’s kind of a gloomy day today.
I know a lot of people would disagree with me, but I’d take a really cold and sunny day over a warmer and cloudy one.
It just saps my energy to not have the sun shining… and I just LONG for the next sunny day (looks like Sunday, by the way).
But not being able to see the sun doesn’t mean it’s not there.
And a few clouds today don’t mean it won’t be sunny tomorrow.
So this verse is a good reminder for me.
There are going to be some days that are a little overcast.
In fact, some are going to feel downright dark.
But it is on those days that I remember the sun.
I have seen a great light.
Light shines on me in my darkest moments.
God has promised to be with us, to send us light.
And darkness cannot overcome the light.
Neither can a cloudy day.
And that longing?  That’s good too.
It keeps us open, awake, and alert.
Eyes open for those moments of the light breaking into the dark.
For the light to overtake the gloom.
For the weather to change and the clouds to float away.
No matter what, we trust that the light is always there.
Always shining.

There’s a running joke in my family, where on cloudy, overcast days in the summer we say “it’s going to burn off.”  We usually say this when we’re at the lake or have outdoor plans, hoping that the day can be salvaged.  We are always holding out hope that the sun will work hard and break through the clouds.
I think it fits here too…

So when your life seems a little overcast, remember that the light will break through the darkness.

Just tell yourself “It’ll burn off”

The 12:30 Project – Update

So I’ve been keeping a journal of sorts of the 12:30 Project, and so I thought I’d post an update of this month… If you’ve forgotten, January is the month of water.   I’m aiming to drink a gallon of water a day, which is 128 ounces.  Yeah. It’s a lot.  But surprisingly, not too difficult…
Things I’ve noticed:
I feel better. Really.  And it’s noticeable when I miss the last water bottle or two.  Again, my skin has never looked or felt better, and I haven’t had a headache since I began.  The Amazing Power of H20!!!
It’s not too late to jump into the project with me!  Even half a month is better than not at all!

Days 6-12

Day 6: I’ve done a good job today, but my body still hasn’t figured it out yet. I’m going to the bathroom an awful lot, but on the plus side, it gets me up and away from my desk about every hour.

Water Bottles consumed: 4
Glasses: 2
Lacroix: 1
Total ounces: 116
Trips to the bathroom: eleventy hundred

Day 7: Another good job, though I left my bottle at the office when I left, which took out my drinking on the drive home. Bummer. Still lots of bathroom trips, but slightly less than yesterday.
Water bottles: 3
Glasses: 3
Lacroix: 1
Cups of tea: 1
Total ounces: around 110

Day 8: no water bottle made a huge difference and by the time I realized I hadn’t been drinking water it was halfway through the day! Tried to catch up, but ended back a bit.
Probably most noticeable so far is how I feel great, though more tired than usual. My skin looks amazing. Probably the best in years.
Water bottles: 0
Glasses: 8
Perrier: 1
Total ounces: around 100

Day 9: an ok day today, but it was a busy day with a funeral and internment and running around… So I didn’t have it in my mind all morning. Then I drank beer with dinner instead of water and that set me back too.
Water bottles: 1.5
Glasses of water: 3
Total ounces: 72ish (yikes!)

Day 10: another less than stellar day. Why is it so hard to drink water when I’m home? Strange.
So I did ok.  I could feel yesterday’s drought today, which helped me drink more but still a bit off from my goal.
Water bottles: 2
Glasses: 2
Lacroix: 1
Total ounces: 90

Day 11: better.  Waaaaay better.
Starting off the day with big glasses of water seems to help keep the numbers up.  If I forget that, it’s all downhill. Learning curve is steep, but at least I’m learning. 🙂
Water Bottles: 2
Glasses: 4
LaCroix: 1
Total Ounces: 108

Day 12: Back at the office means back to remembering to drink water more.  Also means I’m running back and forth to the bathroom a lot again.  Bathroom in the house is different than bathroom somewhere in the building.
Water Bottles: 3
Glasses: 3
LaCroix: 1
Total Ounces: 120

Friday Uplift, 1/9/2015

So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
(1 John 4:16)

Doing some sermon studying this week, I came across this unrelated verse from 1 John.
And I wrote it down on a sticky note on my desk that said “Friday Uplift.”
Of course, when I came into work today I had forgotten what 1 John 4:16 had to say at all…
But then I read it, and yes, it was exactly what I needed to hear.
And it was a good reminder that sometimes reading a verse quickly isn’t enough.

We might not use the word “abide” all that much in our day to day lives, but it’s a great word.
It means remain, or dwell, or continually be present.
So read it that way – “God is love, and those who are continually present in love are continually present in God, and God is continually present in them.”
Wow.
What a promise that is.
God is love.
When we love, we are present with God and God is present with us.
There isn’t much to add to that.
So I’m just going to put out a challenge today:
Learn this verse.
Don’t read this and forget it like I did earlier this week.
Meditate on it,
Read it a few times,
Write it down,
Maybe reflect with someone or journal on how it makes you feel,
and then just sit with it.
dwell.
Sometimes when we come face to face with this kind of love, all we can do is dwell in it.
Remain with it.
Cry.
Rejoice.
Have peace.
Know and believe in the love God has for you.

Epiphany (the day, not the feeling)

What a day for Epiphany.
It’s eleventy-hundred degrees below zero.
The commute was the worst of the season.
And somehow we have a house full of left hand mittens only.
But still, it’s Epiphany.
A day full of wonder and awe and joy.
Not because of the gifts presented to the newborn king, but because through the 3 Magi, we see God continuing to reveal a light into the darkness.
We continue to see God with us.
Because really, before this, God was with the house of Israel.
God was with the chosen people.
But today, on Epiphany, God chooses to be with all of us.
Epiphany is how we celebrate that God widened the scope of salvation to include everyone.
Those Magi are important, but because of what they mean, not what they bring.
God comes to all of us.

ALL OF US.

And so it’s worth taking time out today to celebrate, to remember, to pause in the cold of the day and the stress of the commute and busyness of life and be with the Magi as they first encounter Jesus.

So… how might we celebrate Epiphany today?
Because the Magi brought gifts, we might assume that we should too… that it’s another day to give gifts to one another.
But no, I think Epiphany is more about recognizing God’s gifts to us.
And our gift from God is Jesus.
“the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8)
This is what inspires the awe and wonder of the Magi.
Our gift from God.

So today, on Epiphany, here’s what we can do to celebrate:
Take a minute.
Light a candle.
Pause.
Breathe.
Say thanks.

OR – if you want to do something more… here are some other ideas from around the world to celebrate Epiphany:

1. In some church traditions, families gather at the door of their home on Epiphany to bless the home for the following year. One person writes over the doorway No. 2, then the letters C, M and B, and finally the last two digits of the current year. Between each letter and number is a plus sign, signifying the cross. The letters C, M, and B represent the names that tradition has given to the three wise men — Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. They’re also the first three words of the Latin phrase “Christus mansionem benedicat,” which means, “Christ bless this house.”

2. In many countries, the Feast of Epiphany includes a delicious cake that is cut into pieces and served to everyone present. The cake’s ingredients differ from country to country. In France, the cake is a puff pastry filled with “frangipane” or sweet bun. In Spain and Mexico, the “rosca de royas” is made of sweet egg bread and is typically layered with frosting and fruit slices. Inside these cakes, a tiny bean is hidden representing the Christ child. When the cake is carved into pieces, whoever finds the bean is crowned king of the feast.

(info from http://www.ehow.com/how_9405_celebrate-feast-epiphany.html)

I love both of these, blessing the house seems like a lovely tradition to do each year, and despite finding a hidden and baked baby Jesus kind of creepy, I can always get behind any tradition that involves eating cake.

However you do it, celebrate today.
God’s plan includes YOU.
That is worth a celebration.

Happy Epiphany
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January (Water): first days

So drinking water is a lot harder than I thought it would be.
I’ve figured to get the 128 ounces I need to drink 5 of my water bottles in my day.
I got to four yesterday.

So yeah, I got a LOT more water in me than usual, but not the gallon.
It’s not habit yet, to pick up the water bottle.
In fact, it felt like all I was doing was drinking water!
But I felt good.
Alert, healthy… good.
Yes, I’m in the bathroom more than usual, but I think it will calm down once my body knows what the heck to do with everything.
Yoga this morning felt better too.
First impressions, it’s tough, but I can feel the difference.
Soldier on.

The 12:30 Project

So it’s the new year, and like a lot of people, I like to use it to get back in the swing of things after two weeks of traveling and eating and getting out of the routine.

Last year, I started daily yoga, and have only missed a few days since then, mostly because of illness or travel.  It has really changed my life.  I know that sounds SUPER cheesy, but I feel better, look better, I’m stronger, and healthier, and more aware of how I feel and what I’m doing to my body.  It’s been amazing.  It all started with a 30 day yoga challenge, and then, well, I never really stopped.  It changed me so much that I didn’t want to quit.  And I still haven’t.

This is what I’ve been thinking as I’ve pondered the new year and resolutions and what it might look like for me.  I think one of the problems I have with New Year Resolutions is that they seem to be a life change, and almost always set me up to fail since I don’t have an end date and it seems impossible.  But 30 day things, that I can do.
So was born my New Year’s Resolution of 2015.  I’m calling it The 12:30 project.
Each month, I’m going to try something new for 30 days.  It might be related to my health, well being, relationships, spirituality, or because I’m interested in growing, but I’m committing to a year of this.
I’ll blog it as I can, and hopefully most of these things will impact me in the same way that my initial 30 days of yoga did.  I’ll keep doing them, or at least I will have a changed perspective.

So here’s the plan:

January: Water
February: Sex
March: No Sugar
April: Prayer
May: Gratitude
June: Rest/Sleep
July: Kindness
August: Creation
September: Bible
October: No Meat
November: Service
December: Joy

Some of these are obvious, like no sugar in March, or no meat in October, and some are less obvious, like what I mean by sleep in June, or sex in February.
Rest assured, I’ve got them all figured out, and you’ll have to pop back over to find out what I’m doing those months!  🙂

This month, January, I’m beginning the whole project with water. I’m going to aim to drink a gallon of water a day.  That’s 128 ounces.  Science says that I should be drinking half my body weight in ounces a day, so that’s my minimum, in case I don’t quite hit the 128 that I’m aiming for. But I AM hoping to do it.
I know I don’t drink enough water.
I also know that it is the number one way to increase my overall health.
I know all this, and then I saw this a few weeks ago and it blew my mind a bit.
So that’s where I’m starting.  Drink up!

Happy New Year!
The 12:30 Project begins now!

(Anyone want to join me?)

Friday Uplift, 1/2/2015

Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—  in peace because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever,  for in the Lord God  you have an everlasting rock. 

(Isaiah 26:3-4) 

Happy New Year! 
If your past two weeks have been anything like mine, it’s been hectic and busy and wonderful and crazy.  I’ve been eating and traveling and eating and traveling some more.  When things get this way, sometimes it’s tough to find my center, to come back to the foundation of me.

The holiday season can be a distracting and chaotic time of year, and I know a lot of people do resolutions and start new things when the next year begins.  

It’s a jump start of sorts.  
And usually after a month or so we kind of fall back into old patterns and old ways. So how helpful is it really?
Can we really trust that it is those things that will make the new year good?
Maybe, more important than starting new things and getting better, is just remembering who we are, and sticking with that.  
That stick-to-it-ness is sometimes called being steadfast.  
It means remaining true and unwavering.  
At this time of year a lot of things are telling me I need to look somewhere else to find peace. And I don’t really feel all that steadfast.   
But Isaiah reminds us:
“those of steadfast mind you keep in peace.”
And boy, I could really use a little peace right about now.  

That’s why these verses have been a good reminder to me at this beginning of a new year.  It’s a reminder that being true to myself, to who God has created me to be and staying resolutely firm in that is more important than any fad diet or exercise regime I might think I need to start.
I think this is what Isaiah means by “steadfast.”  Be who you are, and who you are is a child of God.  You can trust in that.   Remain steadfast in that truth.   And the result of being steadfast is having peace.  Peace.  Not peace because you lost weight or ate better, but peace because of trust.
You trust that being a child of God means that God has your back.
No matter what.

And sure,  if you want to diet or exercise or eat better, go for it… but all those things won’t bring you peace.  God will.
So start with being who you are.
And go from there.

Happy New Year, Child of God.
Peace be with you.