Wednesday, November 30, 2011

birthday surprise! It's Josie

Happy Wednesday! 
Today we approach our final birthday surprise with one of the most special women I know and am blessed to call my friend. One of my earliest memories of our friendship was her impeccable taste in clothes and my acknowledging it. Though she continues dressing lovely, it is her passionate love for Jesus and His joy alive in her that attracts people to her. She radiates His glory everywhere she goes, making Josie one of the most beautiful women I know. May you be blessed by her post today! 

The Great Restorer
I’m excited to be writing this and a bit nervous. You see, writing takes me out of my comfort zone and into an area where I am stretched and have to completely depend on God. I’ve prayed about what I would write about. I originally had my heart set on worship, as the Lord had placed in my heart, but then it took a turn last night.

My husband loves to watch the History Channel, among other channels that I would rather not watch (Discovery, National Geographic, etc) … boring! Anyway, these channels are not my first choice. I would rather watch HGTV, but at times I have learned to enjoy those shows with him and have learned a few things along the way. We were watching a show called ‘American Restoration’. This show consist of people bring old items (dirty items that were not being used and couldn’t work any longer) to a man, an expert, that could restore them to their original beauty. As I was watching this I was thinking, “Why would anybody keep that, its old and ugly and so worn out. What’s the use?” The Lord in that moment said to my heart, “That’s what I do.”
He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 61:3

This verse is true in my own life and in yours. God is the only One who can turn around a life that seems to be in the worst of situations; a life so run down by problems, unmet expectations, mistakes, and failures. Anyone looking at such a life might ask, “What’s the use of it?” But God is the Great Restorer; He can give you a crown of beauty for ashes. God can make something out of nothing. He can and He does provide in ways that only He is capable of. He can give you an abundant life. He does the impossible. He is your Creator.

The end results in the show is great, to see this expert turn something so dreadful into something so beautiful, it made everyone smile including myself. This “thing” could be used again for its original purpose and with loveliness.

You and I are precious in the eyes of Jesus, who paid it all for you and I ‐for love. He loves you and me so much that He will do what only He is best at and is able to do: turn our circumstance around, cleanse our heart from the guilt of the past, and start fresh. That is with one condition, that we submit our lives to Him, the “expert restorer”. Those things that were brought into the shop for restoration didn’t tell the expert what to do, that would have been laughable. So it is silly to tell God how He needs to change our lives. We are the ones making it worse. Each item brought into the shop required its own work. At times it took the renovator a little longer to restore one thing more than another. So it is with us. The “restoration” work of our lives is a personal one. Each of us is a unique, one of a kind, masterpiece that requires a specific chisel, drill, nail, buffer, cut, furnace, time, paint and gloss to be restored to our original God-given purpose. The end result will be a beautiful and glorious thing to see, and everyone will know that the Great Restorer has done a marvelous work in our life. It will bring a smile to those around us and most importantly to Jesus.
If you feel like there is no hope or beauty in your life, I encourage you to come to Jesus. He is the only One who can restore your life to beauty and purpose that if told you, you would not believe it. He already knows the work He can do in you and through you.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us...  Ephesians 3:20

Submission to God begins by trusting that God can do the impossible in our lives. Trust Him for He loves you and is waiting for you to allow His hands to restore you. I can say this confidently because He has turned my ashes into beauty. All the glory goes to Him my Lord and King!

PS: I guess it’s still about worship.
We worship God because He is worthy to praised.
When you feel down and out, worship, worship, and worship! Thank God and sing to Him and you will have a beauty that is to be reckoned with :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

birthday surprise! It's Arlene.

Happy Tuesday! 
I have enjoyed all the birthday surprises so much, and I am sure that you have too. I love how the Lord has worked in the heart's of all the guest writers; orchestrating through them a rhythm of encouragement and life. Today you will read from one of the most amazing women that I know. I've said it before and I will say it again, hanging out with Arlene is like hanging out with one of the disciples... she is that close to the Lord! I know that you will be blessed and motivated to do mighty things for Jesus after reading this post. 

Am I just a Storyteller…Or a living Testimony? 

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer ‘I’ who live but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

Have you ever decided to be true to yourself – for real?  You know, like just hanging out in the mirror not just to put on makeup or pluck your eyebrows? Yep!! I’m talking about taking a mirror journey.  Going deep.  Having conversations, asking questions and getting answers.  Opening up the conversation with,  “What’s your story?”  Or, “Is your story the same as my story?”  Or maybe just asking your mirror friend, to be honest with you and reflect the truth about your story.  If you hang out long enough in the mirror, seeking a true reflection,  I guarantee you’ll get an answer, which may lead to new questions such as, “Is anyone really listening to my story, or am I my only audience?   OK – Maybe I’m the only one who has nothing better to do but take Mirror Getaways just to check “me” out.  I promise you, if you invest in a Mirror Getaway you may just find out that the ‘you’ in your story is more than just a story character, but the living testimony of an overcommer who has been crucified and resurrected with Christ.  Let’s talk!!

There are hundreds of references of people’s personal testimonies in the Bible.  And these are only the recorded ones.  I believe that that there are thousands of unrecorded Biblical testimonies.  But just like the Bible characters, some of us have lives that are filled with interesting stories that are never heard because they were never told.  It’s unrealistic however, to think that we can just go around telling our stories to everyone we meet, so how will people ever know what we are all about?  Pardon me for getting back to the Mirror Getaway, but therein we can find some true-life nuggets.  For one, a true reflection is better seen in our living testimony than in our creative storytelling.

Does everyone have a testimony?   Let’s start with God’s Testimony.  Does God have a testimony?  How do we know?  Where do we find it? Another surprise! God’s testimony is in both the Old and New Testaments where all of God’s stories are told.  The Old Testament testifies of His sovereign rule, His proven omnipotence throughout all of creation, His omniscience in knowing the end from the beginning, and His omnipresence in filling the space of all existence.  In His New Testament story, we see the “The Word” became flesh (John 1:14), lived among us and was tested.  For 33 ½ years the world experienced God through the living testimony of the “Jesus Story”.  And like our Mirror Getaway, we must become familiar with the testimony of God and have a clear understanding of the powerful dynamics in both testaments, or we will never be accurate with our own testimonies.  Like God, our testimony must reflect truth.  A true reflection shows all sides – The good – The Bad and The Ugly.  The multi facets of God have never been hidden, but contained in His testimony along with the evidence of His unmatchable character and the ultimate result of His earthly tests on the Cross-at Calvary.

So, on our next Mirror Getaway, our reflection should be a perfect match with the telling of our ‘God-story’.  After all, it’s no longer us who live, but Christ living in us, making our testimonies worthwhile regardless of the trials and tribulations we go through, and knowing that because Jesus overcame we too can overcome.  What a testimony!

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Arlene Hoffman is a member of the “Least of these Tribe” living in Miami as a freelance writer who seeks and serves. Read last's years birthday surprise by Arlene by clicking HERE

Monday, November 28, 2011

birthday surprise! It's Caro.

Happy Monday.
Today's post comes from Caro. She is no stranger to this blog. I have known her for quite some time. Through the years her passionate love for Jesus and godly insight have always blessed me. I pray that you would be encouraged greatly through this sweet yet profound post.

Jesus being Human

He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.
Psalms 18:19

What we know of Jesus as God we put on a holy pedestal that He completely deserves. We know that He is Holy, Majestic and Powerful but we also need to be reminded of His other awesome qualities. His humanity.

One of the things that brought me to faith was the humility that Jesus has, His willingness to serve us and to relate. To the forefront of our thoughts we know Jesus as God but why was it so important to show in the gospels that He is human also?

When I get to talk about Jesus to others I always go back to the fact that He understands. Understands what? Understands me… you… us. He knows what it feels like to be rejected, unloved, and knows what it is to weep. His human qualities let’s us approach him not in fear but assurance that he will understand. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

One of my favorites things to do is get coffee with Jesus. I love sitting on my couch or dinner table and just talk with Jesus.

I’m not sure if Jesus is a coffee or tea type a guy, but what I do know is that He wants to meet with me because He likes me. Yeah, and I’m pretty weird. And guess what….He likes you too.

It’s been a journey for me to read the Gospels and understand that Jesus was human just as me. It let’s me see Him in a new light, one that consist of longing to approach him more because I know He understands.

* Read more by Caro here (Seed Planters) and (I am a Martha)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

birthday surprise! It's Andrea.

This is my favorite holiday and because it is, my favorite person in the whole wide world is going to share with you. She is my best friend, my sister from another mother, my prayer warrior, and my gift from God. We have been watching each other since 1998 (inside joke, sorry). Andrea is funny, sweet, gentle, caring and all together lovely. What makes her so special though is her contagious love for Jesus and the Word. From the heart of God to one of the godliest women I know to you and now to you!
Commit to Being Thankful
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.  The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

It was November 1st and I had just finished putting up my new calendar in my classroom.  I placed a picture of a turkey on Thanksgiving and Danny, my charming and lively student who had been watching me through the process exclaimed “It’s turkey day!” joyfully while flapping his arms and jumping up and down. I quickly explained to him “Danny, it’s Thanksgiving!  Yes, we have turkey on that day, but most importantly, we give thanks for all the good things we have.”  He stared at me for a few seconds and said, “like dinosaurs, daddy, and cheeseburgers?” I laughed amused at what he was thankful for and replied “yes Danny, like dinosaurs, daddy, and cheeseburgers.” 

 It was a simple conversation, yet, it was one that I needed more than him.  With so much to do and such little time, I am often one of those who has to-do lists a mile long and is less than patient and more like frazzled during the holiday season, but for that moment God used someone like Danny, a six year old, to make me stop and evaluate the condition of my heart and how I was going to enter this season. And this time around, I refuse to have nothing less but a thankful heart, one that extends past Thanksgiving and becomes the way I approach each day of my life.

You may be asking yourself, “so why should we enter this season with a thankful heart? And why is being thankful so important?” or perhaps, you may be thinking, “It’s been a horrible year, I don’t have anything to be thankful for.” I am here to tell you, that you cannot afford to have anything else but a heart of gratitude, whatever your circumstance may be. 

While in a prison cell in Rome, Paul found himself in less than joyous conditions waiting on Cesar’s decree over his life, and he decided to write a letter to the church of Philippi.  He told the church in chapter 4 of Philippians to rejoice, to pray with thanksgiving, to focus on what was true and noble, and also reminded them that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him.  Paul was going through hardship and had every reason to choose to be depressed, lonely, and discouraged, yet his attitude only reflected thankfulness, strength, and peace.

So why should we have a thankful heart? Because it is God’s will for your life. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  Paul didn’t back down from this and he chose to focus his sight on God and not his troubles, and what took place in Paul’s heart was an outpouring of joy. Like Paul, you may find yourself in a prison today, not a literal prison but perhaps one built by bars of emotions, troubles, and fears. You want to break free, and the only way to is to begin to be grateful. Kay Smith explained once in a teaching that we cannot be depressed or bitter at the same time that we are being thankful, so get on the road and start counting your blessings.

You may be reading this and may be thinking, “I cannot think of one thing to be thankful for.  I have lost everything and I don’t feel I have a reason to rejoice. No one loves me and no one cares” and to that I say, that although I cannot understand your individual pain, I know what it is like to endure pain and experience loss.  My great season of depression and pain came when my parents divorced when I was 15, and for a year I committed to utter despair.  My mother, upon seeing my sadness, refused to let me drown in my state of misery. What did she remind me of during that time? Jesus, simply Jesus. I clung to Him and gave thanks to the Lord for the Lord, because He alone could give me the love and hope that I yearned for.  His yoke is easy and His burden is light, so cast your cares upon Him and give thanks for the gift of life.  It was during this time that I experienced a sweet dependence on God, one that would fire my relationship with him for the coming years. If you can’t find one thing to be thankful for, start with rejoicing in Him, because He alone can provide what we need.

It is said that while in that prison in Rome, God used Paul to spread the gospel within Cesar’s palace and to encourage the church in a way that would not have been possible if he had not been incarcerated. The way he accomplished this was not through complaining, doubting, or ingratitude towards God for allowing him to remain there. I cannot imagine what would have happened to Paul if he had begun to only notice all that was wrong with his situation.  In a prison, it is likely he would have only entered severe depression and been riddled with doubt. Instead, he committed to rejoicing, giving thanks, and focusing on God, the giver of life and every good gift, and in turn, Paul was filled with peace and was able to encourage others.

Where is your commitment to thankfulness in your life? Do you wake up each day with your focus on God and what is praiseworthy? Do you yearn for daily strength and peace in every situation? May our hearts say like Paul’s “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again I will say, rejoice!” in every season of our lives.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

birthday surprise! It's Priscilla.

Happy Tuesday!
Summer of 2007 I had the privilege of traveling oversees, where I met Priscilla. It was so refreshing and sweet to meet a kindred spirit so far from home. As you will read a little more, from Priscilla herself, her upbringing is reflected in her life today: she loves the word of God, she loves God and she loves His people. How can you go wrong with that combo?! Friends, you will be blessed and encouraged by this post!

A Huge Leap of Faith
A little over four years ago, I began a relationship with a man who would turn my whole life upside down. I prayed, the Lord gave me peace, and I took a leap of faith. A leap that would change my life completely.
A little background on myself, I grew up in a Christian home in Palestine, got saved when I was four, and have seen the hand of Lord work miraculously in my life since as far back as I can remember. I have God fearing parents who taught me and my brothers the Word of God. My Dad is a Pastor and he and my Mom taught us to put all our trust in the Lord and to live by faith. 
Pedro and I were a just a few months away from getting married and we had no place to live. People kept asking me, “So, where are you going to live when you get married, Miami, Bethlehem, Jerusalem?” My answer was a simple “Don’t know, not worried.” My friends and extended family thought I was insane! Not only was I marrying a Dominican from America but I also had no idea where I was going to live. 
Three months before getting married, I visited Miami to meet Pedro’s family and to visit the church that he attended and worked at. Before I came to Miami I asked the Lord to give me wisdom and to fill my heart with love or hate towards the church I was visiting and towards the place I would potentially call home. I also asked for peace and clarity, I didn’t want to have an ounce of doubt in my mind. I visited CCk and absolutely fell in love! I called my parents right away and told them how awesome the church was, how people are so friendly, how Hispanic culture is very similar to Arab culture, and that I would most likely fit right in. 
I went back to Bethlehem and it was full on wedding planning mode from then, still not sure of where we would live but I knew that no matter where the Lord wanted us to be, I had peace, perfect peace and no matter what I was ready to take a leap of faith. At this point, it was either me leaving my family and moving or Pedro leaving his family and moving.
Two months before we got married, I received a text from Pedro letting me know that after much praying our post marriage location had been decided and that we were moving to Miami. I knew I had to obey my future husband who the Lord placed in my life. So many emotions, so many thoughts ran through my mind at this point. I had two months to enjoy my family, plan a wedding, and pack. It hurt! I knew I was going to be loved, I knew I had a good church, and I knew that Pedro’s family would take me in as their own but it still hurt. I told my parents the news about the move and they were devastated but knew that God had a plan for me. A few weeks later my Dad had a heart attack, I blamed myself, I had broken his heart. His only daughter was moving to the other side of the world. 
I was feeling bittersweet as my Daddy walked me down the aisle on my wedding day, my heart was aching but it was also overjoyed. It ached because I knew I was leaving my friends, my family and my life behind. Overjoyed because I was marrying the perfect man for me, starting a new life, making new friends, and gaining a family. After only being married for two weeks, my two bags were packed, I had said my goodbye’s and I was on a plane with my new husband to Miami- my mission field. 
We’ve now been married for a little over 3 years and I serve at the best church on the planet with the greatest kids in the world. The ministry that the Lord placed me in, the one He had planned for me, is so rewarding and just to think that I could have missed out on all of it if I hadn’t taken that leap of faith, the leap that changed my life. It took me a few months to fully adjust to my new home and to get over my homesickness but now I don’t see myself anywhere else other than here, well until the Lord tells us to move again. Until then, I enjoy living in the perfect will of God; my Dad always says, “The best place to be, is where the Lord wants you to be” and this is so true.
I encourage you to take a leap of faith at least once in your life, a leap so great, your life will change for the better. Dive in head first and trust that the Lord, the God that made you, has everything under control and His plans are better than yours, I did and I don’t regret it one bit!
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you and give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, November 21, 2011

birthday surprise! It's Marilyn.

Happy Monday! 
Today's post comes from Marilyn. In short, Marilyn is an anointed worship leader, fabulous cosmetologist, and a wonderful example of godliness. Yup, she's a diamond in the ruff and I am blessed to call her friend. May the Lord bless you and speak wisdom into your life through one of my favorite passages and this encouraging post. 

It’s never to late!
 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” Ruth 1:16-17
This passage is known to many as "one of the most beautiful statements of commitment in History".  It is known as such not only because it was said from Ruth to Naomi (widowed and had lost her sons, one being Ruth's husband), but also because Ruth made this commitment to God. She spoke this covenant at a time where anyone else would have thrown the towel in. After much hardship and tragedy in her life, Ruth was left with nothing but her bitter mother-in-law and a sister-in-law who decided to go back to the land of Moab, which was her home.
I think most, if not all of us, know the story of Naomi and Ruth, which, as I mentioned previously, had lost their spouses. Ruth followed Naomi to Bethlehem where she met Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi's husband and a man of great wealth. Boaz found favor in Ruth and was able to redeem Ruth as his wife after receiving a property settlement that Naomi had sold. Only after a relative who was next in line to possess the property chose to not redeem it because it required marrying Ruth. Long story short, Ruth and Boaz married and conceived Obed who was the father of Jesse, who was the Father of David, who was one of the greatest kings of Israel, writer of the Psalms, etc.
While going through this story and asking God for guidance in this post, one thing became evident to me: It's Never Too Late, everything is In God's Time! In looking back to the things we've gone through, we notice that we may have grown sad or bitter. It may be the very thing we are going through at this moment that causes us to panic, because there's a burden that has come along with it and doesn't allow us to leave this situation completely in God's hands. The good news is that the same God that was with Naomi and Ruth in their "desert time" is here with us, ready to give the best of what He has prepared for us, His children. All He asks is that we believe in our hearts and minds as stated in Jeremiah 29:11-13
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 

I emphasize on this point today because sometimes we only put those "burdens" in a back burner. We try to move on in life, even to the point of “doing things for God” without having completely surrendered. We see those same things brought to our "attention" again in the most random moments that cause us to lose focus on what's most important in life: our constant devotion to God, who brings us all the things that will EVER matter in life,  
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33
Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this. Psalm 37:4-5

In reading verses 16 & 17 of Ruth 1, I can almost imagine Ruth wiping her tears and taking a deep breath knowing that she had to let go of all that she once knew. She made a choice to put all her trust and faith in God as she spoke those words out loud! There's nothing too hard for God, AT ALL. I encourage you to take some quiet time to meditate and empty yourself wholly to God. In that complete intimacy He will fill you with all that He has. As you go day by day living proactively for Him you will never need look back in regret and instead look forward with a cheerful heart.

Friday, November 18, 2011

birthday surprise! It's Melissa.

Happy Friday! 
Today's guest writer is a wonderful woman by the name of Melissa. She is lovely, graceful, and radiates the glory of God. From observing Melissa's life, anyone can see that she is madly in love with Jesus <--- that is her best quality. Without further ado, read on, be blessed, be encouraged and be that lily among thorns. 
Sticks and Stones – a Lesson in Meekness
One of my all-time favorite movies is You’ve Got Mail. There’s one specific scene that is engrained in my memory because I identify with it so well. Meg Ryan, who is justified in her dislike for Tom Hanks, insults him in a most poetic way. With a stunned look on her face she tells him, “I just had a breakthrough, and I have you to thank for it. For the first time in my life, when confronted with a horrible, insensitive person, I knew exactly what I wanted to say and I said it.” I think everyone can identify with that feeling of satisfaction in having the last word, or getting your point across even if it was a little harsh. We go through that battle within our conscience of trying to defend ourselves by claiming we were simply speaking the truth. I’ll be honest, that game has gotten me in trouble more than once.
Proverbs 18:21 tells us that death and life are in the power of the tongue. That’s a pretty bold statement, and rightfully so.  Words can make or break a person; they can aid in determining whether he or she will become another statistic or a transformed life. As children we learn that ridiculous adage, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Anyone who survived the 5th grade has probably realized that the old “sticks and stones” bit is nothing more than a vain repetition with which we try to conceal the pain caused by someone else’s words.
Matthew 5 is one of the most famous passages in all of scripture – Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes have been drilled in my head from an early age – “Blessed are the… for they shall…”. I’m embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until the past few years that I actually decided to look up what the word “meek” meant. I had heard it hundreds of times and never given it much thought. My study bible clarified that the word does not denote weakness, but rather controlled strength – as in holding back when you could do something. Meekness also requires wisdom and humility. “He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.” Proverbs 17:27
James 1:26 alludes to meekness; it reads, “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless.” So when we’re faced with the choice to hold back or open the floodgates of brutal honesty and emotional blabber , unless we learn to control ourselves, our religion is useless. Next time you’re in the heat of an argument, or you just can’t wait to give someone a piece of your mind, turn your eyes upon Jesus, the ultimate example of meekness and humility. Remember we must try to see them through His eyes and allow that to filter our words.
Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. Colossians 4:6

Thursday, November 17, 2011

birthday surprise! It's Cindy.

Hi Friends!
I pray and hope that the birthday series has been a great blessing to you. This week I have been so encouraged by all the wonderful and wise words we have received. Today will be no different. Cindy is my younger cousin/ little sister/ friend / fellow youth leader / and at times, my daughter. The Lord has done a remarkable work in her life. With great joy, I share this post with you. God bless you.

Most of my life I lived in fear. Fear of people, fear of failure, fear of being alone- the list would go on and on. It got to the point that I would do what I feared in order to seem that nothing was wrong (I feared showing my emotions as well). All of these irrational fears that kept me from living my life were nothing compared to the rational fear that I had of losing someone that I loved. This rational fear became reality when my Mother passed away in Spring 2010, the end of my junior year in High School. 

Prior to my Mother passing away, I remember worrying about my grades, worrying about the score that I would get on my SATs, whether I would get into a good college… It all seemed so important at that time. I grew up believing that that was all that life was about: going to school, achieving a degree, getting a good job, and then starting a family. It took losing my mom to realize that there was more to life than just being successful. It took losing my mom to realize that I had a choice to have a bigger purpose in life- to follow God and the plans that He has for me. 

I gave my life completely to God three months after she passed away. I knew I couldn’t handle life and all the things going on at home on my own anymore. I realized that God would be by my side to help me get through it, as long as I put my trust in Him. Not everything has been peachy since then but God has not failed to give me support in any of the trials that I have gone through. God has been faithful to guide me along the path that He has set before me and helped me to build my trust in Him, even though it was very hard for me to trust anyone else. 

I’m sure that you can relate to me in some way. Is there any fear that you have had for a long time that you have not been able to deal with on your own? I want to tell you that you don’t have to. You have a God that is way bigger than you, a God that already knows where your life is leading, and He will be there for you as long as you give Him the chance to be.
“Cast your anxiety on Him for He cares for you.”
 1 Peter 5:7
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”
Proverbs 3:5-7

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

birthday surprise! It's Anelle.

Happy Wednesday to you. 
Are you in for a treat or what! Last year, I asked my sister, Anelle, to be the closer for the birthday surprise series (read her post here) but this year she is one of our starters. My sister in three words is: wise, intelligent and God-fearing. So you know she has got a good word for us today. I am confident that God will bless you!

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” James 1:27
“Their only suggestion was that we keep on helping the poor which I have always been eager to do.” Galatians 2:10
“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25
“If you continually give, you will continually have.” Fortune Cookie from Pei Wei
I was going to write about circumcision. I was. On Sunday, I found this really great passage in Galatians 5 about freedom in Christ and about how anyone who tries to take us away from our freedom should go circumcise himself. It’s classic stuff. I was very excited about it. I was so excited that I decided to write about it for this blog, and I was going to share it in my teachers’ devotion at work, too. But, God had other plans. At school, I ended up reading from Psalm 25, and here I get to talk to you about a sort of project that God has undertaken in my life for the past year or so: Becoming a Generous Person.

When I say generous, I’m not talking just about giving to the needy. For whatever reason, I’ve always had a heart for the poor and for the orphaned. My issue is being generous with everyone else.  As we tried to figure out what I could write about (beside circumcision), my sister, Raquel, said, “don’t be afraid to be vulnerable” which didn’t make sense to me since generosity isn’t one of those things that you only talk about in same-gender meetings. I said that I could talk about what we’re doing in my class with World Vision. She pointed out that being generous isn’t just about sharing your stuff; being generous is also about sharing your time, sharing your gifts, sharing your space, sharing your service.  That hit home. I have a hard time sharing myself with others. As a sanguine-melancholic, I love people, but I love them at my convenience. Lately God has been pushing my limits in this area. He’s put me in a number of situations this past week alone where I have had to step out of my comfort zone and share my gasoline, my Saturday morning, my Tuesday afternoon, my Sunday night. He’s made me be generous with my affection, with my beauty sleep (!), with my money, with my ears, and every time He has paid me back. He’s paid me back with free coffee, free sushi, free ice-cream (free food is my love language), and with companionship. He’s allowed me to bond with people that I would have otherwise overlooked. He has given me His peace and His presence.

It’s my prayer that God may continue to stretch me in this area. What about you? Where do you stand when it comes to generosity? 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

birthday surprise! It's Yesenia.

Happy Tuesday! 
I am so excited to introduce to you Yesenia. It's wonderful how you can know someone for a few months yet feel as if you have known them a lifetime... that is my relationship with her, kindred spirits. The Lord has built a beautiful friendship/sisterhood between us. I pray that you may be blessed abundantly with her post today. 

First  class forever

Whenever waiting in line we know how impatient we can become and start staring around in search for something that might entertain us. Never once did I think I would find myself being amused by a stamp while waiting at the post office. There wasn’t any special or cool design to this stamp that would make it stand out, in all actuality it was quite plain and dull.  But what caught my eye is that on the side of this stamp the word first class forever was written. My first thought when reading that was, “ I've never even flown first class.” 

As I continued to ponder on this little stamp, the sudden realization hit me that I've been missing the opportunity to fly first class, but not on a plane. You see, when you get on a plane the sole purpose is to get to a destination. Sometimes, the ride will consist of some turbulence along the way, leaving you a bit shaken and even afraid to ride a plane again. Though some of us have landing places we would like to travel to, the truth is, we all have a final destination. Reading that stamp made me realize that I have been given the opportunities to ride “first class” and I have missed out because I sold myself short and settled. In my relationship with God I have been guilty of settling for “economy seats,” if it meant that I’d still get to the grand destination called Heaven. 

Our God wants was it best for us; He doesn't want us to just get by. Life in itself isn't easy, because even those who ride “first class” will feel the turbulence. I rather get to my destination riding “first class “and living out Gods purpose then ever settling for “economy” in order to avoid discomfort. God will call us to do radical things that we can’t understand and He will take us out of our comfort zone, because His plans are bigger than ours. So next time God calls you to do something, step out on faith and let Him take control of the plane, and remember that God has given you “first class” and it may come with turbulence, but don't fear because you have the best captain ever.
 (Even the guy who landed the plane on the Hudson River ain"t got nothing on my God  )

Monday, November 14, 2011

birthday surprise! It's Sammantha.

Hi Dear Friends. 
Today's post comes from a very special woman. When I first met Samm (with two m's), her family was fairly new to our church. Her Parents were a bit hesitant when they arrived to youth group with their two young girls. It was a breeze of fresh air to meet a family who feared the Lord as the Word commands us to. As time flew by, I had the amazing opportunity of getting to know Sammantha and Corinne as dear friends and prayer sisters. I know that you will be blessed by her story and the message God has spoken through her. 

Aloha from Hawai'i!

Some of you may know me; I know a lot of you may not. My name is Samm, and I love Jesus.
Not much of an intro right? Well, if you think about it, that's a lot of information. From that statement, you and I could build an eternal bond. I'll tell you more about myself so you get where I'm coming from.

I just turned 20, I'm a semester away from getting my associates, and I live on the island of Oahu in Hawai'i. My dad is in the coast guard, so I'm a military brat. And yes, I'm still living in my parents’ house. One more thing, as a military family, we have only had to move once. From Homestead Florida, to Honolulu Hawai'i last year (and my dads been in the military for 20).
If you know anything about the military, you know that no move in 19 years is odd. God had a reason for that. You see, I was born and raised in a Christian family, but I didn't truly start walking with Jesus until about 3 years ago, when He moved us from a dead church to CCK. There I grew by leaps and bounds.

            Raquel took me under her wings and showed me what a godly woman looks like, as did Belkis, Michi, Dasha, Maky and dozens of others. These were a type of woman I had never seen before. They taught me how to read my bible, how to pray, how to encourage, how to love my sisters and myself.
            God also introduced me to Pastor Jose and Pastor Pedro. He put in my path Alex, Monica, Christina, Steven, Chris, Chris, Carrot Top, Jasmine, Pinito, Tiffany, Becca, Joey and a hundred others. They lifted me up, taught me what godly friends are supposed to be. They are my family. And whether they hear from me often or not, I'm always praying for them.

            If you ask them or the ladies who I consider my mentors, they'll simply point to Jesus. And they'll be 100% right; it was all Him. Feeding me, clothing me. Arming me. He taught me how to use my sword and to put on my helmet (Eph6:17).

            I don't know if you've ever moved before, but if you have and it’s been far enough away, you know what it's like to start over. That alien feeling could last anywhere from a week to a month or three. I'm not trying to belittle anyone's experiences; I understand that my life compared to others' has been cake. I just want to share what God has asked me to.

            So, my first move, and it's to another state, wait, past several time zones and half of an ocean, in a different hemisphere. And that's exactly how it felt.
            When I said my goodbyes and got on that plane, I couldn't help myself. I was angry at God. I thought "You took me from that dead place, to a home that’s alive. I felt you there, every time I walked in through the doors. You were in the congregation, in the greeters and volunteers; you were in the worship, the leaders and the pastors. You were there and I felt you. You showed me what I could be; like those godly women. You showed me how much I could love those people that aren't even physically related to me. What are You doing?! You're tearing me from them! I don't want to leave! Who cares if I'm going to 'paradise,' I want to stay where I feel You, where I feel loved."

            Can you imagine my audacity? How could I, a mere human, berate the Most High God? I was angry. I was hurt. Mostly, I felt so alone.
            I walked onto this island with the mentality of "This will never be my home." I thought, "The believers back in Florida aren't here, how am I going to survive?" At first, I was so happy that I could text and facebook people I missed. But eventually I learned to loath technology. It could tell me what was going on back home, but I couldn't be apart of it. My body was on Oahu, but my mind, spirit and strength was back in Miami.

            5 months. That's how long it took to look forward. It only took 3 to find the church He wanted us to be at, but my eyes were closed. Funny thing is that Pastor Jose specifically told us not to keep our eyes on the past. He quoted the scripture that says someone who takes to the plow but looks back is not worthy of the kingdom of God. I remember thinking about that, but I ignored what God was trying to tell me. I guess my ears were closed too. Then God had mercy on me, and He opened my eyes. I don't know when, it happened slowly, but I began to see what God had given me.

            The New Year rang in with a new resolution. My mom put her foot down. She said we were going to attend church regularly, and more than that, we were going to get involved. God really softened my heart after that. He showed me that I could love my family back in CCK, but I had more family here, just waiting to love me too.

            If I had the time and the space, I would tell you about Pastor Waxer and Pastor Mike. I would talk about Jesse and Aimee, Troy, Luc, Pattie, Rachel, Carolyn, Joshua, Nolan, Paka, Christina, Mario, Tori, Sirayha, Ryan, Vince, Jeff, Tanner and many, many more. These are your brothers and sisters, and they love Jesus. Being a Christian means that even though you only have your love for Jesus in common, that's all you need.

            Joshua 1:9 is my life verse, and has been long before my move. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." I am a living witness to this promise. He's everywhere you are, whether you feel Him or not. I moved 4,853.29 miles away, and God is still with me.

Just like you only knew about Jesus before experiencing Him, I knew in my head that 1, I have many brothers and sisters around the world and 2, that Jesus is everywhere. I didn't know these facts in my heart before moving, and I am so glad that God proved these facts true to me.

I hope you realize that though God taught me to use my sword and my helmet in a time of peace and growth, it took a storm so He could teach me how to use my shield. I picked up my faith at CCK, where I was comfortable and safe. But I had learned to exercise and use my faith when my world came crashing down.

If you don't get anything from my running on, please remember that God loves you and wants the best for you, which includes teaching you to use your shield in battle, which He has already won by the way.

My name is Samm, and I love Jesus.

birthday surprise series

For the next two weeks we will be celebrating big! 
Every post will be a birthday surprise, coming to you from a special guest. These wonderful ladies have prayed, as I have, and will be speaking to you a special message from the heart of God to you. Praying many blessings for you. May the Spirit of the living God speak comfort, wonder, truth, life, joy and peace to you. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Lyrical Friday - Brokenness Aside

Happy Friday!
Before we get into this post, I would like to thank all of you who for two years have been faithful readers of this blog. I truly stand in awe of the Lord and His faithfulness. This blog was His vision and continues to be what it is by God's grace and all for His glory. Thank you. May the Spirit of the Lord fall afresh and anew upon you. May He bless you abundantly as you seek to know Him and make Him known.

Unto anniversary celebrations and lyrical business. Two years ago today, God spoke to my heart concerning a blog. I tried to push the still small voice aside but it would not go away. I gave the Lord five minutes. If in five minutes the blog had not received a name, an address, a theme and layout, I would not go through with this. Not kidding when I tell you that in five minutes it was all set us, from the "Lily Among Thorns" name to the first post. Obedience is what the Lord required and obedience is what this blog represents. While in the pit of despair, loneliness and brokenness, God called me out to take on the one role I did not want to take: a writer. When I fully surrendered to Him, He took me and equipped me with every spiritual blessing needed to accomplish the task at hand.

This amazing song my All Sons and Daughters is fitting for this birthday celebration. I am a sinner, and if you have been following this blog for any amount of time or know me personally, you know this to be true. If I am not failing in one area, I'm falling short in another. And that's OK because God takes brokenness aside and makes something beautiful out of it. Much like the two fish and five loaves in Mark 6, in and of ourselves we are not enough to do God's Word, therefore we too need to be broken in order for the Lord to do a miraculous work. The more He breaks us, the bigger the work He can do in us and through us. So whatever it is that you have, I encourage you to place it in the hand of Jesus. Yes, surrender fully and wholly and He will make something beautiful.

As for me, I am committed to the work that God desires to accomplish through this blog. My  life is as the two fish and five loaves, and I pray that this would be a perpetual place of encouragement and life-giving to you.

Brokenness Aside, All Sons and Daughters

Will your grace run out
If I let you down
Cause all I know
Is how to run

Will you call me child
When I tell you lies
Cause all I know
Is how to cry

I am a sinner
If its not one thing its another
Caught up in words
Tangled in lies
You are a savior
And you take brokenness aside
And make it beautiful

You make it beautiful
You make it beautiful

Thursday, November 10, 2011

happy birthday

Happy 2nd Birthday to this blog! 
With so many events happening, I haven't carved out the time to post on this wonderful occasion. Post coming soon. God bless you!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sentence Tuesday

When our hearts are set on the pursuit and acquisition of vain and material things, we forget that our greatest riches are found in Jesus.
-Maky Fernandez

Monday, November 7, 2011


Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. 
The spirit is willing, but the body is weak. Matthew 26:41

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:31 

God has pledged an escape route each and every time. Learn to deal with temptations: immediately, realistically, ruthlessly, consistently, and confidently. -Alistair Begg

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Good Saturday to you!
I was so blessed and encouraged to read Francine Rivers' blog post this morning and without hesitation I am sharing it with you. May the Lord speak both wisdom and comfort to you. May He bless you abundantly.

By Francine Rivers

Upon our return from the Panama Cruise, Rick and I learned someone we love dearly had disappeared. We knew what that meant and our hearts sank. Some knew where he was out there in the night going through his own private hell. All we could do was wait and pray and hope the turn-around would come quickly and he wouldn’t die this time.

I’ve been told by recovering alcoholics that it’s the first drink that kills you. An alcoholic doesn’t start back at the beginning. An alcoholic starts where he/she left off and accelerates. Think of being on a slide. If you stop partway down and stop yourself, you’re still there. Lift your hands and down you go. Without the strength of God working in a person, giving up the things that kill us is impossible. To sum up the 12 step program: I can’t, God can, I think I’ll let Him.

Years back, I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t pay close attention to the dirty, disheveled man holding a sign at the entrance to the freeway. Now, I look for them. I make eye contact. Sometimes I have enough time (before the car behind me is honking) to hand them a bottle of water or a Christmas box.

Why do I see them now? I’ve experienced the anguish of wondering where my loved one is and whether I’ll ever see that person again this side of heaven. I’ve heard the stories of what people go through out there, drunk and alone, looking at a dumpster as a possible warm, dry place to sleep for the night.

Jesus said the poor are always among us. And so they are. Poor in ways beyond not having money.

I try not to worry, but some in my family say I have a worry gene and so it is a miserable default pattern in my life to fall back into it. I have a good imagination. That’s a blessing when I’m writing a story. It’s a curse when I’m imagining all the things that could be happening to someone I love who is out there on the mean streets, homeless, hurting and too ashamed to call for help. Every time the phone rang, my heart jumped. Night time calls always seem to bring bad news.

We are at war. In Iraq and Afghanistan. We’re also in a war here at home, and this war has countless fronts.

What do I do? I pray through my long list of friends who are going through the same thing I am right now. I pray for the many I know who are struggling with addictions; drugs, alcohol, computer games, pornography, food, work. Our nation breeds addiction. Sometimes I lay awake and go through the lines of David’s Psalm 23 or make an alphabetical list of the attributes of God.

And that’s what brings peace in the midst of the storm. Knowing God, remembering how deep and wide and high His love is for each of His children. Knowing Jesus lived out 33 years as a man who faced and overcame every temptation and now stands as our advocate before His Almighty Father who longs for us to return to Him.

Wherever my loved one is, God is there, too, waiting for surrender, ready to lift and restore. God loves my loved one far more than I do. God has a plan in all this and it isn’t to tear us to pieces, but to build us up, to give us a future and a hope.

I may not like the pain that comes with waiting, but it’s in the waiting that my faith grows.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lyrical Friday - Conquering Lion

Happy Friday! 
I am posting very early today because one of my best friends is getting married later today. I am so excited. Maybe I'll have her share her "love" story on the blog. Anywho, unto lyrical business. 
Today's post, Conquering Lion, is one that is sure to get you kneeling and praying. The Lord has gently convicted me of my approach to unbelieving family, friends and strangers. As you read last week in Tear Down The Walls, God revealed to me that in pointing out someone's sin, I was not winning them over to the Lord but rather kicking a dead horse. He has taught me that love covers a multitude of sin and that if I am surely to win anyone over to Christ it will be by the power of the Holy Spirit's love. 
This week, through the lyrics of this song and through a short passage in 1 Kings I want to to encourage you to pray for those in your life who do not know Jesus personally and intimately. 
Some time later the woman’s son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died. Elijah replied, “Give me your son.” And he took the child’s body from her arms, carried him up the stairs to the room where he was staying, and laid the body on his bed. And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, please let this child’s life return to him.” The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! 1 Kings 17:17, 19, 21-22
Dear Friends, may we be men and women who are prayer warriors as Elijah was. May we lay down our lives in prayer, standing in the gap for those who do not know the saving power and mighty grace of God. Through our prayers, immense strongholds and the strongest of chains can be broken. May our prayers be the fuel that revives these dead lives, may our prayers be heard by the Conquering Lion who can break any and every chain. 

Conquering Lion, Dominic Balli 

Bound up I saw him drowning today
He never look or even question
Is the burden of his free choice death
Cuz he can’t see and he can’t touch his chains
Well the Bible says to whom that you obey
To this one you become it’s slave, child
Either of sin leading to death or of
obedience leading to righteousness
Do those shackles bring freedom?

The Conquering Lion shall break every chain
The Conquering Lion shall break every chain
The Conquering Lion shall break every chain
Shall break every chain

Another day another time and I will break it then
My life, it’s my choice, I’ll choose how and when
But on the other side a battle cry
A fight for life and a life worth fighting for
Triumph’s loss if you never take it home
Victory is vain unless you claim your gold
One life to live you’ve got it one life to give
And when your freedom’s in the balance will you stand or fold?

Mind captive can you feel it pressing harder
Freedom born with now stolen by sin
Bound by your disbelief the fear enlarges
Conscience dead to what true love is
Liberty and justice, surety and fullness
America’s dream has not brought much contentment
Equality from within, prosperity and freedom
Is it just a figment of our imagination?
Or are we living free?

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