Second Hand Words

Last week I left you with a question to meditate on. The question was, What made Eve more susceptible to being deceived than Adam? The question came out of something I noticed for the first time in the story of Adam and Eve, a story I have read and heard many, many, times. Somehow this detail, this very important detail, went unnoticed by me for years.
It says in Genesis 2:15-17 The LORD God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden-except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” He is talking only to Adam at this point as he has not yet created Eve.
As you continue to read the story you do not see God speaking directly and giving the same warning to Eve. Yet somehow she has been given the news because when the serpent comes to her and asks her about not being allowed to eat the fruit from the trees in the garden she replies in Genesis 3:2-4 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.”
Did you catch that? The response Eve gave the serpent are not the words God told Adam. She added the words “or even touch it”. We don’t know if it was Adam that added to God’s original message or if Eve added it for dramatic effect but I believe it was Adam who added to the original instructions. Not only did Adam add to the original message God gave him, he also left some of the message out. We know this because judging by Eve’s response to the serpent she clearly had no idea what the significance of the tree was. She referred to it as “the tree in the middle of the garden”.
Why is it a big deal that she didn’t know what the tree was? First of all it gave the serpent the opportunity to sound as though he knew more than her and knew what he was talking about. He was the one that told her it was the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It says in Genesis 3:4-5 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”Once he was able to show that he knew more than her, he was able to pervert the truth and promise her she would be like God and would have knowledge she just couldn’t live without.
Eve received God’s Word second hand. And just like when you played telephone as a kid, the end message and the original message did not match. The Word Eve received had parts added (don’t even touch it) as well as parts left out (the kind of tree it was). Since she did not receive the full Truth it opened her up for deception. That deception took her away from Gods plan for her life.
The same goes for us. If we only live by what others tell us about God, we open ourselves up to deception. Of course it is good to go to church, listen to sermons online,and read devotionals- those things strengthen our understanding of God’s word. However, these things do not take the place of us spending our own time with God in his Word. God has specific instructions for each and every one of us. Those instructions cannot be given by another, they need to come from the Lord. The best place to hear from God is by spending time alone with him, one on one, in prayer and in his word.
If we do not know what God’s word says, we will never know when someone is adding to it, or taking away from it. Throughout the ages we have seen the church adding rules and traditions that are nowhere to be found in the Bible. Perhaps if people had access to and read for themselves what Gods word truly says, we would not have all of the man made rules and traditions we see today.
The most common lies we believe are the ones that are perverted scripture- there is just enough truth in it to make it believable. The serpent told Eve she would be like God and possess the knowledge of good and evil which is only partially true. Yes, she would now understand that their is good and evil, but unlike God she would be unable to consistently choose good. Had the serpent told her the whole story she would have told him to slither back under the rock he came from.
Girls, do not relay on others to hear Gods word. Take ownership of your faith by spending time alone with God in prayer and in His Word. Only then will you know how to test what you hear against the Truth. Only then will you be able to guard your heart from deception. Only then will you see the serpents of the world for what they are.

And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life, and in the holy city that are described in this book. Revelation 22:18-19

Love, Grace, and a First Hand Word Day to You All,

Jen

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All About Eve

For the first time in the eighteen years that I have been going to the cabin in Washington I had not one, but two girlfriends come visit. It was so much fun that from now on it is the only way this chick is going to roll 🙂

One night my girlfriend and I were sitting on the bed chatting about different Bible studies and good books to read. We were both setting some personal goals, and we wanted to include a spiritual growth goal. She showed me one of the books she had bought titled Women of the Bible. She hadn’t read it yet so she started looking through it.

The book was divided into chapters discussing different categories of biblical women. For example, women that endured severe hardship, women that made history in a man’s world, etc. She would give me the category and I would try to guess the women listed for each chapter. It was actually really fun. Am I a nerd?

I was surprised by a couple things. First of all there were women that were not listed in areas I thought they should be listed in (does that shock any of you), and I had never even heard of a few of the women. Not knowing who these women were peaked my curiosity. How could I have never heard of them or remembered them?

So I have decided to do my own little “women of the Bible” study. Who better to start with than our girl Eve? You may think you know all there is to know about Eve, but when I read Genesis Chapter 2 and 3 this morning I saw things I had never noticed before. We won’t cover all there is to say about Eve- entire books have been written on Eve. I just want to highlight a few things that stand out to me as I study. I would love it if you wanted to study with me :).

Tonight I simply want to share with you the chapters that discuss Eve so you can have a chance to read for yourself if you choose. Genesis 2:8-4:1 will give you a good context of the things we will discuss over the next few blogs. Please bear with me as I adjust to the new work schedule. I am hoping to post Monday-Friday but it may take me a week or two to get there.

I always want to leave you with a verse and since it is bedtime I will give you one that I say to my kiddos and to myself when my mind is racing at night.

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. Proverbs 3:24

Love, Grace, and a Sweet Sleep Night to You All,

Jen

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Walking on Water

We arrived home Friday night from our three week vacation in Washington. After two days and twenty-one hours of driving I looked and felt like a zombie Saturday, but what do you expect when your lunch consists of sugar free Rockstar and sour patch kids? What? It’s not like I can eat a salad while driving…

I return to work tomorrow so for me summer is officially over. I know there are still warm days ahead and I will be able to walk, bike, and paddle for another month (hopefully two). When I say summer is over for me I mean the relaxed, minimal stress, easy going, happy go lucky part of summer. To me, that is the best part of summer (and the tan…everything looks better tan)!

In honor of my last night of summer, I thought I would share one final lesson I learned from Faith (my paddle board). It’s not that there won’t be more stories and life applications from Faith in the future, but starting tomorrow we are switching gears and starting a new series that I am very excited about(please pray God helps me figure out how to fit writing in as I return to work).

Our last night in Washington the lake was smoother than glass and the evening air was perfect. It was the fifth day in a row of 90 degree temps and the evenings were amazing. Add to that the fact that there was a full, or close to full moon. As it comes out it looks so close you would swear you could touch it if you jumped off the diving board high enough. Even though we had a lot of last minute things to do before leaving at 7am the next morning, I simply could not pass up the chance for one last ride.

My first few minutes were so peaceful as I glided along the water. It couldn’t have been a better night. About fifteen minutes into my ride I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of kayaks, pontoons, and speedboats coming out on the lake. It seemed more like a Saturday night than a Wednesday night. The lake is only 450 acres so it is easy to take note of the boat traffic.

I saw a woman sitting at the end of her dock and mentioned that it seemed like a Saturday night on the lake and she said everyone was out to watch the space shuttle launch. Supposedly we were going to see it start from the west and go over the lake. It seemed odd to me but as I looked around the lake I saw a few boats just sitting in the middle and others still coming out so I thought it must be true. I decided to turn around and get the kids so they could see it.

As I made my way back home I heard the sound of a boat that seemed close behind me. Since it was dusk and the full moon was already glowing I was concerned they may not be able to see me. I turned around to see how close the boat was and as I turned my head back towards the front, a small wave rolled in on my left and I almost fell off. The only time I have fallen off my board is when I attempted to do some yoga (which I can hardly even do on dry land). I have never fallen off while paddling.

I was caught off guard by how quickly it all happened. All I did was turn to look to see if I was in danger and the next thing I knew I was wobbling all over on the board. I immediately thought of the story where Peter walks on water (not that my story was anywhere near as cool as his). One minute he is walking confidently towards Jesus and the next minute he hears the rolls of thunder, and sees the raging waves and bloop, he starts to sink.

As I head into a new school year I purpose to keep my eyes on Jesus and not get distracted or fearful by the thunder rolls and storms of life. I know I have a busy schedule, but so does every other woman I know. Somehow when it is all said and done, our kids make it to school (most days), have food to eat (thank God for $5 pizza), and all the things that truly need to get done gets done. FYI- the dusting NEVER truly needs to get done 🙂

The sun has officially set tonight. My summer is officially over. It’s okay though because tomorrow begins the year of walking on water. No more anxious thoughts about how to get it all done. No more frozen in indecisiveness moments of fear. No more insecurity. No more less than God’s best!

Jesus is calling each and every one of us to get out of our boats and walk on the water towards him. I’m getting out of mine. Anyone care to come with me?

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” “Yes, come,” said Jesus.-Matthew 14:12

It’s not that there won’t be days that like Peter, we take our eyes off of Jesus and begin to sink in the struggles of life. It will happen. The awesome part is the fact that Jesus will still be there offering his hand to pull us up. Don’t be afraid of failing. Technically Peter failed. However, the story is not referred to as “the time Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and sunk into the sea”. No. It is referred to as the time Peter walked on water.

I would like to be remembered like that.

Love, Grace, and a Walking on Water Day to You All,

Jen

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The Rescue

Growing up in Minnesota we would go boating for hours on the river or on Lake Minnetonka. It was our favorite thing in the world to do. I could sit in the front of the boat all day long while we cruised on the water. It never got old. Boating with my parents are by far my favorite memories. I miss my dad for many reasons but one of the things I miss most is going with him on a boat trip. I have heard people say that heaven is whatever your idea of heaven is. If that is true there is a never ending river and an open bowed boat with my dad driving it right now. The very thought of that makes me smile, even if it isn’t true.

Our cabin in Washington sits right on the lake. If I take ten steps from our front door I will be in the water. It is a great, clean, spring-fed lake. It is the perfect size lake to swim, kayak, paddle board and tube. It is not however a great size lake to go boating on. It is fun to driving slow and looking at all of the houses and cabins, but I like to go fast :).

For years I have been begging my father-in-law to take me on some “big water”. Our cabin is close to the Pend Oreille river which runs right into Lake Pend Oreille, the second largest fresh water lake in the country. Every year the guys would talk about the lake and how it is 1100 feet deep in some parts and I would beg to go on it. The response was always the same “That would be fun- someday”.

Well this year my “someday” finally came! My father-in-law bought a new boat and he was ready to try it out on some big water. We launched the boat in the river and had an eighteen mile boat ride to the lake. The river was amazing. It was so wide and the houses alongside were huge. Some of them even had their own tram running from their house to the lake. I was smiling from ear to ear with tears running down my face as I was flooded with memories of boating with my dad. The only thing that would have made the moment better was if I could have shared it with my mom and sisters who also share the love of boating.

The river was amazing, but the lake- the lake was absolutely breathtaking. It was huge! The mountains surrounding the lake were magnificent and with each turn you felt like you were in another part of the country. If you told me I was in Alaska, or the Puget Sound I would have believed you. I felt so small and the world felt so big and it was all so perfect.

We stopped at a little marina so we could use the bathroom and get some snacks. I saw a tank top that read “My Happy Place- Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho.” I had to have it as I couldn’t have been anymore happy than I was at that moment. I put it on for the return trip and as the boat headed home I had the same smile and another tear or two over the perfectness of the day.

We got through the lake and entered the river. We had eighteen miles back to the boat launch. One mile in the boat made a horrible sound and then stopped completely and shut off. Tom tried to restart it, but it just sputtered and died. It was out of gas! Though the gas gauge read more than a quarter tank, the boat told us differently. The gauge was obviously broken. We were stranded in the middle of the river.

We will bypass, for today, the whole “Well didn’t you fill up with gas at the marina just to be safe” conversation. That is another lesson for another day. I will jump straight to the “What do we do now?” part of the story. After about two minutes of all of us staring at each other in disbelief while ignoring the “Why didn’t you guys just fill up the tank when we stopped at the marina?” elephant in the boat,the guys started waving their arms at a boat nearby. At first the people simply waved back thinking we were just following friendly boat etiquette but when the guys kept waving they finally stopped and said “Do you need help?”

Their boat was an expensive bright orange Wake Setter boat with all the bells, whistles, gadgets, and more. They were out trying to surf behind the boat when we flagged them down. The driver seemed nice enough but the others in the boat simply seemed annoyed with the thought of taking time out of their day to help the idiots that ran out of gas on the river that runs into the country’s second largest freshwater lake.

The driver said he would drive the four miles north to the next marina to see if they had a gas can or some other means of helping us. That was the extent of their offer to help but beggars can’t be choosers so we thanked them and watched them ride away.

After what seemed like eternity we all came to the conclusion that they did not go look for help. We thought it more likely that they turned the corner of the river and said “So long suckers!” and went about their Friday afternoon fun. I asked my father-in-law if the boat had a paddle. He dug it out of the hull and I took it, smiled, and said “I have been training the entire summer for this moment.”

I climbed on the bow of the boat, sat down, and started paddling. Now paddling a twenty-two foot boat seventeen miles down the river would be quite a task, and I did not think for a million years I would accomplish that task. I did however, take great pleasure in seeing my hours of paddle-boarding amount to something as we worked our way down the river, and I preferred taking an active role in my rescue rather than just sit there like some helpless damsel in distress.

I also knew that when another boat saw a middle aged woman sitting on the bow paddling the boat, they would know we were in need of rescue. Rather than flag down someone that doesn’t want to help, this would give someone that is willing to help an opportunity to come to us.

Sure enough, within a few minutes two boats approached us, one on the right and one on the left. The one on the left was heading our way and offered to tow us to the marina. It was an Italian family (judging by the beautiful dark skin, hair, and sweet accent) with a small yellow boat named Vintage Whine. We attached to their boat and began the thirty minute tow to the marina. We kept commenting on how awesome it was that they would do this as it was now about eighty eight degrees of pounding sun and we could tell they were miserably hot. So awesome to come across such generous people.

We will also bypass the part of the story where we get towed into the marina that is also a riverside bar and grill and were faced with approximately one hundred sympathetic, yet condescending, smirky looks for the poor idiots that did not fill up the tank when they stopped at the marina on the lake to use the bathroom. There is no need to discuss that. There is nothing amazing about that part of the story.

What was amazing is the fact that the gas attendant pointed over to the sheriff boat and said “Someone came a few minutes ago to call the sheriff and tell them you were out of gas and where you were located”. We looked and saw the sheriff and then we saw the bright orange Wake Setter parked along the dock. What do you know, the nice guy with the crabby crew pulled through after all. He did in fact rescue us, just not in the way we thought.

There have been many times in my life that I have cried out to the Lord for help and felt like I have waited forever for that help. There have even been times when I felt like there may never be a rescue at all. However, time and time again God has proven faithful and has rescued me. Whether I was in distress due to my own idiotic mistakes, or the victim of someone else’s, He has always rescued me.

In the times that I feel I need an immediate tow, but God had a different rescue plan in mind, I often find that my character develops, my faith grows, and ultimately when the rescue does come, my relationship with God is strengthened. Sometimes those lonely cry for help times are the best ways to grow your faith and your relationship with God. If life cruised along perfectly down the river all the time, I have the feeling I would drift away from Him and forget how sweet it is when He is my rescue.

If you find yourself up river without a paddle in life right now, I assure you that God is aware of your circumstance and has heard your prayer. I also assure you that the prayer has been answered and help is on the way. Though you may feel like you need an immediate tow, He ultimately knows the best rescue for your situation, and the answers are on their way!

He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. Psalm 145:19

Love, Grace, and a Tow Rope Rescue To You All,

Jen

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Cleared of All Charges!

A few years ago I got a speeding ticket. I wasn’t happy about it and even though I was guilty I decided to fight it in court. Paying a $100 fine was bad enough but even worse than that was the thought of it being on my driving record. I was afraid our insurance would end up raising our rates and that would be an added expense we definitely did not need!

By the time my court date arrived I was thoroughly convinced I would be free of all charges. I had been praying about it and I had pictured the scene a million times in my mind. My friends and family would tell me there was no way I would get out of it, but I told them to wait and see- I was coming home with a clean record!

I remember sitting in that court room trying not to smile. I could not wait to get home and tell everyone “I told you so!”. The longer I sat in the courtroom, the more confident I became. I was sitting in one of the back rows and I could hear the county attorney in the small room behind me making deals with other offenders. He was dropping DWI charges down to reckless driving tickets left and right. Surely, he would make this forty year old mother of two’s little speeding ticket disappear.

Finally it was my turn to plead my case. I was so confident regarding the outcome that when he denied my request I simply sat across the desk from him staring with my head tilted to the side the way a puppy looks at you when they know you are talking to them but they don’t understand. After what must have seemed like eternity to him he finally said “Mrs. Gilbert, we are done here. It’s time for you to go and pay your fine.”

I left the room wondering what had just happened. That wasn’t the way it was supposed to go. I had plead my case with my whole heart. I even admitted that I was guilty but explained how this was a financial hardship for us and surely since I had a clean record up to this point, he could make sure it remained clean. I even got choked up and had to fight back the tears- the natural response for both my sister and I whenever we are fighting against an injustice. I begged and pleaded and yet here I was walking out of the courtroom towards the pay station. I couldn’t believe it.

Aren’t you glad that our heavenly Father is not like that crummy old county attorney? Aren’t you glad that he doesn’t pardon sins for some people while holding accountable the sins of others. Aren’t you glad that when you approach him at the throne of grace you don’t have to worry about whether or not you will still be left paying for your mistakes?

God is more just than any courtroom could ever be. Yes, he demands payment in full for our sins, but he also knew we would never be able to pay all the fines we accumulate. They are far too great. Rather than simply looking away, he sent his only beloved son as payment for all of our sins. When Jesus cried out from the cross “It is finished”, he could also have said “PAID IN FULL” because that what the finished work of Jesus is. It is payment, full payment, for each and every one of our sins. We will never have to “pay for” what we have done. We do not owe God anything. That is what makes His grace so amazing!

Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt! Psalm 32:1-2

Love, Grace, and a Day Cleared of All Charges To You All,

Jen

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Got Weeds?

The other day while I was paddle boarding I noticed that I was barely moving. This seemed odd because I was paddling on calm water and I should have been cruising right along. I turned around and saw that there were a bunch of weeds wrapped around the fin and dragging behind me like streamers. “That’s weird” I thought. I didn’t even notice I went through any weeds.

I tried backing up to see if they would fall off but they stayed put. I tried whacking at them a little bit with my paddle but all that did was knock me off balance and I almost fell off. I finally had to get down on my hands and knees and reach down and pull them off with my hands. Once free from the weeds I was able to cruise ride along and enjoy the calm water.

The same thing happens to us throughout our lives. We unknowingly pick up little weeds along the way and suddenly wonder why we are moving so slow towards our goals and dreams. The weeds come in many forms. Sometimes they are the weeds of distraction that steal our time so we are always running behind. Sometimes they are the weeds of bad habits that rob us of our health, time, or relationships. Sometimes there are people in our lives that our dragging us down and hindering our forward motion.

Whatever the weeds in our lives are, God wants to help us get rid of them. Sometimes the weeds are an easy fix. Once you realize you have the weed you can easily rid yourself of it and keep on moving like I tried to do with the paddle. All you needed was the realization that it existed in the first place.

Other weeds may take a little more time to get rid of. Sometimes you need to stop what you are doing, get down on your knees, and focus your attention on eliminating the weeds. Nobody wants to take the time to address these bigger weeds. It seems like we get behind in all the other areas of life when we have to stop to address these weeds. However, the longer we let these weeds drag along, the harder we will have to work just to barely move forward, or even remain in the same place.

There is no shame in having weeds to deal with. We all have them. There is not a single person that doesn’t have weeds they deal with in their lives. The key is to deal with them before they slow you down and prevent you from living the life you were intended to live.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge cloud of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight (weed) that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.-Hebrews 12:1 NLT

I was paddling with my neighbor the other day when I found myself dragging weeds again. She simply paddled over to me and said “Let me help you”. She was able to easily knock them off with her paddle and we were off cruising in no time. Sometimes the best way to get rid of weeds is with the help of another. If you are dealing with some weeds in your life and would like prayer regarding them please fill out a prayer request. You can remain anonymous.

Love, Grace, and a Weed Free Day to You All,

Jen

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You Are Not Lost!

It was too windy to paddle by board or by kayak this morning so I decided to take the kids and Nana (the dog) to a campground about ten miles from the cabin. It is a nice little campground with a few short hiking trails. It’s a great park and in all of the years of going there I think I have seen a total of two people.

As Nana and I were hiking I started thinking about the fact that even though I have hiked this trail over twenty five times, I still have never gone the same way or ended up where I thought I would. It’s strange really. There are only two trailheads and the trail is easy to follow yet I never quite know where I am going or where I will end up. Sometimes I end up back at the trailhead, other times the trail kicks me out way down the road from the campsite and I find myself walking a half mile down the road back to the car.

It used to bother me. I used to get irritated when the trail didn’t seem to take me the way I thought it should or would suddenly kick me out on the main road. All of the other hiking trails I have been on have a clear start and finish to them, or at least have signs along the way telling you which way to go depending on which trail you want to be on. This one however just has a bunch of trails and your hike may take twenty minutes or two hours depending on which twists and turns you take. It really is quite odd.

Today when I realized that the path I was on was not taking me to the top with the cool view but was winding me down towards a place where I would once again get spit out on the road I thought about all of the paths my life has taken over the years. I thought about the times I felt as though I were climbing uphill forever and would never get to a point where I was rewarded with an amazing view. I thought about the times I thought my path was finally leading somewhere only to turn a corner and be spit back out onto the road. I thought about the times when I wasn’t aware of the effort I was putting forth because I was enjoying the journey so much that when I suddenly hit the top and looked around at the view I had no idea really how I got there.

We take many different paths during the course of our lives. Some of them lead to fantastic views, some of them are a lot of work with no reward, and some of them simply spit us back out on the road. I used to drive myself crazy trying to figure out what path I should take or if I am on the right path. To be honest with you, I still often find myself wondering if I am where I am supposed to be when it comes to the desires of my heart and my current job. It doesn’t make sense to me that the path I am currently on will lead to a mountaintop view of the dreams I have.

Regardless of what makes sense I simply continue taking one step at a time on the current path I am on. I meditate on Gods Word that says He will show me which path to take (Proverbs 3:6) and trust that even if I do not know where I am going, He does.

I used to worry that I had made too many mistakes or given up too many times for me to ever get back on the path God had planned for me. I believed God had good plans for me, but I also feared I had ruined that plan somewhere along the way. I put more faith in my mistakes than in Gods mercy and grace. I started to believe I had been moved to Plan B for my life. Yes, it was still a good life, but it was not Plan A, which is the plan and the path I want more than anything.

Maybe you feel the way I did. Maybe you feel like you have been down too many paths leading nowhere or have somehow found yourself on the wrong path altogether. Maybe you feel like God has moved you over to Plan B instead of his original Plan A for your life. If you feel this way please meditate on todays verse. Write it down and stick in on your bathroom mirror. Let it sink down into your heart and bring you peace.

The Lord is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those that go astray. Psalm 25:8 NLT

Notice it says that the Lord is good and does what is right. It doesn’t say that we are good or that we do what is right. It has nothing to do with us. God has a path for us and it is up to him to make sure we are on that path and make it to the mountaintop. The only thing we need to do is trust and believe him and keep moving one step at a time. If we are off course He will get us to where we need to be!

Love, Grace, and a Mountaintop View to You All,

Jen

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What Good is Faith Without a Paddle?

We made it! My two kids, my one year old Mastiff and I arrived last night in Washington after a two day road trip. My brain is still foggy and I am a little sleep deprived but other than that all is well, Praise God!

It’s not easy packing for a 21 day trip. Though I kept telling myself there is nothing that can’t be bought once there if I forget it, I still found myself going over and over in my brain the essential things I must not forget. You know, things like the coffee grinder, coffee pour-over, coffee filters, and coffee. Seriously- what does anything else matter if I am too tired to enjoy it :).

We spent Thursday night and Friday morning packing our bags and loading the car. I went over the mental checklist and felt ready to head west. About 45 minutes into the drive my son innocently asked, “Mom, did you bring your paddle?”. WHAT!!!

NO! No I did NOT pack my paddle! I look up through the sunroof where Faith (my paddle board) is securely strapped on. I have my board, my gloves, my swimsuit,and my little booties that stop me from curling my toes and giving me foot pain. I even have my waterproof fanny pack to store my phone in (a gift from my friend- you know in case I ever feel the need to call someone from the middle of the lake). I have everything I could possibly need. Everything except a paddle. Now let me ask you- what good is my Faith without a paddle?

Faith is meant to glide upon the waters. Faith is meant to take me new places and show me new things. Faith is meant to bring me peace and calm in the midst of a busy life. Faith is my way of staying active while enjoying the sun. Without a paddle all I can do with Faith is lay on it like an extremely overpriced air mattress. Sure- at least it would keep me afloat but what fun is that? Faith without a paddle really isn’t Faith.

Our God given faith works the same. Our faith is what allows us to ride upon the waters even when the current rages beneath. Our faith should take us new places and show us new things. Our faith is meant to bring us peace and calm in the midst of a crazy messed up world and busy life. Our faith is not simply a ticket to heaven and in the meantime we cling to it trying to simply stay afloat.

Our faith gives us new life. Our faith gives us right standing with God. Our faith grants us forgiveness. Our faith breaks strongholds in our lives. The Bible says our faith can move mountains! Our faith makes us well! Our faith will bring others to Christ! Read what it says in Hebrews 11:33-34; By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned into strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight.

Perhaps you are thinking that the people being referred to in those verses were perfect people and that is why they had such great faith. Let’s see, in the mix we have a liar, a thief, an adulterer, a manipulator, a prostitute, a drunkard (in one documented event anyway)and a murderer just to name a few. I believe it is safe to say that there is nothing you have done that disqualifies you from being known as a great woman of faith!. The only thing you need to be a great woman of faith is to use it. Don’t just float around on it trying to stay afloat. Do not treat Jesus as an overpriced ticket to heaven- go move a mountain!

“Dear woman”, Jesus said to her, “Your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed. -Matthew 15:28 NLT

If your faith needs a new “paddle” take a few minutes to read Hebrews chapter 11, also known as the great examples of faith or faith hall of fame chapter. If you want to upgrade to a poly-carbon paddle (that’s SUP talk for a paddle that allows you a more efficient and lighter ride), I recommend you take the time over the next few days and get to know these great men and women of faith- then you will see for yourself that there is nothing in your life that has disqualified you from being a great woman of faith!

Love, Grace, and New Paddle for Your Faith,

Jen

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Not Even A Nibble!

I went to biblegateway.com yesterday to look up a verse and when the page opened there was a picture of one of the paddleboards I had researched on the bottom left corner and a picture of a sundress I had looked at in the middle right side of the page.

I hate it when that happens. It creeps me out to know that they (whoever “they” are) are monitoring and tracking me and my habits. I also hate it because it distracts and tempts me. What I hate most is when I fall for the distraction and temptation!

I don’t know how many times I have settled into my favorite chair with my morning cup of coffee, Bible, and journal, ready for some awesome prayer and devotion time with the Lord and ended up online shopping for an hour instead. When I realize how much time I have wasted I feel angry and frustrated that I have fallen for the same trap again.

After repeatedly falling for the same distractions and temptations I have learned some ways to safeguard my prayer and devotion time. I know I cannot check my email before prayer time. I know I should not have my phone anywhere near me at prayer time. I know if I even do one task like throwing in a load of laundry or feeding the dog it will lead to another task and next thing I know an hour has passed. Sure, I may have accomplished a lot, but I have missed out on the one thing that I need most in my day. When that happens I feel anxious and frustrated.

Marketers and advertisers are not the only ones watching and tracking us. We have a real enemy and the Bible says we are to be aware of the devil’s devices as he prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

The enemy doesn’t just ambush us out of nowhere with a random attack. He takes his time getting to know us. He studies our habits. He watches our actions. He identifies our weaknesses. He listens to the words we speak about ourselves, and others, and he discovers our temptations.

Once he is has figured out what trips us up he doesn’t devour us all at once. It happens bite by bite. He takes a bite of our time when we get sucked into an hour of social media. He takes a bite out of our finances when we see something we just have to have- especially since it is on sale. He takes a bite out of our marriage when we have our needs met in someone other than our spouse. He takes a bite out of our health when we give in to the third piece chocolate cake.

A little nibble here and there may not seem like a big deal, but when you add them up bite by bite, meal by meal, they start to have a negative impact on your relationship with yourself and with God. Falling into the same snares time and again leave you feeling anxious, frustrated, and hopeless. They make it harder to go boldly before the throne because you are more aware of your mistakes than you are of God’s promises.

The best thing you can do to safeguard yourself is to know yourself and know Gods promises. No matter what your weaknesses and temptations are, God promises to make a way of escape for you. However, better than having a way of escape is avoiding the need for escape in the first place.

Take your weaknesses and temptations before God and ask him to help you come up with ways to guard against them. There is no point in acting all holier than thou before Him. He already knows what your weaknesses are. He simply wants you to trust Him and believe that He loves you no matter what you may struggle with. He wants to help you, but He is not going to impose His help on you.

If you are struggling with any strongholds, or temptations in your life, please take a moment to fill out a prayer request. You can remain anonymous. There is no reason to give your life over bite by bite, meal by meal to the enemy. God wants you free from everything that takes you away from who you were created to be and the life He died to give you.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. -1 Peter 5:8 NLT

Love, Grace, and a Nibble Free Day to You All,

Jen

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Selfish Faith

I was supposed to have a friend over first thing in the morning last Friday to go paddle boarding. I had just recently reconnected with this friend after not seeing each her for almost two years. She had come over a few days earlier and we had such a good time we decided we needed to get together one more time before I head out of town.

When I say we had a good time, I mean we had a good time talking. The paddle board portion of our get together was fun- sort of. I let her use Faith since she had only been paddle boarding once before, and I borrowed one of the neighbors paddle boards. Now the neighbors have a board similar to mine, but they also have two of the heavy plastic type paddle boards. They are better for family use as they can’t break and crack as easily as the fiberglass boards.

I figured I would be fine on the plastic board seeing how I am now such an avid boarder (it has been like 3 weeks since I first started after all :). We headed out on the lake and I tried to warn my friend that it was windier than it looked and we needed to be careful or else we would find ourselves across the lake. She then decided she wanted to rest and lay down on the board for awhile. I couldn’t really lay down on the board I was using. I found myself mentioning multiple times that we were drifting across the lake but she didn’t seem concerned so I finally decided to let it go.

Sure enough she suddenly sat up and said “Oh my gosh! We have completely drifted across the lake!” like it was a total shock or something. I simply responded “Yep”, though that was not exactly what I was thinking :).

And so it began. The paddle home. And by paddle I mean frantically paddling to make any progress, not to mention keeping the board facing in the right direction (I later found out that the board I was using has a bent fin that points the wrong way…). I finally got some momentum and felt okay. My friend however was a different story. She kept blowing back and despite me telling her not to do the very thing she was doing she insisted on doing things her way (probably why we get along so well:). I could tell she was starting to panic and would not make it on her own out of the windiest part. My only option was to turn back around and help her get going.

I helped her get going and then she was off and racing across the lake. I on the other hand was having a harder time now than I did the first time. I kept looking to my left at a house on the shore and it seemed as though I was in the same spot forever. The best part was the fact that the board I was on was about 2 inches under water. I was on my knees paddling at this point and I started to worry that my neighbors board maybe had a crack and was slowly sinking to the bottom of the lake.

My friend on the other hand was cruising right along making her way back home. Now I am glad she was safe on my board, but at that moment I really wanted my board. I was done sharing Faith.

As Friday drew near I started dreading Friday morning for multiple reasons. I am going to just be honest with you even though I know I am going to sound like a big jerk. First of all, I was tired. I had another busy week and I felt like I just didn’t have the energy to entertain anyone. Mainly however, I kept looking at the weather and it showed that Friday morning was going to be a perfect morning for a ride. I didn’t want to ride a heavy red plastic board. I wanted to ride Faith.

I was driving home when I was having these thoughts of wanting to cancel and as soon as I realized that the main reason I wanted to cancel was because I wanted to use MY board I heard that still small voice whisper “It isn’t always easy sharing your faith”. Now it says in the Psalm 94:11 that the Lord knows peoples thoughts and I believe it because my first thought was “I want to use my own board” and the second thought was the one about sharing my faith.

I smiled because I knew the Lord was teaching me something. It’s true. It’s not always easy sharing your faith. Sometimes it’s scary because we don’t want to be rejected, or offensive, or sound downright nuts. It’s not always convenient either. Sharing your faith takes time. You need to invest time into someone and let them know that they are loved and that you are not just trying to offer them some quick fix, but a real relationship with a real person. And sometimes, just like with my friend, you need to go back and share your faith over and over again with someone who’s life keeps blowing them off course.

No, sharing your faith isn’t easy, or convenient, but it was never meant to be. It is however what we are called to do. I find that so often I am pretty selfish with my Jesus, just like how I was feeling about my paddle board. I want it all to myself and I don’t have time for others.

About fifteen minutes later my friend text me and said she wasn’t feeling well and that she may not make it over in the morning. After my revelation on faith, I was truly disappointed. I wanted to be generous. I wanted to see her. I know she is struggling with some things and I wanted to encourage her. If I had received that text earlier in the day I would have been happy, but now I was bummed.

My friend didn’t end up coming over. I did however go paddle boarding with the neighbor girl. We have wanted to go together since I got my board but it’s never worked out. We were out for almost two hours, and guess what- I got to share my faith with her. Not my board, but my real faith. She loves the Lord but she had some questions and it was such a blessing to be able to speak with her and share my faith with her. I smile at how God orchestrates these things.

Girls, God is good and He is faithful. I know you know that, but I bet you know someone that doesn’t know that. I encourage you to step out of your comfort level and allow yourself to be inconvenienced so that you may share your faith. I promise you it will bless you as much as the person you share it with. You don’t need to worry about the outcome. Let God do that. The Word tells us we need to share our faith, it doesn’t say “and if you don’t save them than shame on you!”

I would love to be encourage by your bold faith!If you have a story to share about sharing your faith, or having someone share theirs with you, please enter in a comment or fill out the contact page.

Worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 1 Peter 3:15 NLT

Love, Grace, and a Faith Sharing Day to You All,

Jen

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