Thoughts and Prayers

You know the standard saying, “My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.” It’s one of those nice things you say to someone who’s lost a loved one, maybe a parent or a family pet. It provides a little tiny bit of comfort in the midst of sadness. When I lost my mom, many said this in their own words. So many different combinations of the same saying. Some people offered their help, but I wasn’t sure how or what they could do to bring my mom back, or to alleviate even an ounce of the pain.

But losing my mom to cancer seems to be a drop in a bucket compared to the oceans we’re experiencing with these recent mass shootings. When will the turmoil of killing innocent people end? Thoughts and prayers are just a starting point, but what we need to see is action and change. Without these things, nothing will change other than the location and number of deaths. This past weekend, it was a church and 26 dead. Next week, who knows where and how many will lose their life prematurely.

More than words..

We are quick to talk. We are quick to pray to God, especially during these difficult times. We think if we have a list of prayer requests and pray daily that we’re good. Like God loves us and we did our part. But I think we’re missing the major point of prayer. It’s not a one-sided conversation where we blab our problems (and sometimes praises) to God and hope that He fixes everything. Actually, even more importantly, prayer is meant to open our ears, mind, and heart. This way we can listen and hear God when He tells us what to do. The answer is rarely “sit and wait,” although it may be in certain situations. But when it comes to something so epic and life-altering like 307 mass shootings in the USA this year so far, I feel like more than nothing is needed.

The irony

thoughts and prayersYesterday, as I was sitting in a church not very different than the First Baptist church of Sutherland Springs, Pastor Chuck was speaking on evil, the devil, and the fallen world. The Fallen Worlds consists of the evil within us, the evil around us, and the evil above us. There are four tactics of the evil one that leads to him winning in this fallen world. He uses doubt, temptation, deception, and accusation to get inside our heads and make us feel like we’re the evil ones.

But know that with God we can conquer anything. With the right tools, we can stand our ground and say “Not today Satan.” With the Belt of Truth, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Shoes of the Gospel, the Helmet of Salvation, the Shield of Faith, and the Sword of the Spirit we rise above evil and are protected from the Devil himself. Unfortunately, this past Sunday, for one man he succumbed to evil and chose to take the lives of as many church members as he could, and then his own life.

No panacea?

universal-health-care-1095124_1920.pngIs there a cure to this madness? Can we stop these mass shootings from happening? Is it the guns or the mental illnesses? Or is it terrorism? Whatever you may think the cause is, it all roots back to evil. And without God, there is no hope. But on the same token, we can’t just think and pray away this. We must act. Pray, think, be quiet, listen, then do. God calls us as Christians to go above and beyond for our fellow man. We can’t just sit by the sidelines and hope for a miracle. We have to be the miracle.

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What faith means to me

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Some common questions I get from friends, family, and acquaintances:

  • Why are you not more angry over what happened to you?
  • How is it that you’re happy despite everything you’ve been through?
  • How is it you continue to believe in God even after He took away everything you wanted?
  • How do you find your strength and courage?

I’m here to tell you that this journey I’ve been on, the one I call faith, has not been the easiest one. It has had it’s ups and downs, and I fully expect it to for the rest of my life. A quick look at my history within the Christian realm:

I was raised Catholic. For three elementary school years, I attended two different Catholic schools. The three years were miserable, with the third taking the cake. My mom listened and showed me grace by placing me in the local public school starting in 4th grade. But no fear as I continued CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) through middle school. Basically, continuing education for Catholics. After I graduated high school and went away to college, I decided to officially stop pretending to be Catholic and leave religion for the old ladies with rosaries.

During my first semester in college, I dated a guy who wanted me to “know Jesus” so I dumped him. #byefelicia. By the second semester, I was lost, alone, and sad. Someone invited me to a bible study, and I went mostly to just make friends. Through the small group, I started making some amazing friends. And I discovered Campus Crusade for Christ. While I was a part of the small group, I didn’t really get into Cru until my sophomore year. Through this small group and the amazing things I did with Cru, I accepted Jesus as my savior and chose to have a relationship with Him. The rest is history. But like I said, it hasn’t been an easy journey. At times, I’ve fallen away from my faith, but I’ve always had my belief in God to fall back on. A crutch, if you will. Even when I disobey, I still feel His love.

But I never needed it as much as I’ve needed it over the past two years. Through the death of a parent, a divorce, a life-changing move and now marathon training, I’ve never felt closer to God. And that’s where I am now.

This past week, we celebrated our 5th birthday at my church (Free Church) and this amazing pastor Brett Jones visited us and had an amazing message. And it’s too good to keep inside. So this is my version of it. Welcome to my mind. Make yourself comfortable, today we go deep.

(Genesis 22:1-14)

It’s important for us to know that not every test comes from Satan. The life of a Christian should be expanded and grown upon. For example, one way to know if someone is ready to be passed from one grade to the next is to test them. God doesn’t test you to break you. He tests you to prove you. The difference between temptation and test: Satan tempts you. God tests you. One is to destroy you, the other is to promote you.

A sure way to wreck your life is to think you can take everybody with you. God calls you for your assignment and you alone must go. Some people need to stay with the donkey (Genesis 22:5). Don’t try to take them where they don’t have grace to go. Abraham knew that something was going to happen on that mountain that the young men he was with couldn’t handle. There are some places that only you and your sacrifice can go.

Most of the time there isn’t a crowd when God proves himself to you. God will allow you to prove yourself and He will rewrite the story after your proving ground. If you’ll give God your stuff, He’ll give you His stuff. This story in the Bible introduces one of the greatest themes of the Bible: substitution. Abraham and Isaac met God on a hill outside of Jerusalem. Abraham saw a lamb (substitution), Jesus was the lamb.

Jesus was crucified on the same hill where God tested Abraham, just thousands of years apart. As Abraham climbed that hill, his thoughts centered around the death of his only son. As God climbed that hill, his thoughts centered around how amazing Abraham was and his amazing will to pass the test He was placing on him. His faith led him to where God wanted him. God tied up a lamb to replace Isaac as the sacrifice. And Abraham had no idea this all was in store for him, he just took a step in faith.

Are you living in faith or fear? Do you check everything before taking every step? Do you over-analyze everything going on? God sees the whole picture. He is the author of our story, and He has the ability to rewrite it. Even if you feel like you’re destined to live without God, anything is possible. Even if you feel too evil, or too far from Jesus, He still loves and chooses you. If you’re interested in learning more about what I believe in, reach out to me. This is just a tiny snippet of my story, and my story is still being written.

Lots of love,

Jen