More than Enough

I watched two of my favorite kiddos last Friday. We ate pizza, drank Fresca and talked about life through an eight year old’s eyes. After dinner we played a memory game. The three year old won. “More!” They said. I declined once was enough and I promised their mom they would be in bed by a certain hour. “Can we sing Jingle Bells first?” The eight year old asked. I nodded. She started Glee’s version of Jingle Bells we sang and danced around the house ending in a ring a round the rosie circle complete with the fall to the floor. “More!” They shouted. ” No more time for bed,” I told them. They groaned a little, but went to put on their pj’s. I won’t go into details about the bedtime stories. I read two, of course they wanted three. I laughed with their parents later on how kids are never satisfied. It seems to be their nature.

The next week the Lord made me aware of my own nature. I noticed it in my second cup of coffee, because the first was so good. I went for two (three) cookies, because they went well with my coffee. My lunch break I wished was ten more minutes so I could finish the chapter in my book. When I woke up the next day even though I had over eight hours of sleep I instantly wanted nine. Going back to work I wanted one more day to get stuff done around the house. I was losing joy, because I was not thankful for what was given, but sulky over what was witheld.

In light of the Lord showing me how I’m always tugging at His arm for more blessings I have been trying to be content as I wrestle with myself that I don’t need more, because He is more than enough.

Phillipians 4:11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

-b

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Growing Pains

I just want to grow.

When I was kid my mom had the prettiest flower bed on the street.

Let me give you a little context:

– I lived in her house

– I ate her food

– I wore the clothes she bought for me

-She drove me everywhere

Yes this is what moms are supposed to do, but by no means did she have to do everything for me that she did. My mom always went above and beyond. I am truly blessed. She asked me one thing in return as I sat at home day in and day out over my summer breaks: Take care of the garden. Which meant two things:

1. Pull the weeds
2. Water the flowers

EVERYDAY

This was a lot to ask. I had tons of cereal to eat and a lot of television to watch. Taking care of the garden in the 90 degree weather wasn’t on top of my priority list. But I felt that I owed my mom something. So I made the smallest effort possible. Every other day I would water the flowers for approximately 5 seconds.

Mom would come in the afternoons asking if I watered them. I would always reply “yes”. She would then mumble something about them looking wilty and go water them again. Every few days she would ask if I had pulled the weeds. My reply was “yes”. Then she would have me come outside and look at all the dandelions and purpley flowers that were taking away the sun and water from the flowers she had so tenderly planted. “If you pulled them, why are they still growing?” My reply went something like this: “I don’t know” pathetic shrug. My mom being the wise woman she is asked me to show her how I pulled the weeds. I reached low and snapped off the stem. ” Well there’s your problem,” she said. “Silly girl you aren’t pulling them up by the root.”

Friends today I feel like the flower in that untended bed. I feel lost in a seed of weeds which are the enemy’s lies. They block the light and still my water. These weeds sound something like this:

” You can’t open a business. It will fail.”

” He doesn’t like you. He would be better off with her. She’s a better catch.”

” God doesn’t have good things for you. If you want something you have to take it.”

These are all lies. If I listen to them too long my faith begins to wilt. I feel weak and begin to believe them. God is a loving caretaker. He sent someone much better than lazy me to tend and keep his garden. He sent Jesus. Through Jesus everyday I’m able to get a fresh dose of water. His mercies are new every morning.

Don’t be lazy. Learn from Jesus how to be diligent in keeping your garden. One of the main reasons I let the weeds grow was because I didn’t see their harm. Yellow dandelions look an awful lot like flowers. Now I realize you have to pull them up completley. There is no room in the garden for even one little root of a lie. If you let it stay it will breed many more. Eventually if left unchecked it will kill everything you worked so hard to grow.

As these lies are being uprooted from my heart I can feel that their roots have become intertwined with mine. This makes pulling them out hurt A LOT. However I’m thankful to have Jesus to tend to me. What would this garden be without Him? He’s teaching me to discern between the lies and the truth. Now I’m able to catch lies more quickly which makes uprooting them much easier. This whole scenario reminds me of Matthew 13:24 -30 .
Tend to your gardens friends as Jesus does.

EVERYDAY we must

1. Pull out the lies through prayer
2. Water our hearts through the word

This will culitvate an unending desire to grow.

What are some of the weeds in your life?

The Good Fight

Have you ever known someone who grew up in a war zone? They can probably tell you stories of falling asleep to the sound of crashing bombs. They know people who walk around with melded flesh under their shirts from getting to close to a grenade. More than likely they have friends or family who were kidnapped and are still missing. For years fear ruled their every step. People who grow up in the midst of war have an almost incurable sense of hopelessness. The only hope they have is to get out. To find a safe place.

Do you know anyone who has lived a life like this? I do. These stories are true and weigh on me in numerous ways. They should weigh on you as well, because we all know more about leaving in a war zone than we would like. It may not be like what is going on in the Middle East. But everyday people are deeply wounded by the enemy, their sins, and the sins of others. We are all in the same fight. The one for our souls. No where is immune from this war. The only place that is safe is with our saviour Jesus Christ.

Maybe “go to Jesus” sounds too “spiritual” for you, but it is true. For the majority of my life I grew up unable to believe in God, because I didn’t believe that anything could be good. I had no hope. Jesus in His unimaginable grace saw me broken and alone left to die on the battlefield. He sent people to my side. By trusting in Him I woke up someone new, as someone with hope. That this war will end. Jesus has been carefully tending, and healing each of my wounds. Now I have a choice. I can hang back where it is safe, or I can go back out into the battle.

Christian do you ever think about the people who are still out there? The ones losing these fights against the flesh. These aren’t just sins that put them on the nice or naughty list. They are sins that are taking them further away from the truth of Christ, and could cost them their eternal lives.

Would you leave the person you love the most in danger? I hope you wouldn’t. If you could get to them to save them you would do everything you could, even if that meant your own life. That’s what Jesus did for us. He gave up everything glorious, safe, and comfortable to come onto earth’s battlefield and save as many people as would listen. Are we following His example? Not just for the ones we love, but the ones He loves. Today I am greatly convicted that I have been pushing away the knowledge of this ongoing war too long. Convincing myself that I have suffered enough and shouldn’t have to go back out there. Reasoning that I don’t need to pay attention to the grocery store clerk, hairdresser, single mom because someone else who is a better example of Christ will do it. What a selfish fool I have been.

In Romans 1 God calls us to make disciples. If we are saved in Christ we don’t have a choice our life is not our own. It is His. We owe Him our lives. Today I am convicted of good friends that I have chosen to forget about. Thankfully the Lord hasn’t forgotten them. He died for them. These friends are in dark places. So deep into the war zone they think that it is the only life there is, they are giving up. I know there is hope for them. With the armor of God I’m running to them hoping against hope that the Lord will prepare their hearts for the message of the gospel.

Let me be clear. I can’t fix them. They don’t need me. I’m no hero. Jesus is. The way we fight is by bringing truth. We can’t change people’s hearts. The gospel is what changes a man. However if we are not preaching it who will?

Jesus knew he would die when he came into earth’s battle. To Him it was worth the cost. He came for me. He came for you. As Christians are we going to leave the ones He died for out suffering on the battefield? If we are Christs we know that we must go to them. Friends today is that day. Please pray with me for the ones who are still lost. Have faith for those people we have given up on. Let’s hope, pray, and fast for them together. They can’t get back to safety on their own. The only peace that they will ever know in this world is the peace of Christ. As long as we are on this earth let’s make it a good fight.

This blog was inspired by this week’s sermon by Mark Driscoll. Listen to it here.

Deal With It.

My body has a “numb mode.” I can shut-off all emotion. Going numb is how I’ve handled car accidents, divorces, betrayals, disappointments and loss. Why do I cope this way? I don’t want to burden anyone else with my problems. So I keep telling myself, I can handle it. However, instead of dealing with these situations, I lock the door on the issue. Right now, the Lord is waiting patiently for me to let him into these locked rooms. Ones that I have kept tightly shut for years.

How do you cope with things? We all have our ways of “Keeping Calm and Carrying On.” Think back to a hard time in your life. How did you get through it? Did you lock God out?

Here are some suggestions on dealing:

Write it out – Some things hurt too much. Take your pen and write the words you can’t say. Be honest with God “I think this person’s intentions were…” “Lord why are you testing me in this way?” “ How can you love us, and hurt us?” Have you ever not been able to say something to a person, but can write a note or FB message? Same thing with prayer. No matter which form you take, He answers in the same way.

Tell someone
– First take it to God, then have someone else help you sort out your feelings. It is not a badge of honor that you don’t need any help. Dealing with something well, does not mean doing it alone. If you aren’t sharing what you are going through, the enemy will manipulate you. It puts him in a position to steal your hope.

Crying is not weakness – Cry it out. Jesus did. God helps those who are weak. The Lord gave us tears to help us express emotions that have no words. By refusing to cry you are hardening a part of yourself that the Lord installed in us speicfically for coping. When Joesph was mourning the death of his father he and the rest of the country took seventy days to do it! Resist the urge to skip the tears, and fast forward to, “I’m fine.”

All of us have been some tough times. To build community we need to share our struggles, and take time to help others with theirs. You have a choice to either carry past hurts your whole life leaving you bitter, and broken or you can give Jesus the keys to our locked rooms. Don’t let these things become a breeding ground for insecurity, and distrust. Time can not heal all things, but God will if we let him in.

Erasing the Pain

This video by Tenth Avenue North is beautiful. Please watch it here. As a Christian I want to dispel the myth that we are out of touch with the pain of the world. Know that, we struggle with the same deep sins rooted in our hearts that you do. We understand why you want to numb pain with alcohol. We get why you are chasing that job promotion so you can finally feel valuable. Mostly we know that deep longing in your heart that just wants to be completely known and loved. That is the same longing every human has. The Lord made that heart. He certainly knows what it is struggling with.

Friends whatever your sin is put it on the board. Let God erase it. Certainly I can relate to some of those words in the video. Please don’t do what I did for so long and define yourself by sin. For years I built my identity on gossip, haughtiness, and exploiting my body. This was who I was. Then I met Jesus, and He showed me that these were the things that I was hiding behind. Let God show you who you truly are. From one sinner to another, I promise through Him “you are more…”

For Christina

On September 11, 2001 Christina Taylor was born. On Saturday January 8th 2011 she was killed by a bullet through her small chest in Arizona. In senseless shootings such as this Columbine, Little Rock, Oklahoma City, and multiple others the same question remains: Who is to blame? Surely, something has set countless murders off. So whose responsibility is it? The makers of our gun laws? The parents who raised the shooter? What about the old man who sells the gun, or the college girl at Walmart who helped him purchase the bullets? Maybe we should all blame the media for their sensational stories that promise some kind of sick glory to anyone who is able to pull the trigger.

All I can say is I know the only person guiltless is God himself. When things like this happen it is not a time to shout blame at God. But, realize how much we need him in this fallen world. Our Jesus is the King of Peace. Even upon his capture to be taken to the cross he tells his disciple who wounds in his defense to put down the sword.

For awhile I have considered whether or not to get my right to carry. After this most recent shooting I’ve decided to not act on that right. This brutality has to stop somewhere. I can’t speak to if it is right as a country to have freedom to carry a fire arm or not. I’m not sure what the long term effects could be if we take away the guns, or if the tragedies will continue to escalate if we keep them. The only thing I can do is put complete trust in my safety to the Lord as long as He has me here, and this means I will never have any need of a gun. By no means am I trying to start a political debate, or tell you what to do. This is just a step in my own life to stop blaming, and start taking responsibility for why parents keep losing their children, and loved ones. The Lord keeps reminding me that there are quite a few Is in responsibility. What are some ways in your own life you can make an impact on our violent culture? My heart breaks for Christina and the other victims’ families. Please join me for praying for everyone involved. Our Lord is a great comforter.

Note: As Christians we will have to make hard, and what some people may consider “dangerous” decisions for the sake of the gospel. This is what living in truth is, lining every part of our lives under Christ. GK Chesterton put it like this: ” Jesus promised His disciples three things-that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.” I would love to pray with you or talk to you more about any of these issues. Please feel free to e-mail me at epplebrooke@yahoo.com or comment here on the blog.

Getting Direction

There are a lot of people blessed with a strong sense of orientation. I am not one of them. Knowing this I’ve adjusted to my lack of direction. I leave 15 minutes early when going anywhere new, because it is not a question of if I will get lost, it is when. After, a couple of U-turns and stopping at the local gas station to gain my bearings I arrive.

To me getting lost out on the road is no big deal. I know I will get there eventually. However, I am completely opposite in the journey of life. It makes me anxious to not know exactly what turn to take next. Slowly the Lord is opening my eyes telling me not to be afraid of wrong turns here’s why:

1. You never know who you’ll meet on the journey
2. Where He wants you is where you’ll be
3. They are how we learn the way

Now, instead of being independent and telling the Lord what I am going to do. He is teaching me to be dependent, and ask Him which way is best.

I know you wish I would send you a Garmin that told you the exact route to meeting your spouse, success, or happiness. We both know it won’t happen:)

Those things while blessings in life are not our destination. The kingdom is. Who knows the way better than our great Creator? Humble yourselves friends. Ask for direction. He is always happy to help. Forge ahead in faith and enjoy the ride ❤

The Race

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

In high school I was all about running track. So it comes as no surprise that the Lord is teaching me through this well noted verse. After reading it, I kept turning over the words “set before us.” Last night I came to the realization that I have been running a lot of races that the Lord has not put in front of me. Meaning I have been competing for prizes that are not the crown of righteousness. Here are a few examples:

-Having the best career

-Most fashionable

-Being the most creative

-Having more friends

-Needing the least amount of help

As silly as they are I’m sad to say the list goes on. These pick-up races are things that take our eyes of the goal. They are like a treadmill, keeping you busy, but always in the same spot. Think about it. Are you mentally exhausted all the time? Do you want to shut everything out? Are constantly frustrated that you are not good enough? Maybe you too are competing in these made up competitions.

Here is my encouragement: Drop out. I’m not saying don’t try your best in whatever the Lord puts in front of you. What I am saying is stop comparing, and being competitive with your brothers and sisters. There is no need, and no gain. When you put all of your energy into finishing the race that God has set before you, life has a lot more peace. You are able to have real community instead of scheming on how to outdo your neighbor. All in all you are content.

Thank the Lord, Christ has won the only victory that matters. Remembering this I am turning around and running the way I should have been going the whole time, towards Him. Ready…set…

Exciting Times

If you have been within five feet of me in the last three days you have heard me talk about the song “The Dog Days are Over” by Florence and the Machine. A good friend of mine posted a blog inspired by the band earlier this month. Needless to say I have fallen in love with them too. (Thanks Jaz).

Here are the lyrics:
The dog days are over.The dog days are done.
The horses are coming so you better run
Run fast for your mother
Run fast for your father
Run for your children and your sisters and brothers
Leave all your love and your loving behind you
Can’t carry it with you if you want to survive

What’s so great about this? It makes me excited for what is to come. As a Christian we are often told ” Live each day as if the Lord is coming.” We don’t. It’s hard to to wrap our minds around a prospective God when the daily grind is so monotonous. The chorus of Florence’s song takes me out of the now, and makes me think about the blessed day we are all waiting for.

Here is a glimpse of what comes to mind: Running so fast it hurts. The pain is numbed by the great thing that is driving you. You scream and you yell in sheer joy on the way to tell your parents, siblings, friends, even strangers that we are going home. ” It’s over! He’s come back for us! We are not alone! He’s here!” The smile on your face can no longer be taken. All has been put right. The sound of rejoicing and clapping fills the air. The King has come for His church. Can you see it?

There is my interpretation of the song. I have no clue what the thing is really about. All I know is God is using it to encourage me that there is still time to share the truth before His arrival. The time is near. How exciting it is!

All I want …

We all want something. Isn’t that why Christmas is so appealing? Once a year we finally have a legitimate excuse to voice our desires. If we are honest we know our requests aren’t truly about the stuff. They are about hope. Somewhere in our heart we believe that a dress will make us beautiful, this car will raise our status or a ring will mean love. We hope for something better. All we want is that one thing that will make it happen. Why do we hide behind our lists of demands instead of asking the Lord outright for love, acceptance, or comfort? The things He longs to give us.

Everyone whether they believe it or not knows that the Christmas holiday started with Jesus. What is so special about His story? Well, imagine if you always put others above yourself. Being content in the place you are in. You didn’t have to fight to get ahead. Pride wasn’t an armor you had to wear. What if you never had anything to hide? Admitting weakness was O.K. You never had to lie. There wasn’t ever a question if there would be enough to sustain you. Popularity was just a passing fad. And at the end of everyday you slept well knowing that there was hope. That there really was a God who loved you more than you could ever deserve. If this was reality, what could you ever want? You wouldn’t need stuff to lead a life of happiness; you would be fully satisfied in the Lord, as we were made to be.

This is the impossibly perfect life that Jesus lived. Today I am remember that He lived a life of hope. A life we can’t live without Him. Realizing this, I am once again coming to the understanding that I don’t just want Jesus in my life I NEED Him. What we all need is a savior, and hallelujah, are Great Lord has provided. In 2011 my prayer for you is to stop living for your wants and recognize your greatest need. The love of Christ.

Jesus conquered this life, and redeemed it for us all. Through His death we can live our lives in the same way. What a gift.