Keep Going

Keep Going(As recently posted on Arrows, blogsite of Pastor Laura Koke, co-Pastor of Shoreline Church in Austin, TX. To read her blogposts as well as posts by guest writers, go to http://www.pastorlaura.com.)

My daughter is very persistent. If she wants something she will ask for it again and again each time hoping she will hear the answer she is longing for. While we have to shape this trait in her right now to steer it into a positive direction, we recognize this tendency is a positive one that will take her far in life.

Many of the key people of The Bible had this same thread woven through the fabric of their lives. Abraham and Sarah persisted through years of infertility. Moses persisted through a stubborn pharaoh’s hardened heart. David persisted through years of tending sheep and running for his life after he was anointed the next king. The Israelites persisted in marching around the wall of Jericho for seven days.

All of the people mentioned held a promise from God. All of them faced a reality far different from that promise for many years of their lives.

Have you ever wondered –

  • What if Abraham and Sarah gave up on trying to conceive a baby?
  • What if Moses stopped at the ninth plague?
  • What if David threw in the towel; deciding it wasn’t worth the wait and trouble?
  • What if the Israelites stopped marching on day six?

None of these people stopped short of the prize. They kept going. They persevered.

Hebrews 10:23 says, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” These amazing hall-of-faith people modeled this in their lives. They believed God would do what He said He would do.

For me, it’s not hard to see where my daughter’s persevering personality comes from. After three boys and generations of no girls born into the family, we were told by countless people it was unlikely we would ever have a girl. And yet, I held a dream in my heart time wasn’t taking away. I believed God placed that dream there and He could do anything to bring it to pass. And when Kylie FAITH entered this world, I was so thankful I never gave up.

What promise of God are you holding onto? Whatever it is, my prayer for you is that no matter what you see happening in the natural you will keep going, keep moving forward, keep hoping, keep pressing on, and whatever you do — never, ever give up.

Amy O’Donnell

© Copyright March 5th, 2014

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Yes You Can

Yes-You-Can

You have it within you to be who God has called you to be.

You have it within you to rise above your circumstances.

You have it within you to forgive, heal, and move forward in freedom.

You have it within you to begin again.

You have it within you to do all of these things, and more, because the God of the Universe, who’s head over heals in love with you, dwells on the inside of you & has given you everything you need for life and Godliness!

Believe! Live. Dream. Love. Go.

You can do ALL things through Christ who gives you STRENGTH! (Phil 4:13)

Let Jesus Enter Your Mess

I have four kids. Three of them are boys. To say they are messy sometimes is an understatement. And some of them are messier than others.

My middle two boys share a room, because my third son does not like to sleep in his own room. It works out well for that reason, as well as for making them closer friends. But it does mean two people coexist in one room, making it twice as messy, especially if they have that tendency… and they do! I make them clean their room, but I am aware they have stashes and what they consider clean and what I consider clean are two very different things.

A couple of weeks ago they started mentioning they saw moths in their room. I thought, “oh, it’s probably just one or two, no big deal. It will take care of itself.” But time went on, and they kept complaining about it. So, finally this past week on one of my trips past their door, I glanced in, and I saw several little moths flying around; enough that I was alarmed! So in I went and then set out to clean their room. First, I removed all clothing and fabric items from sight and availability, except the curtains – taking dirty clothes down, putting clean clothes away. Then I removed all stashes of piles they tried to hide from sight, and when I got to the curtains I realized they were crumpled with the bottoms resting in pools of fabric on the TV stand beneath the window. I shook them out and little moths flew everywhere. Then I looked down and saw a ‘big daddy’ moth dead on the floor. Nice! When I got to the closet, I brought in a big box and announced I was getting rid of just about everything, toys included, with few exceptions… if they wanted to save anything, they’d have to be quick about it! As I cleaned – I saw remnants of the hamster maze they had set up months ago and hamster food still on the carpet, along with the ants that had found it. Wow! From there, I started cleaning around and under one of their beds where I found a cup with a cheeto (when did I last buy cheetos??), candy wrappers, pieces of food bars, old water bottles, stinky socks, crumbs and oh, so much more! I kept on, until their room was spotless, cleaned from top to bottom. Along the way – I was vacuuming up flying moths with the hose, having the kids swat at them with fly swatters. It was a full on battle, and I planned to win it!

The truth is, I didn’t enter in to their mess to clean it because I had to. I didn’t do it because they earned my service. I did it because I love them and want the best for them in every way. I want them to flourish and be healthy and be surrounded by a safe environment. I went in and made that room like new, restoring it to its original state, for their benefit. All for love!

In the same way as my boy’s room, our lives can get messy, and Jesus is willing and desperately wants to enter in to our mess and cleanse us and make us new. He wants to restore us, heal us and set us free of our messes – all for love!

There is no mess too big. There is nothing beyond his repair, nothing he can not do. He is a God who can do exceedingly, abundantly more than all we can ask, dream, or imagine according to his power that is at work within us, as it says in Ephesians 3:20.  When his healing power meets our mess and we surrender it to him, the mess has to go. His grace and empowerment permeate our hearts and transform us from the inside out, changing the way we live in every area of life.

Our mess can be past mistakes, or the residue and pain of things done to us, or things we have done to others. It can be false beliefs, or feeling unloved, unwanted, rejected, or beyond repair or forgiveness. Our messiness can come from old hurts, habits and hang ups that we just can’t seem to get past… or any combination of the above. And the Bible is pretty clear that none of us are exempt from the mess that comes from living in a fallen world. As Romans 3:23 says, we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And for all of us, there is hope because of our Savior. Jesus wants to heal us at every level, he wants to flood our hearts with his love – chasing out any lies that we are unlovable, unworthy, chase away the residue of our past, and He wants to remind us who we are in him.

Once we surrender our lives to Christ, we become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus takes on our sin and makes us the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21), and no matter what we have walked through or will walk through, we know that we are more than conquerors through Christ (Romans 8:37)!

On our end, all we have to do is surrender our lives to Christ inviting Him in to our hearts, our lives, and our mess – like my kids invited me into their room. My power, at work in their room, made it like new. God’s power, at work in our hearts, makes us new. He sweeps out the cobwebs of our mind and floods our hearts with new life, new hope, and new peace. It’s not just a one time renewal, but a daily work of his power in our lives.

I have been a Christian for many years. Born into a ministry family, baptized at the age of twelve, yet it seems it’s only been the last few years that I have finally realized I will never arrive, never be without faults, nor will I ever have it all together, this side of heaven. I say, “I am a work in progress until the day I die.” That takes the pressure off me, as it reminds me that it’s God’s cleansing, healing work in his timing, by his power! And I, like all of us when we turn our lives over, become his workmanship according to Ephesians 2:10, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared for us to do.

That word workmanship is actually translated from the Greek word poema, or poem. We are God’s poem, his masterpiece. Not only does he clean us up and make us new as we yield to him, He also makes us into something beautiful. That’s manly beautiful, for you guys who are reading this! He turns our mess into our message; a message of hope for a hurting world, pointing them to Jesus, the only answer.

If you have not yet surrendered your life to Jesus, I hope you will do that today. Invite him in to every room of your mind, share it all, and talk to him about it all. After all, he already knows everything about you, and still loves you unconditionally. Then let him begin his new work in you. It’s an adventure like no other, with peace that knows no end. And it’s yours… all you have to do is open the door, and invite him in.

Happily Ever After

Recently, Kylie and I had a chance to watch a movie together, just the two of us. We don’t get these opportunities very often. Typically at least one of the guys are with us and of course, when they are, we aren’t often able to watch a full-out girly girl movie, at least without a battle. So on this rarest of days, we seized the moment and picked the movie “Enchanted”.

If you aren’t familiar with Enchanted, it’s a super cute movie about a princess from an animated fairy tale land, where there are no troubles or worries; that is, until her soon to be mother in law fears losing the throne after her son marries. To protect it, she banishes the princess to real live New York City, where she has to quickly find support in simply surviving. She stumbles across a man (surprise 🙂 ) who feels compassion for her and takes her in. Over time, they fall  in love and she realizes he is her one true love, and they marry and live – ‘Happily Ever After.’ Her prince charming from fairy tale land, who had followed her to New York City, also met the girl of his dreams, and she followed him back to animated world where they also marry and live ‘Happily Ever After’. So for all, it was a happy ending!

As it wrapped, I was reminded how much I still love happily ever after endings. I think it’s because, I’m a girly – girl and a hopeless romantic. As I pondered it, I couldn’t help but feel joy in thinking my story would end with a happily ever after ending, as would anyone else’s in Christ. We know we will go to Heaven one day and live for all eternity with our one true love!

As comforting as that is to me, and as much as I treasure that thought. I still can lose sight of it in the day-to-day realities of life. For example, David and I have been through a lot this past year. As I talked with my mother in law about it all recently, who is by the way, much nicer than the one in Enchanted, I told her how I feel sometimes we are living an amazing God story, and I just want to be able to turn the page and read what happens next. I know the end is good, but I just wish I could glance ahead a page, or even a chapter or two and see what God has in store in the time between now and then.

It’s that not knowing, that makes faith so important. We have to trust God with the unseen future and difficult trials. While we can’t know each season before it unfolds, and even what life holds for us on any given day; we do know the one who holds every day and every season of our life, and with Him we know that no matter what comes our way He promises to work all things out for good for those who love Him.. (Romans 8:28).

So as we wait for our happily ever after ending to come, we live this amazing God adventure with faith, surrendered hearts and hope, knowing that ultimately God has the final say in all things. He is faithful to complete everything He begins, to bring beauty for ashes, to never give up on us and to love us with out end. For me, knowing how faithful God is makes each day a joyous God adventure.

I hope the same is true for you. As you look ahead to new chapters, new seasons, and even to what this day holds, I hope you will trust God with each moment and allow Him to lead you step by step. When unexpected twists and turns pop up, when a chapter ends, when the plot changes, keep your eyes on Jesus and remember God will work all things out for your good! Now, go!

Copyright © 2012 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved.

13 Roses

Like many girls, I grew up enamored by the kind of love seen in fairy tales, the happily ever after endings; good always winning out over evil. But in my own life, as the childhood years passed, I grew less and less sure that ‘happily ever after’ endings really existed, it seemed each time love came my way –the enemy was hell bent on stealing that love, or at least trying to rob me of the joy of it.

 I remember when I was in the 8th grade; I was the new girl in school. I was nervous about whether or not I would fit in and make friends. As it turns out, my newness made me very visible; I made friends quickly and even had caught the eyes of some the good-looking boys. When Valentine’s Day rolled around, I was surprised to receive 13 Roses from an assortment of admirers, more than any of the other 8th grade girls. The roses had been orderable through the school the week prior to Valentine’s Day, and I had no idea I’d receive any, much less so many! I was on cloud 9. By the end of the day though, I was in a totally different place…a few girls who didn’t appreciate me getting so much attention, spread a rumor that I had bought all of the roses for myself. I was crushed. The joy of the moment was gone, and I think I cried off and on for three days.

 It’s a cute story now of something that happened many years ago, but the pattern of it has repeated itself in different ways through out my days, and until I realized a valuable truth, each painful experience seemed to close my heart a little more to love; driving me to unhealthy ways to try and fill the void I felt.

 The roller coaster reactions to the ups and downs of love from imperfect people, and the unhealthy things I did to try to fill the voids created by a closed off heart began to change when I realized at a heart level something critically important – that truth I mentioned earlier – I realized that I am loved perfectly, unconditionally, unfailingly by the creator of the Universe, and His love is more than enough! It’s the only source of love that can satisfy the deep longings of our hearts and promise a ‘happily ever after’ ending. I also found total freedom in the fact that nothing could separate me from that love; no one could rob me of it – just as it says in Romans 8: 38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 Whatever you are facing today, I just want to remind you that God loves you. His love is enough for you. No one can take it away. He wants the best for your life. For those who come to him through Jesus, he promises to work all things out for good. He wants to mend and repair the hurts in your heart. He wants to meet you in your place of need and lead you from there to paths of victory.

Held

I remember when each of my kids were learning to walk. I would prop them on their feet, wrap their tiny fingers around mine, hold tightly and then encourage them to take steps. At first they could only walk if they held my hands, but it seemed like in no time at all, they had gained the strength and courage to let go and toddle across the room on their own.

In each of their first years, there were many times I felt like I was holding my breath as they began to let go of my hands and fearlessly explore new territories. With each stumble and fall, my heart seemed to skip a beat as I would run over, to wipe away tears and help them to get back on their feet again! And those moments were foreshadowing for what was to come. In the years that have followed, I have had plenty of breath holding, letting go moments… when we took the training wheels off their bikes, on each of their first days of kindergarten or their first time away from home over night. When my oldest entered middle school and later high school, I felt those butterfly feelings again, and I could tell this aspect of parenting would not be an easy one – training them to step out along the path God has for them without me by their side, to hold their hands along the way, and pick them up when they fall.

The reality is, I can not live out my parenting days holding my breath as my kids grow and mature, and as a human I am limited in my ability to extend my reach wherever life leads each of them. I simply can not hold their hand every step of the way, but what David and I can do, is train them up in the way they should go and teach them to grab hold of the hand that will uphold them, steady them and never let them go – and that’s the loving, gracious hand of God.

Psalm 37:23-24 (NLT) paints a beautiful picture of what walking hand in hand with our Heavenly Father looks like. It says, “The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will not fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.”

 Isn’t it wonderful to know that no matter how old we are, we have the hand of God available to us at all times? There is no more fruitful, joy-filled way to live than in a life of surrender to God, placing all we are into his grasp, and allowing him to lead us each step of the way. When we stumble, He won’t let go – he picks us back up, dusts us off, kisses our aches and pains – and lead us down the path that leads to life.

 Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved

But God

Can you imagine sailing through life thinking you were living right, maybe even passionately pursuing God the best way you know how… only to find you were off track? In the bible, we can read about a man named Saul who lived the early part of his life that way. We first see him in Acts 7, where he was observing Stephen’s stoning. Any questions we might have had about Saul’s reaction to Stephen’s stoning are laid to rest in Acts 8:1 where we read, “And Saul was there, giving approval to His death.” You see, Saul was a Pharisee, and he was passionate about his Jewish faith.

After Stephen’s death, a great persecution broke out against the church, and Saul was at the heart of it, as he went house to house dragging men and women out and putting them in prison. The Christians scattered, preaching everywhere they went, and the church grew. But Saul’s plans to stop them grew as well. He got permission to travel to Damascus to capture Christians that had fled there to bring them back to Jerusalem. He was willing to go the distance and do whatever it took to stop the church from spreading! Permission granted, he was on his way until something amazing happened – Jesus met him on the road to Damascus, literally bringing him face to face with the truth of the gospel. Paul surrendered to Jesus, and His life was never the same.

This is a powerful story of God’s grace in action! Saul became Paul, and went on to become one of the greatest leaders, preachers and writers of the New Testament. These words found in Ephesians 2:4,5 (one of the books Paul wrote) show us how much his life was transformed, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

Paul knew he was undeserving that day he put His faith in Jesus, after He met him on the Damascus road. Only love could explain the way God stepped in and turned his life around. You could say he had a ‘but God’ moment… ‘But’ because of His great love for him, ‘God’ stepped in and made him alive in Christ, and God does the same thing today for us as well. He reaches out to us where we are, he sees where we can be, and by His grace he gets us there.

Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved