Monday, January 28, 2013

When not everyone is ok with what is going on

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This weekend I went to a college graduation party, and I must say I thought it was one of the oddest events I ever attended. It started at 11pm (!) and included a dinner (?). There were families there, with proud dads, smiling grandparents and some children. People were dressed to the tee, and women looked like a million dollars.

Until a certain time. Sometime around 2am, things began to go south. The open bar policy became more evident with every graduate stumbling, women taking off their shoes and letting their hairs down in a mess, which apparently is supposed to be sexy.

With every drunken girl, promiscuous couple and low cut cleavage, all I could think of was there are parents and grandparents in this place. How is everyone ok with this?

And then I realized, not everyone is ok with that. God was certainly not ok with that.

So after my initial wow, she's a train wreck thoughts, I changed my perspective. I engaged in prayer. 

I prayed those young women would know the value they have in the sight of God.
I prayed those young men would learn to respect and not take advantage of needy girls.
I prayed these kids would mature and learn the joys of living a Godly life out weight getting drunk.
I prayed these parents would see this scenario and actually take steps to help their sons and daughters, their babies to know better.
I prayed my future children are sheltered from this influence.
And I prayed God would continue to prompt me to see things through His eyes and feel His pain. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Weekend links

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Happy Sunday everyone! Here is some light reading that will lift your heart.

If you have one link to pick, choose this one.

Need encouragement? Check this post out.

Want some inspiration for 2013? Check this one!

Have been craving accountability? Keep reading.

Going through a mean streak lately? Hummm....

Saturday, January 26, 2013

One of those weeks...

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It's been a whole eight days since my last post. You know what that means, it's been one of those weeks. 

A trying week.
A week in which I did more listening than talking.
A week in which I have made myself humble to honor God.
A week in which I focused on Jesus instead of crying over people who were mean to me.
A week in which I worked long hours and still found strength to work at the last few minutes as I did when I walked in many hours earlier. 
A week in which you see a lot of work and effort go down the drain as you backtrack five steps.

I love these weeks. I'd probably be crazy if I loved them for the hectic-ness, but I do appreciate them and love them for the results. These are the weeks that God uses to prompt me in a new direction. To regroup, to secure me, to provide. To make me question myself, and the whys and whats and hows of my life. 

These are the weeks that the Holy Spirit speaks loud and clear instead of softly nudging you as you go along.

These are the weeks in which Jesus is all I long for.

These are the weeks in which my testimony speaks louder, for the glory of God.

These are the weeks in which life is lived wholeheartedly. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

A wholehearted year: blogging

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I've been talking about a wholehearted year. If you missed out, start here.

I've looked for God in many places. One that I haven't thought about much is the internet. Last year was a lesson when it comes to this blogging world of mine. Having new people start following. Meet new people through Five Minute Fridays. Discovering a community or two. God is everywhere, so why wouldn't He be able to shine through the world wide web?

Care to join me? It only counts if you do it wholeheartedly.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A wholehearted year: replacing

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I've been talking about a wholehearted year. If you missed out, start here.

"You shall not have other gods before me"
Exodus 20:3

 I believe in the living God. I don't bow down to statues. I have turned my life over to Jesus. So clearly, I have no other gods, right? Wrong.

It took me years to understand this statement. And it still blows me away how subtle idols can be in my life. I read two books that helped me diagnose and replace my idols, this one and this one. And there are two things I learned from them:

1- Anything that you look for to satisfy a craving in which only God can satisfy is an idol in your life.

2- You cannot just put an idol down. You need to replace it by something else. And the one thing that can fulfill you is God. 

So I know it is ok for me to have a big bowl of ice-cream. Just not ok for me to have it because I am upset with my job. It isn't wrong for me to want a nice house. But it certainly isn't right to think that a nice house will bring me happiness. Whether it is food, things, career or people, nothing is bad in itself. They become unhealthy when they take center stage on my pedestal and dim the light that should shine on Jesus. Light which should shine on Him wholeheartedly. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A wholehearted year: offering hospitality

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I've been talking about a wholehearted year. If you missed out, start here.

Yet another aspect of my life in which the Lord has asked me to sink in with all my heart is offering hospitality. This is such a foreign concept to me because, although I am a big homey person, I tend to want my house to myself. 

Slowly I have been learning that this is not a want to sort of deal, but a have to sort of deal for Christians. And with a little help from a lovely blogger, I even ended up understanding I had a huge misconception about what hospitality is in the first place.

I was in good company when I figured out that my main problem was always having the same excuse: the lack of room to entertain. As if friends and strangers cared about the square footage of my humble abode. 

So this weekend we did something radical. After coming home from church, at around 9pm we started moving furniture around. We got rid of excess and opened up some space, dreaming of a cozy backyard. The result? A huge living room (ok, maybe not that huge) that just happened to be cluttered with stuff. Now it is ready to get cluttered with souls. And we intend on putting it to good use as soon as we can!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A wholehearted year: serving

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I've been talking about a wholehearted year. If you missed out, start here.

If praying is something I struggle with, not so much when it comes to serving. I was raised in a family that goes above and beyond, went to a school that believes in the power of Christian service, and enjoyed opportunities in college and after on many shapes and forms of community service. From bathing horses to installing house insulation, from playing bingo with elders to basketball with inner city kids, you name it, I've probably done it.

But I have a problem. A big one.

If someone asks me why, I'm not sure what I'll answer.  And if the honest answer does come out, it won't really be a pretty one.

Most of the time, it was because I am a good girl, and that is what good girls do. We act selflessly and then we bask on the praise we get. Or we get slammed with doing too much for too many people because we cannot imagine saying no and hurting some one's feelings. Well, it turns out Jesus has something to say about that:

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. 
If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven." Matthew 6:1


So in this wholehearted year, I am pulling stops on my involvement and service. Yes, I will serve, because it is the Christian thing to do. But serving to impress others? Serving out of a sense of obligation that is only fed by pride? I am saying no to that. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

A wholehearted year: praying

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I've been talking about a wholehearted year. I was actually shocked to find out that having a word for the year seems to be a common thing, as this was God's guiding, not a cool idea I found on a blog. I'm glad to see God's direction on such a large group of people!

Check some great blogs and people's words here. If you missed out on my own path, start here.

Prayer. Oh, boy, where do I start?

I've had a superficial prayer life, to say the least. I am embarrassed to say grace in public, specially when I eat with non-Christian friends. My goodnight prayers can get stuck in a routine. I am great at praying when something huge happens or when I feel in danger, but not so good at the day to day kind of stuff. 

I once read that people struggle with prayer because it requires them to be humble. You are basically admitting defeat, and that you cannot do without God. At first the idea sounded ridiculous to me. Of course I was humble, of course I gave everything up to Christ. Or did I?

I have come to see that I have two major stumbling blocks when it comes to prayer. The first one is pride itself. Not because I am proud and tell God I've got it, but because I get convinced that things are too small of a thing to pray about, which means I end up with a short and sad prayer life, all the while thinking "I've got this Lord, no need to worry", when that's the exact opposite of what He wants. 

The second stumbling block I have is lack of determination. It's just too easy to get distracted by that thought that comes and says "you forgot to load the laundry", which promptly drives me from the couch onto a house keeping marathon before I know it. Am I the only one?

Although we are still at the beginning of the year, I have felt that my new relationship with the Word of God has allowed me to go deeper into prayer. The wheels start turning and all of a sudden I am praying about something seemingly unrelated, but that I know I had been avoiding. And it feels great. 

Now I just need the discipline for those little prayers to make their way through my day, always reminding me that the Holy Spirit is right beside me at all times. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

A wholehearted year: studying

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I've been talking about a wholehearted year. If you missed out, start here.

Another thing God has been changing in me is the way I study the Word of God. You see, every since I became a Christian I've been very good at reading the Bible. English NIV? Check. Portuguese NIV? Check. Portuguese Almeida? Check. Biblia Viva? Check. Another round or two in English? Check, check. I've probably read through the Bible about five times in these seven years as a Christian, but it's always been a very superficial. 

So this year, instead of vowing to read the Bible in one year, I am choosing to study it. Take my time. Savour it. Check references. Go back to texts that relate. All that good stuff. Here are some tools that will certainly help me, other than the Bible itself.

The Message Remix: Solo

I've become a Kindle kind of gal, so for me to pick up a book from Barnes and Nobles and actually haul it across the sea in my luggage, it means a lot. I went into the store looking for a new Bible, considering getting the Message. I know it's not the same, but most of the passages I've come across are just so...beautiful.  

I was excited about this version, with the method of lectio divine (divine reading). For every passage, it includes prompts on read, think, pray and live. It has truly transformed my relationship with the text, allowing to spend much more time and dig in without getting distracted or fed up.

Now, I must warn you, it's not the whole deal. It mentions extended passages which are suggested reading, but it does not have the Bible in its entirety. 

Trans World Radio resources

I began making my way through Route 66, a radio program from Radio Transmundial (Trans World Radio's Brazilian affiliate) in which a pastor reads, explains and applies the 66 books of the Old Testament to our lives. I love it. 

I started listening to it while doing other things, but have quickly learned that won't get me very far, so I take the time to stop, open my Bible and follow the passage being looked at. 

Furthermore, my 2013 diary is from them, and it has devotionals and suggested readings for every day. 

Bible Study

I love reading, I love learning, I love Christ. That means Bible Study is one of my all time favorite things. I love going through the text, listening to what is discussed, taking notes to go back to it during the week. We are blessed to have an amazing Bible Study Group in my church. Now it seems God is opening a door for another course on the Bible, which I just love. I'll tell you more about it when it comes through. 

You Version

I found out about You Version through a little blog I love. Not only does it have the Bible on electronic versions in all shapes of languages and styles, it also has reading plans. I'll probably keep to the shorter ones, to avoid having a bunch of long-term plans crashing into each other. You can even pick a short reading plan based on topics such as parenting, prayer, Ephesians, and much, much more!

What is your favorite way of studying the Bible?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A wholehearted year: listening

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Yesterday I shared my year-long and life-long goal. I've decided against lists that can be ticked off, but knowing myself, I need some sort of accountability, or I'll slack on it. It took me a while to figure out what kind of on-paper accountability I could set without it becoming a to-do list, but I *think* I figured it out.

On the next couple of days I'll be sharing some strategies I have chosen to focus on in order to work towards my goal. Again, it's not supposed to boil down to forcing a routine or checking things off. I'll let God prompt me in the frequency, time spent and focus for each of these. However, I do believe they are all good things, as Martha Stewart would say.

The first one, in a random list with no particular order, is listening. I am good at talking, I am good at figuring things out, I am good at being distracted. Not so much at listening. 

Listening to God

Sounds obvious, right? But for me most of the time it is so hard. My thoughts get in the way. My feelings get in the way. The business of life gets in the way. So I'll work on listening to God as I'm in the middle of a busy activity, as I sit quietly by myself, as I lay down to sleep. Everywhere and anywhere. 

Listening to others

Do you spend more time thinking about your reply than listening to what someone is telling you? Sometimes I feel like that. I am too busy figuring out how to gently disagree, how to point out a flaw in a line of thinking, or wondering what is the next load of laundry I need to do, that I miss what people say. How people say it. Those in-between the lines that tell us more than the actual words. 

Listening to myself

I was a strict vegetarian for a year and a half, and the best thing out of it for me was that I learned to listen to my body. I may walk up to my fridge thinking I want some milk to go with a cup of tea, only to drop it for a carrot instead. I may feel like taking a nap, only to realise I won't sleep well at night if I do. I may drop what I am doing to run to the grocery store to buy some eye drops instead of letting it go. I firmly believe our bodies are constantly sending us signs, and it is important that we listen. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My one (yes, one!) New Year's Resolution

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When December rolled around, I had a page on my journal with a handful of New Year's resolutions. By mid-December, that list had grown and grown, and quite honestly, it was quite impressive. It boasted items such as serve more, study more the Word of God, spend more time in prayer. No focus on dieting or baby-making (which are indeed things I look forward to), I was adamant to have a year serving God. 

But as time went by, God showed me a different side to all this. He moved in me how He is not a checklist, and living for Him cannot be a checklist. Yes, there are things we do that we know will bring us close to Him, but if our hearts are not in it, it's all in vain.

So today, as I read my Message Remix: Solo (which I am loving by the way, and will post soon about it), what I read made a deep impression in my heart. Reading Numbers, a book I tend to glaze over when I read, I found the most amazing little half sentence.

'But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly...' 
Numbers 14:24

Now first of all, let us be clear that God is the one talking here. Caleb isn't being praised by his boss, or even by Moses, but by God himself. And what is God's assessment of Caleb? That he follows Him wholeheartedly. 

The more I thought about it, the more amazed I was. And the more I kept thinking that this is it. That's the secret to a happy and fulfilled life. So this is my one and only resolution for this year. And pretty much for the rest of my life.

I know I am setting myself up for failure. There is no way I can do this. But that is the point. I surrender to Jesus, because I know HE is the one who can, and will. Only he can change my heart. Only he can give me strengh and show me the way. I'm just making myself willing.

What is your New Year's Resolution?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Happy 2013

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Well, hello there!

I hope you had a wonderful end of the year, complete with an awesome New Year's Eve. I was blessed enough to spend my Christmas dinner at a Denny's (where else would be open at 1am after landing in Orlando?) and my New Year's Eve in Epcot, which was a tad bit crazy, but memorable nonetheless. 

I am not yet ready to go back to blogging full swing, but you may have noticed that I did some tweaking in the design aspect. It wouldn't have looked just the way I want it without some awesome designers and their free stuff:

The header comes from Leelou Blogs. I have spent a fair share of time searching for blog freebies on the internet, and I must say I like hers the best. 

The social icon buttons you see on the right are from Carrie loves. Cute, aren't they?

Have a blessed day!