Here’s The Truth

With everything going on around the world, I feel the need to speak life. I know we each have our personal hurts and problems we face in our day to day lives. With everything going on, I know a lot of people are hurting and feel vulnerable because their hurt is out for everyone to see. The hurt is amplified all around us. No matter what you are going through, let this life be spoken into you. These are truths.

  • Your cries are heard

I Peter 5:7

“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

1 John 5:14-15

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

  • You are seen, your good parts, the parts that hurt, all of it.

Proverbs 15:3

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”

Job 34:21

“For His eyes are on the ways of man, and He sees all his steps.”

Psalms 33:13-15

The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.”

  • You are not alone

Deuteronomy 31:6

“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

1 Samuel 12:22

“For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you His people.”

  • You are loved

John 15:9

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.”

Ephesians 2:4-6

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raise us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus.”

1 John 4:7-8

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Here is the thing, my friend, you are loved, you are seen, you are heard, and you are not alone. I know life hurts. I know some nights you cry yourself to sleep. I know you fight and sometimes you cannot fight anymore. I know because I do too.

I felt the need to write all of this in mainly scriptures, because my words can encourage, but His Word can heal. His Word is what can provide peace. His Word is love. If you skipped over all of the scriptures, I ask you to read this last one. Know that you are precious in His eyes.

Psalms 139:13-16

“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were not of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!”

 

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My Crazy Bathroom Solution

For as long as I can remember, I knew I was supposed to read my Bible and pray every day… I’m sure you’re wondering what the title and reading my Bible has to do with each other, but just wait; you will see the connection here in a bit.

The struggle with these disciplines – reading my Bible and praying – has been going on for just as long as I have known of them. As I have grown, I have realized that reading my Bible and praying is not to be a habit but to be a part of an on-going relationship with Jesus. I love Jesus, I really do. However, a lot of the time, I love the idea of Him, more than I truly love Him. I hate admitting that, but it’s true. I want to love Him more, but my actions remind me that my heart still has a long way to go. You can see the lack of love in my heart in the mornings I push snooze instead of waking up to pray, the times I spend on Facebook when I could be reading His Word.

The last five years or so, I have tried harder than ever to build my relationship with Jesus; waking up early to give Him my mornings, praying a little extra here and there. I remember when I started really trying how I wished to live in my own house. How much easier would it be to dedicate time to Him if I could give a room over to being a personal “Me and Jesus” room? The room’s walls could be covered in prayers, and the floor with pillows, it would be without distractions, quiet and inviting. However, living on my own just hasn’t happened yet. I spent many times using this as an excuse.

“Oh I cannot focus; I’ll do better when I live on my own.”

“I cannot lay here on my bed and do devotions without falling asleep, God understands…”

And while all of this may have some legitimacy, it does not really have a weight against how Good God is and how I really need that time with Him.

When The War Room came out, that plea for a personal room for Me and Jesus really flooded my heart again. I sat on my bed, wishing for my own place so I could have a room with no distractions. Then it hit me, like a brick, the realization that I had a room with little to no distractions. I fought the idea, wrestling with how silly it seemed. I had to choose, though. Was my relationship with God worth all the silliness that others may see? (He is always worth it. ALWAYS)

I’m sure like many of my fellow adult friends still living with their parents, I love my home, it’s home. Yet, while it is the home I grew up in, it doesn’t really feel like mine. It’s my mom and dad’s house. I don’t go rearranging the furniture whenever I want, I don’t repaint a room when I decide I don’t like the color, it’s my parents’ house. I have two designated areas of the house that are mine to do with as I please, my bedroom and my bathroom. So I sat thinking about my future house and how one day I would have room that I could really focus on my devotions in. While I do not want to ever take hearing God’s voice lightly, I think that day He was the one to put an idea in my head. It was one of those moments when an idea so simple fixes an issue and you feel almost stupid for not thinking about it before.

My bathroom… How had I not given this one a thought before? My bathroom is small, doesn’t have a lot of distractions, and I could put up prayers and I could bring a pillow to sit on the floor! No, it isn’t the room I pictured in my future house, but do I really want to wait that long to spend time truly focused on God? Do I have that time to waste?

I did it. I made my bathroom into my War Room. I taped scriptures and prayers on the wall. And I bring my pillow in there when I go to pray and read the Bible.

I’m not sharing this so that you think I have finally conquered not getting up in the mornings and not spending time on Facebook instead of reading scripture. I’m sharing this because it took me forever it seemed to find a simple solution to my distraction problem. If me writing this helps you solve an issue like that or help bring you to a closer walk with Jesus, then I’ll share it. Maybe a bathroom isn’t your answer. Maybe you need a closet, or a corner in a room. Find what works for you. You don’t need to wait for a different chapter in life to be in a closer relationship with Jesus. Really, it is worth it.

I realized after a while that anyone who went to use my bathroom could see my personal prayers I had hung on the wall, but you know what? That is okay. God, many times, has called His people to a place vulnerability. Who am I to hide my needs behind a wall of confidence and “put-togetherness”? I do not know what you need to be closer to God, everyone is different. But whatever it is that you feel God nudging you to do, to give up, to rearrange, to draw closer to Him, it can only bring you more joy. I have felt God more in my small bathroom than I ever did sitting on my bed or somewhere else in the house. It helps me focus on Him. This is my journey. Now I ask that you seek and see what God has for you.

Dear First Year Teacher

First Year Teacher,

I know you’re excited and scared. That’s okay. Many people have made it through this first year, and you will too! Here are a few tips I have learned over this last year, I hope it helps.

  1. Don’t let anyone quench that hunger to make a difference.
  2. Keep the enthusiasm. You’ll need it to push through the hard days.
  3. Never forget that the children know a great deal more than the world gives them credit for. Learn from them each and every day.
  4. Take the time to know them. They can turn your world upside down.
  5. On the days they say they hate you, or their actions tell you so, it’s going to be okay. I promise you that. Your mistake today will NOT make them failures. It does not make you a failure either.
  6. You have wonderful ideas. Yes, some of them will fail miserably; others will blossom into something you’ve never dreamed.
  7. Listen to the wisdom of others; the veteran teachers have some wonderful stories to tell.
  8. There are some things you will have to learn on your own and that’s okay.
  9. It’s just your first year honey, breathe.
  10. Take a day for yourself when you need it. Your mental, physical, and emotional health are all more important than turning in grades, or having perfect lesson plans. No, this doesn’t mean to call in sick all of the time, but it does mean that sometimes you miss a deadline, or the lesson is the bare minimum. You CANNOT give those kiddos what they need when you starve yourself all of the time.
  11. With that said… give those kids all of the love you have. I promise you they will give it back one-hundred times over.
  12. Be silly with your class. If you teach younger grades, take a recess time and play with them, or walk with them. Let them see you as a person (within the professional boundaries needed).
  13. If you don’t already have a de-stressing hobby, get one. You need something you can do that will distract your mind from teaching and help your body relax. Some great ideas are as follows: exercising, painting, blogging, writing, reading, coloring, or sewing. There are lots of great ideas out there, just find something. Finding something that you can throw yourself into, other than teaching, will help keep you from burning out.
  14. For goodness’ sake, shut your door and teach!

 

Love,

A Second Year Teacher that is still learning too!

Prayer

“Jesus, Thank you for this food and drink. Help it to nourish my body, in Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.”

Such a short prayer, simple, and to the point, and so easily forgotten. As with many young Christians, I grew up praying before each meal. I was taught to do this; while I don’t remember the reason that was presented, I knew it was important. I have fond memories surrounding that prayer in particular. While family gatherings are often a mixture of bitter and sweet, I have always loved them – for the most part at least. My grandfather always used to call on me to pray over the family meal because of how quickly I prayed. I sped through the prayer just as you would the ABC’s when you suddenly forget what comes after R, or some other alphabetical situation that befuddles you. Theoretically, I was happy to pray, it comforted my conscious. “Look at me Lord, I remembered You before partaking in a blessing.” I felt like a good Christian when praying for my meal, like I was somehow holier for speaking a few words before shoving morsels in my mouth. If I accidently skipped this prayer, I would always feel guilty, thinking that suddenly God would be disappointed in me.

As I grew older, I found ways to recite this prayer with discretion. My friends at the lunch table did not share this particular ritual, and I’ve never been one for pushing my thoughts on others. I kept it quiet, closed my eyes, thought the prayer, and then would move on to eating. There was even a time where I struggled being ashamed of this prayer. What if people thought it weird or unnecessary? Now, I’m not even sure if my friends noticed the silence. Over the years, I have been blessed with friends that respected this time, and would automatically quiet down until I finished and looked up. Somehow, this helped my fear subside. I realized it didn’t really matter what people thought. We all have our own ways of doing things.

While I am no longer ashamed, something new has begun to run over my mind lately. One day, I was sitting, relaxing, I don’t even remember what I was thinking about when a thought hit me. That day in particular, I had prayed several times for the different meals I had eaten. I realized that each time, I had said that prayer without even thinking about it. The words flowed over my mouth just as your muscle memory allows you to punch in the code on your phone. God showed me the intent of my heart that day and it hurt.

“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” Proverbs 16:2

My prayers that day were no more righteous than the person who doesn’t pray over their meal. In fact, I would go to say my prayer, because of the motive, was not righteous at all. It was not the incense unto the Lord that I want my prayers to be (Psalm 141:2). It was hypocritical. I prayed thanksgiving to the Lord just like the Pharisees did (Luke 18:9-14), so that people could hear me, so that I could hear me. I truly was not thankful for the food that Jesus had given to me. Scripture says that every good gift comes from God (James 1:17) I may be wrong, but I consider food to be a good gift. A gift that I ought to truly be thankful for. In everything, I should give thanks. It’s easy to give thanks in the great things. It’s easy to remember that I should give thanks in the hard times. Yet, those days that seem mundane, the average ones where nothing sticks out, those are the days that I often forget just how good I have it.

I choose to continue praying over my meals, not with a guilty heart, nor with a habitual heart, but with one that will grow into a thankful heart. Maybe praying over your meal is not necessary, maybe it is. I am not God. I look to our example and see that Jesus blessed the meals that He ate many times in scripture. However, while learning about the heart of my God, I want to say this. I do not believe that the prayer is what really matters to our Lord Jesus. He knows the motive behind the action, and someone with a thankful heart is what pleases Him.

I pray that the Lord will continue to soften our hearts to the motives behind our actions, that we may have a heart after His.

How does Praise affect Sin?

Psalm 34:1

I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Isaiah 6:1-7

In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with train he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then I said, Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.

I find it interesting, that after witnessing the continual praise of the seraphims unto God, that the man of God, a man that God would show Himself unto, found himself to be unclean. Isaiah saw God. God allowed Isaiah to actually see Him! Yet this man of God claimed to be unclean – note that the word unclean here relates to being unclean religiously – this will tie back in later. Some things come to my mind here:

  • Had Isaiah realized just then, in that moment, the majesty and greatness of God? Had he served God until that point only to just then fully grasp Who God is? Did he just then start to understand what kind of God we have?
  • Was he a man of unclean lips due to his lack of praise and worship unto God? Were the people he was surrounded by of unclean lips because they did not praise God the way they should?

 

  • When his lips are purified of his sins, the seraphim uses a coal from the altar.
    • The altar is used to sacrifice or to burn incense (praises) unto God.
      • Psalm 141:2

Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

  • The coal from the altar was a live coal. That means it was hot or alive so-to-speak.
    • Only living praise will have the sin-purging effect.
    • If your praise isn’t true, living, breathing out of you, it won’t have the effect God created it to have.
  • The coal of praise purged him of his “uncleanness”.
  • Praise is what took the iniquity away.
  • Notice also that the seraphim, a majestic being of God would not actually touch the coal itself. The seraphim used tongs to grab the coal, but he placed it completely upon Isaiah’s lips.
    • Does this point to the fact that the angel’s cannot praise God in the same way that we are to praise God?

Luke 17:11-19

And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: and they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God., and fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.

Isaiah was a man of God. He believed in God, but still had impurities.

These ten lepers were obedient and believed in God’s power! They were cleansed of their uncleanness.

We are cleansed of our sins by Jesus Christ.

The leper that came back, was not only cleansed but was made whole. His FAITH made him whole. Faith here relates to his “religion” being dependent upon Jesus wholly for his salvation. Remember where Isaiah’s uncleanness had to do with being unclean religiously… Could it be that Isaiah was unclean religiously because he did not fully depend upon God for his salvation?

If we do not fully depend upon God for our salvation, we will not praise Him as we ought. Only through our praise our we made whole. We can be saved from our sin but still fight with the aftermath of our choices. Only our praise will purge us from all the side effects of our sins. Only our praise to God will take away our iniquity. However, while we can be saved, we may still suffer. Only through faith can we truly be made whole.

Missions – Not What I Expected

I felt the call to be a missionary when I was 11 years old. I didn’t know that one way God would have me fulfill that call would be through teaching until about four years ago. Maybe one day I’ll travel around the world teaching the Good News. But right now, this is where I’m planted, to be the light to my kiddos in this broken system.

I remember it clear as day. I was eleven years old, sitting in my room at my desk. I know that year I received the Holy Ghost, but I don’t recall whether this moment happened before or after that time. Anyway… I was sitting at my desk looking at the corkboard hanging on the wall. I had pictures of friends and family, a few pictures of artists I loved listening to, you know, the typical pre-teen room display. Also on that corkboard was pinned a picture of a world map. It was there to remind me to pray for our missionaries. That day though, I just sat there, staring at the map. I felt something in me shift. I didn’t know the details; I had no idea what it meant. All I knew was that I was going to be a missionary. It was my calling to work on the mission field.

Fast forward to college; since that time when I knew my calling, sometimes it was placed on the forefront. It was all I looked at. However, other times I placed it in the background, basically forgetting it existed. I didn’t know how it would all play out and it scared me (still does sometimes). Almost every time I heard a missionary speak, or someone speak about missions, I would cry. I would listen to their stories and plead with God, asking, “WHEN IS IT MY TURN?” Then I would look at my life and feel like it didn’t measure up to the calling of a missionary. Do I really have what it takes? Does my life show Jesus to those around me? Am I doing this right?

After five years, I graduated college with a degree in early childhood education. I earned my certificate to teach the littlest of littles. I had no idea that this would be my first mission field. You see, I had these ideas in my head, ideas that kept that missionary calling fire in my heart going. But I don’t know if those ideals really meet where I’m going. Then again, maybe they do. I listened to life stories of missionaries; I studied their lives, I heard them preach at church. They all came from foreign lands, places where they had to give up everything and move off; they preach the gospel on the streets, some hide, preaching quietly to a group hoping the government won’t catch them, they live life with different people groups, loving, serving, teaching, sacrificing, feeding the hungry. And while my heart longs to travel, I haven’t heard the call to go live in another country just yet. I have heard the call though, offering me a job at a local school; where within the last five years free-and-reduced lunch has went from 5% to 75%; a place where children come in, in defense mode, because they stayed up all night to their parents fighting; a place where children come in, nearly starved for food just as much as for attention; their needs unmet to the point of desperation. I did not see this as a mission field. It did not even click until I read a blog post about teachers being missionaries.

Because my ideals were so focused on living in a small hut in another country with barefoot children running around, I neglected to see the children in front of me. I didn’t hear their cries, their pleas to be fed spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Whatever your calling may be, missions, preaching, teaching, mentoring, singing, translating, etc., please realize that the foundation of that ministry may look nothing like you think. You may be called to be a pastor, and right now all you are doing is scrubbing toilets. You may be called to lead the worship team and right now you are only singing in the shower. I’m here to tell you, it’s okay. I know it may seem like God took you on a detour and left you; I promise you He will never leave you, nor will He forsake you. This road that appears to be destitute, it’s part of your journey. A beautiful part. This is part of your calling. I would be willing to bet, if you are following God with all your heart, compare your calling to what you are doing now, they’re connected somehow.

If you still don’t know your calling, don’t lose hope. Live life as it is right now. Don’t rush it. Let God do His work; in His timing everything will fall into place.

Right now, small town USA is my mission field. In a broken world, every country needs missionaries.

 

More than Love

You know, there are some days that I feel like I’m doing pretty good. I had a good day at the job; I had time with Jesus; I went to the gym; I witnessed to someone; I did not rush around trying to get things done; I am all caught up on laundry and the house is cleaned; when someone made me angry, I calmly responded in a loving manner. I prayed before I acted.

We all have a list like that, don’t we? A list we check off of our conscious to make sure we are staying within our “good people” guidelines. The problem with this list is that even though all those things are good, when they are our checklist, we lose sight of our goal: “Well done, good and faithful servant…” We should be living every day, every moment with that goal in mind. When we forget that our goal is “Well done,” we forget what we are called to. We forget that our goodness is measured against God’s goodness. We forget to compare ourselves to God’s goodness, and we start comparing ourselves to others and our own past days of achievement.

Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8. For perspective, I changed the word love to God, because we know Scripture says God is love.

 

1 John 4:8

“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (Ali’s version)

God is patient.

God is kind.

God does not envy (unnecessary jealousy).

God does not boast of Himself excessively.

God is not puffed up.

God does not behave rudely.

God does not seek His own.

God thinks no evil.

God does not rejoice in iniquity.

God rejoices in truth.

God bears all things.

God believes all things.

God hopes all things.

God endures all things.

God never fails.

When I looked at this, I saw my sin. I saw how much I still need to grow. I then took my name, to see if I actually could check any of these things off a list:

Ali is patient… (eh mostly, when I’m not tired)

Ali is kind. (I mean, yeah, I think I have this one mostly)

Ali does not become jealous. (um, well, I like to think I’m not)

Ali does not boast of herself excessively. (YEAH! I never boast, I’m so good at not boasting… Wait, am I boasting now?)

I could continue, but I think you may understand where I am going. When I use this as a checklist, it reminds me how much I need God. This checklist keeps me humble, because Oh my word, do I ever need help in these areas. Sure, I don’t lie, I pay my tithes, I go to church, and I spend time with God. But does the fruit of my life really show it? You see, all of those good things that were on my checklist earlier: being healthy and exercising (taking care of God’s temple), going to church (not forsaking the gathering of saints), paying tithes, doing good at work, and etc. are all necessary to live good. However, if you put them on a conscious checklist as your “I’m fine list” they become just a checklist. You rush through devotions to check it off. You pay just the 10% of tithes God requires of us so your conscious will be okay. You go to the gym and run a mile to check it off the list. And somehow all this checking makes you miss the big picture. You miss the nourishment of God’s Spirit during devotions. You miss the blessing of giving till it hurts. You miss the rush of endorphins when you work out. You miss the fruit of all the work you’re putting in because the attitude behind what you’re doing is wrong! You can easily become like the Pharisees, lookin’ good on the outside, and completely dead on the inside. They lacked the Fruit of the Spirit a.k.a. the Fruit of God’s LOVE dwelling inside them, and because of this, Jesus was not pleased with them (John 15:8).

1 Corinthians 13:1-2

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity (love), I am nothing.”

John 15:8

“Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”

The next time you realize you’re rushing through your “good person” checklist, pull this one out. Compare yourself to God. When I compare my goodness to God, I am always put into check, He is good, without Him, I am nothing.

 

_______ is patient.

_______ is kind.

_______ does not envy (unnecessary jealousy).

_______ does not boast of Himself excessively.

_______ is not puffed up.

_______ does not behave rudely.

_______ does not seek His own.

_______ thinks no evil.

_______ does not rejoice in iniquity.

_______ rejoices in truth.

_______ bears all things.

_______ believes all things.

_______ hopes all things.

_______ endures all things.

_______ never fails.