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Romans 12

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I read an article today about what new mommy’s need. The writer’s remarks were witty and spot on. It inspired me to think about what a life of love and service looks like.

Paul wrote, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (Ro 12:10)

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

We are called to a life of service—to think of others before thinking of ourselves. “Outdo one another”

But how do we do this? How can we serve willingly and selflessly? How can we know what people actually need?

By following Paul’s appeal at the beginning of what we have labeled “chapter 12″:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Transformation is key. We have to let Christ change us—to open our minds and hearts to what is true and right and good so he can fill us with his love. His pure, unselfish, untainted love.

“Let love be genuine.
Abhor what is evil;
Hold fast to what is good.
Do not be slothful in zeal
Be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope,
be patient in tribulation,
be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints
And seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice,
Weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be haughty, but
Associate with the lowly.
Never be wise in your own sight.
Repay no one evil for evil, but
Give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Christ “emptied himself,” “made himself nothing.” Because he lived this kind of life, he was sensitive to the needs of others. He was able to empathize, not just sympathize. He was able to live the life we are challenged to live in Romans 12. He loved purely. He loved without expecting or needing anything in return. He loved without strings.

We love because he first loved us.

scotlyn_rostad

Introducing Scotlyn Naomi!

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On July 11, 2014 at 10:50PM our “wee bear” was born! In just two short months Scotlyn Naomi has captured our hearts. We feel incredibly blessed to have been given such a beautiful and delightful little lady to love.

In other news: my new album is almost done! For real! I have one more vocal track to finish and there are just a few tunes left to mix. If you didn’t catch the sneak peak over Easter you can listen HERE.

More news: we are heading back to SCOTLAND! Expect us in the first two weeks of December, Scottie friends! (God willing, of course!). Since last year’s Christmas tour was interrupted by illness we have decided to cross the pond again . . . HOPEFULLY with a different result (prayers much appreciated for safety and health for all three of us!). We are still confirming our bookings and have one or two dates available so do not hesitate to contact us if your church/ministry/organization would like to host.

That’s all for now!

Peace & joy,

Stephanie

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“Trusting God With Your Tomorrows”

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David Wilkerson passed away after being in a car accident two years ago. I miss him. I miss listening to him share his heart. If there is ONE thing I would say that I learned from him it is this: Trust in the Lord. He is and always will be faithful.

It sounds too simple, “What’s so special about that sort of message? A lot of people say that!” But if you know about David Wilkerson’s life and the many things he and his family suffered/still suffer, you would understand why those words run deep.

Yesterday a young man who has beaten cancer and has just learned he may again be facing treatments soon shared this message. I am sure I heard it years ago but it was such an encouragement to listen again. I have been a bit down about not being able to complete my “to do list.” Sometimes it seems I will never accomplish what I need to . . . there’s always one thing or another that delays or hinders. Sometimes my records take two years to complete and it’s usually due to unforeseen circumstances or sudden illness or injury. Those seasons make me feel “imprisoned” and can lead me into dark periods of discouragement where I wonder what God’s purpose is for me if he is allowing me to be shut away instead of out sharing what he’s put on my heart.  This message reminded me that even Paul experienced delays. He was also hindered. He was imprisoned—sometimes for years at a time. He too experienced seasons of great discouragement and felt defeated. But he pressed on. He continued writing and doing his best to encourage his brothers and sisters in Christ to trust in the Lord no matter what. (Little did he know that God was using him to write much of the New Testament!)

If we have given God control of our lives we must trust him in every circumstance. We don’t see the big picture, but he does. No matter where we are or are not, what we are doing or not doing, whether we are well or sick, God is faithful. He is ALWAYS moving behind the scenes, preparing a way for us and preparing our hearts and minds for the next phase of the journey.

I hope you will take some time to watch or listen to this message.

 

 

Rainbow

Guard Your Joy

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We are getting closer and closer to the arrival of our sweet baby girl and while the ache from our first loss due to miscarriage is still fresh in my heart I am so filled with joy at the thought of holding my daughter for the first time. In my case, the pain of loss is not stronger than the joy of anticipation.

I am thankful I have had the opportunity to carry a child. I do not take this miracle of life for granted as I know there are many who are aching to be able to experience pregnancy and parenthood.

Pregnancy isn’t easy—it isn’t supposed to be. As new life begins, the new mother realizes that she will never be the same again. As a child grows and develops and becomes everything it is meant to be, the mother is also transformed. She not only carries the life, she is changed by what is happening inside of her. Her body, mind, and spirit are affected—most of the time without her even being aware of it. It’s a perfect picture of what happens when we ask Christ to live in us.

As I look back on the past 9+ months I wish I could say all I have experienced was joy. But life doesn’t usually go that way. As I type this I am reminded of a beautiful young woman who is about to give birth to her first child (also a baby girl). She has Lupus and she and her husband just learned yesterday that his cancer has returned. As the proverb says, “Even in laughter the heart may ache . . . “ (Proverbs 14:13)

There have been moments in my life where I have asked, “Why, Lord? Why can’t we just experience JOY without it always having to be mixed with grief and pain?” It seems like something or someone always has to come and put a shadow over what is meant to be beautiful and good. I guess the best way to handle these situations is to cherish the joy. We must choose to embrace and cling to what is lovely. I remember a friend of mine saying to me earlier this year, “Guard your joy.” Wise counsel.

“Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world . . . “ (1 Peter 5:8-9)

The enemy of our souls wants to rob us of joy—he wants us to focus on everything that is negative and painful. He wants us to lose heart so that we will falter in our faith. Sometimes he succeeds by convincing us the pain is stronger, but it isn’t—at least, it doesn’t have to be. We can choose what we focus on. We can choose to trust and to hope in God. It’s hard, but it’s possible. It’s no wonder the apostle needed to encourage us with these words: “. . . whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Life is filled with joy and sorrow . . . so guard your joy! Don’t let anything or anyone or any circumstance rob you of enjoying the lovely blessings God sends your way. Cherish them. The blessings will be a special grace to help you get through everything else.

“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

It’s OK to Rest

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“It is our best work that God wants, not the dregs of our exhaustion. I think he must prefer quality to quantity.” George MacDonald

I find it interesting that our culture seems to think that only during pregnancy is it OK for a woman to admit she’s tired and to actually take time to take care of herself. I spent four years trying to recover from a neck injury and I always felt guilty for being utterly exhausted and not able to keep up. I’m sure part of the guilt stemmed from my own insecurity, but I really think our culture needs to embrace the concept of “rest”—pregnant or not.

People with chronic, debilitating pain or illness are often made to feel like they are weak or just making excuses. It’s sad that we have a tendency to reject or scoff at what we do not understand or have not personally experienced, but we have all been guilty of doing this. Unlike many other conditions, pregnancy is “common.” The risks and side effects are common knowledge, therefore they are accepted by society.

I have been keeping in touch with a young woman who suffers from Lupus. She is also expecting a baby girl and is also due in July, so it has been fun going back and forth comparing notes. Her will to conceive and to carry this child is especially admirable to me. It’s adding to her already day-to-day struggle with Lupus but she is handling it with grace. She is able to do this because she has learned what many others who suffer from chronic illness or pain have learned: it’s OK to rest. Pregnant or not. It’s OK.

I’ll be honest, there have been a few moments where I’ve almost had to step back in surprise over the concern and understanding people have shown to me since being pregnant.  While I deeply appreciate and need the support, pregnancy has felt like a cake walk in comparison to the constant, burning pain I experienced on a daily basis when my spine was inflamed. On more than one occasion I have thought back and wondered how differently I would have felt back then had I had the same amount of support when struggling with my neck.

I say all this to encourage those who suffer from chronic illness or pain and who aren’t pregnant: it’s OK to take time for yourself and to rest. It’s OK to communicate when you need assistance. It’s OK that you can’t “keep up” with the rest of the world.

To those who don’t suffer from chronic illness or pain but know those who do, please remember: there’s a light at the end of the tunnel with pregnancy—a beautiful blessing and reward at the end of the journey. But for some people, there is no light at the end of the tunnel; there is no end. Encourage your friends or family members who are suffering. Remember that they deserve and need some R&R from time to time. Remind them that it’s OK to rest.

Kindness and empathy really make a difference!

“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” (Luke 6:31)

Scotland

Perspective, Purpose, & Perseverance

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It’s amazing how easily we lose perspective when we don’t carve out time for quiet.

Last night I was finally able to go to our church’s monthly worship & prayer night. The service was simple—no hype, no fancy lights, no loud praying. Just a dim room where people could sit by themselves, reflect, and just . . . be.

When I began to reflect and pray I realized, once again, that I have allowed busyness and stress to cause me to lose sight of purpose; and in losing sight of purpose, I have lost the strength, and even the desire to persevere.

What is the secret of your strength?” This simple question was asked of a man named Samson who was called to be completely and utterly committed to God. He knew his secret . . . sanctification . . . but he forsook it. He allowed his desires for other things (a not-so-nice woman) and his earthly hunger (honey in the carcass of a lion) to distract him from his calling—his purpose. He chose to walk away from what was truly important and as a result he ended up blind and as “weak as any other man.” This is what happens to us when we don’t make space for quiet reflection. We blind ourselves to the eternal and we worry about the temporary.

The things that overwhelm us to the point of despair will be less likely to cloud our vision if we carve out time for quiet. The God who created the universe is the same God who hears our prayers and is able to answer them. If we take a few moments every day to reflect on his goodness, we might be surprised to rediscover faith and find the strength we need to live up to our calling: Christ-likeness.

There is a reason there are so many passages in the scripture about perseverance. Life isn’t easy and it never has been. So, like our own Savior did, we must carve out time for quiet. We must seek who we say we believe, find our rest in God, live up to our purpose, and persevere in it.

. . . let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience . . . washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works . . .  encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

For,“Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (Hebrews 10:19-25, 35-39 ESV)

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (Matthew 24:12-13 ESV)

 

ronald

The god(s) of this world

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For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4 ESV)

We live in an age where knowledge is available to us in seconds. If we have a question about something, all we have to do is “Google it.” This is both wonderful and awful.

Maintaining a healthy perspective on what truly matters in life is not easy when every article on msn.com offers some new tidbit on how to make our lives better, our bodies healthier, or our relationships stronger. Today I saw and sadly, I admit, read an article on the happiest and saddest cities in America (how do they really know this stuff anyway?!). Some of the information we obtain is borderline useless. We can become so “educated” that we lose all common sense.

Here’s an example: when crib shopping, I stumbled across some articles about “toxic cribs” vs safe cribs. Apparently there are many chemicals used in the stain, etc.. for cribs that can be toxic when inhaled. Ew. Not pleasant information  . . . but we must take these things for what they are: tidbits of truth, not the whole picture. Putting your child in what is considered a “toxic” crib will not necessarily harm them (though, it is not a pleasant thought).

While I appreciate any and every effort to educate the public on safety and health, I am reminded of the words of the apostle, you are not your own. No matter how much I try to protect myself, my husband, my cats, and eventually, my child, from the evils of chemicals, pesticides, GMO’s, and whatever else is the latest rage, I can only do so much to preserve and protect life . . .

. . . Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4 ESV)

The epistles are full of reminders and warnings about distractions. There’s a fine line between becoming educated and taking care of ourselves and making ourselves (and our bodies and bellies) into little gods. We must remember that we have a higher purpose than self-preservation.

God divided a sea, enabled a child to defeat a giant, and rescued a faithful man from being mauled by lions . . .  these new hazards are simply that: new hazards. Danger has always been part of life . . . and God has always been the protector and preserver of life.

We should not ignore good information and we should do our best to be healthy . . . but we should spend our energy on what really matters. Christ-likeness.

. . . For to this end we toil and strive,because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

If I know the ins and outs of nutrition (but I have not love . . . )
If all the food in my fridge was grown in my own garden (but I have not love . . . )
If I always remember my reusable bag at the grocery store (but I have not love . . . )
If my sheets are made of organic cotton (but I have not love . . . )
If my make-up was never tested on animals (but I have not love . . . )
If my child never eats at McDonald’s (but I have not love . . . )

If I am not growing in my faith and understanding of Christ, if I am not learning to love my neighbors more and more, if I do not spend time seeking the God I claim to know . . . 

I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. . . I am nothing . . . I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love never ends. . . . as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part . . . but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. . . For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Corinthians 13 ESV)

. . . Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have . . . practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. . . .

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. . . .

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves . . . teachings . . . require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1 Timothy 4 ESV)

For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly . . . with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:18-20)

Expectations in Relationships

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“Whatever men expect, they soon come to think they have a right to: the sense of disappointment can, with very little skill on (the devil’s) part, be turned into a sense of injury.” C.S. Lewis

Conflict in relationships usually occur when expectations are not met. For example, one may expect another to react a specific way to some news given, and when the reaction does not meet the expectation . . . conflict. Or, one may expect a certain task or event to be done or planned a specific way, and when it is done or planned another way. . . conflict.

There are three major events in life that showcase these heart issues best: weddings, funerals, and births. Most of us have experienced one, if not all, of these events and we know first hand that how family and friends react to these three major events in a persons life can make or break relationships.

James wrote, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people!” (James 1 ESV) James made a good point: most arguments stem from selfishness—from only seeing things from our own perspective and wanting things to be a certain way . . .  in short, from not putting other people’s thoughts or feelings before our own.

Conflict is not always a bad thing. In fact, it’s a necessary, if not vital part of spiritual growth. It’s also an integral part of maintaining healthy relationships with one another. If someone spends their life trying to avoid conflict they are, in a sense, refusing to look in the mirror and deal with themselves. They are also refusing to walk in the calling that all of us have received which is to “encourage one another” and “spur one another on toward love and good works.”  Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” (1 Corinthians 11:18-19)  Paul was not saying, “I’m happy you are arguing,” but he was pointing out that conflict merely exposes things in hearts that need to change.

The genuineness of our faith is tested and refined by conflict. How we react when we don’t get our way and our expectations are not met says a lot about who we are. Are we willing to give up what we deem to be our “rights”? Are we willing to give up our own dreams so another’s may come true? Are we willing to lay aside our strong feelings about how things should be done and let them be done another way?  How we react to conflict shows us whether or not we are truly walking in love. Do we consider other people’s feelings, desires, expectations, etc.. to be more important than our own? Or will we maintain a sense of injury if we don’t get what we want?

“Men are not angered by mere misfortune but by misfortune conceived as injury. And the sense of injury depends on the feeling that a legitimate claim has been denied.” C.S. Lewis

Philippians 2:2-5 should be our guide on how to deal with conflict and “grow up” in faith: ” . . . complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus . . . “

“This is one of the miracles of love: it gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.” C.S. Lewis

At the end of the day, what matters most is not whether we get our way or win an argument. What matters most is whether or not we are willing to be challenged and changed—becoming more like our Savior.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself . . . Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:5-9, 14-15 ESV)

 

Worthy Of Our Trust

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Then Moses made Israel set out from the Red Sea, and they went into the wilderness of Shur. They went three days in the wilderness and found no water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink the water of Marah because it was bitter; therefore it was named Marah. And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. Exodus 15:22-25

Just a short time before, “Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying, I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him. . . ” (Exodus 15:1-3) When Israel saw the miracles God performed on their behalf and experienced his favor, they were ecstatic. Their future was certain—they had hope. It may seem a little ridiculous that just one encounter with something unpleasant caused them to complain and panic, but in their minds they were justified in their complaint.

Human nature hasn’t changed much since ancient times. It doesn’t take much to to put most of us in “panic mode.” When it’s evident our hopes and prayers are being answered (ie when God parts a sea and we walk through it on dry land) we have no problem trusting him. But the moment we face adversity we seem to forget all about what God has done in the past. We immediately begin to question his leading, worry about provision . . . and lose sight of hope.

God was not messing around or trying to torment his people when he allowed them to taste the bitter waters. He was actually trying to show them who he was. He was trying to prove that he was worthy to be trusted. He had promised to protect and to provide for his people every step of their journey, and he wasn’t about to break his word. Unconditional trust had to be worked into them over time just as it has to be worked in us. So, over and over God would patiently prove that he wasn’t anything like the cruel Pharaoh’s and leaders of Israel’s past, and over and over they would learn that even in the most difficult or seemingly impossible circumstance, God was able to work miracles.

Israel’s brief encounter with bitter waters was just the first of many little trials that would show them (and teach us) that God is able to make even the most bitter of waters sweet. He was and is worthy of our trust.

Jesus… A Beautiful Friend

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“The justice of God is this, that . . . he gives every man, woman, child, and beast, everything that has being, fair play; he renders to every man according to his work; and therein lies his perfect mercy.” George MacDonald

We all judge (and mostly misjudge) others. It would be OK to do this if our our judgments were just and if the purpose and end result of them was the restoration or aid of others. In other words, if we were completely just people. But the reality is, our own personal experiences, emotions, and “filters” (Jesus called them “planks in {our} eyes”) blind us to proper judgment. Rarely do we see things as they really are . . . I love the above quote because it is comforting to know that God sees ALL of us. He knows every thought, every heart cry . . . he knows us inside AND out. This is why today I will sing with joy a song that will soon be released… Beautiful Friend… over and over in my life he has proven himself to be exactly that.

“A just man is one who cares, and tries, and always tries, to give fair play to everyone in every thing.” George MacDonald

Lord, make us “just” people so we can judge each other rightly and help one another in our quest to become more like you.