Cry Out to Him who Knows

So it's been over a year since I blogged, so that's about my normal time to randomly do it again! Life gets incredibly busy and somehow blogging doesn't remain anywhere close to the top of my to do list. Things like cooking, laundry, dishes, and keeping my house clean end up being more important by the time I get home at the end of the day. I'm sure my husband probably appreciates this way of prioritizing, but I do really enjoy blogging when I get the chance!

The other night I was looking over my notes from a women's conference I attended a month or so ago. (Here's a side note plug for Fresh Grounded Faith conference. Please go if there is ever one near you, it's worth your time and money. God has truly gifted Jennifer Rothschild in presenting His Word and encouraging women!) 

While looking over my notes, I saw where one of the speakers was talking about God delivering the Israelites out of Egypt. This lead me to Exodus, which then lead me to decide I would like to read Exodus. All of this to set up how I ended up in Exodus chapter 2. I'll be honest, I tend to hang out in the New Testament and don't frequent the Old Testament. But as I'm reading Exodus, I'm reminded of the sweetness in the display of God pursuing His people throughout the entire Bible! 

Ok, so getting more to the point of why I'm writing this blog in the first place and why I titled this blog "Cry Out to Him who Knows." I bet you Bible scholars and Bible trivia champs were thinking I would be focusing on Moses here since Exodus 2 primarily speaks about the background story of Moses, but no. God spoke to the depths of my heart and soul in those last 3 verses of chapter 2. 

"During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel - and God knew."

I found the cries of my heart resonating with the Israelites in Exodus 2:23-25. No I'm not in slavery and I'm not being oppressed by anyone in particular. But I have found myself in a place this past year of being in circumstances that I would not choose for myself. I've actually typed and retyped this paragraph a few times now and decided to not beat around the bush. Steve & I have been trying to have a baby for a little over a year and a half now. It's interesting how when I look back to when we started this journey how many misconceptions I've realized I had. One being, it'll be easy and we can make it happen in our timing. Don't worry, God has very much so reminded me that He is the giver of life and things happen in His perfect timing. Another misconception I began to have, is that when things didn't go as planned, thinking no one understands how I'm feeling. Again, God has been gracious to place people in my life who do understand and to encourage me.

Let me stop and say, this is not me complaining or having a pity blog party. My desire, the desire I believe God is giving me, is to hopefully encourage others who may be in this same situation by sharing how God has given me encouragement through His Word this week. You may not be in this same situation, but there is no doubt we all find ourselves in the midst of struggles and circumstances that we would not choose for ourselves. 

This journey to conceive has been humbling, frustrating, encouraging, and hard all rolled up in a big ball of the messiness of real life. There is so much I could say about this struggle - how it affects my relationships with my friends with kids or who are pregnant, the struggle to be content, dealing with the dreaded questions of "do you have kids?" or "when are you going to have kids?", trying to smile politely and give answers to questions that will not leave people uncomfortable or thinking you are the most bitter person on the planet, and so on. But instead of focusing on these things, I am now turning back to Exodus and the sweetness of the Truth of God found in the end of chapter 2.

The Israelites groaned because of their slavery and cried out to God. I find myself groaning in our struggle to conceive. I feel the despair and temptation to throw up my hands in defeat because the feelings and emotions are so overwhelming at times, but how often am I crying out to God? How often do I truly get on my knees before the Lord and cry out to Him in my despair? How often do I come before Him with the honesty of David found in the Psalms? Now I do, but if I'm honest, I so often try to deal with it in my own strength and by my own feeble will. God continues to show me how I need to cry out to Him and trust that I can do all things THROUGH Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13), not through Amanda who just gives out of strength.

So I see that I need to follow this example of the Israelites and not just sit in my groaning, but cry out to the Lord. Then comes the really sweet part of these verses that brought me so much peace and comfort. Verse 24 says, "And God heard…" God heard their groaning and just as He heard the Israelites, God hears me and God hears you. 

It goes on to say that "God remembered His covenant…" God remembers His promises to His people. God has promised us many things in His Word. He has promised that He works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) He promises that if we trust in Him and lean not on our own understanding but in all our ways acknowledge Him that He will make our paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6) I could go on and on listing promises God has given to us throughout His Word. God does not forget these. They are true and He remembers them!

And finally in verse 25, "God saw the people of Israel" and "God knew." God doesn't just see us, He knows us. How incredible is it that the God of the universe who spoke everything into being "knows" us?! How well does He know us? Please quit reading this blog and go read Psalm 139 to see how well God knows us. I can't begin to come close to expressing how God knows us better than this Psalm. I will save you the time of even reading me make an attempt at it.

So as God has encouraged me through His Word, I encourage you in the midst of your struggles and groaning to cry out to God and know that He will hear you. He will remember His promises to His people. He will see you and he knows you. As a child of God you are not crying out to a distant God, you are known.

"O Lord, You have searched me and known me!" (Psalm 139:1)


"The old has gone, the new has come..."

I spent this weekend in Nashville at a Biblical Counseling conference. I went into the weekend expecting to learn a lot and to be encouraged in counseling others using a Biblical perspective. My expectations were definitely met, and then some. I did learn a lot, but I was also challenged personally. I spent much of the weekend being challenged in my own thinking and in my own sin. God seems to do this to me most when I am least expecting it. Then today after being home and processing some things with my husband, I had one of those "ah-ha" moments. You know when you understand something that you've probably heard a million times, but then one day it finally clicks and makes more sense or you gain a better understanding than you had before? I have a lot of these because I suffer from a condition called "stubbornness" or "thick-headedness". I'm sure no one else can relate to this condition and probably understands and accepts everything the first time it's presented to you. :) 

Please know, I'm not writing this to boast about myself & some ability I have to have insight. I just wanted to share & hopefully encourage people in something God graciously showed me this weekend & really throughout the past several years!

Let me start by sharing some verses.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" 2 Corinthians 5:17

"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

These are just a few of the many verses I could have listed that talk about that when we are saved by believing in Jesus Christ, we are in fact a new creation. I think I have realized, that if I'm honest, I have lived much of my life in Christ more focused on who I was than on who I am. Which in turn, shapes my identity in how I view myself and therefore how I live. This leaves me living much of my life in Christ insecure, defeated, and lacking joy. Now I have had great times in my life of feeling secure in Christ and being very joyful, but I tend to cycle in and out of it. My focus shifts to my circumstances or my short-comings. This is not the life we are called to in Christ.

We are called to walk in the righteousness of Christ. We are not called to walk in the unrighteousness of our flesh. Notice in the verse from 1 Corinthians, Paul is talking to believers and says "and such were some of you...". Before this he basically listed out lifestyles of the unrighteous. He then makes a very clear statement that they are no longer the unrighteous. They have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit of God.

I remember clearly the day I first understood God's grace. I realized that I am a sinner and that nothing I do is good. (Rom 3:10) I understood that because God is just there must be a penalty for sin. In and of myself, my sin was earning me eternal separation from God is a place called hell. But by God's grace he lovingly sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay that penalty and that through my belief in Him I can be a child of God and walk in the righteousness of Christ. (Romans 6:23, 2 Corinthians 5:21) I believed in this with all of my heart and surrendered my life to Christ. I then began I journey of sanctification. A journey that will not be completed until I get to heaven. (Philippians 1:6) It's been a journey with a lot of "ah-ha" moments, but this has been 1 of the biggest truths for me to struggle to grasp. I am a new creation in Christ. The old Amanda is gone and the new Amanda has come. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. These are things that I knew & believed before this weekend, but is it what I focused on day in and day out? In all honesty, no. As I said earlier, I have spent a lot of time focused on the flesh, on who I was, on the mess ups or where I have fallen short. This is not where followers of Christ have to stay! We are to put off the old self and put on the new self. (Ephesians 4) By the power of God, the same God who created all of creation and raised Jesus from the dead, we can walk in newness of life!


Is relgion bad?

It seems this video Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus, has become viral and liked by many. It has also stirred controversy and critiques by many on blogs and social-networking sites.

First, I will say I don't completely disagree with what this guy says and I don't completely agree either. I will also say that that is the case with most an Christan videos I watch or books or blogs I read. The reason for that is that we are all human, therefore we are not infallible. The only things I believe to be infallible are God (which includes Jesus & the Holy Spirit) and the Bible (which is God's Word). I will go ahead and admit that this blog will have fallacies because as much as I'd like to believe I'm perfect sometimes, I'm not.

I think some people are getting a little too crazy in bashing this guy and his video. Based on some comments I read before watching the video I expected it to be completely off and not gospel centered at all. He is not the first person to use the whole religion vs relationship concept. Many people, including myself, have made this distinction. It is clear to me in watching the video that when he says "religion" he is referring to the institutionalized system of self-righteous pharisees. I will note that these "self-righteous pharisees" still exist today. Visit any local church and you will probably run into them. At the same time, you will hopefully run into genuine follower's of Christ. I really think the issue with this video is wording.

People have different understandings and definitions for various words. Especially words related to "religion".

Here's some definitions of religion I found via the 3rd infallible thing in the universe "google". (Obviously I'm joking about google being infallible.)

"the service and worship of God or the supernatural"
"commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance" 

Here's some definitions from an even more credible source, urbandictionary.com (obviously again, I'm joking)...

"The biggest lie in human history."
"cults and a form of brainwashing"

Ok, the point in all those definitions was to point out that words are defined differently by different people. Words are also defined differently throughout various cultures and generations. Context plays a big part in definition. That's why I think it is crucial for Christians (which I will define for you as follower's of Christ, not just people who go to church or live moral lives) to use the Bible to define not only their lives, but their words too.

James 1:27 defines religion this way, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Jesus himself explains that he did not come to abolish the law (which is what some think of as religion), but to fulfill it.

So do I think Jesus hates religion or that religion is bad? No way when that religion is defined by the Bible and is centered in the gospel. I do believe that Jesus hates the religion that is defined and described in this video, religion based in self-righteousness. Religion that says I can be good enough and I can do enough to get to God. For the most part, if you insert the word self-righteousness for religion, I like this video. And to be honest, if you look at most "religious" people in America, self-righteousness is what you will see.

I think this video is good for the audience it's trying to speak to. An audience that when they hear the word religion they probably get a mental image of that judgmental, self-righteous person at their church growing up that made them not want to go to church anymore. I also think there is a need for people to understand that religion does not have to be this way.

I think there is a strong need for the words religion, church, and Christian to be redefined according to the Bible and centered on the gospel. The religion of the gospel says. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23) Another favorite passage of my is, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:1-4)

Maybe believers, Christians, followers of Christ, disciples of Christ, or whatever else you want to call us need to work at defining our own words according the Bible & not based on the culture. I think we tend to view life in general through the lenses of the culture vs. the lenses of the Bible. To me, that is the biggest problem with this video. It approaches defining the Gospel through the lenses of the culture vs. the lenses of the Bible.

I guess the bottom line I'm getting at with all of this rambling, is that for me, all of this has caused me to examine myself and what lenses I'm viewing & defining life through.


What's it gonna be?

God has been putting mercy ministry on my heart for a few months now, well really probably longer but I finally realized it. Funny how God can be preparing us for something and showing us things for years, but we don't even see it. Recently I began to look at the community I live in and I noticed something, really the lack of something. There are very few resources available for those in need. Where are the soup kitchens, the food pantries, and the clothes closets?

Where can people go in this community are in need? This is what I started asking myself and people around me. I did a google search and found a website that lists such resources for different communities and these were the results for Troy, AL. 

"We did not find any food banks or soup kitchens within a 30 mile radius of Troy. Please click back on your web browser and search another city."

Wow, now my heart is really stirred so I started seeking the scriptures to see what God has to say about the poor and needy. What I found was a very clear message to "give." Through all of this I have been convicted of my own lack of obedience to give. I'm very quick to give to my church, or missionaries, or family and friends, but how much do I really give to those in need? Not much beyond cleaning out my closet once or twice a year and taking what clothes I decide to part with to Goodwill. Please know that my closet remains pretty full and I add to it probably every month. Not much sacrifice there on my part. Just being transparent here.

The Lord has really convicted me of my lack of giving and honestly my lack of desire to give to those in need. I mean do I ever even really give those in a need a thought? Well lately, God has placed them at the forefront of my mind, burdening my heart for those in need and specifically those in my community who are in need. I looked up the stats according to the US Census Bureau and as of 2009, 27.6% of the population in my county were living below poverty level. Put another way a little over 1/4 of my county is living below poverty level. Wow, that was more than I even imagined. To put it into a little perspective, in 2009 about 17% of the population of the state of Alabama were living below poverty level. 

God is putting this desire and vision in my life to give, to be the hands and feet of Christ. Jesus sums up the commandments by basically saying above all love God and secondly love your neighbor. (Matthew 22:36-40) The way I see it, living for anything else is a waste. Everything in this world will be gone one day and I hope and pray that I've invested my time AND money into something that really matters. I hope to invest in living for God and loving the people around me. More practically many of the people around me ("my neighbors") are in need and I want to follow as God is leading me to help meet some of those needs.

Do I know exactly what this looks like yet? Sure don't, but I'm banking on the fact that God does! :) So for now, I'm trusting Him and walking by faith. I'm talking to people in my community, getting ideas, and finding out what people in other communities are doing. Mostly I'm praying and that is basically why I'm writing this blog, I'm asking for your prayers. 

Pray that God would move here in my community to help meet this need. Pray that God would move in the hearts of His people to have a desire to give to those in need as His Word commands. Notice I said commands, not suggests. I'm going to put some verses below that I've read that have really impacted me in my journey lately.

Am I overwhelmed by this, heck yes! I've spent many a times lately thinking this is too much, where do you even start, what if it (whatever it is) doesn't work, etc. But the desire and conviction God has placed in me trumps all of that. What's my vision you may ask, hopefully some sort of soup kitchen or food pantry. Even bigger than that maybe one day something that is those things with a clothes closet and maybe more! That's where I'm trusting God to lead cause I don't have the ability to even think up something that could compare to what His plans are. I feel like right now God is basically saying to me, "ok Amanda, I've put this in front of you now what's it gonna be? Are you going to trust Me and follow where I lead?" And to that I pray for the strength and ability to be able to say yes and to follow. Also, I'd love any feedback and suggestions! 

What does God have to say about the poor & needy? Check these out if you want!

Deuteronomy 15:11, Psalm 9:9, Psam 82:3-4, Proverbs 14:21, Proverbs 14:31, Proverbs 19:17, Proverbs 21:13, Proverbs 22:9, 1 John 3:17-18, Matthew 19:21, and my favorite...

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in." Matthew 25:35


Life in Transition...

Yes, we are still alive, I have just been neglecting our blog! Let's just say life and time definitely got away from me! If I could sum up the past 6-7 months in one word it would be "transition". Transitioning to married life, living in a new place, finding a new church, a new job (for me), and even just being responsible for finances and other things that come with being adults on your own!

We all go through times of transition. We go from crying to get what we want to talking (sometimes I think I'd like to go back to crying it seems very effective), crawling around to walking, depending on others to get us from place to place to getting that license to drive, graduate high school and go to college, graduate college and enter the real world, etc. I must say I think this has been the biggest time of transition for me. I'm pretty sure everything in my life changed in what seemed like an instant. I think I'm just now catching up with it all!

I'm finally settling into being a wife, living in Troy, a new church, and my internship on campus (in case you don't know, I am interning at the SAVE Project & Personal Counseling office at Troy & loving it!). I've decided that during life transitions is when I really seem to grow and learn as a person. It seems like God really uses those times when I am completely out of my comfort zone to open my eyes to things I miss when I'm just living life day to day where I'm comfortable.

I thought I'd share a few tid bits of things I have learned these past few months of transition. These are in no particular order and some of these are obviously more serious than others! Enjoy!

- Being in Christian community is essential, I will fail miserably at walking with God without it!

- As a sign I passed one day said, "a closed mouth gathers little foot." (Side note about this one, I passed this sign right after a lovely little marital dispute over something not even worth disputing over. If your married or have close relationships with others at all, you know what I'm talking about! Needless to say I wanted to run over this sign at the time because it was obviously true but not what I necessarily wanted to read at the time! But it has proven to be a good truth to live by! haha)

- I do not have a green thumb and flowers will die if they are in my possession for more than 24 hours

- Cleaning can actually be rather therapeutic

- Living a life following Christ takes daily surrender, daily sacrifice, daily discipline, and daily faith!

- Living for the world will always be tempting. This will not change by getting older, getting married, or anything else. I must continually remind myself of verses such as: 

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

- Married life is the best, hardest, most fun, craziest, most challenging, most unpredictable, most exciting thing!

Can't wait to continue experiencing life and growing and learning every step of the way! 


Draw Me Nearer...

So thanks to Pandora (on my new droid that I am absolutely loving!) I heard this song by Meredith Andrews. It really just hit me where I'm at and I can't stop listening to it. I won't ramble on, I will just let the lyrics speak....

Meredith Andrews - Draw Me Nearer

Draw Me Nearer

For your nearness Lord I hunger 
For your nearness Lord I wait 
Hold me ever closer Father 
Such a love I can't escape 

For your nearness I am hoping 
For your nearness Lord I long 
Have no need of any other 
I have found where I belong 
Yes, I have found where I belong 

So draw me nearer Lord 
Never let me go 
Closer to your heart 
Draw me nearer Lord 
Draw me nearer Lord 

In your nearness there is healing 
What was broken now made whole 
Restoration in its fullness 
Lasting hope for all who come 

In your nearness I take shelter 
Where you are is where I?m home 
I have need of only one thing 
To be here before your throne 
To be here before you throne
So draw me nearer Lord 
Never let me go 
Closer to your heart 
Draw me nearer Lord 

So draw me nearer Lord 
Never let me go 
Closer to your heart 
Draw me nearer Lord 
Draw me nearer Lord 

And keep me here, keep me here 
There's nowhere else I rather be 
So keep me here, keep me here 
There's nowhere else I rather be 
There's nowhere else I rather be 

So draw me nearer Lord 
Never let me go 
Closer to your heart 
Draw me nearer Lord 
Draw me nearer Lord 
Draw me nearer my Lord


Catch up with the Wrights!

I have been such a blogging slacker! Here's a quick catch up with what's been going on with the Wrights!

- We are now the proud owners of a basketball goal! :) Just a side note, I beat Steve at a friendly game of PIG

- I am working basically full time & have started back with classes! Only 3 classes, practicum, & 2 internships left to go! There is a light shining at the end of the tunnel!

- Steve & I have found a church in Troy we are really enjoying visiting! It's Covenant Grace Baptist Church. It just started up this past January. The people have been so welcoming and the church seems to have a lot of great things going on. Here's a link to their website if you want to check it out! http://www.covenantgrace.info/

- We have a  new show that has caught our attention...The Voice! It's similar to American Idol, but I gotta say so far I'm liking it more! Idol fans, don't worry, we are still watching and cheering on Scotty & Lauren. I was a bit more of a Haley fan, but they have both been favorites of our's the whole season, so I suppose we'll be happy with whoever wins! :)

- This past Saturday, Steve, his step-dad, & his brother put together a "home" for Steve's lawn mower! Such hard working guys!

- Last but not least, we are still loving married life and God is continuing to grow us closer to Him & each other through it!