Romans 8:28

I AM ASSURED ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” {Romans 8:28}

We have a God of hope. When I make a mess of things, when my world is crumbling, when I feel lost I turn to the promises of my Heavenly Father. I tell the inner voice to silence and stop whispering the lies of defeat. Instead I choose truth. I choose God’s word. I rise up, sometimes slowly, but I rise and focus on God. Friend, if you are feeling despair or in a situation that seems hopeless know this, our God works ALL things for good for those who love Him. We have a God who can do all things

and even if you cannot imagine it, this situation will be worked for good. God has a plan for you, a good plan. Keep leaning into God and remembering his promises.

Jeremiah 29:11; Matthew 11:28-29; Isaiah 40:29-31; Romans 8:37-39

Written for The Loved Bible Project

2016

Identity in Christ

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Koa (2016)

Speaking Truth in love. Grace. Love. These are the last few seasons I have been in. God takes our rough edges and polishes them until they are smooth. We must be refined.

I went to Hawaii for my honeymoon and was drawn to the artisans. Something about the culture grabbed me and my mind longed for the slower pace. We spent hours strolling and chatting with local artists. It was good for the soul. It was good for MY soul. I escaped into the stories of each piece of art and secretly longed to be the creator. The variety of mediums was intriguing but my man and I were drawn over and over to the simplest of forms, wood, specifically Koa wood. We saw furniture, frames, bowls, instruments, paddles and even jewelry made from this silky wood. Koa is a hard, strong wood but when carved and polished appears as if it were made of satin ribbons. A finished Koa piece is so smooth it almost is soft.

Near the end of our adventure and after viewing and touching what seemed like hundreds of Koa items, we decided a Koa cutting board would be welcomed into our home. It seemed practical yet beautiful and with in the budget. (I really wanted a canoe paddle, but that is why I was blessed with a sensible husband—one paddle, no water, no boat, small suitcase…his list went on.)

Seventeen years later this cutting board still hangs in my kitchen. Let me clarify hang, hang meaning it hangs out, getting shuffled here and there. It is not allowed to be used. It is be to admired. At one point it hung on the wall and another time it rested behind the cooktop. It has collected dust and even a burn mark but the color, feel and memory never fade.

Koa means warrior.

The interesting thing about Koa wood is that it doesn’t need a lot of finishing. How can a warrior need minimal finishing?

Funny thing, that last question was meant to be a place marker. I had been writing and came to complete stand still stuck on that question. (Since my writings are typically short, I sit down and write until the thought or story is finished, so this was not how I operate.) When I closed my computer last Friday my husband inquired how it was going, we smiled sharing the memory and I explained how I was confused. He assured me I would figure it out.

I have been pondering this question for 5 days now. It has had me stumped. I began to wonder if this lesson was not a lesson for me and just a lovely memory.

How can a warrior need minimal finishing?

And then the connection came. Dishes will have to wait. I need to write. 

God knows that I take time to process things. Apparently, I needed to do some heart work and forgiveness in this season before I could make sense of this.

How can a warrior need minimal finishing?

Warriors are strong and require little finishing or refinement because

The strongest of WARRIORS ARE BORN.

A warrior can not be created in refinement instead it is who they are. The flowering Koa tree, Acacia Koa, is strong and beautiful inside and out. God created it this way. The other interesting fact about the Koa is that it is the second most common tree in Hawaii. It is not unique in it’s area. It is surrounded by other warrior trees.

In each season, I am challenged and tested. I prefer to be called a hands on learner as opposed to trial and error and error and error learner so I must be challenged to truly learn. Each time, the challenge hurts and I swear, sometimes literally- don’t hate me, that I am going to quit, that I am done. This is usually followed by me putting myself to bed early which everyone is thankful for. I must admit, this technique does not always work well. The sleep is restless and I loose control of my thoughts. Finally, I cry out to God for help. Help me see. Help me learn. Help me know. Help me understand. I open my Bible, pray lots and call someone wiser than me.
Clarity and peace finally appear. I breathe deep because I know I’ve made it to the other side. I did not quit, almost did but didn’t quit. Peace comes when you do not quit. Warriors do not quit. You have to make it through the challenge to get the reward. A friend recently taught me that blessings and burden go hand in hand, like pregnancy and babies— burden and blessings. The challenge is the burden. The peace and joy are the blessing.

I am strong. I am brave. I am a warrior.

Each challenge refines me. The grind of the sandpaper is uncomfortable for everyone. I cringe at the thought of the grit. It is hard on the sander and hard on the sanded but it must be done. If we leave the product unfinished splinters will incur. If we leave it unfinished, it will still be strong and beautiful to those who recognize strength and quality but if we finish it, if we refine it, there is no denying it’s beauty and strength. It reflects light and depth.

Koa means brave, bold, fearless or warrior.

I am these things. I learn it in each new season. I know I am not alone. Warriors are surrounded by warriors. You are a warrior friend. You were made strong. You are beautiful inside and out. Join me in these seasons of refining so we can be equipped and shine better than ever. Fight with me fellow warriors.

Fight for your marriages. Fight for your children. Fight for your friends. Fight for your peace. Fight for your health. Fight for your faith. Fight for your joy. Fight for the least of these. Fight for the love of God to reach everyone you know.

Grace and Peace.

“God-of-the-Angel-Armies will step in and take care of his flock, the people of Judah. He’ll revive their spirits, make them proud to be on God’s side. God will use them in his work of rebuilding, use them as foundations and pillars, Use them as tools and instruments, use them to oversee his work. They’ll be a workforce to be proud of, working as one, their heads held high, striding through swamps and mud, Courageous and vigorous because God is with them, undeterred by the world’s thugs. I’ll put muscle in the people of Judah; I’ll save the people of Joseph. I know their pain and will make them good as new. They’ll get a fresh start, as if nothing had ever happened. And why? Because I am their very own God, I’ll do what needs to be done for them. The people of Ephraim will befamous, their lives brimming with joy. Their children will get in on it, too – oh, let them feel blessed by God! I’ll whistle and they’ll all come running. I’ve set them free – oh, how they’ll flourish! Even though I scattered them to the far corners of earth, they’ll remember me in the faraway places. They’ll keep the story alive in their children, and they will come back. I’ll bring them back from the Egyptian west and round them up from the Assyrian east. I’ll bring them back to sweet Gilead, back to leafy Lebanon. Every square foot of land will be marked by homecoming. They’ll sail through troubled seas, brush aside brash ocean waves. Roaring rivers will turn to a trickle. Gaudy Assyria will be stripped bare, bully Egypt exposed as a fraud. But my people – oh, I’ll make them strong, God-strong! and they’ll live my way.” God says so.”
-Zechariah 10:3-12 (The Message)

2016

In the Saturday

Saturday, the day of waiting.

The cross, blood shed, agony of pain and tears mark Good Friday. Christ died on the cross and was put in a tomb. His death paid the price for my sin and yours.

Saturday morning was filled with sorrow and an emptiness. How could life return to normal? What would the new normal look like? What’s next? Saturday left many unanswered questions. Saturday was the hopeless waiting.

Today, Saturday, we know Sunday is coming. We are preparing for our celebrations of the resurrection. We already have the hope of Sunday since we know what happens next. Instead of sorrow, outfits and chocolates are being picked out, menus are being planned and phones calls to loved ones are being made.

Today we live in the Saturday, the waiting. We already have hope and the promise of Christs’ return but we wait. Unlike that first Saturday of waiting, we wait knowing the ending so we wait in expectant anticipation.

Today is a good day to look at our waiting. Are we spending our time planning details that will soon be forgotten or are we preparing our hearts? Are we doing what is required of us? Do we walk humbly and love mercy and justice? Are we loving our neighbor? Are we caring for the widows and the orphans? Do we forgive and extend endless grace? Or, are we stuck in the dress and chocolate buying of Saturday?

The guest of honor arrives on Sunday. Are you ready?

Grace upon Grace,

Ari H.

Abide

The word abide has made an impression on my heart. Many times I’ve pondered what it truly means to abide. I know I am to abide in Christ and my understanding is that abiding means to live with Christ daily but as I am listening to the song, Abide in me, I’m wondering the significance in the choice of the word abide and the need to dig. The song stirs up a longing to do it right. Am I abiding fully? How do I abide correctly? Can I abide wrong? It’s time to explore and know for sure.

Understanding words gives deeper meaning to sentences or in this case, truths. Sometimes we know the general meaning of a word and gloss over it when reading because we get the concept. I believe this is one of those words we need to slow down and understand more. I know in my spirit that if we grasped all of what it meant to abide, our lives would change.

Abide: (verb)

Accept, act in accordance with

Continue with out fading or being lost; to live, to dwell.

Old English: wait, onward

The definition is not far from what I knew; to live, dwell, to accept but as I suspected, there was an important piece missing in my mind. To continue with out fading or being lost leaps off the page, screen actually. As I grow in my faith journey the times I feel lost are less and less but there was a time I often felt lost and was living life by going through the motions. If that is you, there is no shame in that—keep going it will get better. For me, the continue with out fading was a smack in the face. Right now I am tired and have felt the fade, gratefully I am on my way to a conference to refuel and be still. I must get better at that. In my car, I am 100% the wait until the tank is practically empty before filling up kind of person. Apparently, I do this with my soul as well. I go, go, go and then go on fumes till I can make it to refuel. This year, I decided NO MORE…..actually, I’ve decided this AGAIN, this year. This is not a new issue I deal with, but once again I find myself in this place of too busy, too tired and little to give others. Ahhh, I’m laughing at myself, that a little word or not so little word woke me up again.

Do better! Do differently! Abide.

How? How do I do it differently? How does one abide? I go to my Bible app and search abide but I’m in flight so searching doesn’t work. So what do I know? To abide is to live and I know John 15 is about living with Christ. (I am not good at bible references and using a digital Bible doesn’t help. Mostly, I type in the verse I’m looking for and let it tell me the reference or ask my husband who has an incredible memory for knowing what is where in the Bible.) I spent a few months reading and rereading John 15 (so I have that reference down). The first version I read says “Remain in me, and I in you”. I read the chapter and all I learned comes back like an old friend then as I often do, I check another version, ESV, and there it is. ABIDE!

As you know, when writers or speakers want to emphasize something and get a point across they repeat it. They repeat it. The safety instructions on the plane are given once and also on a card to read. The check engine light in my car goes on and stays on until I fix it.

In John 15 with in 8 verses the word abide is used ten times.

10 times shouts that this is something we need to understand and work at until we fix it. We must get this right.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

John 15:4-11 ESV

TEN times. Again, my nature would be to gloss over a few of these 10 but I can not. There is a reason this word weighs on me, I need to get it. We need to get.

1. I am to dwell in God with out fading and God will dwell in me. God chooses to dwell in me! I know this but it still gets me every time.

2. A branch can only produce fruit while it is attached to the vine.

3. We, the branch, must stay connected to Christ, the vine, in order to produce anything.

4. In case we missed it in the sentence before, Stay in Christ, apart from Christ we can do nothing.

5. When we choose to separate from God, we shrivel, die and eventually are discarded.

6 & 7. There is a huge reward when we stand firm and live in Christ and read and listen to His words. God will show up for us and answer our requests. Our lives glorify God with the good fruit we produce as a result of our obedience and earnestly seeking Christ.

8. He loves us! We are to accept, continue with out fading, live, dwell with in God’s love.

9. If we follow God’s commandments, we will live in God’s love.

10. Jesus set the example for us and followed God’s commandments and dwelled in God’s love and because of this we will have abundant joy.

That is where I want to be! I want to live a life so full I am overflowing with joy. Each day I choose to abide. I abide by staying connected through reading, praying and listening. I abide through worship. I recognize and thank God wherever I may be. What we dwell on and in we become. The natural outpour will be love for others. The love in turn creates joy, abundant joy.

Yes please, I want more joy. Joy so full it pours out onto all those around me.

We must learn to abide, to live unwavering in accordance with and in connection to the vine.

Washing Feet

I am an all year flip flop girl which is unfortunate as I live in the midwest. In the winter, I wear them indoors and an occasional 1 minute trip down to my sisters house if it is not hideous outside. In the summer time, I wear them all day every day. This does come at a price, my feet can be tough like leather on the bottom and at the end of each day I feel the layer of world that has attached to my feet. During the day, I enjoy the grass, sand and earth between my toes but as soon as I think about bed I feel every spec of dirt. I MUST wash my feet.

Jesus knew what the coming days would bring. He felt the weight of it and understood the significance. All twelve of the disciples were invited to join him around the table. They were not aware how meaningful this time would be. As they arrived, Jesus grabbed a towel and washed the feet of each of his trusted, beloved friends. Their feet must have been leathery and the dirt from the roads and the world would have crept into the cracks of their heals and wrinkles in their skin. This was no quick rinse instead Jesus got on his knees and scrub off the dirt and filth. He humbly served his beloved.

This story is not a new one to me. I have heard it, read it, pictured it many many times but this time I was struck by something new. Jesus loved each of disciples. He kept his 12 friends close and shared everything with them so serving them seemed a natural. What I had not considered was that as he washed their feet and served each on in this close personal way, he knew how they would treat him. He knew what the days to come would hold. Jesus knew the ultimate betrayal Judas would do as he lovingly served him. Jesus knew that Peter would deny him 3 times as he lovingly served him. Jesus knew that he would beg them to be by his side in the garden and they would fall asleep leaving him alone. Jesus poured his life into each of these friends and each would disappoint him in the end but he washed their feet, he loved them anyway.

My feet are filthy because I walk through the world. I love and want to honor Jesus with my life but I get dirty. I get this world in the cracks and in the creases. I deny Christ through my actions. He pleads for me to be with him and yet I choose the world. I break his heart and yet my Father loves me enough to invite me in, to lovingly serve me, to wash my feet and make me clean. He knows my sins, my flaws and yet my Father invites me to break bread. He invites me to His table, over and over. I am loved in this amazing way so I must do the same.

 

Keep on keeping on friends. xo, ari

 

 

 

 

10.17

Ouch

OUCH

I love the Bible App. Maybe it’s the convenience of it or that I can make the letters huge on my screen? Don’t get me wrong, I am still a paper girl and love a good pen and my old Bible but I’m also a tech girl and love my gadgets. Many mornings I grab my phone while still in bed and open the Bible app. The light is too bright and my eyes haven’t adjusted to the world yet so I have it read to me. I listen to the words and pray.

After a month of zero sleep in or lazy start mornings, I am up early even though I don’t have to be so what seems to be a normal response to me, I refuse to get up. I will stay in bed, wide awake. After 20 minutes of my mind wondering here and there I decide to wrangle it back in and be intentional. I open my Bible App.

I see a large number staring at me, 291.

Hmmm, my mind is in for one more rabbit trail before I settle into the word. 291, I tap into it. Oh wow! I have been in the Bible 291 days this year. I fall for it and take the pat on the shoulder I know is coming from somewhere but instead I feel the comforting rub on the shoulder with the words, “Ohhh hunny”. You know, the one gentle hand shoulder rub? The “it’s okay, I fell for it too” one? Yup, that was it.

I did the math. 291 days is 79.7% That is not even a solid B! (The semester grades were recently finalized in my household so these convos are fresh in my head.) I was ready to throw a victory dinner for the lower end of a borderline grade at best. OUCH. Well, maybe I should review this further and ask the questions parents ask. Because I am an adult I will immediately put the excuses aside and not discuss how I also read my paper Bible and books about the Bible but I won’t go there because as an adult I would also have to look at the time spent on the phone total vs the time in the Bible app. DOUBLE OUCH.

Instead stick to the questions, only the questions….. Did I put my full effort into it? Did I do my best work? Is this my full potential? Is my current ability only C+/B- work? Is the Bible App not my thing?

Gulp.

No.

No. No. No. No.

Deep breath. Sigh. Ouch.

Thank God, literally that God is not a shaming parent and not one of condemnation and guilt. Instead God looks us in the eyes and says, “Good effort but I know you can do better. I love you, now keep at it and maybe look at completing those many reading plans you start. Focus, I need you to be prepared for the big plans that are in store for you. Go girl, you got this because I got you.”

I’m sorry God. I’ll do better because I KNOW your plan is better than mine. You see the big picture and know what is best for me and in order to hear your will I must spend time reading your words, not the worlds.

This journey isn’t easy and requires commitment, reflection and grace. This is how we grow.

I’m still not out of bed but have a lot stirring in my heart and head. I am grateful God is not done with me yet.

What is God rubbing your shoulder gently and saying “Oh hunny” to you today? Read. Pray. Listen.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭12:30‬ ‭NIV‬‬

MOSI-VALI-TATU…

I grew up spending my summer on adventures with my grandparents at camp in in the UP,  a cabin on Diamond Lake in Canada or a cabin on a tiny lake in Northern Wisconsin. The common elements of the 3 included unplugged family time with each other, God and nature. As a kid, the common element was the lake, all day lake time. I am a lake girl at the core.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the ocean but there is something special about a lake, maybe it’s my shark phobia, but I digress.  I am a lake girl just like my Gram.

My Gram lead the charge to the lake every day, no matter the temperature.  Those northern mornings are not what many would consider swimming weather but we typically did not take that into consideration, every sunny day was a swimming day.  My sisters and I would get in our suits, stay wrapped in our towels and stand at the end of the pier waiting.  We were waiting for an adult to come down, of course there was no swimming with out an adult near the lake.  We giggled and danced on the pier. We stared at the water. On warmer mornings we would dangle our toes in, but not on the side where a Muskie lived. Our toes were only safe on the swimming side. We did all the things we could do to distract our minds while we were in the waiting.  Sometimes, if we waited long, mind you 4 minutes is long in a young mind, on the cold mornings we began to question why we were standing there watching the fog from the cold air hitting the warmer water.   Minute 5 is when the doubt began to creep in.  Maybe we should find something cozy to do? Maybe today should start out slower? Maybe today was not made for adventure?  MAYBE….but then we would hear the screen door creek open and hear the squeals and joy of my Gram.  The adventure filled day was about to erupt.

Gram greeted us each with her laughter and love.  She got to the end of the pier and exclaimed… MOSI-VALI-TATU which is 3-2-1 in Umbundu and then she leaped off the pier.  The hooting and hollering started as soon as she bobbed up.  She laughed and yelled it was cold, cold, cold then had to reassure us that is was not too cold.  It seemed the hooting and hollering made the cold fade and soon she began to count down for us to jump, MOSI-VALI-TATU,  MOSI-VALI-TATU, MOSI-VALI-TATUuuuuuuu, until we each jumped in.  Filled with excitement and fear, we jumped into the cold dark lake.  Sometimes we jumped alone and sometimes together. Sometimes we jumped on the first count but sometimes it took a second count.

Each day was  different but lake days started with this little ritual. It seemed like nothing more than a fun game at the time but as I wrap up 2018 and think about 2019, I see  all that it provided.   First, we learned the value of waiting.  Waiting can be hard, but worth it.  When I have a plan in mind and  I wait on God’s plan instead of rushing in, the blessings are better than I anticipated.  Gram taught us that we needed guidance and we could trust her.  Today she is gone but I remember her ways.  She also taught us that God is our true trustworthy, everlasting guide.   She showed us how to be brave and to encourage others to be brave too.  We need to cheer each other on and count down together.  Sometimes it looks like cheering from the water and sometimes it is standing next to each other holding  hands and counting it down.  Finally, choose the adventure! Don’t doubt yourself, retreat or sit on the sideline.  Jump in, the adventure is waiting. The adventure is worth it.

So, spend some time and write down  bold dreams for 2019.  Think about who will  cheer you on or hold your hand and count it down.  Pray about these dreams and ask what more God has in store for you. God’s plan is always good and bigger than your dreams. It requires you to be strong and courageous and requires a YES and AMEN.

Are you ready?

MOSI-VALI-TATUuuuuuuuuuuu

 

 

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