Thursday, February 21, 2013

One Way to Heaven

As most of you know I usually write from the point of my current state of mind/soul/health... what I'm going through, what God is teaching me through it or other observations where I see the work of God.  This week I feel convicted to be very blatant in what it means to be a Christian.  All of the things that I write about mean nothing without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  If you are reading this and you don't have that, please know everything I've written in prior posts is meaningless.

We lost a dear family friend last week, Ginni Burford.  She was teaching at school on a Monday and collapsed that afternoon while running an errand. She passed away 8 days later.  She was vibrant, full of life and seemingly healthy.  Two days ago, a friend of the Gregory's was killed in a car accident in an instant.  These sudden deaths have been a stark reminder of how short our lives here on earth truly are.  We never wake up thinking, "Today's gonna be my day to leave this world.  I better get my affairs in order."  That's why we must be READY at any moment.

I was talking with someone recently about this very subject.  This person said things like, "I'm a good person.... I'm religious.... I believe in God.... I read the Bible."  All of those things are great, but they are worthless unless you truly understand what it means and how to give your life to Christ and accept the gift he has given.

The first question to decide is, "Do you believe the Bible is God's word?"  If you believe the Bible is God's word, then you have to believe in ALL of it.  He wouldn't leave us His word to pick and choose pieces from it that we want to believe are true and dismiss the rest.  If we believe in God's word, we must accept it in its entirety.

If you do believe in God's word, there are four key scriptures you should know about.  Some people call this the "Roman Road" or the "Salvation Freeway" or probably other things as well.  It really doesn't matter what we label it.

Romans 3:23 - For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God

1.  Accept this statement.  We are ALL sinners.

Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord

2.  Acknowledge that because of sin, we will ALL die.  It's the penalty of our sin.

Romans 5:8 - But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

3.  Accept that God loves us so much, he sent his son, Jesus, to die and pay the penalty for our sin.

Romans 10:9-10  - If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

4.  Confess out loud through prayer that you know Jesus died for you to save you from sin.

Salvation is that simple.  It doesn't mean you become a bible-beater or Jesus-freak, although that's not as negative as people make it out to be.  It just means you acknowledge your flaws and know that God loves you in spite of them.  You accept that without salvation you will not get eternal life in heaven.

Some people are so put off by Christianity and churches because of the hypocrisy and I totally get that.  Being a Christian doesn't mean you have to attend some stuffy or fake church that you're not comfortable in.  It does mean that you should strive to live your life in a way that is pleasing to God.  When you have a relationship with someone (Christ included) you want to spend time with them and get to know them.  You don't have to go to church or read your bible or tithe your money or serve others in ministry if you become a Christian.  The Bible never says any of that is a condition of your salvation.  However, if you truly make a heart-felt profession of salvation and fully understand all that Jesus did for you, you will want to be with other Christians and find a church you love, you will want to pray, you will want to read your bible and get to know more about God.  It's a natural progression.

Being a Christian doesn't mean life is easy.  By no means (have you read the last year of my blog????)!  Once you accept the gift of salvation, you will wake the sleeping giant in your life - Satan.  1 Peter 5:8 says, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."  There are many Christians who love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength who go through really, really bad things.  The big difference between a Christian and non-Christian is that as Christians we have HOPE in something greater than us, a promise of an eternity in heaven, a comfort that is unexplainable (And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus.  ---Philippians 4:7). 
I hope if you're reading this that you are a "good person," that you do read your bible and pray.  But more importantly I hope you truly understand what it means to be saved.  It's really quite simple and it will change your life!!!!

Other News
There has been a change for the better in my good days over the last weeks.  Many of the good days haven't just been good days, they've been almost "normal" days like pre-October 2011!  It's incredible.  I have done some activities - gone to church, driven, eaten out - with NO dizziness.  I didn't have to fight to get through them.  I can't describe how liberating it has been.  On the flip side there have been some AWFUL days... it seems I came out of the dizzy all day, every day mode and started swinging to the really good or the really bad.  BUT there's still praise because the bad days aren't always lasting for days or weeks.  I may have a really bad day sandwiched between 2 good ones.  This is awesome and so encouraging.  Before when I hit a bad day I knew the entire week ahead would be rough.  Now I have hope that it may only last a short while.  The nights are still pretty rough.  It seems that's when I'm always really rocky (like I've been deep sea fishing all day) and I still have horrible dreams about crazy amusement park rides a lot.  But there are some nights the rocking doesn't last long and I get to sleep and have no dreams.  Also, writing, reading, computer work are still a challenge.  So I don't respond to many e-mails and haven't written here in a while.  I'm not sure why those things are so tough, but they are.  I'm doing work from home for my company, Faulk & Foster, which requires computer time, so I'm really having to pace myself.  F&F has been an INCREDIBLE blessing to me the last 8 years and they continue to be.  They hired an HR Manager to replace me, but they are keeping me on staff in a consulting role to work from home on a project-basis.  I am almost speechless at the love and care and support they give to me.  And they are allowing me to continue doing something I love, for a company I love - and I'm getting paid!!!!  I thank God regularly for the blessing of my job.

Beau is doing incredible since his tonsillectomy.  He is healthy and happy.  It is SUCH a joy to see him feeling good.  Lydia's doing great too.  Preliminary tests for her health issue are pointing in a good direction.  So HUGE PRAISE for these blessings.  They are also straight A students. It is humbling to know that they are so bright and they don't have to struggle in school.  I have friends whose kids do struggle and I acknowledge this is truly a blessing and a gift from God.  Jonathan seems to be doing better since the improvement in my health.  I hated feeling the burden he carried trying to do everything on his plate plus taking care of me, the kids and generally running the daily life of the family.  He'll be 40 next month and I can't wait for him to catch up with me so I don't have to hear about how he's "still 39" anymore!

My only problem child, Gator, has been with the trainer for almost 2 weeks.  He has learned a lot but will still need some more time there.  I just hope we can use those same techniques when he gets home to his "turf"!

There are days I am in awe of the blessings in my life.  Even with all the dizzy days over the last 16 months, I cannot fathom how I have been so blessed by so many other good things.  I'm often at a loss for words to express my gratitude.

I know so so so many of you continue to pray for me and my family.  For that too, I am grateful beyond expression for your faithfulness.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Internal or Eternal

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. --2 Corinthians 4:18

I must be really hard-headed.  Actually, I am really hard-headed... there's no "must be" about it.  I've always been stubborn and unfortunately, always will be.  Sickness or not, valley or not, wilderness or not, I'm still wired the same way I was when I entered this world.  I've learned a lot over the last 15 months, but God hasn't altered my hard-wires and He doesn't intend to.  If I was perfect, I'd be like Jesus and wouldn't need God.  And so he made me, flaws and all, knowing that I will always be imperfect.  There are many, many more imperfections, but hard-headedness is one of them and I get it honest (thanks Dad - love ya!).

And so as I keep longing to be "normal" again I realize there's a reason that I'm not.  Last week I was out walking and thinking, "maybe by this summer I'll be ready to teach a life group again."  And I felt God say, "2012 was your year of desperate dependence on me.  You could do nothing on your own and you learned what it means to totally depend on me.  2013 will be your year of abiding.  Abiding in me and learning everything you need to - new habits, new scripture, new ways to listen to and walk with me.  Don't rush the ministry opportunities."

And that helps me understand some of the delay in full healing back to "normal."  I believe God is trying to teach me habits that I will carry over into the "normal" days.  For example, I NEVER in a million years would have prayed daily over the "mundane" activities that I had to do (laundry, going for a walk, cooking supper) but in the last 15 months there have been MANY days that I had to pray to get  me through those very things.  I used to pray over the big things I had going on (a big work meeting, a long drive, a hectic day running errands) but I've learned to pray over all the things I need to accomplish and I hope that I will continue this habit when I'm well.

I LOVE Andy Stanley.  He's an incredible speaker and author; he's the pastor of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, GA.  If you're not familiar with him, check out his church's YouTube site and some of his sermons:

One study of his is "The Best Question Ever" (SPOILER ALERT: The question is... "Is This the Wise Thing For Me To Do?"  And he recommends going through this question and the potential outcomes and answers in making life decisions, big or small.  Over the last couple of weeks God is teaching me to ask what I think is "The 2nd Best Question Ever"...  "In light of eternity, does (fill in an activity) really matter?"  For example, I was having a dizzy day a few days ago and soooo upset and thinking, "God, I don't want to spend another day doing nothing or laying around or...." and then I thought, "In light of eternity, is laying around today and not accomplishing anything really that big a deal?"  Uh, NO!  We have a mother/son night at our church this Friday and when I got the invitation in the mail, my heart just leaped into my throat and made me sick.  I thought, "Another thing my kids have to miss out on..."  But then I asked myself, "In light of eternity, is going to the mother/son night that important?"  Uh, NOPE!  But guess what? Staying home with Beau that night and making him feel special just might.

I hope that using this question to guide my thoughts and responses to activities will be one of those habits God is teaching me and allowing me to hone in this valley so that when I'm up on the mountaintop once again I will still follow it.  If you've never asked yourself the question, I set the challenge before you over the next few days.  When you're getting stressed over things or considering participation in an event or activity, stop and ask "In light of eternity, does (fill in an activity) really matter?"  And don't just gloss over the Q&A period.  Truly think of what it means to have an eternal perspective, think about all the things you can/can't take with you when you go, think about the legacy you want to leave and think about what answer God would give to the question.

Other Stuff
I've had a couple of bad days since I last wrote but I've also had some INCREDIBLY GREAT days.  I went to life group and church on Sunday and out to lunch with my family.  I haven't been to life group and church on the same day in probably a year or so.  YAY!!!!  I'm trying to challenge myself more with driving to build up some confidence.  I am becoming very aware that lack of sleep and stress definitely factor in to dizzy days.  So, I'm a little more "old-lady-ish" (sorry if you're an old lady and this offended you) about my activities and resting more in between them.  There are still days when I think I'm invincible and push too hard and pay for it when I lay down at night.  God has definitely made us very wonderfully and so intricately!

Final thoughts and a summary of the Gregory household this week:
New water heater = $300+
Plumber = $400+
ServePro Water Clean-Up for 7 days = $homeowner's deductible
Both kids back upstairs in their own beds tonight = priceless