Monday, November 26, 2012

Standing Firm

Taking a risk, as long as you are sure it is God's plan for your life? Best thing you could do. Both for your faith as well as your life in general. Some might see quitting a full time job with great benefits as idiotic. Not that I didn't have a back up, Old Navy promised they would give me as many hours as possible over the holiday season. But living on $8-ish an hour? Whew. Talk about scary! Feasible, but not terribly pleasant. So I left Verizon and prepared to buckle down on my spending for a couple of months. I applied at a few places, and immediately started getting calls to set up interviews. Confirmation that I was doing the right thing? Absolutely. Not even one week after my last day at Verizon, I got a call offering me a full-time position at the local newspaper. WHAT?!?!?!? I left a job that was completely unrelated to my college education, stepped out on a limb, and landed an opportunity to do what I went to school for? Thank you, Jesus! Amazing, truly amazing!

I realize, sometimes life gets scary. God asks us to do some pretty tough stuff, not just to test us, He really does have our best interests at heart. What is is that God is asking from you right now? To leave your job? Move? Become a missionary? Live publicly for Him? Go back to church? Witness to those around you? Give up a bad habit or addiction? He isn't asking these things of you to make your life miserable. He wants to make it fulfilling. Think about it. Is avoiding His will for your life really satisfying? Where has running away from Him gotten you? When I was in college, living my life for me, I was daily choosing to do the opposite of God's will for my life. Living for the moment, doing what I wanted, ignoring the quiet knocking at my heart. It was miserable. I didn't know it then. I thought I was having fun. Parties, boys, friends. I was on top of the world. But when I was alone, I was sad. Just sad. I spent all of my time trying to ignore my misery. Constantly texting, calling, cyberstalking everyone I knew; all to distract myself from how utterly alone I was. No amount of drinking, schoolwork, social interaction could bring joy. There would be moments of happiness, snippets of fun. Laughing at a party with a friend, but the moment they left I would look around. See the stains on the carpets at the hockey house, empty bottles, vacant stares, sticky everything. Stumbling, crying, puking. Walking in on a "friend" having sex with the guy I was seeing in a bathroom. More crying, driving home, waking up wondering how I got there. The moments of pleasure were not worth the horrible feelings of regret and loneliness. Avoiding God does nothing but make life harder to navigate. Maybe you aren't as extreme as me, maybe the only thing God wants from you is for you to take a few moments of every day to worship Him. Believe me, whatever He wants from you, no matter how inconvenient you may think it is, is worth it. The comfort, peace, and joy found in living a life for Jesus is longer lasting than the fleeting happiness of living for yourself. What does God want from you? Why do you keep running? It's time to stop, listen, and take the leap. The rewards, whether they are on Earth or in Heaven, are worth the risk.

Always,
Jaci





P. S. Cindy's feet. Karisa's guitar. That is all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Moment


Stop. Look around. Soak it in. Find something that inspires awe in you. Something simple. Like a moment in time. For me, it was sitting cross-legged on my bed, about to fold laundry. Marked by the smell of lotion, iPod playing worship songs. Something completely normal, in the midst of chaos. A week of last days and first interviews. Filled with missing family, enjoying friendships, regretting mistakes. The everyday hustle and bustle of a busy life. Then a moment. A reminder that God is in control. He knows the plans he has for me, even if I can’t see exactly what His intentions are at this point. In the midst of chaos, a moment of normalcy. No matter how many things are going on, there is still laundry to do, things to be written, people to be reached. When life gets crazy, rely on God. Have passion for these moments. Revel in them. When we stop and take a second to listen, to escape our hectic lives, that is when He speaks to us. He comforts us, lets us know He is with us...in moments like these.

Always,
Jaci

Monday, November 12, 2012

Take Heart


Distant music pulls me from a deep sleep into the land of half-aware. To my left, a light flashes in the dark, the music coming from it. I reach for it, and it falls away from my hand. Desperate to know what it is, I follow. A burst of pain and shooting stars fill my head. Fully awake I realize, the object is my phone, and my forehead just met my bedside table. It’s 5:30a.m., I’ve slept for 4 hours, and now it’s time to do set up at church.

This weekend was a lot of things, it was hectic, exciting, impactful, COLD, life changing. It required much planning, organization, dedication, and prayer. The thing that stood out to me is how much COURAGE it took, from everyone involved. It took courage for the Skull Church crew to step out and plan an event in a town with no Fresh Life campus; for the volunteers to brave a snow storm to get to Bozeman. The MOB crew showed courage by walking up to perfect strangers and inviting them to the event. The 57-ish new Christians that walked forward during the invitations this weekend had the most courage of all. They were willing to stand up and show the world that they wanted to make Jesus the center of their lives. With society as it is today, all of the hostility focused on Christians, it is hard to publicly make that stand. As Christians, God will stand by our side, all we have to do is stand for him. Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

God gives us peace when we leap out in faith. If we choose to have courage, and follow his will, he provides us with a calmness and assurance. From my own personal experience, selling everything I owned and moving back out to Montana alone was terrifying. I believed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it was what God wanted me to do; it was still scary. I followed his path, and he comforted me and cast away my fears. Just today, I gave my resignation notice at my job. My income will be taking a sizable hit. The way of life I’ve become accustomed to will completely change. Change is good. It teaches us lessons. I’ve recently been placing too much importance on worldly things, things money can buy. Money is by no means a bad thing, but I know I need to learn that true joy comes from above. I’m afraid of what the next few months will bring; but I am at peace, knowing it is all in God’s hands.

Be strong, take heart, God knows what is best for us all.

Always,
Jaci

Friday, November 2, 2012

Leaving the Comfort Zone


Hey ya’ll! So, it’s been a whirlwind of a week. Decisions being made, lives being changed (hopefully), and a little bit of pain. A few weeks ago I was fasting and praying about the direction of my life. I didn’t know if I was supposed to continue living in Billings or head back east to be near my family. I wasn’t sure what God was calling me to do for Him. All I knew was that I needed to live for him, publicly. Opportunities arise when Christians allow themselves to be pulled out of their comfort zone and used. Enter Fresh Life MOB crew.  My church has an outreach program called the MOB. We get training on how to talk to strangers about our church and Jesus, and then do so. It’s pretty cool, really. One of the activities the MOB will be doing this winter is going door to door and just simply serving people. We aren’t going to be knocking on people’s doors and shoving our beliefs down their throats, that’s not a effectual way of witnessing by any means. We will knock on their door, invite them to church, then ask if we can rake leaves or shovel for them. Showing God’s love, through serving. The MOB also goes to highly populated areas and simply hands out invites to Fresh Life. No pressure, just an invite. If someone starts to ask us questions, OF COURSE we will answer them and hopefully lead someone to Christ.

So we’ve got this awesome concert/service coming up in Bozeman next weekend called Skull Church. Hawk Nelson will be there Friday night, Leeland on Saturday, then Leeland will lead worship at church on Sunday in Billings. SO stinkin’ excited! You have no idea. Anyways. With this upcoming event, and the opportune timing of Halloween, we decided to do some MOBBING on Wednesday night. It was incredible. Seriously. We walked a couple of blocks with a few hundred trick-or-treaters, and invited as many as we could with our With the Wild Beasts cards. There was a group of teenagers that were curious and asking questions, as well as one other man and woman. Mostly, people were in a hurry to get in, get candy, and get out. It was a great experience over all. Things started dying down (haha, Halloween, get it?) around 9:30p.m. and we decided to head downtown. Best idea ever. We were actually pretty nervous about it, thinking drunk people were probably not the best people to invite to church. Boy, were we wrong. We had some of the best, most intense conversations with people smoking outside of the bars.

It’s amazing how many truly lost souls came from a “churchy” background. James, the guy Tiffany and I talked to the most, mentioned how he had gone to church for a while in Florida. He said he felt as if he wasn’t welcome there. Why, you might ask? Because he has tattoos and piercings. Well waddaya know? A good ¾ of our church has tattoos and piercings. James and his friend were incredibly interested in the idea of a church that asks you to come as you are. We don’t want you to stop drinking, stop smoking, stop doing this, stop doing that, and THEN come to church. Come now! Be screwed up, be a mess! We ALL are! If something in your life needs to change, Jesus will help you change it. But don’t let that stop you from having a relationship with Him now! You can’t receive help from someone unless you let them IN to your life. Jesus loves you, He loves me. No matter what you’ve done, what you’re doing, what you’re going to do. Absolutely NOTHING you can do will change the fact that He loves YOU. Nothing. That’s amazing. As humans, our love is so fickle. It’s entirely dependent on what someone can do for us, how that person treats us, even how we’re feeling any given moment. Jesus loves each and every human being on this earth irreversibly and completely. The problem is, so many people won’t let Him in. So many people believe in God, but aren’t willing to give themselves to God. I’ve been there.

In college, I believed that God created me, but I didn’t want to open up my life of sin and invite Him into it. I was partially ashamed. I didn’t want Him to know what I was doing. Foolish, of course, seeing as He knows everything. I was also afraid of giving it all up. I thought I was too bad, had done too much for Him to forgive. I was afraid that I would give up my sin, but wouldn’t be accepted back into God’s love. Then I wouldn’t have anything. Crazy, the things we allow Satan to trick us into believing. Turns out, the longer I said “No” to God, the easier it was, and the more it hurt Jesus. All He wants is for us to know that He loves us and to let Him in. That’s it. Have you ever had your heart broken? Loved someone, and had them not love you back? It’s tough. Really tough. Now think about how much more it hurts for Jesus. He is rejected each and every day by those he loves, those he DIED for. Ouch. The sin in our lives, the things we’re ashamed of, He loves us in spite of. It hurts Him to see sin in our lives, but no amount of sin can keep him from loving us.

A lot of people believe in God. I did, but I didn’t have a relationship with him. I didn’t want him to be a part of my life. I even knew, that if I died, I would be going to Hell. That terrified me, but not enough. I figured there would always be tomorrow, then I could get things right with God. I got lucky, I lived until that tomorrow. The joy of a changed life is indescribable, unreal. I have peace. I was like Eeyore, darkness following me every step I took. Now the clouds have cleared and grace has taken their place. Having a relationship with God, that’s the ticket. Simply believing that there is a God? Not enough. Even Satan believes in God. Will he be spending any quality time in Heaven? Survey says? No.

These are the things people need to hear, these are the things we shared with anyone seeking answers on Halloween. The conversations were deep and meaningful. I really hope to see James and his friend on Sunday. That would be AMAZING. On my way home, I realized, this is what I’m called to do. God wants me outside of bars, in parks, or knocking on doors—blessing people’s lives. He wants me here, in Billings, Montana, at least for now. This is where I’m the most challenged, where I’m forced outside of my comfort zone. It was an amazing high, followed by an instant low. I parked in front of my house, grabbed my phone and saw the face of my beautiful nephew, Greyson. And I cried. Hard. I miss my family so much. So very much. They’re the most incredible people in the world, and I love them. Sometimes what God wants from us is hard, but the blessings that come from following His will are unbelievable. If even one person is saved because of the sacrifices we make, the glorious celebration in Heaven will be well worth any momentary heartache we experience in this temporary home.

Always,
Jaci