Extra Strength: When We Refuse to Taste What God Puts Before Us (Martha)

We leave the church building inspired and filled with Truth and encouragement each Sunday … and somewhere along the course of the week, often we find ourselves in need of a little bit of something to help us through.

Welcome to Extra Strength: a mid-week pick-you-up for the soul. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom for extra encouragement and challenge. 

ExtraStrengthEdit

Extra Strength for: Broken Palm Branches

“Hello my name is Luke, and I like toast but not the brown parts (which are the actual toasted areas.) The bread must remain white, but with a slightly harder toasted exterior without actually changing color.”

Have you seen these hilarious posts from Mommyshorts on Facebook yet? They are pictures of rosy-cheeked toddlers with quotes about their very specific food aversions/requirements.

Welcome to my world. My almost 6 year old has eating issues. It started when he was about a year and a half old. He began gagging on foods he had been happily eating up to that point and slowly but methodically over the next 3.5 years he rejected not only foods he had once eaten but also any new foods that didn’t fit into his definition of “good.” By the time he turned 5 he had boxed himself into a diet of sugar and starch plus two gummy vitamins a day. He was eating no meat and little other proteins. We tried various methods to get him to try new things but anytime we asked him the walls went up and we backed down. After being shut down over and over we reluctantly resigned ourselves to giving him what he liked and not forcing him outside his culinary comfort zone.

3.29.15 Following Jesus Bottom LineWhen I imagined my child’s future it saddened me to think about how limited his food experiences would be. He would never understand the variety of colors, flavors and textures God has provided for us. The silky, salty, peanutty sauce enveloping tender vegetables and chicken in our friends’ favorite Indonesian dish. The perfect harmony of flavors and colors in a Mexican taco al pastor. A salad of any kind. A perfectly ripe, beautifully green, buttery avocado. A western omelet.

Before Sunday if you’d asked me if I’d ever been disappointed in God, I would have said, “No.”  If you’d have asked me if I’ve ever rejected God, I would have said, “Well, sure, I mean isn’t that human nature?  I guess anytime I sin I reject God, right? ” Before rejection happens though, there is always disappointment whether perceived or justified.

I have reacted to God like my son has reacted to food. Though I call myself a Christian, I live in a box I have made by rejecting God’s attempts to draw me out into the unknown, to follow Him. Based on past experiences of saying, “Yes” to Him and having things not turn out like I had imagined I retreated to my box where things are safe and predictable, and I am in charge.

It is difficult to “follow” anyone when you’re in a box. Experiences, understanding and faith will be limited when I refuse to get out of my box. Like my son I have multiple opportunities daily to step out of my box into the risky but rich, satisfying challenge of discovering that things don’t always “taste” the way they look … just like following a God who leads me to things that aren’t always easy but are always good.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

imageMartha has been a wife for 17 years and is the mother of three children ages 10, 9 and 5.  When she’s not folding laundry, cooking meals, helping with homework, kissing boo-boos, grocery shopping, cleaning house and running errands; she loves to hold babies at Immanuel MOPS!

 


Be Challenged:

  • Meditate on Psalm 34:8
  • Ask God to help you climb out of your box and follow Him where He leads you today.

Extra Strength: There’s More to Our Words than Holding the Tongue (Martha)

We leave the church building inspired and filled with Truth and encouragement each Sunday … and somewhere along the course of the week, often we find ourselves in need of a little bit of something to help us through.

Welcome to Extra Strength: a mid-week pick-you-up for the soul. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom for extra encouragement and challenge. 

ExtraStrengthEdit

Extra Strength for: #icPressure: The Pressure of Words

God spoke the universe into being.

His Word is the bread of life.

His Son is THE Word.

blog 3-8-15 Psalm 19:14Without God’s Word and words I would not be saved. He breathed breath into my lungs, that which allows me to speak…words. But out of my heart, not my lungs spew anger, malice, slander, gossip and filth because if it came from my lungs I could close my mouth and stop the verbal vomit.

Yet even when I don’t speak the words to others, they are there in my mind. I give them time and space to make their home in my head. I like to think they are safe there, hidden away. I like to think I got to have my words and no one got hurt. I get to feel self-righteous because I had the self-control to not speak them out loud, and I can be proud because I LOOK like a nice person.

But the truth is that the inner dialogue I have with myself, the words that are never actually spoken to anyone are just as real, just as sick and just as sinful as the words that make it out of my mouth. And by the way, there are a good number that do make it out of my mouth too. Ask my husband.

Father write these words on my heart as I meditate on them this week:

Joyful are people of integrity,
who follow the instructions of the Lord.
Joyful are those who obey his laws
and search for him with all their hearts.
They do not compromise with evil,
and they walk only in his paths.
You have charged us
to keep your commandments carefully.
Oh, that my actions would consistently
reflect your decrees!
Then I will not be ashamed
when I compare my life with your commands.
As I learn your righteous regulations,
I will thank you by living as I should!
I will obey your decrees.
Please don’t give up on me!

How can a young person stay pure?
By obeying your word.
10 I have tried hard to find you—
don’t let me wander from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
12 I praise you, O Lord;
teach me your decrees.
13 I have recited aloud
all the regulations you have given us.
14 I have rejoiced in your laws
as much as in riches.
15 I will study your commandments
and reflect on your ways.
16 I will delight in your decrees
and not forget your word

Psalm 119

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

imageMartha has been a wife for 17 years and is the mother of three children ages 10, 9 and 5.  When she’s not folding laundry, cooking meals, helping with homework, kissing boo-boos, grocery shopping, cleaning house and running errands, she loves to hold babies at Immanuel MOPS!

 

 


Be Challenged:

  • Meditate on Psalm 119, and ask God to create a clean heart in you so that your words may follow in kindness.
  • Continue to find one nice thing about each person you encounter and share it with him or her.

ICYouth: You are What I Love About Sundays {Trever}

Thank you for your generosity Immanuel. Because of your generosity, we are able to share stories of how God is changing lives! Every Friday, one of our student bloggers shares how God is working in his or her life. Leave some encouragement by commenting?

by Trever Carter

There’s nothing I love more than sentimentality. I love thank yous and letting people know how grateful I am for them. Hugs are one of the best vessels for love. I’m big on “I love you”s. Traditions are irreplaceable, the big ones and the little quirky ones alike. Words on a piece of paper hold more power and weight than most anything else.

My personality certainly drives the desire that I have for these little things. It’s the way that God has crafted me: hard wired to love others and be loved by others. I am so incredibly relational that being apart from friends or family or community for too long tears me apart. And I know that Jesus was the same way. He was consistently in relationship with God, never seen without people and always going out of His way to just love. And I think that is what Heaven will be like–a place full of love.

IcYouthblog 3.6.15 heavenThat’s what I love about Sundays. I love Sundays because it’s the closest I get to Heaven at this point in my life. For those of you who don’t know me, my family doesn’t attend Immanuel on a regular basis. Sometimes my mom does, and it’s certainly a treat; nothing makes me happier than being able to sit next to my mom during service. Just because they don’t attend, though, I’m rarely at church alone. Immanuel has blessed me with family, and for that, I cannot thank you all enough.

God is always present on Sundays. He is present in the hugs exchanged when I walk in the doors and see my friends. He is present in the little hands that I hold walking kids from the parking lot to the building. He is present in every song that I sing, every word that is spoken, every bit of community that is present. And His presence doesn’t stop when the service is over. His presence transcends into lunch traditions and lazy Sundays, family grocery trips and frisbee golf outings when it’s warm. And iMPACT is certainly a way to end the day.

I have had so many memories of Sundays at Immanuel, each just a bit sweeter than the last, but not as sweet as the next, especially as I draw my high school career to a close and have to think about moving on and finding a church wherever I end up at school. But I will say this: I will try for the rest of my life to emulate Sundays at Immanuel. And not just on Sundays, but throughout my life.

I want to make my life about sentimentality. About community. About the smiles and laughter and tears. About quirky traditions. About family. Because I think God looks down and smiles big at all of those things. And Immanuel, you give me just that. You have helped make me into the man I am today, so thank you; you are what I love about Sundays.

TrevernewheadshotTrever Carter is a senior at Grayslake North High School. He enjoys running, playing lacrosse, and photography. He also likes to write, serve with the church, and spend time with his friends.

Extra Strength: If Only (Martha)

We leave the church building inspired and filled with Truth and encouragement each Sunday … and somewhere along the course of the week, often we find ourselves in need of a little bit of something to help us through.

Welcome to Extra Strength: a mid-week pick-you-up for the soul. Be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom for extra encouragement and challenge. 

ExtraStrengthEdit

Extra Strength for: #icAskIt: Based on Future Hopes and Dreams, What is the Wise Thing to do?

I know only a few people whose lives aren’t peppered with the fallout of “if onlys.”  If only I had gone to that school.  If only I had studied harder.  If only I had taken that job or applied for this one.  If only I had saved that money instead of spending it. 

 Samson is a person in the Bible who’s “if only” list might have read like this: “If only I had listened to my parents and remembered all they taught me.”  “If only I hadn’t married a Philistine woman, ignoring God’s command not to do exactly that.” “If only I hadn’t traded my strength for lust/sex.” 
Do you suppose Samson had any future hopes and dreams? 
Do you suppose his hopes and dreams included walking away from his upbringing, his people, God and his commitment? 
When you think about your future hopes and dreams are the choices you are making right now going to lead you to your hopes and dreams or rob you of them? 
Samson’s life story reads a bit like my own … except for the hair.  My mom took me to a men’s barber shop to have my hair cut so I never had long, flowing hair.  I did have an upbringing in which I was taught to love and fear God.  I even made a commitment to Him early on in my life.  However, in college, when faced with the choice to stand firm in that commitment I totally and completely caved.  I went with the culture of the time and made some very unwise choices which took me far from God for a long time.  For a time I didn’t think I would ever have children, not because of any known physical issue but due to the great distance I had put between myself and God through my choices and the guilt those choices produced in me. 
If only I had asked then, based on my future hopes and dreams what is the wise thing to do?
If only we all would.

imageMartha has been a wife for 17 years and is the mother of three children ages 10, 9 and 5.  When she’s not folding laundry, cooking meals, helping with homework, kissing boo-boos, grocery shopping, cleaning house and running errands, she loves to hold babies at Immanuel MOPS!

 

 


Be Challenged:

ICYouth: A First, A Last {Trever}

Thank you for your generosity Immanuel. Because of your generosity, we are able to share stories of how God is changing lives! Every Friday, one of our student bloggers shares how God is working in his or her life. Leave some encouragement by commenting?

by Trever Carter

A first, last.

Senior year is characterized by a lot of different things for a lot of different people. Stereotypically, it’s the easiest, most fun, care free year of high school. I, however, have found it to be one of the most stressful. College applications, scholarships, letters of recommendation flood you like the Des Plaines river in May; a lot of stress comes along with it. Add to it an eagerness to move on to something bigger and better that wages constant battle with the desire to stay in the comfortable. Finally, top it off with a series of “lasts,” and you get a pretty stressful, emotional, sentimental and nostalgic senior year. Sometimes I have a hard time wondering where God is in all of it; what role is God playing in my future and how is He taking care of my hopes and dreams?

I’ve had plenty of lasts so far this year: last first day of school, last homecoming week, last set of high school finals. But as I sat in my room last Sunday, eyes heavy and clothes and snow gear thrown all over the floor, I realized that I had just had a “first last.” This last wasn’t school related though; I had just returned from my last Winter Extreme retreat as a high schooler, and it was the first last I’ve had for a church-related thing. I won’t stop at Walgreens on the way home from school and spend $20 on junk food again; I won’t bubble with excitement on the drive up to camp Timberlee; I won’t fight to win a broomball championship, and I won’t raise my hands in worship in that chapel again for probably quite some time, if ever again.

I think the most nostalgic part is that this weekend was the catalyst for beginning my relationship with Christ five years ago, and give years later it’s incredible to look at the role He has played in my life. He has shown His ultimate provision for me by bringing me an incredible church I call home and friends and leaders I call family. He has grown me as a person, and most importantly, as a man of God.

I laughed so hard last weekend. I enjoyed every minute with my friends and with God because it was the last time I would be in that setting with those people. I smiled until the corners of my mouth hit my cheeks and laughed until my abs hurt. And now I sit and pray and wonder how God will influence my next couple of lasts, and more importantly how He will influence my next couple of years in college.

I’m praying for His guidance, and know that He will provide. I’m confident that if my heart is right, He will lead me to where I am meant to be and give me the place and people that I need. I have a hard time believing that it will even come close to comparing to my family at Immanuel, but I am so eager to experience God in a bigger way so that I can grow and mature even more.

God provides. Through the firsts and the lasts, God’s grace and provision are bountiful enough, and my first last has taught me just that.

TrevernewheadshotTrever Carter is a senior at Grayslake North High School. He enjoys running, playing lacrosse, and photography. He also likes to write, serve with the church, and spend time with his friends.