Faithinflipflops

Living simply, loving deeply!

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

Great Things He has done

I have been in bed sick for the past two days. I’m pretty sure it’s the flu. I have been fighting something for 2 weeks now. I am an AWFUL sick person. I don’t even like me when I’m sick. But as I was  getting ready to crawl back into bed, I came out of my flu induced haze and remembered that today is December 29. A very important day to me. It was 27 years ago today that I made the best decision in the world…to follow Jesus. I remember writing something about it  two years ago….I know that I will quickly succumb to the flu haze once again so I am putting this oldie but goodie on my blog! Enjoy as I crawl back into bed….
Great things He has done/Greater things to come: 25 years later
by Heidi Strickler on Wednesday, December 29, 2010 at 3:23pm ·

Birthdays are a big deal to me! Maybe it’s because I come from a large family and it was the one day of the year that was focused on me and because I love being the center of attention (That’s right, I admit it!) or maybe because my mom made such a big deal about our birthdays. We always celebrated it on the exact day of our birthday at 7 pm and all the family would come over. My last couple of birthdays before my mom died, she would come to the edge of the steps at midnight and wake me up and sing happy birthday. Maybe I love birthdays so much because they represent a new beginning. I tend to really love change. My birthday is in a couple of weeks and it is so close to the New Year that the whole new beginning thing has a lot of meaning for me.  But today is not my birthday, at least not my physical birthday. Today is my spiritual birthday, which is probably even more special to me.

 

Twenty-five years ago today, December 29, 1985, at the age of 15, I committed my life to Jesus and following Him. Yes, I am one of those radical, born-again Christians!!! I tend to be introspective on occasions like this. I had it pointed out to me by my Pastor that you see God’s glory by seeing where He has been. Moses prayed that God would show him His glory. God answered by putting him in the cleft of a rock and covering it so all Moses could see was God’s backside.  You see God’s glory by where He has been. As I look back at the past 25 years and I have seen where God has led me, I am awed and amazed! And truly see God’s glory in the great adventure that is my life.  My life has been the most amazing, fun, fulfilling, and at times, hardest life that I could possibly imagine.  Life completely changed for me on that night. Kind of like how it changed for the world when Jesus was born. His birth was so monumental it split history in half…(BC and AD).  For myself, my hopes and dreams completely changed! All for the better! Before that night I wanted to go to college and simply make a lot of money and move out of my hometown.  After that night, I knew all of that had changed.  I did go to college and I did live out of state for about 9 or so years but I am back in Vermilion (LOVE IT) and I make no money! J And I love my life.  We are starting an internship program at our church for young adults who are interested in ministry and finding out what God has for them. I get the honor of helping pioneer all of that. I had two of the interns in my office today, going over expectations and one of them said “I wish I didn’t have to work at all….there is so much I could do here at the church” and the other one said “ I wish I could be at the church all the time because I know God is going to show me what He has for me!” Listening to them reminded me of why I do what I do. I work to live; I do not live to work. Work supports me so I can do all that God has called me to do. And that has been how I have lived the past 25 years. God provides every step of the way.

 

Our theme at church for 2011 is  “Greater Things”. Pastor Jim has been speaking on the great things God has done in our church in the past and that greater things are yet to come. It resonates with me. Great things God has done in and for me over the past 25 years, too numerous to count. He saved me, healed my relationship with my mom before she passed, provided my whole way to college (through my generous church family), my dad and brother were both right with God before they passed, I served for a wonderful 5 years in VA on staff at an incredible Church of whom my friendships made there will last an eternity, countless people saved, placed me back in Vermilion for the past 9 years serving amazing people in the Church and in the community just to name a few of the great things God has done. And yet within my spirit I know that there are greater things to come! That the best is yet to come, that the next 25 years will blow the first 25 out of the water! And it is all because of Jesus and what He did in a 15 year old, messed up teen-ager as she followed Him wherever He led.

 

A quarter of a century of following Jesus and being transformed (hopefully) into His image has made me the richest and fulfilled of girls! On this spiritual “birth” day of reflecting on where I have been and how far He has brought me, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude, joy, and expectation! Grateful for where He has led for what He has done, and the crazy life He has given me; joyful because He is my strength and life is good; and expecting Him to do even greater things with the rest of my life! Because when you strip everything a way, I am still a lot like that 15 year-old teen-ager, a girl in need of a Savior.

Advertisements

Peace on Earth

Every Christmas I see an advertisement on some of the tv stations that say “May this be the year that peace on earth and goodwill toward men finally comes.”

And tonight I think about peace. I remember a policeman saying that suicides and domestic disputes spike during the holidays..the season of peace. I think about all that has happened in our world this past year…the wars, the shootings, the incredibly hateful and toxic political cycle, the job losses, the divorces, the people I know and love struggling with depression and major losses…it makes me wonder about peace. Where is this peace on earth and good will towards men that the angels proclaimed thousands of years ago to some lowly shepherds who were living out in the field just minding their own business, taking care of their own flock?.

Reading through the story in the Gospels, you cannot escape how excited the Angels were. The initial angel said that “I bring you good news that will bring much joy! Peace has come to earth!” (paraphrasing Luke 2)

What were the angels talking about? What caused them such great joy? Was war going to cease? Was mankind going to stop committing horrible atrocities against one another? We take one look at history and know that’s not true…

In fact within days of Jesus being born, Herod sentenced to death every male child in Bethlehem and its surrounding district under the age of two. (Matthew 2:16 – 18) Mankind is capable of great evil.

Jesus, Himself, says in Luke 12:51 “Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division.” Wow…that’s not very encouraging.

And how do we reconcile these two statements? What on earth were the angels talking about? What did they see that brought them such awe, worship, and joy?  The angels were not praying for peace to come. THEY WERE DECLARING THAT PEACE HAD COME! Peace had arrived with the birth of Jesus.

What they saw was God moving…moving to make things right between Himself and mankind. To bring back peace where there had been enmity.  Seeing God being born as a baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, born in a feeding trough alerted them to the fact that something big was happening. God, in Jesus, was emptying Himself, becoming a baby so that HE could come and set things right. Set us right.

So much was lost in the Garden of Eden. It was not only our relationship with God that was severed by sin but also the way we relate to one another. Relationships were broken and twisted in the fall. It was very soon after the fall, the first murder occurred — Cain killed his brother Abel due to anger and jealousy. No one has to tell us that mankind is broken and busted. We see it everyday. In Newtown. In the Sudan. In the streets of our cities. In the sex slave trade. In our marriages, in our schools, in our families.

When Jesus was born in a manger so many years ago, there was a purpose. His purpose was to live and to die. A perfect life, never sinning. Dying on the Cross. God sacrificed God for you. For me. So that we  could once again be at peace with God. And be at peace with one another.

Zacharias, a high priest and also Jesus’ relative prophesied that God had raised up a horn of salvation and was going to deliver us from the hands of our enemies (of sickness, depression, anger, rage to name a few) so tha we could serve God without fear in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives. (Luke 1:67 -75). I don’t have to be afraid of God. I can live right. I can love others right.

Jesus, Himself at the onset of His earthly ministry says that He came to preach the Good News to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom to the captives, to give recovery of sight to the blind, to free those who are oppressed. (Luke 4:18 – 19) I don’t know about you but I have been poor, broken by other people’s actions, enslaved to sin, blinded to how God really sees me and my situation. I have been chained by my own thoughts and insecurities.

Jesus was born to die. On Calvary. On the Cross. For you and for me. To break the chains and to bring us peace. From the manger in Bethlehem to the Cross on Calvary. The Christmas story is not complete without the Cross. The ultimate price for the ultimate peace treaty. Peace has come between God and man.

There is a reason Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. He came so that we could have peace WITH God and the peace OF God. We can have peace that passes all understanding. Even when it appears the world around us is going to hell. We can have the peace of God in our minds, in our bodies, in our marriages, in our careers, in our relationships.

Peace comes to earth as we accept this gift of Jesus. The Prince of Peace. The only One Who can bring us the peace that we crave. That the world craves. As we choose to follow Him and discover the purpose for which He created us, we find peace. As we follow Jesus from the manger to the Cross and everywhere in between, we find peace. As we follow Jesus, we discover that we are His workmanship, His poem, His masterpiece. We are simply His.

This Christmas may you continue to discover the peace that the angels declared had come. May you see the Prince of Peace in a fresh and new way. May you know that you are cherished and loved by Jesus.

Music boxes, Christmas, and my brother Bill

My brother Bill will be ecstatic that he is the topic of my latest blog…(I say with tongue firmly planted in cheek!)….

Today I was in my office at the church trying to be motivated. It was really hard. I have totally lost my voice so I couldn’t talk to anyone (much to Pastors Jim and Pam’s chagrin). Plus it’s 5 days before Christmas and I haven’t bought one gift. And we won’t talk about the time I wasted looking for gifts for myself! 🙂 And the trips to the bathroom and getting up to look out the window every time a gust of wind rattled the building. So between eating popcorn and drinking Diet Pepsi and checking things off my list, I decided to listen to Christmas music…maybe that would motivate me. I love the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Their music is so beautiful and majestic and touches my soul in a way I cannot explain. I listened to Christmas Canon, Requiem, Beethoven and I’m beginning to feel it. Christmas/Sarajevo 12/24, Fur Elise play. Then a song I don’t remember comes on. The Music Box. And I get tickled. One of my funniest and most precious Christmas memories comes flooding back (and if my brother Bill is reading this now, he knows where I’m going)…

In the town I grew up in, there was a little shop in the downtown called “The Music Box Haus”. They sold every kind of music box you could imagine. One of my best friends worked there throughout high school. It was a cool store to visit and was known throughout northeast Ohio. Somehow my brother got the idea that I collected music boxes.

I didn’t.

And he got me one every Christmas and for every birthday for about 5 years. I think as a teen I went through a phase of collecting panda bears and he got me a musical panda bear and got it all confused…who knows…

My favorite music box...my Indians package...it plays "Take me out to the Ballgame"

My favorite music box…my Indians package…it plays “Take me out to the Ballgame”

I still have the last one he got me. It was a beautiful porcelain music box of sea weed and a conch shell. So beautiful it was ugly. And the music would go perfect with a synchronized swimming routine. In fact, I had a dance for it. And my dancing is as bad as my singing (but I digress).

My last music box I got from my brother. I call it "The Seaweed and Conch".

My last music box I got from my brother. I call it “The Seaweed and Conch”.

Bill and I worked together at the pizza place for a while. One Christmas we were at work and  he told me that he hadn’t had time to go and get me a music box for Christmas but he was going to write a check so that I could go and pick one out for myself from the Music Box Haus across the street.  I figured 5 years was enough and I had better tell him. Plus I had a friend with me at work so he couldn’t kill me in front of witnesses.  I can still see the scene like it was yesterday. “Bill, I don’t collect music boxes…I never did. I’m sorry I didn’t say something before now.” He didn’t believe me at first. I think he got a little mad. And I think he asked me why I hadn’t told him before. I think I told him that it took me about 3 years to realize that’s what he thought and by that time it was too late to really say anything. He started laughing. And so did I. He grabbed his check book and wrote a check for $50 and in the memo he wrote “for a @$%# music box”.

We still laugh about it to this day. The ironic thing is that music box is one of my most treasured possessions. It reminds me of Bill. Every time I see it I am reminded to pray for him and his wife. And it’s a memory of just me and him.

The fondest memories are not the ones you necessarily plan but the ones that just happen.

Bill and me.

Bill and me.

Personal Constitution

My favorite show is NCIS. I love everything about it. My favorite character on the show is Gibbs. He is a man’s man. Mysterious. Quiet. Loyal. Yet he is everything you would want your dad to be. Protective. Strong. No nonsense. Kind. If you look at his role closely on the show, he is the father figure to all of the agents under him. And he has this code that he teaches and expects all those under him to follow. It is a code of conduct and each rule has a #. In one of the episodes, he has gone back to his hometown to solve a murder. Tony, one of his fellow agents, is dying to know where the code comes from. So he asks Gibb’s dad if he is the one who taught them to him. It wasn’t him. As Gibbs is driving out-of-town, he flashes back to when he first met his first wife, Shannon and where his code was birthed.

We all need a code to live by.

Fresh out of Bible college and at my first place of ministry, I felt compelled to write my own personal constitution. A code of conduct on how I wanted to live my life. I don’t remember the details on how it came to be…if someone suggested that I do it or I read  about someone who had done it or if I came up with the idea all on my own. I just know it was something that I HAD to do. I do believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and that it shows God’s heart for me, the world and how I am supposed to live. I’m not adding to it. But something inside of me wanted to put all that I had learned from studying the Bible into a personal constitution…the beliefs that would direct my actions. A code of conduct, if you will. I remember spending time in prayer on this. I was surprised how quickly the words flowed from my pen once I began to write. I have it written in one of my Bibles and a paper copy that I keep in my files. I periodically read through it as a check-up…to see if I’m still living what I believe. So here it is…my personal constitution!

1. I will be one whose life is bathed in prayer –each day beginning

and ending with prayer.

2. I will be a woman of the Word.

3. I will be a woman whose life is marked by obedience to the Lord

and those He has place me under. 

4. My life will be marked by love, as demonstrated in placing others before myself.

5. My life will be marked by simplicity

(in material things and use of my time.)

6. I will be a woman who walks in the Spirit, not stepping ahead or falling behind.

7. I will be a woman whose life will be a prayer unto the Lord.

8. I will be a woman whose every second on this earth will count for eternal things.

9. I will be a woman who hears the Word of the Lord and responds.

10. I will be  a woman who repents quickly.

11. I will be a woman who does whatever the Lord places before me with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. 

12. I will be a woman whose thought life pleases the Lord.

13. I will be a woman who lives a life of integrity,demonstrating the grace and goodness of God. 

14. I will be a woman who learns from failure.

15. I will be a woman open to correction.

16. I will be a woman who gives God ALL the glory for any success

He may allow me to have.

17. I will be a faithful steward of the gifts God has given me (not despising them by wishing I had different gifts or by comparing myself to others.)

18. I will be a woman whose life is marked by continual learning.

19. I will be a woman whose life is marked by joy and whose

strength comes from God.

20. My mouth will be a mouth that builds people up, not tearing them down.

21. IN ALL THINGS I DO AND SAY, GOD WILL BE GLORIFIED. 

The Leaf

IMG_0019

As I was leaving my house yesterday to go to a Christmas dinner, I noticed this leaf. It had somehow gotten wedged in a crack in my sidewalk. It struck me. I hurriedly put my dish for the dinner in my car and went and grabbed a camera and took a few photos. I went to my party and came back home and it was still there. Standing straight. Proud. Resilient. This evening as I type and the rain falls down, the leaf is still wedged in the crack. I wonder how long it will stay there. Will it be there when I wake up in the morning. And why am I so fascinated by this leaf?

IMG_0021

Maybe its the fragility and strength that the leaf represents. Or that it is standing when it really should not be. And it is perfectly shaped and beautiful.

I am a lot like that leaf (not the perfectly shaped part 😉 ) I know how fragile and weak that I am. But even in my fragility and weakness I know that I am strong. I have been able to stand even when difficult challenges  have come my way. The Apostle Paul writes in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians “And  He (Jesus) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities,  so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) No matter what has come my way…God has helped me stand strong like that crack in the sidewalk is helping the leaf to stand. But unlike the leaf, I know that God will not let me go.

When the wind and rain of life buffet me, I may bend and feel like breaking but I won’t. His strength is enough. It shines through my weakness. His power rests on me.  And I guess that is why I am so enamored by the leaf. God’s power and strength shines through that leaf standing in the sidewalk. The leaf represents HOPE and assurance that God has not and will not ever let me go.

My Passion for Reading

I am an avid reader. One of the best things in the world is getting lost in a book and staying up all night because you have to know what happens. I have always been a reader. The Nancy Drew books were my first series. At Christmas time and my birthday, I would pass out pieces of papers to my family with the numbers of the series I was missing to ensure I would get to my goal of owning all 56 hard back books in the collection. I had a list that had all the titles. And as I got each book, I would write the year in the front and cross it off the list. I can say today that I am the proud owner of all 56 hard back books in the Nancy Drew collection plus a cook book (which will one day have a blog of its very own) and a how to be a sleuth book (and some paper backs). Growing up I also had each title and the corresponding number memorized and my best friend would randomly call out a # and I would say the title.  (#30 The Clue of the Velvet Mask). Maybe I should not be confessing how big of a geek I am (ahem…was).

The first in the Nancy Drew Series.

The first in the Nancy Drew Series.

The inside cover. I received this one in 1979.

The inside cover. I received this one in 1979.

The list of Nancy Drew titles.

The list of Nancy Drew titles.

My love of reading translated into me wanting to be a writer. I have wanted to write as long as I can remember. I wrote my first 10 chapter book when I was 9 or 10. I patterned it after the Nancy Drew series. My mom typed it up for me and I actually sent it away to be published. It was rejected. I still have the manuscript my mom typed for me. I have misplaced the rejection letter. I know it is somewhere in my stuff and hopefully will find it one day.

My manuscript that my mom typed. Over 30+ years old! :)

My manuscript that my mom typed. Over 30+ years old! 🙂

I love quotes. Whenever I read and come across something that resonates with me, I highlight them. The really good ones, I write in a notebook. I do the same with movies. So periodically I thought I would dedicate a blog to recent quotes I have come across while reading. Here are just a few:

“Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.” Steel Magnolias

“Most people are not where they want to be in life because they are too busy talking about all the great things they want to do rather than actually doing them.” Author unknown or not remembered.

“To encounter God is to change. You cannot encounter God and not change.” Alan Hirsch

A good organization will never guarantee an effective leader, but a bad organization will kill you every time.” David Gergen An Eyewitness to Power.

It is amazing what you can still become after you thought it was all over.” Matthew Barnett

A good way to start is to stand.” Santa Claus is Coming to Town

The very capacity to see the road behind enabled him to see where the road was heading. It is a priceless asset for a leader.” David Gergen on Nixon in An Eyewitness to Power. 

Emmanuel — God with us. God with us and for us and in us and holding us and this is the Christmas miracle that outlasts all of time.” Ann Voskamp

“All tired men are pessimists.” ?

“If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” Me

“We do not get to define Jesus, Jesus gets to define us.” Alan Hirsch

Clearing my plate

In late Spring of 2011, I felt very strongly that I was supposed to begin to clear my plate.

You know how when you go to a buffet or a church dinner and there is such a vast array of amazing food to choose from but your plate is only so big? So you keep heaping the food on and there is absolutely no more room on that plate? And if you did put one more thing on it, the plate would break or something would fall to the ground! That is exactly what my life had become. If you would have asked me to do one more thing, I would have crawled into the fetal position, stuck my thumb in my mouth and rocked! I was basically working three jobs. I was serving my eighth year on City Council, working part-time at a pizza place, and working at the church. I needed the income from the pizza place but I have followed Jesus long enough to know His voice. I obeyed.

So I began to clear my plate. I put in my notice at the pizza place and finished up in June of 2011. I did not seek re-election for City Council. I knew it was time to focus on the church. My term ended December 31, 2011. God honored my obedience. In January of this year the church brought me on full-time (meaning they could afford to pay me more). And this year is coming to an end. My first full year of being single-minded in a very long time.

Today I went for my walk. It was a beautiful day. It was 60 degrees on December 3rd in northeast Ohio. I always end up at the water whenever I walk. When I got to Main Street Beach I decided to walk out on the pier. As I walked over the driftwood, trees, leaves and all the other stuff churned up from the bottom of Lake Erie due to the Super storm Sandy, something began to churn in me.

Some of the aftermath of Sandy.

Some of the aftermath of Sandy.

Walking on the Vermilion Pier.

Walking on the Vermilion Pier.

I made it to the end of the fishing pier and sat where the Vermilion River empties into Lake Erie.

Where the Vermilion River empties into Lake Erie.

Where the Vermilion River empties into Lake Erie.

And I sat. And I thought about how 18 months ago I had begun the journey of clearing my plate. And this feeling or gratitude and joy and peace came over me. I felt MY SOUL COULD FINALLY BREATHE. 

I have always been someone who has to stay busy. “Go, go, go”. “Busy people get things done.”” If you want something done, ask a busy person”. I lived that. I lived so hard that it stopped up my soul. Made me irritable.  I had no reservoirs, no margins built into my life. Everything had been affected. My creativity. My joy. My peace. My rest. My walk with God.

Today I felt, experienced the reward of my obedience of clearing my plate. It took 11 months of de-toxing to get to this place! I can think clearly again…I can write again….I love spending time with God, again. I actually feel rested! It wasn’t an easy feat to get to this place. I have given up some things to get here. Money is a lot tighter…I cut my salary by 7 grand a year. I live a lot simpler. But as I sit here typing, I realize that is all I have given up. Money. That’s it. And what I have gained money cannot buy. I read a quote that says “They say time is money, but that’s not true. Time is life.” I still work 6 days a week. I am still busy but it’s different. There are things I can say “no” to. My plate will always be full. But it will not be overloaded.

Clearing my plate led to my soul being able to breathe. Who knew?

Post Navigation