“The Blueprint for Marriage”

Here’s another sermon on the series “Save the Date”. It completely transformed my view of marriage.

The Porch: “The Blueprint for Marriage”

Advertisements

I don’t say “AMEN!” to many things but to this…AMEN!

“Singleness is a Gift from God” http://www.watermark.org/message/3543

There are so many perspectives on “Singleness” and sometimes they echo one another, but this one is different. I recommend it. It’s not just for “singles”… I will warn you, the end portion of it does tend to move towards a more mature audience just in case there are any younger audiences out there.

I hope it blesses you the way it blessed my life.

-S

 

This isn’t a cold brew. It’s iced coffee.(Revised)

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” –Matthew 7:3

Many weeks ago, I went to my favorite coffee place (Starbucks or as Graham Cooke says “St. Arbucks”) and I ordered my favorite drink. That afternoon, I was meeting my gal pal  for cake and coffee, and when they called up my order I did not go up to the counter. You see, what I had ordered was a sweetened iced coffee with 2% milk, and what they had called out was a sweetened cold brew with 2% milk. My friend asked, “Isn’t that your drink”?  Skeptical, I walked up to the counter, read the label “cold brew”, and when the very nice barista noticed my quizzical expression, he told me “that’s yours”. So I grabbed the cup, and a little bummed returned to my seat. When my friend asked, “What was wrong?”. I just stared at the counter with a saddened expression and whispered, “I got a cold brew..”. She then replied with, “Isn’t it the same?”. And that’s where this started…

Contrary to popular belief, an “iced coffee” and a “cold brew” coffee are not the same thing.

By appearance: yes.

By color: yes.

By taste: no, no, no.

The difference between these two beverages lies in the brewing process. An “iced coffee” is just regularly brewed coffee poured over ice, but a “cold brew” is different. The brewing process for a “cold brew” involves soaking coarse-ground beans in water for 12 hours or more (usually overnight). The result: a coffee beverage with less acidity and less caffeine content. So although they look similar, they are two distinct coffee beverages.

Which brings me to Matthew 7:3, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”. How often do we look at a situation, and immediately start imposing our own views over it? Just because a similar experience may have happened to us, does not mean that it is the same for another individual. Likewise, just because someone is upset or may even come across as disrespectful, does not always indicate that it is because of us. But how often do we point the faults of another without looking at ourselves? The other day, someone came into the place I work and needed assistance. This person’s behavior included: three irritated sighs, finger tapping on the counter, and speaking over another individual. After analyzing her behavior it would appear this person was  a) in a hurry b) irritated c) disrespectful/rude. These were the first observations I made, and honestly I was a bit annoyed at the entire situation. Luckily, it was time for my lunch break so I left thinking it was all behind me…

-wrong.

I was jamming out to some song on the radio, when I felt my thoughts interrupted by..

knock, knock, knock.

Ignoring it, I stopped at the red light and put on my turning signal.

-There it was again, knock, knock, knock.

I made my turn, and then the words, “Sarahi, (pause), Sarahi”. Okay by now He had my attention. This was the internal conversation:

Him: “Grace”.

Me: “Yes I know but she was rude”

Him: “Grace child. Have you not also had bad days?”

Me: “Yeah..”

Him: “And…”

Me: (By now I know the source of the times I have had bad days and those around me have been tolerant with me and sometimes call me out on it–these are the things that haunt me the most. I am not proud of it, and take it hard when I am not reflecting God’s love). 

Him: “They love you, just as I love you, and I love her. You don’t know her story; she was having a bad day. (Him still feeling resistance on my part) What if she doesn’t know any better?”. 

And by then my hands were up in full surrender and when I got home, I prayed. I prayed for forgiveness, for correction, and for another opportunity to see it through Christ’s eyes and not my own. And then I prayed for this individual. I asked God to bless her, to make her laugh, that she would feel appreciated, loved, and cherished, and that she would cross paths with another churched member that day. 

He has a way like that, to help me see what I can’t see. I don’t know this person, for all I know her pet had died or her significant other broke up with her or her roommate decided to move out. The only thing I knew were the facts: she was young, she had a problem, and came to the place where I work for help. That is all I knew. Yes, her behavior did come off as disrespectful. Could I had been the reason? Perhaps. Perhaps I typed too slow and she was in a hurry to get to another appointment. But likewise outside factors could have been the reason for the disrespectful behavior, and just to really throw things up a bit, maybe she wasn’t rude at all. What if she is from another area where this type of behavior is what the culture there considers “normal”?

-Yeah, God really taught me something that day.. 

Iced Coffee and a Cold Brew Coffee can be on a counter and appear to be the same beverage. But as you get closer, you will observe a difference in tint, label, and if you research the brewing method, you will see these two coffee beverages are not the same. They hold similar qualities but still not the same.

So just because some one is having a bad day, does not mean you are the reason for their bad day. Just because you have lived through a similar life experience (college, dating, breakups, engagements, weddings, promotions) does not always make you qualified to give advice.  Most of the time, people are just seeking to be listened to, comforted, and loved. A smile, a word of kindness, forgiveness, an act of service are great methods to extend that type of acceptance and understanding towards them. We don’t hold the answers, but there is One who does and through our actions and words we can point them to that Light they need to obliterate the darkness.

Please, don’t mistake me, I don’t have it all figured out. I mess up A lot, ALOT, but God is kind, gracious, and forgiving. He loves me and He loves you too. Others may not know the depth of your story, but the Creator does.

As always, thank you for reading. I hope this post served the purpose God intended for it to be composed. Blessings!

 

 

 

 

 

 A Venti Sovereignty Macchiato

“Take yet another scroll and write on it all the former words that were in the first scroll which Jehoiakim the king of Judah has burned”  Jer 36:28.

“I will have a Venti Caramel Macchiato”, and just like that I would pay the barista, walk over to the side counter, and wait for my drink (without any idea as to what I had just ordered). That’s right my dear reader, I was “that person”.

The first time I went to Starbucks and ordered something that wasn’t a frappucino, I chose a venti caramel macchiato. My thought process was quite simple: look for the most elaborate item on the menu. That day I chose Venti (fancy word for large) caramel (safe tasting choice) macchiato (fanciest word on the menu). A venti caramel macchiato became my “go to” Starbucks order, and for  years (2yrs) I had no idea what I was drinking. Thankfully a few years later, thanks to Pinterest, I learned the definition of a macchiato (or at least the Starbucks version).

(Oxford Dictionary Definition:) 

Macchiato: espresso with a dash of frothy steamed milk.

Espresso: strong black coffee made by forcing steam through ground coffee beans. 

(Pinterest Definition:)  “Tadah!” 

[The Starbucks version is the “latte macchiato” on the chart]. 

So as illustrated on the chart, what I was ordering was a large cup of two different forms of milk with a shot of espresso. I was basically drinking espresso flavored layered milk! But how often do we really know what we are ordering? The barista knows, but we (most likely) have no idea what is in our drink (with the exception of all the coffee connoisseurs out there). All we know is one ingredient: coffee.

Similarly, how often do we know the details to God’s plan for our lives? All we know is one word: love.  But even that may not always look like love.. to us.

One of my favorite passages about the LORD’s sovereignty is illustrated in Jeremiah. In the beginning of chapter 36, the LORD commands Jeremiah to write a scroll (Jer 36:2). The scroll is written and read, but king Jehoiakim burns the scroll (36:3-26). At first you think, “well, there’s the end to that scroll!”, but in verse 28 the LORD commands Jeremiah to re-write the scroll.

-Wow! What an example about what God says goes! 

-Mighty! 

-Sovereign! 

-Great I AM!

At least this was my first interpretation of the passage.  Think of this as my years ordering a caramel macchiato. I didn’t fully “get it”, but a few months ago the LORD changed that and opened up my mind to something  much deeper and sweeter. This new discovery only intensified my connection to the passage.

Why was the LORD so sovereign? I know He is all powerful the Most Highest, but what was the importance of the scroll? 

-Was it just wrath, fire, brimstone for the iniquities of His people?

-For a prophecy to be fulfilled? 

And as I pondered all these questions the LORD lead me to the root of His sovereignty, love. His love for His children is the root of His sovereign ways. God’s love was the reason why the scroll was re-written. Jeremiah 36:3 states the purpose for the scroll,

“It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the adversities which I purpose to bring upon them, that everyone may turn from his evil way, that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin”.

Forgiveness

The LORD was giving His people an opportunity for forgiveness. King Jehoiakim burned the scroll, and in response the LORD gave them a second opportunity. How sweet is His love!? God’s mercy, compassion, and love was so great that He had Jeremiah rewrite the scroll. And even though captivity and calamity took place over His people, after 70 years had passed He brought them back to a new land. What was once there had been completely destroyed allowing for something new to take its place  “to give them a hope and a future” (Jer 29:11).

This is the part where we learn what is in a macchiato. We learn that the drink is layered and at the center of it there is espresso; which is just a variation of coffee. Compare this to the text in Jeremiah, at the center was sovereignty the LORD’s will stood firm but this was all rooted in love. To us it may look different, taste different, but God is the good Father. He loves us and a Father wants what is best for His child. Our best interest is in His heart. The only way to give His people a new start was to remove the old to make way for the new.

I want to encourage you dear one, do not be deceived or discouraged by your ears or eyes. God loves you dearly. If He has promised you something or lead you to a dream cling to Him and seek His word. He is on the throne. His thoughts and His ways are not like ours they are far greater and higher. Trust Him. He sees the big picture. Delight in Him. Enjoy the process. His Word stands true and His love for you is relentless nothing can overcome it nothing can separate it. God’s promise for you is rooted in His love for you. Keep going, keep walking for He has great plans for you “to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

I hope and pray that this post will breathe hope and rest into your heart, mind, and soul. As always, thank you for reading I appreciate you dear reader and Remember:

Believe Him. 


In His abounding love,
–S


Independence is a Process..

“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said,  ‘It is finished’ and He bowed his head and gave up his spirit”–John 19:30

(That moment when at 1 o’clock in the morning you connect Mexico’s Independence Day thought with your relationship with God).

On September 16th 1810 a brave man by the name, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, rang the church bells and gave an inspirational speech to the people to stand up and fight for their independence. This is commonly known as “El Grito De Dolores”, most commonly known event as the day Mexico proclaimed their independence. Mexico went to war. They did not gain their complete independence until September 27th 1821. They went to war for 11 years. It took them 11 years to be broken free from the Spanish government..

Independence is a process…

There are times that we feel bound at moments even oppressed by things of this world. Maybe it’s finances or future plans and goals. Maybe it a desire to please everyone, or perfectionism. Maybe it’s the desire to be liked by everyone, or the constant pressure of always being the leader. Maybe it’s about being the smartest one in the room. Maybe it’s just unhealthy habits like eating too many Oreos in one sitting. Or “healthy” habits carried to an excess such as workingout or dieting. Maybe it’s been binge watching shows on Netflix. Whatever the cause, Jesus came to set the captives free.

Set the captives free…

You may have already acknowledged what you may be a slave to and even proclaimed freedom over it. But remember breaking free is a process. Especially if it’s something that has a very deep root in your life. So don’t be discouraged if the problem continues to come back, accept it for what it is (“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23) but do not misconstrue this as an excuse. Do something about it, or maybe I should say look to the One who is doing something about it; He will guide you to independence from it. When Jesus died on the cross He said “it is finished”. So, you have been set free, but sometimes it takes us time to step into this freedom. For some it may be a very short season and for others it could be a longer season, that does not matter. What is important is that Jesus said “it is finished” and if He proclaimed this Truth on the cross, He will walk you through it. He will carry you into that freedom.
So my dear friends, do not be discouraged. Be encouraged in knowing that God is your strength and in Him is the victory. In Him, there is life. Victory is there, now it’s just a process of getting you there.

God inspired me to use Mexico as an opening point just because Mexico’s Independence Day is celebrated today. My purpose, hope, and prayer for you is to remember breaking free is a process.

May your thoughts and heart be at rest in His victory. “Be still my heart be still”.

In His abounding love,

S

Cry Out To Me 

“Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls”–Matt 11:28. 

“Cry out to me. Cry out to me…Just cry out to me”. Four simple words that whispered or shouted hold the great power of changing you. Let’s be honest with each other, every person wants to hear these words in their most terrible of days. We hopefully wait for someone who will be “that person” and give us a chance to vent about our day or life. I am a culprit of this one too many times, usually happens over coffee or chocolate cake (sometimes pie) and I am a waterfall of emotions. Sadly, we don’t always make the wisest of choices when doing so. I have agonized and at times felt ashamed about the location, time, person, and words that I wish I could take back. I have to face the reality and accept my mistakes for what they are and just hope to gain more wisdom for my next “venting-sesh”. But sometimes too much is going in in your life that you feel trapped. You are afraid of losing friends because they are always the ones you turn to. You are afraid of where to go because of who might be listening. You are afraid of the words that may come out of your mouth because of your emotions. Sometimes, you are even afraid of the response on the other side after sharing your thoughts. Sometimes you even fear your  thoughts. So you feel trapped, asphyxiated, so you remain silent thinking this is the best choice. 

Well dear friend, remaining silent is not your best choice, sometimes it turns out to be the worst. Now you may be wondering, “Okay, dear coffee-lover lady so then what? Where do I go if I don’t feel safe? If I am afraid?”. My answer dear friend lies in the epithet above, your best confidant and friend is God. You can run to Him. In fact He wants you to come to Him, and in Him lies the perfect One to go vent and release all the stress of your day or season. He will be there for you. He will listen to you. He will not judge you. He will comfort you. He will love you, regardless of what you may be facing, He will love you unconditionally and He will help you. 

Earlier I wrote “Cry out to Me. Cry out to Me…Just cry out to Me”. This phrase is what had been echoing in my head since yesterday morning. Now you may have chosen to read it in a smooth gentle whispered voice, or perhaps just a calm sincere tone of voice. Do you know how it came to me? It came to me as a shout, “Cry out to Me! Cry Out To Me…Just CRY OUT TO ME!”. I have come to a place in this season of my life, where I am learning to keep silent. I am learning to choose my words with great care and wisdom so that I don’t harm others. So I thought with everything that is going on, not talking about it and just running it off or driving it off would suffice. I would be fine. I would be okay. No need to drag others down into this mess. 

I was wrong. 

Running and driving did help but only to let the emotions pass–the rest remained. The thoughts remained. In fact they started to build up. I pretty much ran out of space in my mind for them, but I kept collecting them. That was the problem, I kept them. I never released them, they just stayed there, growing by the minute, like weeds growing in a garden when left unattended. 

Weeds…

No wonder I felt God shouting at me to “Cry out to Him” as I was watering the roses just the other day. He wasn’t yelling at me out of anger but out of love. He knew that if I kept in my ways, I was headed for one massive collision where the damage could seem irreparable. (It wouldn’t because He is God, but it would feel like that for some time). He was begging me to come to Him. He was reminding me that I can come to Him, that I am not alone. And neither are you, dear one. He cares for you in ways that your mind cannot even fathom. He loves you at your darkest, He loves you at your best. His love for you grows with every second of every day. I am sharing this with you because I  care about you too. I don’t know you. We probably have never met but maybe one day we will in Heaven. I don’t know you or your life, but I do know God and I am beginning to understand more of His unending Psalm 139 love. If He has that for me, I know and believe He has it for you too. I am sharing this so that you don’t make my mistakes, so that you don’t have to feel the agony I’ve felt recently. No one deserves to be alone, or feel alone, no one. That is a lie. You are not alone. He is with you, always. 
Go to Him. Cry out to Him. He is listening. Jeremiah 29:12 states,”Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you”. See? He will listen. Do not let the weeds continue to grow and fester. Do not let the weeds destroy the beautiful garden that is your life. Take action. Cry out to Him and He will pull them up one by one by the root. He will remove them out of your life. He is doing that for me, I believe He will do it for you too. Psalm 119:169 states, “Let my cry come before You, O LORD; Give me understanding according to Your word”. He will grant you understanding, He will grant you peace. 

He is the perfect One to go talk about your struggles, your anxieties, your fears, your doubts, even your good news! He is with you when you are on the ground, and He is with you when you are up dancing for joy. It took me a while to realize this, I hope and pray that this post will change that for you. 

As always you are cherished and loved more than you will ever know. Thank you for reading. I hope your heart found the comfort, peace, and love it was seeking throughout this post. 

Remember the beautiful garden that is your life  

 
–S 

Coffee Connoisseur or Fanatic?

“Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” –Matthew 7:21-23

I used to think coffee was just coffee. A delicious hot beverage enjoyed with a tasty pastry or with your breakfast. Then I moved to the USA and Starbucks broadened my scope on coffee. This delicious beverage can now be enjoyed iced, frozen, or as a latte! You can even add different syrups to it? Now that’s absolutely fantastic!

-Brilliant.

With my new found knowledge on coffee, I was absolutely delighted to discover all the different varieties coffee could be consumed. I was on a coffee adventure! On my way to become a coffee connoisseur!

-Wrong.

-I was blatantly wrong.

You see I was discovering different forms of drinks; not coffee. Of course coffee shops were integrating coffee into the drink recipe, as an ingredient, not as a beverage. In fact, the rich frothy drinks I was consuming were maybe 25% coffee and 75% sugar, milk, and ice. Honestly, I didn’t even know the process of making the beverage. I just knew the ingredient list. There you go, I was a Starbucks Ingredient List connoisseur, but nothing close to a coffee connoisseur. Just a few weeks ago, I learned that coffee grown on trees. (Did you know that?!) This entire time, I thought it was on shrubberies. (Granted, the trees do look like giant shrubs..) And then a few days later, I learned the difference between a latte and a macchiato. The idea of thinking of myself as a coffee connoisseur was absolutely ghastly!

-I wasn’t a connoisseur.

-I was a fan, a Starbucks enthusiast. I barely know the differences between light, medium, and dark roasts! But still my new found knowledge on Starbucks Drink Menu, lead me to think otherwise…

-Reality Check.

And the thing is many of us do the exact same thing, not with coffee, but with God…We discover a new church, ministry, or Scripture and our excitement gets the best of us. We become absolutely enthralled with this new concept or knowledge. We dive deep into studying it maybe even memorizing it, and soon we think we got it. We know it. We are experts. (We are not. We just think of ourselves that way). Why? Because we spent a month on one passage, reading it over and over again? Now, I am not saying that ALL of us do this, but most of us do…

-I have done it. I probably will do it again too.

The epithet at the beginning says, “Not everyone who calls Me, Lord, Lord shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven…I will declare to them, I never knew you! Depart from Me..”. This verse has always terrified me at my core, horror movies can’t compare to the terror this verse has held over my life, until now. I used to think that I needed to do everything written in the Bible so that I would never have to hear those words. I had to be on my best behavior. I was wrong. You see, the key word in that passage is know. “I never knew you” is what Christ declares in that verse. Know Him. But still that’s not enough. He wants to know you. Know each other.

-Relationship

In a sense, we have to become connoisseurs. (Now before you go on an outrage, let me say the following contradictory statement: We will never become God connoisseurs. God is a mystery. No one will ever know everything about God. That is not realistic; however, that doesn’t mean we cannot try).

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a connoisseur is an expert judge in matters of taste. Keyword: expert. And how do you become an expert? By learning and experiencing everything that exists on a subject. For example, I want to one day become a coffee connoisseur. So what would it take for me to achieve this goal? It’s very simple. I need to spend time with coffee. I need to read about coffee. From where did coffee beans originate, to the many different processes of preparing this beverage. I need to acquire my own preferable taste for coffee. Do I enjoy it best iced or hot? Do I take it black? What kind of syrup do I enjoy most? How many different brewing methods are there? I need to have different experiences with coffee so that I can form my own perception of it.

The same idea can be applied to your relationship with God. Keyword: relationship. You have to read about God. Study about God. Experience God. Knowledge without application amounts to nothing. The more you do this, the more you will get to know Him. The closer you two will become. And then you will get to know the, “Father’s will in Heaven” and Matthew 7:21-23 will never be something you will fear because you have a relationship with the LORD. And rather than acquiring judgment you will have discernment.

So my questions to you: Are you a connoisseur or fanatic? And which one do you want to be?As always, you are loved more than you will ever know. Always a pleasure, always an honor.

Thank you for your lovely time.

S.