Psalm 84:4 – My Home

Psalm 84:4 - My Home - IntentionallyPursuing.com

“Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.” Psalm 84:4 (NIV)

When the worship team began singing one of my newest favorite songs, “Psalm 84″ by Celebration Worship, I closed my eyes to block out any distractions. But when it sounded like they were singing one of the lines wrong, I looked up to the screen. And instead of seeing “my hope is found in You alone,” I saw “my home is found in You alone.”

We’ve only sung the song a few times, so I shouldn’t have been surprised one of the lines of the song was different than I thought it was. But it caught me off guard. I loved proclaiming my hope is found in God alone, and at first I thought “home” was merely a typo, but actually both of the lines are in the song.

And if you look at the words of Psalm 84, you will see words like “dwelling place,” “home,” “house,” “courts,” and “house of my God” scattered throughout the chapter.

Long after the song was over, I couldn’t stop thinking about what it means to say “my home is found in You alone.” People who have become a part of a church talk about the first time they entered the doors as if they were coming home. It’s as if something within them recognized the Spirit of God residing in the house of God.

But I think finding our home in God alone is more than the walls of a church or even our own homes. The Amplified Bible expands the verse to say “Blessed …. are those who dwell in Your house and Your presence …” Let’s look at all of Psalm 84:4 in the Amplified Bible to gain a little more insight:

  • “Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) …” – The blessings of His presence are available to each one of us.
  • “… are those who dwell …” – Dictionary.com defines dwell as “to live or stay as a permanent resident; reside.” This isn’t a five-minute quiet time but a continuous awareness of His presence.
  • “… in Your house and Your presence; …” – We don’t have to wait until we get to Heaven, but we can experience the blessings of God’s presence right where we are.
  • “… they will be singing Your praises all the day long …” – We can’t help but praise Him, for He alone is worthy!
  • “… Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!”

Here is the song if you have a few minutes to listen as you dwell in His presence.

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Image courtesy of sritangphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rest in His presence.

On Days Like That

On Days Like That - IntentionallyPursuing.com

“On days like that I have to remind myself that I’m in love with a soul who is clothed in human flesh with the weight of the world heavy upon his shoulders.” – Darlene Schacht, Messy Beautiful Love*

The day started like any other. Our first words to each other were kind and loving. But then something was said that turned it all around. It wasn’t what was said or even how it was said.

But the words caused a shift in the conversation and then a rift between two people who love each other. Words came more quickly as lines were drawn and priorities were questioned. Then good-byes were short and formal.

On days like that God offers me a choice. I can either hold onto my anger or hold onto Him. I can choose to feed my flesh or draw near to His Spirit.

  • Holding onto my anger will bring about bitterness in my heart and cause me to separate myself from God and whoever I’m angry with.
  • Holding onto God will bring peace to my heart and open my eyes to His perspective. And from God’s perspective, I can offer grace and forgiveness.

Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:17: “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want” (NIV).

“On such days I’m not counting my blessings too quickly because I’m too busy counting my wants, my needs, and my desires.” Darlene Schacht, Messy Beautiful Love*

That is exactly where I was. My thoughts were self-centered and me focused. I was the victim. I had done nothing wrong.

Then I ended my quiet time by reading a chapter of “Messy Beautiful Love.” And Darlene shared a day she took her blessings for granted and forgot the one she loved also carries the weight of the world upon his shoulders. She offered grace as she reminded me I had a choice to make.

On days like that I can forget how safe I feel in Tim’s arms or how his words encourage me. I can forget “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). On days like that I can forget to thank God for Tim and count the many blessings I have in my life.

On days like that I need a reminder to exercise virtue and choose kindness. If you need that kind of reminder too, I invite you to check out Darlene Schatt’s new book “Messy Beautiful Love.” You can find out more and read the first chapter by clicking here.

On Days Like That
You can read the other post I wrote on “Messy Beautiful Love” by clicking here.

*Amazon affiliate link. Thank you for your support : )

Image courtesy of tiverylucky / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rest in His presence.

#StoryOfMarriage – Begin Again

#StoryOfMarriage - Begin Again

“Change comes when we yield ourselves to His Spirit and submit ourselves to His Word.” John & Lisa Bevere, The Story of Marriage*

At first I didn’t notice anything different. Those same feelings rose up in me that have always rose up. Things like anger, selfishness, and bitterness were causing my shoulders to tense up and my heart to race. But there was something different about this time.

This time instead of confronting the person with my emotions, I prayed about the situation. Now, let me interrupt myself to say that confronting someone with your emotions will never yield good results. I know that from experience : (

At first nothing happened after I prayed about the situation. Well, I would experience some peace, but it wasn’t lasting. Because as soon as I talked with this person again, I quickly remembered why I was frustrated in the first place. And after the final good-bye, I would begin to replay the situation in my head and remind myself of every time I had been there for them and think how they should be there for me.

Then I would stop myself and surrender my emotions and the situation to God. I would pray for Him to cause this person to have a change of heart, which by the way He never did because as James 4:3 reminds us, sometimes our prayers aren’t answered because our motives are wrong.

In the end God worked out a much better solution than I had even imagined but not before showing me how I had changed. And I had needed to change. Before I would have felt the need to let this person know how their actions were making me feel and how this was a barrier in our relationship.

And the peace I was praying for finally came when I realized how God was producing the fruit of His Spirit in my life. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23a NIV).

Now, I certainly don’t walk this out perfectly. And there are times my words come faster than I intend them to. But as I yield myself to His Spirit, He helps me:

  • Choose to love when I don’t feel loving.
  • Be joyful when things don’t go my way.
  • Pursue peace instead of holding onto anger.
  • Offer forbearance when I’m impatient and in a hurry.
  • Use kind words in the face of hostility.
  • Exercise good to others when they have not been good to me.
  • Be faithful and keep my word even when I’m tired.
  • Respond with a gentle tone rather than one that is harsh.
  • Use self-control by yielding to His control.

It’s tempting to pray for God to change the ones around us. And it would be easier if He would bring conviction to our husbands and change them first. But though I can’t change me, I can yield myself and allow God to change me.

This is the final post in this series on “The Story of Marriage.” Other posts in this series are: The Story of MarriageThe Original PlanBegin with the End in MindClear the DecksRise and Build, and Intimacy.

This has been one of my favorite books on marriage because as John & Lisa say in the book, “it takes two strong people to make a strong union.” And if today you want to give your marriage a reset and begin again, I invite you to “live in the now by letting go of our yesterdays while setting our hearts for what is ahead.” And this book and curriculum will help you do just that. You can find out more and read the first chapter of “The Story of Marriage” by clicking here.

Image courtesy of Aduldej / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

*Amazon affiliate link. Thank you for your support : )

Rest in His presence.

Seeing Ourselves Through the Eyes of God – Healed

Seeing Ourselves Through the Eyes of God - Healed - IntentionallyPursuing.com
This year we are looking to the Word of God to uncover truths (50 in all) of how God sees each one of us. If this is your first time here or you simply need a reminder of how God sees you, click here to begin reading through the series.

Seeing Ourselves as Healed Through the Eyes of God

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (NIV)

As soon as I met Linda, I liked her instantly. She needed a ride home from Bible study, and my wagon had plenty of room for her wheelchair. Her home was a nursing home because her just past 40-year old body was declining. I no longer remember the disease that ravaged her body, but I do remember the sparkle in her eyes when we took a slight detour so she could see the beach and feel the wind blow through her hair from the moon roof.

It wasn’t long before her body was too weak to attend Bible study. So a call went out for volunteers to bring her lunch and break the loneliness of her confinement. I signed up for Tuesdays, and thus began our friendship.

On her good days I wheeled her around the lake outside the home.  And on one particular day I helped her stand at the railing overlooking the water. It took every ounce of her strength to hold her legs steady.

Linda wanted to get better. She wanted to stand on her own two feet and dance and run. I so wanted those things for my friend and prayed for God to heal her.

But the last time I visited her, she didn’t even know I was there. Her eyes were dilated from medicines that took away the pain. But later that day, she did dance and run when she met her Savior face to face.

Sometimes God heals us instantly.

Sometimes God heals us through doctors and medicine.

Sometimes God heals us when we get to Heaven.

My friend received her healing in Heaven. It wasn’t what we prayed for. It wasn’t what we wanted, but I know she’s dancing now.

James reminds us that “prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up” (James 4:15a NIV). Through prayer I’ve seen bodies healed, marriages restored, souls saved, and broken hearts made whole. So whether God heals instantly, through doctors and medicine, or up in Heaven, I will trust His sovereign plan.

Seeing Ourselves Through the Eyes of God - Healed - IntentionallyPursuing.com

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Your mighty hand that heals the brokenhearted and binds our wounds. You are my Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals. Help me draw close to You when I don’t understand Your plan. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.

“[Jesus] was pierced for [my] rebellion, crushed for [my] sins. He was beaten so [I] could be whole. He was whipped so [I] could be healed.” Isaiah 53:5 (NLT personalized)

Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rest in His presence.

Romans 12:1 – Living Sacrifice

Romans 12:1 - Living Sacrifice - IntentionallyPursuing.com

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” Romans 12:1 (NIV)

If you were to see Romans 12:1 taken by itself, you might think this passage is referring to how we eat and exercise our bodies. And it certainly is true that we need to care for our physical bodies so we have the strength and energy to fulfill God’s call on our lives. (You can read my health plan here.) But as Paul reminds us in Romans 12:17 “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (NIV).

So let’s put this verse in context by looking at the verse after it. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2 NIV).

So based on Romans 12:2, we can see Paul is talking about the mind when he says to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. As I thought about how my body will impact my thoughts, I considered the ways I take information in through my eyes and ears through music, television, and movies.

Music is an easy one for me. This was not always the case. But I love to listen to worship and Christian instrumental. In fact, pretty much the only time I listen to anything other than Christian music is at Christmastime when I listen to some favorite childhood Christmas songs.

Television, on the other hand, is a little harder for me when choosing to watch what is holy and pleasing to God. As I wrote in Delayed Obedience, I watched “Desperate Housewives” for years before finally listening to God’s promptings to stop watching the show.

Movies are my biggest struggle though. Before renting a movie at Redbox, I check PluggedIn.com to determine if the content is something I want to see. But when a movie is on TV, I can find myself mindlessly clicking on a channel and watching something I never intended to see. Then I’m left with words and images that invade my thoughts.

The Message Bible starts Romans 12:2 this way, “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking …” Without even thinking. Those words ring in my head, and I know this message is for me.

I love knowing God is with me when I’m fearful and alone. Remembering He walks beside me fills my heart with comfort and security. But I forget to think about how God is with me when I sit down to watch a show.

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” Romans 12:1 (MSG)

I know I can only offer my body as a living sacrifice with God’s help. But with Him helping me, I will remember God is always with me.

Image courtesy of domdeen / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rest in His presence.

My Health Plan

My Health Plan - IntentionallyPursuing.com
A little over a year ago, I wrote a post titled Frugal Weight Loss where I shared how I lost 30 pounds and 3 dress sizes. Since then I have read many other weight loss success stories, and I noticed every one of them contained something my post was lacking – a before and after picture.

Every time I see one of those weight loss success stories, I am inspired by the dramatic transformations. And then I wonder why didn’t I include a before and after picture for my story.

After much thought I came up with two conclusions. One, I don’t want to be a “before.” Admitting I was a before is admitting I had failed at self-control. I had neglected to take care of my body.

In fact, when people first started noticing I was losing weight, I credited my clothes. Because taking credit for losing weight meant I had to take responsibility for gaining weight. And just like losing weight involved intentional choices made day after day, I had made choices day after day that either contributed to my weight gain or kept me stuck in the same situation.

The second reason is I didn’t want to share an after picture because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to maintain the weight loss. And truth be told, I haven’t. Well, not entirely. I did gain back 5 pounds, but I have been able to maintain mostly because I try to follow these 4 Heathy Habits recommended by Chris Freytag:

  • Live by the 80/20 rule. Choose healthy food choices most of the time … 80%. It’s what you do most often that counts.
  • Follow the 2-day rule. Never miss more than two days in a row of exercise. I have a goal of exercising 30 minutes or more 200+ times in 2014. To date I have exercised 142 times this year!
  • Use apps to track. I have continued to use MyFitnessPal to track my calories, exercise, and water intake and can’t recommend it highly enough. You can find me at cstorms1 if you need a partner in this journey : )
  • Cross-train. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I run on my rebounder (40 minutes). And on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I do ballet (Ballet Beautiful: Sculpt & Burn Cardio Blast* – 30-33 minutes).

These intentional choices made day after day after day have allowed me to have more energy, helped me maintain my weight, and have allowed me to take control of my health.

And it truly is the little things added up that have made the biggest difference – things like adding more vegetables to my diet. And this week I bought some whole wheat flour, so the items I bake can be a little better for us : )

Now, you might have seen the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle at the bottom of the posts this week and on the side bar. This is an awesome resource of over 80 books and resources that will only be available through Tuesday, September 15th. I would like to highlight their selection of Real Food Recipes and invite you to check out this limited time resource. Just click on the picture for more info : )

UPDATE: Since the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle is no longer available, I am taking down the link. But here’s that before and after picture I promised. The “after” picture was even taken today : )

My Health Plan
 *Amazon affiliate link. Thank you for your support : )

Image courtesy of Supertrooper / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Linked to Thrifty Thursday.

Rest in His presence.

#StoryOfMarriage – Intimacy

#StoryOfMarriage - Intimacy - IntentionallyPursuing.com
God designed intimacy in marriage to be a beautiful thing, a celebration of two becoming one. “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Genesis 2:24-25 NIV).

But when sin entered the Garden, shame was right on its heels. “He [Adam] answered, ‘I heard you [God] in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid'” (Genesis 3:10 NIV).

How many of you entered marriage with a sense of shame and a desire to hide? I’m not going to ask you to answer out loud, but I know from honest conversations with friends that many of us entered marriage with shame that caused us to want to hide. I know I did.

Some of us carry the shame of our own choices, the memories of things that were done to us, or images we can never completely erase. Or maybe all of the above …

“Whatever your past, God desires to radically and completely restore your sexuality. His grace is greater than anything you’ve ever done or endured. But you cannot access His grace unless you first make Him Lord of your sexuality.” John & Lisa Bevere, The Story of Marriage*

We turn the lights down low or ask our husbands to light a candle. We might say we look better in low lighting. But our shame causes us to hide ourselves, and intimacy was designed as a time to reveal ourselves.

We don’t have to hide any longer. But “God can only sanctify, or make holy, what we offer Him” (John & Lisa Bevere, The Story of Marriage*). God can take your shame and reclaim it for His glory but only if you give it to Him.

You have the choice to be free from shame in every area of your life.  But please don’t miss this point because this truth extends beyond our marriages to every area of our lives. God can only sanctify what we offer Him.

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23 (NIV)

It’s time to reveal ourselves to our husbands and allow them to see all of us. Hold nothing back and make God Lord of your sexuality.

Image courtesy of Claire Louise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

*Amazon affiliate link. Thank you for your support : )

Other posts in this series on “The Story of Marriage” are: The Story of MarriageThe Original PlanBegin with the End in MindClear the Decks, Rise and Build.

Linked to Titus 2sDay.

Rest in His presence.

Seeing Ourselves Through the Eyes of God – Name Bearer

Seeing Ourselves Through the Eyes of God - Name Bearer - IntentionallyPursuing.com
This year we are looking to the Word of God to uncover truths (50 in all) of how God sees each one of us. If this is your first time here or you simply need a reminder of how God sees you, click here to begin reading through the series.

Seeing Ourselves as God’s Name Bearer Through the Eyes of God

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty.” Jeremiah 15:16 (NIV)

Whenever someone compliments me on my name, I jokingly answer that I married my husband for his name. Not that there was anything wrong with Crystal Gruenewald. But Crystal Storms just sounds so much prettier. And as a female I wasn’t meant to carry on the Gruenewald name. But as a child of the One true King, I was meant to be a name bearer of God.

Now, the daughters of Zelophehad weren’t meant to carry on the family name either. But they went to Moses and asked him: “Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son?” (Numbers 27:4a).

During this time Moses was dividing the land among all the families of Israel. And after Moses brought their case before the Lord, He answered, “‘What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them'” (Numbers 27:7).

As daughters of the One true King, we are meant to carry on the name of God. Or as the New King James Version says, we are called by His name.

And when we say we’re a Christian, we’re not just saying we believe in Christ. We’re saying Christ dwells in us. We are identifying ourselves with His name. 1 Peter 4:16 reminds us, “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”

Yes, praise God that we bear that Name, that Name that is above all other names, the name of Jesus Christ.

Seeing Ourselves Through the Eyes of God - Name Bearer - IntentionallyPursuing.com
As a Christian I bear the name of Christ.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me Your name and for calling me Your own. Help me to show others the Christ in me and bring glory to Your name. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.

When Your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear Your name, Lord God Almighty.” Jeremiah 15:16 (NIV)

Image courtesy of Sarah Arbogast / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rest in His presence.

Proverbs 4:26 – Steadfast

Proverbs 4:26 - Steadfast - Intentionally Pursuing

Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” Proverbs 4:26 (NIV)

Friends, it seems so long since we were last together. I know it was just one day off, but not blogging on Fridays is going to take some getting used to for me.  I didn’t take lightly the decision to not blog on Fridays, but I want to be steadfast in all my ways and finish 2014 strong. And I felt God nudging me to let go of Fridays so I can be more determined in my focus and do well all He has called me to do.

“Give careful thought to the paths for your feet” – Every decision we make leads us in a new direction. So as I look down the road to where my past decisions will lead me, I want to take this time to evaluate if I need to make any shifts.

  • Did you know that if you are off course by just one degree then for every mile that you travel you get 92 feet further away from the right heading?” Answers.com

That fact remind me of those word problems in math class that made me want to quickly close my math book. But it demonstrates how important it is to follow the path marked out. And just being a little bit off course can make a big difference.

“be steadfast in all your ways” – Once we’ve determined we’re on the correct path, we need to be steadfast in following the path. Merriam defines the word “steadfast” as “firmly fixed in place : immovable.” If the direction is from God, we need to make sure nothing stops us from reaching the goal.

A few weeks ago I shared how my pride kept me from making it to prayer before service on Sundays (James 4:6 – Humility). But after I humbled myself and asked God for His help, He has enabled me to make it to prayer every single week. That situation reminds me I can’t be steadfast on my own. I need God’s empowering grace to be steadfast in all my ways.

I keep hearing September is the new January in terms of goal setting. But whether you see September as a new start or just an opportunity to evaluate where you are headed, determine to finish 2014 strong.

As I looked at my 2014 goals recently, there are some goals that will probably not get accomplished by the end of the year. But remember a step in the right direction will still lead you in the right direction : )

Image courtesy of Keerati / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rest in His presence.

Messy Beautiful Love

Messy Beautiful Love - Intentionally Pursuing
Recently I was honored to be selected as part of the launch team for Darlene Schacht’s (The Time-Warp Wife) new book, Messy Beautiful Love: Hope and Redemption for Real-Life Marriages. The book will not be released until September 16th. But if you pre-order “Messy Beautiful Love,” you can get over $50 in freebies! And as part of the launch, you can enter to win some fabulous prizes, including a KitchenAid Mixer!

On page 13 of Messy Beautiful Love* Darlene shares the heart of this book: “exchanging God’s ideas for ours and tuning out the world so that we might quietly tune in to Him.” With surprising openness Darlene shares her own shortcomings and mistakes and points to God’s grace and forgiveness as she challenges wives to love and serve their husbands as Christ loves and serves the church.

“We can avert a lot of conflict in marriage when we trust our husband’s intentions.” Darlene Schacht, Messy Beautiful Love,* page 52

Why can’t a dish in the sink be just a dish in the sink? But sometimes I see that dish in the sink and question Tim’s intentions. Instead of thinking he was tired or planned on washing the dish later, that dish represents how he expects me to do ALL the cooking and cleaning. Why is it easier to trust my husband than it is to trust his intentions?

And when I found that greeting card, I should have been happy Tim was surprising me with a card that expressed his love for me. And initially I was. I trusted his intentions and could hardly wait for him to come that evening. And even though I had seen the card, I was going to act surprised.

But soon it was bedtime, and he hadn’t given me the card. I didn’t say anything, but it was hard to hide my disappointment.

That next day I couldn’t stop thinking about that card and why he hadn’t given it to me. I wondered how long that card had been sitting in his drawer. Did he come home one day planning to give it to me, but I had done something wrong? Did he no longer feel the love he felt for me when he purchased the card?

I made his favorite dinner. I was extra sweet. For a week I did everything I could to earn that card.

But finally I could stand it no longer. Generally I like to confront things head on, but I wanted to give him a chance. But then I asked if we could talk. And when a woman says we need to talk, men know it’s serious.

He had no idea what I was so upset about. And when I confronted him about the card, he was like “what card?” He had bought that card on a BOGO and planned to surprise me with it but had forgotten all about it. He went ahead and gave me the card that day so he wouldn’t forget again.

Oh, how I would have saved myself a lot of stress that week if I had simply trusted Tim’s intentions. And then I would remember that a dish in the sink is sometimes just a dish in the sink because love always trusts (1 Corinthians 13:7).

Image courtesy of 9comeback / FreeDigitalPhotos.net But the misspelling of Darlene Schacht is all me :(

*Amazon affiliate link. Thank you for your support : )

Linked to Titus 2sDay.

Rest in His presence.