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Being a Follower Requires Action

April 27th, 2017 . by maria

Being a follower requires action. You can’t follow someone by standing still, and staying where you are. In fact, following is a continual action. But following is an act of trust – that who you are following is going where you want to go, and has chosen the best path. How do you get to that place with God where you fully trust all He is doing? Where your prayers become “your will God” without reservation? This is the place I am at (most days) now. It has been a journey of single steps. Each small step laying a foundation for another. I’ve learned that when I am faithful to take a step, it is always honored by God. You can’t go from zero to hero. Each of these steps builds on the other. But you do have to actually start by taking a step.

1. Accept and acknowledge. This could be the moment you ask Christ into your heart, or a later moment of personal enlightenment. But at some point you really take into your being the belief that God orders your steps, and that you are better off following Him than trying to do it all yourself. All the other steps will fail without this. Sure, you can show up and do all the right things, but it will be empty for you. Better to take small steps with meaning, than large ones leading nowhere.

I want to be really clear – many people believe in Christ the way I believe in the Eiffel Tower…it exists, has a neat story, and is a pretty picture…I’d like to visit someday. That’s not what I am talking about here. I’m talking life changing, soul saving, relationship. The kind of thing where you respond because you want to, not because you should.

2. Prayer. Once you’ve accepted God, speak to Him. It doesn’t need to be formal. Prayer is the simplest, most basic thing we can do: It doesn’t require any materials, we don’t have to go somewhere to do it, and nobody else knows if we’re doing it or not. Except us and God. But it is one step beyond acknowledging, and begins to teach us to listen and hear God’s voice.

Did you ever wonder why we pray at meals and bedtime? I’ll tell you a secret – it isn’t really to make our food better and our sleep safer. It’s so we will remember to pray! Eating and sleeping are two things we can’t live long without, and we should treat prayer the same way. So don’t just say “Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub. Amen.” (You know you’ve done that. Some of you even used those words.) But be reminded to converse with God, and invite Him to join you. It’s also no coincidence that these are two times of day when we have to stop talking, at least a little.

3. The Word. Biblical teaching is the next step in hearing God’s voice. When we know what He’s said and done, over and over in the past, we are better equipped to hear Him. We can see what He’s doing now, what He wants us to do, and how He views the world, because He’s already told us. Biblical teaching can be at church, in Christian music, and other Christian teaching. (Conferences, magazines, blogs, YouTube.) But don’t forget to read the Bible yourself. (Thank you, God, for Gutenburg!) That’s how you’ll learn if the teaching you are getting is sound – it will match up with what you read, over and over. Others can only give you what God has given them, and some only give you what they want to hear. So if you really want to hear God speak, pick a chapter and read it as if He is telling you something.

4. Private Commitment. If you are praying and reading in private, you are already taking an action in response to your faith. Build on that in the ways God puts in front of you, in your life. Only you know what that is. Maybe He is asking you to complain less, to be more generous, or to step away from am addiction.

5. Public Participation. Showing up at church is an action of public commitment. It doesn’t take a Christian to show up, but showing up does improve your Christian life. Showing up is jist the start. The Bible says to sing, shout for joy, and dance. To raise our hands to Him and praise Him. But I might look silly…or pretentious! But doing these simple things for God here makes it easier to work for Him out there. I am not afraid to say “can I pray with you about that” , because I’ve done it here. I won’t care how it looks, because I’ve looked sillier than that here.

6. Service. This is the level where you are joining others in serving. It can start here, but it shouldn’t stay here. Here is practice; here is baseline. We should branch out. We should be getting out of the church building and getting out of our own heads. The Bible says we are like salt, but salt does no good sitting in the shaker! Get out there with the other salt, and change the flavor of our world! Now, don’t just go out and do “random acts of kindness” to the world. I’m sorry…that’s just silly. That guy has enough money to buy coffee, or he wouldn’t be in line behind you! Learn how to recognize where God wants you to serve. Join in serving somewhere with someone else who is already serving. This is where we learn what a calling looks like, what hard work is, and where we practice doing. When we join, we start from a place of humility, so we are ready to learn and in a mindset to follow.

7. Your mission. It will come to you. Don’t worry – I am not saying that this path leads to being a missionary overseas, or even being a pastor or other leader. But God built you a certain way for a reason. When you have been stepping out, He will start to reveal that to you, and open doors for you to use that. Maybe it will be speaking His truth in simplicity, or connecting with the broken. But maybe some of you have a gift with finance and project planning, and you’ll learn when God is calling you to make something happen. Maybe your mission starts at home with your kids, or when you walk your dog and get to know your neighbors and take the time to speak hope into their hardships. Seriously, a dog is a great icebreaker!

Each of these steps loops back to reinforce the others. You accept. You pray, and your acceptance of God grows. You get into the Word, and you get to know Him and accept Him more, and speak to Him more. You join other Christians, and hear what He’s done or is doing for them, and you love God more and see how He works. You step out with the tiniest action, and He honors your effort, and you start to know Him better and hear Him speak more clearly in your life. And He shows you the next step, and you take it. And it builds – it is a snowball effect. Seriously, if you want to sense God in your life, step out of the church and do His work. You will be changed.

But it all starts with a response. With you being willing to act – needing to act – in response to what God has given to you. Whether you’ve come from a broken place and found healing, or if you’ve just looked around and realized how blessed you have always been. And it doesn’t matter if you are 2 or 12 or 47 or 70 – God wants to speak to you and work with you. When you feel it, when you understand His love, there is a response that goes beyond just showing up for an hour on Sunday morning. That’s kinda scary, right? What will I have to do? What will I have to give up? But oh, my dear heart, what will you gain? Just…go for it. It’s ok if you Start small. It’s ok if you screw up. But act. Take steps. Move.

Falling Leaves

May 26th, 2014 . by maria

If you have a wooded area near you, go stare out into it for a few minutes. If not, try to remember the last time you were in a deeply wooded area.

 

As I worked today, I paused and my eye was drawn out the window to the woods around our house. I stared out and tried to guess how far along the valley I could actually see before the leaves eventually blocked my view. As I pondered, these words came to me:

 

“You cry for the leaf nearest you when it falls, but you can barely see past your own nose. You cannot conceive of the numbers of leaves I have created and hold in my hand, and I cry for them all and rejoice in them all. When they are full and green and dance for me as my breath blows on them, I rejoice in them. When are gold and brown and they fall, I cry for them. For all of them. Numbered beyond the stars, numbered like the sands, for each one of you.”

The Fall of Rome

August 20th, 2013 . by maria

But, we love to think we’re secure. We love to believe that, no matter what, there will always be a safety net. We love to think that we deserve time off – we who spend hours a day on our computers or televisions or games or hobbies – we deserve a break from all this. But the truth is, no matter what plans and promises have been made, nothing is guaranteed, and the things you depend on will eventually fail. (You know this is true…you know people who have lost jobs, houses, marriages…) So, exercise your independence and ingenuity now, as much as you can, no matter what your situation. Be your own strength, and turn to God for the strength you lack. Enjoy your life, but don’t be lulled into thinking it can’t change; work to improve and sustain it daily.

Inspired by this quote:

“In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life and they lost it all – security, comfort and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society, but for society to give to them; when the freedom they wished for most was the freedom from responsibility, then the Athenians ceased to be free.” – Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Defending your Faith conference notes

March 15th, 2013 . by maria

A couple weeks ago we had a great conference at our church called “Defending Your Faith”. My oldest son and I were excited about it because the speaker (Ray Ciervo) had visited the church previously and spoken on Sunday, and we really enjoyed it. The conference was spread over 3 days, and included several break out sessions where you could choose which topic you wanted to learn about. I geeked out and took my netbook, so I could take copious notes. My son has since asked for a copy of my notes, and a friend of his wants a copy as well, so I decided to post them here. Actually I am going to post 3 things:

1. Teaser bullet points from my notes from Ray Ciervo’s original visit:

  1. Refute and Demolish strongholds & arguments
  2. Reason and Present Evidence (Acts 17:2-4)
  3. Adjust to your Audience: know what they beleive (Acts 17:23-30)
  4. Content: fight for our Faith (Jude 1:3)
  5. Always be Ready to Give a Defense (1 Peter 3:15)
  6. Certainty: So that you may knwo the exact truth (Luke 1:1, Acts 1:3)
  7. Pillar and Support of Truth (1 Timothy 3:15)
  8. Apologetics (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

2. Full pdf of my notes from all 3 days – organized and made all pretty. I even pulled in the full text of each quoted Bible verse, and put these in a special font. I also looked up the full and correct name and spelling of each book and author. Book recommendations for each section are also called out in a box. Where I wasn’t sure on something, I noted it. Where something was my own thought, I noted that and changed the font, so you can tell. Enjoy! DefendingYourFaith-ECC-20130301

3. Link to the ministries’ website where you can listen/download/app the podcast/mp3s of all the sessions, including the breakouts we didn’t choose so they aren’t in my notes. In case other things have been posted after, and you don’t see them at the top, You are looking for the items on 3/1, 3/2, and 3/3/2013 or titled “Apologetics Conference 2013”:
http://www.harvestnetinc.com/446185.ihtml

How NOT to get Junk Gifts

December 10th, 2011 . by maria

Every year someone in our family decides to start the “we aren’t exchanging gifts this year” discussion. There is always the claim to the finest motivations: being anti-consumerist, too many family members, having to much stuff anyway, etc. So, they tell everyone not to give gifts. Maddeningly, they wait until after December 1st to do it.

Now, I am not materialistic. But I really enjoy giving gifts. I like the challenge of finding something within my budget, that I think really fits the recipient. I shop (and craft) year round and store things up for Christmas. So, I have already gotten a lot of my shopping done by the time this discussion starts, which makes it sort of a moot point.

Additionally, I like to honor the tradition of gift giving which, according to my religion, was started on Christmas when God gave us his Son. Giving you a little joy gives me a little joy as well. So, no matter what you say, I am going to give gifts. I don’t require you to give them; don’t feel guilty if you don’t. But, I get a kick out of it and you aren’t going to rain on my parade!

Another reason some people don’t want to exchange gifts is that they don’t want to get stuff they don’t need. Hey – We’ve all gotten that awkward handmade gift. It builds character to allow your kids to receive things they don’t want and teach them to do so graciously. If you feel you already have enough character, I refer you to the paragraph above…allow the giver the chance to feel the joy of giving you something.

None of the above is really a reason to forego gift giving. If you really don’t want to receive something you don’t want, then what you really need to do is write your wish list. I know – you probably haven’t done that since you were a kid. You are thinking “but the problem is that there is not anything that I want!” you’ll need to adjust your thinking…instead of what you want, how about what you don’t mind getting more of? The following is a template that can be used by anyone of any age, and should result in a list that is junk-free, provides ideas at several price points (including free gifts of time/talent), and gives your happy-givers plenty of ideas.

And if you are the person who wants to give something ,but never knows what to give, you can ask your relatives to complete the list below to give you some ideas.

THE PERFECT WISH LIST TEMPLATE:
1. Favorite candy, snack food, etc. -For stocking stuffers or a gift basket.
2. Favorite baked good(s) made by your relatives.
3. Common item you are always running out of. (Printer paper, Ibuprofen, etc.)
4. Common household item that needs replaced this year. (Bath towels, can opener, etc.)
5. Place you shop at. (grocery store, discount store, department store) – For gift cards.
6. Online service you use (music, movies, tech, etc.) – For gift cards/prepaid codes.
7. Favorite restaurant(s) – For gift cards.
8. Charities or causes you support. -For them to give/serve in your honor.
9. Activity you enjoy/place you go. (Place you golf, concert you want to attend, etc.)
10. Something you need someone to do for you. (Oil changed, shelf installed, dog walked.) – For gifts of service
ONLY AFTER LISTING THE ABOVE, you can list specific items. Be sure to list the size, color, brand, features, etc. If you have a link to a webpage to buy the item, put it here. Try thinking of:
1. Things you have been meaning to buy and haven’t gotten yet. (Bath mats instead of towels on the floor for your new apartment.)
2. Things you should replace, but have been putting off. (That tatty puffy coat.)
3. Things you think you would like but are afraid to waste your own money on. (That only-on-tv gadget that sounds too good to be true.)

When you hand out your list, you can always preface it with “I don’t really want anyone to spend money on me this year. But this is in case you don’t listen.” Oh, and, you should probably keep in mind that handing it out NOW might be a little late for this year. But there’s always next year.

Thoughts on a traffic jam

April 15th, 2011 . by maria

I was delayed leaving work today, trying to get just a few more things done. Then I had to spend some time parked on the turnpike today. Not exactly what you expect, or want, to be doing on an afternoon as beautiful and sunny as today. I was mildly entertained by the games and internet on my phone, posting my status on facebook, and being perfectly willing to drive off having only learned that I was fortunate to have a smartphone.

We got moving. We struggled down the road, jostling for position. We passed the accident. We’ll just say that when it ends with a box truck and a semi being nearly unrecognizable, it can’t be good. I realized that if I had not been delayed, I could have been caught in the middle of that mess. After all, I often spend an hour and a half every day hurtling down the roadway at over 50 miles an hour, with only a little white line separating my car from a very big truck also speeding down the road. It’s dangerous, the tolerances are small, our protections are few. It’s a miracle we all survive.

Thoughts like these are nothing new for me. I grew up singing along to Amy Grant:
  God only knows the times my life was threatened just today.
  A reckless car ran out of gas before it ran my way.
  Near misses all around me, accidents unknown,
  Though I never see with human eyes the hands that lead me home.

I also read  Frank E. Peretti’s This Present Darkness. His car scenes with angels creating a bit of car trouble mischief to help arrange for two people to meet, and another with angels and demons battling over the fate of a van carrying a believer escaping her captors, paint the roadways as a more spiritual place than you might imagine.

Then there was the time I had a real-life near miss when my friend Kelly’s car inexplicably slipped out of gear, and she pulled us off the road just seconds before a huge roadsign flew out of the back of a workman’s truck. Who knows what would have happened?

I don’t believe in coincidence. My heart goes out to those who were in this horrible accident. But I wonder how many times we are spared from a similar fate. And how many times it is the other little, annoying delays that God uses to save our lives. Next time you’re behind a slow driver who you just can’t seem to pass, consider that God may have a perfectly good reason for slowing you down.

Break the Rules to Lose Weight

February 7th, 2010 . by maria

There are lots of rules, or guidelines, that we learned growing up. Breaking a few of these rules might help you expend a few more calories, breaking your weight loss plateau. If you know me, you know I’m not much of a rule breaker. BUT I’m going to give it a shot…

Break this Rule: Clean your Plate
Cleaning your plate is important for a growing child, but not so much for an overweight adult. If you’re full, or there’s something you don’t like, do not force yourself to eat it. If you are making up your own plate, put less on it and skip the things you don’t care for. (As long as you’re still getting a healthy balance on a regular basis.)

Break this Rule: Waste Not, Want Not
There’s this little bit left on your plate, or on your child’s plate. Or, there’s this tiny bit of leftovers in the fridge, just going to waste. What do you do? WAIST not. Don’t eat it; don’t let it go to YOUR WAIST. I don’t care if you pitch it, feed it to the dog, or add it to a baggie in the freezer to be turned into casserole. but do NOT let that go into your mouth.

Break this Rule: One-dish Meals
OK, this isn’t really a rule. But we’ve all been conditioned that one-dish meals are easier. Here’s the thing – they aren’t healthier. Sometimes, they have more ingredients than they would probably have if you cooked a meat, veggie, and starch separately. Plus, everything soaks up the grease from the meat, and you can’t choose how much of which things you will eat. When you make separate items, the kiddos can load up on the mac-n-cheese, and mom can load up on the broccoli. If someone really wants theirs mixed together, let them do it on their own plate.

Break this Rule: Sit Still
We don’t need recent scientific studies to tell us that you burn more calories by fidgeting than by sitting still. I don’t want you to drive people crazy, but there’s nothing wrong with some musical toe-tapping now and then. And, if you’re in a cubical or office where nobody else can see you, break all the rules – get up and do a little dance when you complete a project. What’s stopping you? Nobody will know, and you’ll probably feel awesome afterwards!

Break this Rule: Be Efficient
We try to carry all our bags from the car in one trip. We look around and think what else we need before heading downstairs, so that we dont’ have to come back up the stairs. We save all the memos we need to deliver, and then give them all out at once. We email or IM instead of walking down the hall. We hit the bathroom, then get a drink, then check the mail – all in one trip. These things are more efficient, and some of them are like second nature now. Stop being so darn efficient! Really, would it kill you to go up and down the stairs a few more times? And, you’d probably have a better relationship with that difficult coworker if you met face-to-face once in a while…if not, well, at least you burned a few calories and got out of your cube.

Break this Rule: Eat 3 Meals a Day
I recently saw a TV show where the girl lost 50 pounds by skipping meals. All of them. She ate only the snacks she would normally have eaten. It wasn’t healthier, but it was less food. The show’s hosts, to their credit, did teach her how to choose healthy meals instead of skipping them. But…if you’ve been snacking all morning, and you’re too busy to sit down with a salad, you are better off skipping lunch than grabbing a Big Mac. Seriously. I give you permission to skip lunch…as long as you have eaten something else. (I do NOT advocate skipping eating all day, as you will only eat more/worse later, you’ll feel terrible, and you’ll teach your metabolism to hoard those calories when it gets them.)

Break this Rule: Save Money; Buy in Bulk
If you buy a 12pk of Coke each week, guess how much Coke you will drink? If you buy candy bars at 3/$1 instead of 50 cents for one, guess how many candy bars you will eat? Unless you have plans for those extra units to be immediately and irrevocably passed on to someone else, buying in bulk is actually NOT saving you anything. You may be spending less per unit, but those extra units are going “to waist”. (If I can continue beating you with this pun.) Instead, splurge for the single 50 cent candy bar once per week, eat only the one, and tell yourself that if it is worth the calories, it is worth the extra 17 cents. (Or, tell yourself that 17 cents is the fine for eating the candy bar. Whatever works for you.) Along the same lines, don’t buy those treats with your regular grocery shopping. That’s too easy. Instead, tell yourself you HAVE to make a special trip to the store just for that item, only when you need it. Chances are, it isn’t worth the trip most of the time, and you’ll be just fine without it. The few(er) times you do get it, it will be so much more special. The only thing you should buy in bulk are staple grocery/household items… and diet foods.

Break this Rule: A “Real” Workout is…
If you aren’t going to get a real workout, then it doesn’t count, right? A real workout is aerobics and weights, right? A real workout has to involve some kind of equipment, or an instructor, or at least gym clothes, right? You have to get 30 minutes. You have to sweat. You have to get your heart pumping. What other rules have you learned about exercise? Well, unlearn them.You burn calories just sitting there, and everything beyond sitting is an improvement. So, go play with the kids, dance to the music, take a swim, or swing at the park. If it is more than you are doing now, it counts!

Can you think of any other rules to break?

Relatedly, I have given myself a “100 walks” challenge. I want to take my dog for 100 walks, and when I have done that I will give myself permission to take $100 out of savings for a special treat. Given that there are 336 days left in the year, it should be no problem to get in 100 walks by year’s end…but it sure would be nice to have that money for a spring/summer mini-vacation.

breaking stagnancy

January 24th, 2010 . by maria

I’ve had a certain phrase on my mind for the last few days: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. (I picked it up from Gretchen, at The Happiness Project.) This phrase has helped get me moving in a variety of areas.

At work, there was a project our group has wanted to do for years. We never did on it, because we felt it had to be done a certain way. Recently, we had an urgent need to create something similar, so we included an ‘imperfect’ version of our idea as well. Now, something that SHOULD have been done years ago will be done. It won’t be perfect, but it will be a lot better than it was…when it wasn’t done at all.

Since moving to PA, I’ve been … inconsistent…about attending church. The problem, I always said, was that none of the churches I visited felt like home. Applying the “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” rule, my kids and I picked one of these imperfect churches and went this morning. Sure, it wasn’t ‘like home’, but at least we went. The kids agreed it wasn’t so bad, even a little fun, and we’re planning on going every Sunday from now on.

Scrapbooking. I have several years worth of pictures waiting to go into scrapbooks. I have tons of scrapbook materials, and received a bunch of albums for Christmas. The problem is…I can’t afford to print all those pictures yet. So, I printed pages with thumbnails of all the pictures (Windows Picture and Fax Viewer). Using these to guide me as to what pages I need, I am making the albums without the pictures. I will get a few pictures printed at a time and go back and fill in the albums as I can. They won’t be done right away, but it is more progress than I would make by waiting until I can get all the pictures printed…and it gives me an incentive to get them printed!

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. (Or: better done good, than not done perfectly.) It is a phrase that is breaking me through stagnation in a number of areas. It pops into my head all the time now, and I’m sure it will continue to be a phrase of growth for me. It might even get me to blog more often!

New page about our pets

October 30th, 2009 . by maria

http://mariahelm.com/?page_id=129

the family that plays together (or ‘how yoville improved our marriage’)

April 15th, 2009 . by maria

OK, this is gonna sound crazy, but Yoville has improved our marriage. (Yoville is a Facebook app.) First, I have to say we are blessed with a good marriage as it is, and I have a great hubby. But we had a lot of fun this weekend creating our yoville avatars, playing games, decorating our Yoville apartments, and blowing each other kisses. But it wasn’t just the fun we had together. My hubby signed into it the other day, and when I got home, he said the cutest thing: “Your avatar is so cute – she looks just like you. When I see it in Yoville I say ‘there’s my sweetie!’ ” So, here’s my hubby thinking how cute I am when I am not even home…and here’s me with a sweet memory of how my hubby is thinking how cute I am when I am not even home. How awesome is that?

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