Defense Becomes the Offense

A little over three weeks ago, I twisted my ankle pretty severely moving.  The timing was horrible. I was moving from a third floor apartment and I had finally gotten into a consistent workout routine.  I had also just completed my fastest 2 mile run and was really excited about continuing my running plan that should have had me running a half marathon by November.

About two weeks later, I was able to do the workouts, but had lost stamina.  Walking for more than a mile however was about all I could do. Jogging was also very ineffective.  All I could do was shuffle and then would have to stop.

Today, I decided to try again.  It was a perfect evening to take a stab at it.  The rain had subsided along with the heat and humidity.  The storm clouds were slowly peeling back to expose a radiant evening sky.  The sun was highlighting the clouds and coloring the sky while the empty wet trail below was beckoning the critters out of hiding.

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There were several bigger snails traversing slowly on the concrete path.  A little cotton tail had center stage until the sight of me gave him stage fright which left him scampering off to hide in the brush.  A snake, that was more afraid of me, obviously slithered into the tall grass off to the side until it successfully was hidden from me.  And last were my crawfish encounters.

The first crawfish I saw was crawling directly towards me.   Upon the approach, I stopped to take pictures of him. He wasn’t too thrilled, but he just kept moving along

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On the way back, I thought I was running up behind him.  However, this one was different.  He had one claw…not two. This one was really intriguing, so again I stopped and pulled out my phone and planted it directly in front of him.

When he sensed the presence of perceived danger, he started to do that back paddle that crawfish do while waving that one claw in the air mightily.  He was waving that thing around as if he was swatting flies really trying to scare me off.  I chuckled to myself, until I noticed he was coming at me and my phone that was dangerously close to him.

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But still, I tried to get a good pic of this crawfish in defense mode and fighting a battle against a giant.  And then changing angles slightly, I saw him differently.  It was as if I was seeing him with one hand up in church in serious worship using praise as an offensive weapon. It was also as if he was in strong offensive prayer with that one hand up declaring and decreeing victory in Jesus name.

This switch of defense becoming the offense resonated with me so much.

When I’m scared and the battle or the enemy seems so much larger than me, I let fear push me back while trying to fight in my own strength and strategy.

But when I’m trusting in God, I march forward praising, praying, and declaring the victory that God is with me fighting and conquering the giant.

With blessings,

Erica

Ephesians 6:10-18

New International Version

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist,with the breastplate of righteousness in place,15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith,with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Get the Net: A Parallel Life of Luke 5

Today was fishing day! It had been at least four to five years since I had gone salt water fishing and I was most excited to be able to wade fish.

The night before I was led to read Luke 5 because in that story, the fishermen (soon to be disciples) had been fishing all night and were unable to catch fish.  So while Jesus was preaching to a crowd on the shore, they were washing their nets signaling that they were done for the day.  However, parallel to their finished work, was Jesus in the midst of his mission.  In short, they were coexisting in the same space but not entangled in each others’ lives.

This reminded me of a couple of times on the boat when we fished parallel to each other.  Occasionally, if a fish (or in our case a baby shark) was on the line, our lines would intersect because of the movement of the fish.  Therefore, we had to do a little dance of ducking and bringing over the rods so that the intersection would not produce an entanglement. It was in those moments that a partnership came into being. Beyond those moments however, we each stayed in our own space whether we were on the boat or wading in the water.

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”

Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

Now, our fishing day had pretty much gone like Simon’s.  We had not caught many fish in the shallower parts of the bay.  It was really an odd situation, because every spot we fished had fish. However, they just wouldn’t bite even though we were using the go to trout bait: live croaker.  So after awhile our guide, just like Jesus, proposed an idea.  He was wanting us to catch fish just as much as we did and probably more so because that is what he was hired to do.  There is an expectation, no matter how good or novice your clients are, they leave with a good number of fish.  So, he proposed this crazy idea that he knew would work and we decided to agree and go along with it.

Off we went to deeper water to partake in a creative and crazy idea.  When we got there, he started explaining what was going to happen, how quick it was going to happen, and how we were going to have to adjust our technique and work as a team.  I think we were all skeptical at first, but the moment that bait hit the water, the trout would blow.  But, getting the trout to bite was the easy part, getting them out was a whole different story.

“Get the net!” was being shouted out from one team of us at the front of the boat and the other team towards the back. If you were fishing, you were trying to wear the trout down and not let it swim near the barnacles. If you had the net, preferably the long one, you were trying to scoop the fish up the moment it was reeled in straight trying to ensure that it didn’t swim back to the barnacles that were usually just a foot a way.

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It was fast. It was fun. And, it required teamwork especially when the big trout were hooked on the line.

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.

Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

In scripture, the BIG catch from throwing the nets deep, required the fishermen from that boat and the other boat to work together.  Fishing today required us to do the same thing while we really listened to the guidance and instruction of our guide.

But, notice how the scripture ended. They left everything behind including the fish.  If you think about all the empty handed fishing the night before, to experiencing the biggest catch they had ever had, they walked away from a big win and a lot of glory.

Jesus was calling them to fish for a greater and more valuable fish-people.

I don’t get to fish a lot and by no means am I an expert fisher-woman.  But I know enough to know that great fishermen have a lot of patience and perseverance.  They don’t give up easily on their unproductive fishing spots.  Sometimes they persevere until the fish start biting. Sometimes they realize something is off and it’s just not the right time.  Moving to a new spot, never means leaving the unproductive spot forever.  It just means moving on in the moment and revisiting it the future.  They know there will be days with very little caught and some days that yield high numbers.

Having the characteristics and qualities of a great fisherman are the exact same ones needed for ministry and loving others like Jesus.

So get the net and be ready, because getting people hooked is half the battle.  Getting them in the net and to the safety of Jesus’ boat requires teamwork.

For His Glory,

Erica Salazar

 

Passed Up

“Come now, let us settle the matter,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.”

Isaiah 1:18 NIV

My God place is a trail that runs along a creek.  Most of it is hidden from the road. Only a few people know about it or dare to venture off to the unpaved portion.  It is commonly referred to as my “secret place” to friends and to God it’s referred to as our place.  I feel most in God’s presence outdoors and living in an area covered by concrete, it is my nearby escape when I need to listen to what God wants to speak to my heart.

Now, I should let you know that God speaks to me in feathers. It is directly associated with a situation I’m in and I tend to collect them when I see them.  Lately, they have been everywhere in indoor locations which is kind of odd.  They have been constant reminders of what I want to ignore, give-up on, and forget.  But, he seems to be bringing them like rain coming in through a roof.

This morning on my walk, I unexpectedly ran across one that was white.  I picked it up because it reminded me of purity, salvation, and also out of habit. On the way back when I was almost home, again my eye unexpectedly saw one in the grass.  But, this one didn’t look pretty.  It was kind of wet from the dew and mangled.  So after a short pause, I continued in my stride determining its value was not worth bending down to pick up.

And then came the download from God.

People like to pick what is pretty, what looks fresh, and what seems valuable.  The ones that seem dirty, disheveled, and discarded are the ones that get passed up.  The one who is so entrenched in sin, to the point it is obvious to others, is given a quick glance and then ignored.  It seems as if they are not worth the time anymore to pick-up and carry along.

But with a perspective of salvation, God revealed what those two feathers represented. One is the before and one is the after.  We need to be willing to pick a person up and carry them when they don’t seem worth the time of day. By no means are we meant to literally carry what only God can handle and hold.  However, there is much value in a person’s testimony even if their present tells a different story. Passing them up in prayer can be tempting when they seem too far gone, but today was a great reminder that there is always hope that their trial will lead to salvation and a mighty testimony.

With hope,

Erica Salazar

 

 

Resting in Salvation

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

When things started to get really crazy at the stores, every entrance had a stand with sanitizing wipes.  What was the purpose behind providing this offering upon entrance?

  1.  It brought you comfort to keep yourself personally pure of germs from anything that was infected.
  2. It brought you comfort to purify anything you touched in the event you unknowingly were infected with something.

Whatever your personal reason would be for utilizing the wipes, you still had to choose to use them.

Like these sanitation wipes, salvation is a free gift that you have to choose to take and utilize. Choosing salvation and Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior, purifies your sinful soul and flesh.  We never reach perfection, but we become clean and a new creation in Christ despite our sinful past.

You also get the mind of a Christ and begin to see things from the Lord‘s perspective. This keeps you from exposing yourself to sin the way you use to   You want to stay pure because you inherit a peace of mind in that lifestyle. You aren’t weighted with guilt, shame, and a feeling of dirtiness.   Instead you can stand confident in your salvation.

Being saved and having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, allows you to rest in salvation instead of being restless in sin with a fear of death

I wouldn’t say that death scares me.  The world can be such an ugly place that even with close friends we jokingly/seriously make comments like, “Can’t Jesus come already.  I’m so ready for Heaven.”

What has been on my mind the most during this time is, “Will this chaos create a stirring in the lost to come back to God? Will this calamity cause a calling out from the ones that have denied and rejected Jesus as Lord and Savior?”

I hope it does.  I hope people start reaching for that free gift of salvation that stands at the door of their heart.

With love,

Erica

Resting with Friends

Do not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.   Hebrews 10:25 NIV

A common phrase I get as an observation from friends and family is that I’m always busy.      It’s not uncommon for me to turn something down cause I need to work on something in my non-official work hour whether it be for work or ministry. 

Monday was no different.  With strep ruining my “work” weekend and vacation, I rearranged my schedule to work Monday-Wednesday to finish some things while school was closed for the break.

Monday was a great start.   I was able to work in silence, with access to my two monitors, printers, and without interruptions.  I left feeling very accomplished and looking forward to being able to work without distractions the next two days.

Later that evening, my mom invited me to have lunch and watch a movie with a friend on Tuesday.   I thought about it, but declined because I was going to be too busy working.

Yesterday evening however, I started to get anxious.  I was already feeling bored the first day of spring break which started to make me anxious and kind of depressed. I already was not looking forward to Tuesday evening.

So, I knew what I needed to do although reluctant to do it.  I needed to go with my mom and friend to lunch and a movie and then work in the evening.  I have a bad habit of making my world about things I’m working on because resting and doing nothing doesn’t make me feel good either.  However, I’m always energized and encouraged when I’m around friends and family.

So today I made a decision to rest, but not in the way that you think.  I was still doing something, but I was resting and relaxing in the company of others.  The laughs and conversations bring a type of active rest that brings peace to the soul.   

Today I was thankful for the time spent with my mom and friends which helped me work well this evening energized and finishing my work goals a day early this evening.

To God be the glory,

Erica

The Rooms of Your Heart: Proverbs 24:3-4

Proverbs 24:3-4

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.

This is one of my favorite verses.  

When building a house properly, you have to have a plan drawn with wisdom.  The layout has been thought out to create a smooth flow inside.  Rooms are predetermined to be in locations that are logical and not illogical. For example, you wouldn’t build the front door of the house entering into the master bedroom.  You would put the restrooms on the opposite end of the house than the bedrooms.  

The actual construction requires taking that two dimensional plan and it’s measurements and turning it into a three dimensional object.  However plumbing, electrical, and ac also have to be included.  Installation of doors, windows, and cabinets, and other features and fixtures are added as well.  It takes a lot of understanding to make sure that each of these unique and important parts of a house are done in the proper order of construction and in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with the another aspects. 

But what makes a house a home is what is inside.  The knowledge and interaction of the members inside is what creates the rare and wonderful memories. 

To build those rare and wonderful memories in the rooms of your heart with Jesus requires that you make a decision to include Jesus in your plans that you build your life on.  Understanding Jesus and how he sees things can be gained by reading your Bible as well as through prayer and communication with him.  This will let you have some amazing and personal experiences and memories with God that will allow you to experience just how real he is.  

With love, 

Erica

The picture included was taken in the informal dining room that was in our kitchen.  It had bay windows, and I have a lot of memories in that part of the house.  It’s where we would eat dinner, do homework, and where I learned by a master plan fail that the Easter bunny wasn’t real.  This is at my first grade birthday slumber party.  

Proverbs 5 and a Trail Map Comparison

Proverbs 5:21-23

For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all your paths. The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast. For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly.

I have this tradition the past few years to always keep an extra trail map from the Texas State Parks I visit.  It usually has a picture of a bird and gives you the bird’s eye view of the park and trails. 

Everyone who hikes refers to the map to recalculate, make sure they are on course, and determine how many miles are left. 

In reading Proverbs 5, there are four characters: a husband, an adulteress, and each of their spouses.  The entire Proverb is on adultery and what happens if you do or don’t choose that path. 

Imagine this scenario being played out on a trail map with you looking down on the map.  Imagine having four Monopoly game board pieces with each one representing a character. The two spouses not “hiking” are off at their individual campsites. 

The  adulteress piece would be moving on the trails but all over the place on the map.  She would be wandering aimlessly going in circles and never having a plan on which trail she is taking or even trying to complete.  What’s worse, this poor girl is clueless that she is directionless and purposeless.  

Proverbs 5:6

She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.

Then, imagine the husband piece starts on a trail on the map.  His goal is to finish a trail and make it back to his campsite where his wife and his belongings are.

He starts on a specific hike with a goal of starting and finishing.  While hiking he hears the adulteress, who has spotted him, calling out to him seductively. However, she isn’t asking for help or directions.  She is seductively suggesting that he join her on the trail for something else. 

At this moment, internal warnings and wisdom start crossing his mind. 

  1. If he joins the adulteress, he will wander aimlessly with her leaving his spouse alone at the tent worried, scared, and lonely. If he returns, he will not be the same man he was when he left. He himself will experience death of a lot of things that aren’t physical but valuable. If he doesn’t return, he leaves his spouse in a state of hurt that will takes years to heal while she is forced to pick up all the pieces of their campsite and head home without him. At some point he will also have to live with regret.  

Proverbs 5:9-11

Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, lest you lose your honor to others and your dignity to one who is cruel, lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich the house of another. At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent.

  1. If he listens to the wisdom of God embedded in his heart and head, then he will experience life and blessings. 

Proverbs 5:18

May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.

Meanwhile the adulteress’ spouse may be at the camp waiting or he may be doing his own thing.  When they arrived at camp, she had already earned the title of adulteress. So when she went out, her spouse already knew what she could do or would do. It’s not a surprise for him like it is for the other spouse. 

Proverbs 5:3 

For the lips of the adulterous woman…..

Proverbs 5:20

……Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?

Hiking Tips:

  1. It’s always best when hiking to not go alone. Having another person with you when a bad situation occurs can be live saving. 
  2. Stay on the path as marked.  Sometimes you see something off of the path that you want to see closer or explore. However, it’s typically not a part of the designated path because there are some hidden dangers.
  3. Take a trail map with you.  Sometimes the markers can be confusing and you will want to refer to the map for clarity.  

Be blessed and happy trails,

Erica

 

Stepping Out in the Dark: Proverbs 4:18-19

Proverbs 4:18-19

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.

One of my favorite features in my tent is one of the screened views.  It’s beautiful to pull up the fly and see the sun coming up in the morning.  Today I got a late start, so it was becoming exceptionally bright. 

Of course one of the things I don’t like about my tent is the obvious fact that it doesn’t have a bathroom.  In cold nights, if I can help it, I will not get up in the middle of the night to go.  

I hate that it’s cold, plus getting out in the dark in pitch black and heading to the restroom can result in a stumble, unless if I have a flashlight. 

In this scripture you see two types of people: righteous and wicked. For the righteous, the path they walk on keeps getting brighter the longer they are on the path.  The light exposes the hidden hazards that would cause a fall. The light brings awareness and the ability to recognize potential and hidden dangers. 

The wicked, operate in the dark and willing step out at a time of low visibility and at times choosing to walk in complete blindness.  Stepping outside your tent in the dark is not wise, but it’s an equally good illustration to apply to your life.  If walking out of your tent in the dark is not wise, then why would you walk out of your house every morning without the Light of the World (Jesus) as your guide. 

The path of righteousness is available if you walk proactively within the Light and with the Light.  If not, you will continue to stumble over the obvious hinderances that you choose to keep hidden by stepping out in the dark.   

With Blessings,

Erica 

Accepting Prayers 24/7

In a small town in Kansas, a bank depository caught my eye. It was just one of the many historic downtown gems that I just had to take a picture of.

Jumping out of the truck to quickly take a pic, three words immediately stood out.

1. Guardian

2. Depository

3. 24 Hours

I jumped out to capture an image, while God jumped into my presence to share His truths

My prayers can be deposited 24/7.  Every time I pray and I deposit them to him, He keeps them in safe keeping. He is the Guardian of my prayers and who they are for.  Even though they may not be completely answered, there will be a day God is going to cash those prayers  out for the salvation of the one whom He loves.

1 Thessalonians 5:17  Never stop praying.

God be the Glory,

Erica

 

 

 

The Wave of Praying for Prodigals

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 1 Colossians 1:9

Weary.Tired.Hopeless.Impossible. 

Determined.Consistent.Hopeful.Faith.  

Unsure.Doubting.Rejected.Exhausted. 

Patient.Peaceful.Endurance.Focused.       

Hurt.Selfish.Resistance.Pride.                    

Loyal.Unconditional Love.Selfless.Kind

Praying for a prodigal has you experiencing a lot of emotions like a wave. Typically, most slowly roll across the surface building up until it peaks and then folds back into the water with a small crash.   Those are easy to pick back up and begin again.  

Sometimes the wave gets really big. It builds up with great strength and height that is very powerful. But when it hits its peak and comes crashing down it hits hard, forcefully, and takes longer to recover from.  

But at times the ocean is completely still and there is no movement on the surface.   The waves for some reason aren’t activated and the surface is in a state of rest. Underneath the water there is still a lot of movement and life.  

Whether you are in a season of bringing big battle wave prayers, consistent rolling wave prayers, or resting to listen to God, keep in mind to never quit.  Don’t stay still longer than needed out of hopelessness or fear.  May your rest be to refocus on God instead of your prodigal.  

With love,

Erica