Thursday, August 19, 2010

God doesn't play favorites....

When we coached cheer and ran the youth group, there were always those few kids we were closer to.  I'm sure it seemed to an outsider, that John and I had "favorites" on the squad or "favorites" in the youth group.  However, I'm going to let you in on a little secret:  we loved each and every cheerleader who cartwheeled into our heart and each and every youth group kid who shuffled through our doorway.  Our love for those teenagers was equal.

"Well, Jami?" you might ask, "Then why was Sarah Gorski at your house so much more then anyone else?"  Here's the secret:  the difference was Sarah Gorski.  Sarah Gorski stopped over at our house after school got out.  Sarah Gorski called us and said, "I don't have plans tonight.  Can I come over?"  Sarah Gorski would call/text/e-mail... Sarah Gorski came to the birthday parties we held.  Sarah Gorski made herself a PRESENCE in the Kastner household and in every part of our lives.  We loved every single teenager just as much as we love Sarah Gorski, but we were closer to Sarah because SHE made the effort to be close to us.  Over the years there have been MANY just like this.  Maybe to you they appear to be favorites:  Krista Olearnick, Jessie Pennington, Erika Conner, Alicia Gac, Christina Miklos, Danielle Mabrey, Tracey Jenkins, Kat Friedl, Ben Houle, Royce Pochowski...  but you know what ALL of those kids had in common?  They made the effort to be closer to us... so they were.

I see this phenomenon happening in my very own family.  John loves ALL our children equally.  However, he has a special closeness with Noah.  This isn't because he loves Noah more.  It isn't really even because he and Noah are more similar (he's actually more like Jeremiah than Noah).  This is because, if Daddy is home, Noah is by his side.  Noah wants to be wherever John is.  Whether that's sweeping up garbage in the garage or playing Xbox, Noah wants to be there.  Jeremiah loves John but he doesn't pursue John the way Noah does.

It's like that with God you know.  He doesn't play favorites either.  He loves each and every one of us EXACTLY the same.  You know what the difference is?  Those who appear to be closer to Him.... Those who appear to "hear" from Him.... Those who seem to walk in sync with Him.... They are like that because THEY pursue Him.  People hear from God because they are listening.  People are close to God because they pursue Him.  People walk in sync with God because they want to be with Him.

Look at your life today.  Are you as close to God as you want to be?  No one can change that but YOU.  He has been pursuing you.  He loves you.  He WANTS to be closer to you.  He WANTS other people to think that you are His favorite.  He IS talking to you... are you listening?

Come near to God and He will come near to you.
James 4:8a

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Worship Wednesday: Lead Me

Guest blogger:  John J. Kastner

Blogger’s Intro:  [Yes!  I got permission before posting this!]

Last week I received the following in an e-mail from my hubby.  I told him I was going to post it at my blog.  I think he thought I was kidding, but I was not.  I think this e-mail will minister to someone’s heart, but I also wanted to share it with you because I wanted to show a little of his heart here on my blog because I find the heart of John J. Kastner to be a precious place to enter, and I feel honored to be allowed into it. 

Hope you enjoy!


I’m not a blogger.  Most times, I don’t know where a sentence should start or end.  I hear things like, "Spell check makes things so much easier!" but when I spell words and click spell check that super computer with every possible word combo for every possible word just stares back at me with a dumbfounded look on the screen as if to say, "WHAT??? the heck are you trying to spell here???"

But I did feel God telling me this fine, sunny, blistering hot morning to write this down... to put this in words before the busyness of the day consumes me, and my thoughts on this fade away.  There is a song... don’t know if it’s new or old.  Can’t say with 100% certainty why, but it did three things for me this morning:

1. Brought this 245lb., 100%, real man to tears.  I’m not talking about eyes watery.  I’m talking about full- blown, saltwater running down my face, TEARS.

2. Brought clarity to how blessed I am because of you and the fact that you love me in spite of all my faults 

3. Showed me no matter how hard I work, or how much I work, that’s not all you're looking for in your mate. (I’m sorry I’m not always there for you the way you need me to be.  I am most often there for you the way I feel I should instead of the way you need.)

4. Showed me that I fall short of my wife, children, and family's needs way too much on a daily basis. 

I know that I know that turning on a dime is an unobtainable goal, but I will say that from now on in every situation, I will do my best to hear this song in my heart and act in a Godly, husbandly and fatherly way.

The song is by Sanctus Real.  Here are the words.  You'll have to google the music.



Lead Me

I look around and see my wonderful life
Almost perfect from the outside
In picture frames I see my beautiful wife
Always smiling
But on the inside, I can hear her saying...

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can't
Don't leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?

Show me you're willing to fight
That I'm still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

I see their faces, look in their innocent eyes
They're just children from the outside
I'm working hard, I tell myself they'll be fine
They're in independent
But on the inside, I can hear them saying...

“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can't
Don't leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, but what about us?

Show me you're willing to fight
That I'm still the love of your life
I know we call this our home
But I still feel alone”

So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I'm called to be
Oh, Father, show me the way

To lead them
Won't You lead me?
To lead them with strong hands
To stand up when they can't
Don't want to leave them hungry for love,
Chasing things that I could give up

I'll show them I'm willing to fight
And give them the best of my life
So we can call this our home
Lead me, 'cause I can't do this alone

Father, lead me, 'cause I can't do this alone

Saturday, August 14, 2010

On this day....

44 years ago a little boy was born, John Joseph Kastner.  He was born a little too early, and he had a rough time growing up, but on Easter Sunday sixteen years ago, Jesus saved his soul, and he was finally ready to be my soul mate.  I am SO glad that God picked my spouse for me, because He knew exactly what mate would be perfect for Jami Lynn Kastner.  On this day, his birthday, I wanted to write a blog about why John Joseph Kastner was the PERFECT choice for me.

Some people say, "Opposites attract."  Some people say, "Two different sides of the same coin."  I like to think of John and I as two blue legos.  We are the same color (blue).  We are the same thing (legos).  But one of us is missing the top, and one of us is missing the bottom.  We are only complete when stuck together.  But here is the KICKER:  for us to fit together we have to be DIFFERENT or it doesn't work.  Try as hard as you like but if you cannot get legos to stick together by pounding the tops together or by smacking the bottoms together.  The only way to get legos to stick is to put the DIFFERENT parts together.

The problem is often in marriage it is easier to focus on how our differences cause irritations instead of glorying in how our differences make us a more complete unit.  This has been MY battle for twelve years, because I have this opinion, that the Jami L. Kastner way is the RIGHT way.  But God has been teaching me for twelve years that different doesn't necessarily equal wrong.  Here's what I mean:

John is brave when I am afraid.  I have a HUGE fear issue.  I am worried about what people think about me.  I am bothered by what people are saying about me.  I am AFRAID that disaster lurks just around the corner.  I am TERRIFIED that something will happen to my children.  This makes me a very cautious person, but it can go too far.  Where is the trust in God if I am always afraid?  While lovingly working me through my fear issue, God placed this wonderful man in my life who is not afraid of ANYTHING!  He doesn't give a rip what people think or say about him.  He doesn't worry about what's lurking around the corner.  He is just not afraid.  I can count on one hand, the number of times I have seen John J. Kastner show fear over the past 12 years (when Jeremiah swallowed a dart and needed an endoscopy, when Elijah's needed surgery on his thumbs, when he faced brain surgery, and when Elijah had his tonsils out).  Those were the only times he showed fear, and I only noticed them because of my trained eye and advanced studies in all things John J. Kastner.

John is tough where I am tender.  This isn't hard for people to figure out.  John is a gruff guy.  He lays down the law.  He stands up for me when I am being mistreated.  He is the BACKBONE!  I needed this in my life so badly!  I always joke (but there's A LOT of truth to it) that I can hardly tell the Subway guy he messed up my sandwich.  I am a conflict-a-phob like NO other!  I needed John in my life to make me a little tougher, but mostly to be tough for me when I just can't seem to be.

Those aren't our only differences, but they are our biggest ones, and I have learned over the past dozen years to look at the ways our differences turn us into a more complete unit instead of allowing them to irritate me.

So on this day, August 14, 2010, I want to send a HUGE


to my one and only.

(Close you eyes if you hate the mushy stuff.)

I love you John Kastner.  You complete me.  I am eternally grateful God gave you to me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Worship Wednesday: In Christ Alone

I freely toss around the words "my favorite song.". "My favorite song right now," I'll say... Or "My favorite country song." Or even "My favorite hymn"... But I swear to you this is my ALL-TIME favorite song!!!! Hands down, it wins! Here's why:

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

No matter what I face... No matter how hard the winds blow or how barren the land becomes... He is THERE! FIRM! My Cornerstone...My solid ground!

What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

Jesus does bring me so much peace and comfort! When I am wigging out about the bills... When I am FREAKING out at night because I heard a noise near the kids room.... When I am about to lose my mind with desperation... He floods in and COMFORTS me!

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless Babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save?
Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live, I live

His death brought me life. Such a sad though for me... Someone (the PERFECT Prince of Peace) had to die an unjust death because Jami Lynn Kastner can't stop sinning in her anger, worrying and fretting, gossiping, slandering, cheating, stealing, murdering! So sad... but now I live! I LIVE!

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day (this part ALWAYS gives me CHILLS!!!)
Up from the grave He rose again
And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

And there it is! The best trust EVER! Sin's curse has lost its grip on me Sin has NO hold on me! NONE! I am His and He is mine and sin canNOT come between us! Hallelujah!

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From a life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

And my favorite part of my favorite song????

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand?
Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand

I like the versions which repeat it!!!

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand?
Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand

NOTHING! NOTHING! NOTHING! Could ever pluck me from His hand! And Til He returns or calls me home Here in the power of Christ I stand! I will stand... sometimes strong... sometimes wavering but I will STAND until HE comes to get me. That's it! End of story! NO negotiating!!!!

Hope you enjoy "my favorite song of all time" a little today. I've got it playing in he background if you've got speakers. Hope it gives you chills too!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Thorns, contentment, and hope...

I had the EXACT same conversation three different times yesterday.... I'm not THAT dense... I see it's something God must want me to process... With three different people, I had conversations where we ended up talking about what to do when you're praying and praying for God to change something, and it just doesn't change.

Did you ever see the movie Groundhog Day? I actually hate that movie, BUT that's not the point of this. In the movie, Bill Murray goes through the same day (Groundhog Day) over and over and over again. I can't remember what the point of that exercise is as I have tried to block the irritating movie from my memory banks; however, it is actually serving a purpose for once. In the movie, every time he wakes up it is the SAME EXACT day. He knows what's coming. He knows how it goes. Do you ever feel like that? Like you have been down this road a jillion times? Like you have endured these same struggles over and over? Like you have prayed your heart nearly DRY begging for God to change your circumstances? Yet still here you are.

How do we handle the struggles in life which seem to never end? Suffering a chronic illness... Neverending financial struggles... Perpetual singleness... What attitude are we to have towards those things?

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
2 Corinthians 12:7-8

If the struggle that just won't go away is our "thorn" then our posture should be one of humility, acceptance, and perseverance. We should just accept that this is what God has given us, our "cross" to bear, and continue on living the life he has given us. Supporting this idea is:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
Philippians 4:12

We need to be content whether we are walking in sickness or health, whether we are socking away money for a rainy day or robbing Peter to pay Paul, whether we are navigating our days as one or as part of a dynamic duo. The summer before I met John, I had REALLY come to grips with my singleness. I was nearly 30 and feared I would never ever get that precious "Mrs. Degree" I had so deeply desired. That summer I remember saying to God, "You know Lord, I'm okay with being single. I don't need to get married. I have a tremendous ministry here, reaching out to these children in this Christian school. That is enough for me. I had become content in that situation. BUT (and that's a REALLY BIG BUT there) I had NOT given up hope. My contentment with my singleness didn't mean that I had stopped longing for my soul mate. I think that is a fallacy we have all accepted. We believe that being content means you no longer desire or hope for that thing you don't have: health, financial stability, a spouse. I think you can be content with your situation while still hoping and praying for a change.....

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:23

He is faithful and no matter HOW long you have endured the exact same struggle, you should hang on to your hope! We serve an AMAZING God, Whose power and majesty know NO end.... No matter how neverending your situation seems, no matter how hopeless your plight, He CAN change it. He CAN turn it around in a FRACTION of an instant.

So where does that leave us??? How then do we endure? I think that we endure by accepting our situation and getting to the point where we know should God choose to NEVER change our struggles, we will continue on: loving Him, praising Him, serving Him. I think we endure by finding things to be grateful for even when the night seems the darkest. But most importantly I think we endure by NEVER EVER giving up the hope that things might change.

My dear friend who is struggling through a situation that just DOESN'T seem to resolve itself, I know your pain! I understand the agony! I GET the deep, deep desire to just be through to the other side of this trial. I need you to hear that our God CAN change your situation. But I need you to tell me that even if He never does change it, you will NOT give up!

So seek contentment with where you are. Remember that God can bring your healing, rescue, redemption in an INSTANT! But until He does, hang on tight. Don't give up. Be content and most of all PRAISE HIM!

Worship Wednesday: More Like Falling in Love

It has been a LONG time since I've posted a Worship Wednesday blog.... so sorry. I keep hearing this song, and it GRIPS me! I want you all to hear it and FEEL it today!

Give me rules
I will break them
Give me lines
I will cross them

Give me words
I'll misuse them
I'll misplace them

Did you ever notice how the second you go on a diet you crave things you NEVER would have ever entertained the idea of consuming prior to the diet? I've tried low carb diets before, and I tell you a few days without carbs, and I swear I would eat a piece of cardboard just to have a little substance in my diet! There is just something about a list of rules that makes you crave the things that are against them.

'Cause all religion ever made of me
Was just a sinner with a stone tied to my feet

When your faith becomes a religion, it is just a list of rules you can't possibly follow perfectly. Anytime you break one of those rules you are DOOMED, evil, banished! So what are you saying Jami? It is just a big free for all then? Since we can't follow all the rules we just get to break them all??? Nooooooo....

It's about LOVE! Scream this part with me:

It's gotta be
More like falling in love
Then something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance

It's like I'm falling in love, love, love
Deeper and deeper
It was love that made
Me a believer

Forget religion! It's about a relationship! It's about being wildly, passionately, madly, CRAZY in love with JESUS!!!! When you fall in love, all you want is to be with the object of your affection. When you're not together, he/she is all you can think about. When you are together, you're already anticipating the NEXT time you get to be together. Other relationships in your life tend to wane a little. You might lose a little weight because of the butterflies in your tummy. You might have a little trouble sleeping because you can't stop thinking about your love... It's almost like a sickness... You couldn't stop it if you tried. That's what we need with Jesus. We don't need a list of rules. We need to fall head over heels in love.

And here's the secret:

Falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me

When you fall for Him, the rules will become easier to follow. You will start to genuinely, truly WANT to follow them. Falling in love with him is what brings the change.

So how do you fall in love with Him? It really isn't that hard. STOP focusing on all those things you have heard all your life about what you have to DO to be a Christian. START focusing on Him... Think about all He has done for you. When I start to list my blessing, my heart swells for my Creator, my Savior, my King.

List your blessings today and fall in LOVE with Jesus! Cause it has GOT to be more like FALLING IN LOVE!
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