Thursday, December 17, 2009

living the cliche

Music brings back memories nearly as quickly as smells do. The Decemberists’ “Picaresque”. When I first got this record over two years ago, it was during the spring. J—told me I would like it, he was right of course. He always knew what kind of music would speak to me. I would listen to it on my tiny iPod and sit on the tiny balcony and smoke. If it was evening, a beer would be involved as well. During that summer, I would listen to it with my feet propped up on the rail, trying desperately to get a little sun on my extreme paleness.

It was a strange time where all I had to do was go to work (no summer classes) and come home again. It was also strange because of how I had peopled my life. I had friends, good ones, not-so-good ones, ambivalent ones, drunken ones, sober ones, smelly ones, and highly caffeinated ones. My friends were always good for a beer, smoke, or faux hawk. On some level, I miss the easy camaraderie that we had. There were times we just sat there, didn’t say anything or do anything, just sat and existed near each other. Sometime we would talk. R— and I would talk Foucault or Nietzsche, J—and I would talk Shakespeare and other classics, Je—and I would talk writing our own stories or dealing with abusive men, B—would tell funny stories and play on the floor like a cat, chasing his cell around refusing to use his thumbs. We were very existential. J—and B—would get out their guitars and mandolins and play and sing. Je—and I listened. That was our life. That is still their life.

But now, listening to this music, allowing it to take me back to that time of existence (for existing was all we were really good at), I have decided that moving on is best. It was good for a time, and perhaps it was a needed time of little responsibility or at least little acknowledgement of responsibility. But I’ve moved on. I haven’t had a beer in longer than I can remember. I haven’t smoked in even longer. And I hadn’t listened to this record in at least a year.

“16 Military Wives”, “From My Own True Love (Lost at Sea)”, “The Engine Driver”, and “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” all trigger something in my brain that takes me back to that balcony on a lazy, summer, Salem day. The smells of fresh air, cigarette smoke, and J—‘s hair gel holding up his faux hawk. The sights of the sunny courtyard of our apartment building and the wiry maintenance man trudging down the sidewalk puffing on the weed dangling from his barely-there teeth. The feel of the warm sun on my extremely pale feet and the breeze just slight enough to move our cigarette smoke along. The sounds of birds in the bush under the balcony, Re—playing unidentifiable music in his apartment next to the balcony, and Mo the Cat trying to catch the aforementioned birds through the screen of the kitchen window and getting frustrated. The stale tastes of cigarettes, coffee, and beer mingled with just a hint of cinnamon toothpaste.

Yes, music brings back memories nearly as quickly as smells do.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

thoughts on this evening...

The more I grow and learn, the more I realize that there is a group of people in this world that seem to be built a little differently. They have a certain something about them that makes them seem stronger, able to handle more than others. A majority of these people are called women. Women seem to be built with a few uncanny qualities that few men I’ve known possess. I think most will agree that women have certain abilities that men are just not made with, and I’m not just talking about childbirth. I’m talking about the ability to look at you and see into your soul; the ability to fix everything with a hug, kind words, and good back scratch (the kind that you can still feel 15 minutes later); and the ability to hold what seems like the weight of the world on their shoulders and not only still stand up straight, but counsel another friend at the same time. Women are strong, strong people. But from this strength can come a huge problem, the “I can handle this” problem.

Sometimes we women get so used to “handling it” that we forget the Almighty God who wants to handle things for us. He wants to take the world off of our shoulders so we can go through the day without a headache! The only catch is that we have to let go of the world before He can take it. We have to willingly give it to Him and not try to take it back. There’s the rub. Some of the strongest women I know have gained their strength because they have not had someone stronger than them in their lives to help relieve the burdens they have carried and as a result they have trouble giving their own burdens to God and letting Him keep them.

I was speaking with a friend that has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Her job is demanding, her living situation is very demanding, and her family is currently going through more than one crisis. She is so stressed that her body is physically sick. She is very close to becoming angry and bitter at God. At one point, she questioned God for giving her too much to handle at one time. And don’t all women do that at some point? Do we not all try to tell God how much we can and cannot handle and how dare He cross that line and give us too much? Of course we do, whether we admit or not, we do, we have, and we will.

A few years ago, I was told that I had “grit” and that time the only thought that came to mind was a John Wayne movie called “True Grit” but I had idea what it was about. I still have no idea what that movie is about, but I have a few thoughts on the word “grit” and whether or not it’s a good thing. At the time it was said to me, I was a little insulted because, in my girlishness, I was hoping for something a little more flattering. But now I see things a little differently.

“Grit” from a thesaurus “courage, bravery, pluck, mettle, backbone, spirit, strength of character, strength of will, moral fiber, steel, nerve, fortitude, toughness, hardiness, resolve, resolution, determination, tenacity, perseverance, endurance.” These are nice things to have as they have come in very handy when dealing with certain aspects of my life, but they have also been a hindrance because I start to think that I can handle things better than God. Now, I don’t go around saying that I can handle things better than God, that would just be crazy. But every time I try to handle something without consulting Him, without letting Him be the leader, without having His guidance, without giving it to Him, I’m basically telling Him that I can do it better than He can.

Yes, women are strong. We have to be. Coming from a military family, I have seen and see daily how women are strong for their husbands, how women support their husbands. In my experience, the supporter must be as strong or stronger than the supported. Yes, men are physically stronger, and in a battle of the sexes, men might win. And yes, this is a battle, but not of the sexes, but for the sexes! As Christian men and women, our struggle is not against each other, but we fight side by side against “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12 NKJV). God made men and women to work together, to work in harmony with each other against the evil powers of this world. But two are better than one only if God has put those together. We women sometimes have to hard time being alone, which is ironic when you stop to consider who strong we are. Society has made us feel incomplete if we are not married or with at least with someone. A single woman in her thirties is nearing “old maid” status and should probably invest in at least two cats if you follow society’s philosophy on the subject… unless of course, you are a career woman, and then it’s okay to be single as long as you plan on getting married at some point in your life.

Ladies, society has lied to you! We have spent too much of our lives watching Walt Disney’s ideas on love, Prince Charming, and a heroine with perfect hair, that we have forgotten God’s reality! God has a plan for your life, a plan that you have been carefully crafted by His hands to accomplish and everything in your life, all the weights you have carried over the years are for that plan! The daily headaches I struggle with make my compassion for the pains of others skyrocket because I have a special, very personal understanding of what that pain really feels like. And when the pain gets so bad my eyes can’t focus anymore, I have to stop, pray for strength and wisdom, and continue on with the plan in the full knowledge that God is working through me because my strength is completely gone. Sometimes, we have to get to that point before we learn the lesson on how to give things to God and let Him keep them. It’s not that God enjoys laying more and more on our shoulders, it’s that He understands that we have been built to hold so much, that we have to be broken by the weight before we remember to give things to Him. It is sad that it has to happen that way and I wish it were not so, but we are stubborn people with stubborn souls and He is a patient God who only wants the best for us. In our weakness, He is at His strongest because it is when we are weak that we rely most on Him. Would that we were weak all the time! I wish I had never been told that I had grit! I wish I never realized my own strength so that I would have always relied on God for everything! But pride rarely fails to step in and tell me that I can handle it on my own.

Sisters (and brothers too) we are not made to handle things alone! We are made to give things to God and let Him work through us. What are you still holding on to that you know God wants? In order for you grasp all the good things that God has for you, you have to empty your hands of all the things you are holding onto. Release your grasp on the stresses, the worries, the fears, and even the joys. Give them all to God and be ready to be amazed at the gifts He gives you in return. Who else would give you a blessing for giving Him a burden? God wants your burdens as much as any parent wants to relieve their child of hurtful things. Let God have it and you’ll be amazed at the blessings that He pours into you that you never knew you always wanted and needed!

Friend, I love you and God loves you, both more than you know.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fact or Fiction?

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15, NIV)

There is a tale told of that great English actor Macready. An eminent preacher once said to him: "I wish you would explain to me something."

"Well, what is it? I don't know that I can explain anything to a preacher."

"What is the reason for the difference between you and me?" The preacher asked. "You are appearing before crowds night after night with fiction, and the crowds come wherever you go. I am preaching the essential and unchangeable truth, and I am not getting any crowd at all."

Macready's answer was this: "This is quite simple. I can tell you the difference between us. I present my fiction as though it were truth; you present your truth as though it were fiction."

Zinger, huh? Sure does challenge my faith-o-meter. J This story both motivates and cautions me. Frankly, Christians embarrass the cause of Christ all the time. It's vital that we be confident in the message of hope we cling to as believers in Jesus, but it's equally vital that we be prepared to share truth in love - share Scripture in proper context - share our hears with meekness and fear for the purpose of attracting others to the restoring love of Christ. We don't need to be Bible scholars with capital letters following our names...but we do need to be Bible girls!

I don't need to harp on the fact that there's a great moral decline in the world. We see that coming and going! As a community of Christ followers in this valley, let's commit ourselves to making a difference in the lives of others, in our homes, among our friends, in our communities, and in this world! To do this, we need to know our Bibles. To think through current issues. We must be prepared to share how we've been changed by the love of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. It's the great commission, and it's for each of us...not for the perfect among us. People around us need to know that God is still in the restoration business - and that He longs to bring His peace, hope and love to every life.

Look at the apostle Paul. He was prepared to speak about Christ wherever he went. In the New Testament book of Acts, we learn that, "from morning 'til evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets." (Acts 28:23b, NIV)

The life-changing, peace-giving, truth we know needs to be presented to the world as life-changing, peace-giving truth! Get in His Word - get in His presence - and look for opportunities to share God's love as truth with confidence!

2 Timothy 1:12: "Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed..." Can you say that and mean that?

Are you prepared to give an answer for the hope you have?

Have you been changed by God's grace? Held by His love? Grab your journal and write a paragraph or two that describes how God has worked in your life.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What a weekend!

Okay, so here’s the scoop on what happened this weekend. This has already been an emotional week for me because I had to say goodbye to Jonesy (my foster brother of two years that is being adopted) last night and we had Genesis Prayer meeting last night too. But I digress….

Saturday morning, God woke me up at 4am and I knew that I needed to read my friend Lewis’s facebook (See, God does use facebook!). I got to his page and saw a status and a post that had been put up nearly an hour ago (3am). The status said, “Scum of the earth, refuse of the world, put on display at the end of the procession. Whipped, beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, jailed, burned, sawed in half, beheaded and crucified. Hungry, tired, lonely, crushed, mocked and doubted. Paul took the lash 195 times, Peter was nailed upside-down, John lost his head, Steven was crushed by rocks. The name of Jesus, properly spoken, should silence a room, if only for these.” Even though I wasn’t speaking out loud, my room went silent and it was… Supernatural.

I then read the post,

“Dear Sin Nature,

If I believe that the Bible is true (Romans 6-8), then you are SO DEAD.


IF I have been born again, that is saved by the risen son of God, then you are DEAD.



When I act as though you are still alive, I am gravely (haha, pun) mistaken. It’s like being in a jail cell that is unlocked. I am, in reality, not a prisoner anymore. The choice to function as one is mine, not yours, because you’re DEAD.

Yes, it is easier to do what I already know, but this is not what Jesus is asking me to do. I am being transformed, my mind is being renewed by the word of God and He is UNCONDITIONALLY committed to the process that makes me more like Him. Not you. You’re dead.

My most insincere regards to your rotting corpse, thanks for all the pain, doubt and suffering you caused,

Lewis Kleiner, new creature, alive in Christ.”

God used this to help me see that I was still standing in my cell, my prison, even though the door was wide open! It didn’t matter who made the prison, how it was formed, or why I stayed in it for so long; all that was forgiven and forgotten so that I could come out of it knowing that God led the way for me, all I had to do was follow Him. In the silence of my room, God held out His perfect hand to me and bid me to take it and let Him lead me out of my prison. It literally didn’t matter if I built the prison or if I just let myself be caught up in someone else’s prison, it was all forgiven and the door was flung open. I took His hand and wondered how I had stayed there for so long.

I processed this all weekend amidst all the things going on with Jonesy leaving and Keri and I looking for a new place to live… it’s been a busy weekend and this week is looking to be much the same. But God has been so good to me through it all, giving me extra strength for the day and then letting me rest at home, to play and talk with some beloved friends, and praise in church (can we just talk about how God spoke through the worship on Sunday? wow.) and letting me know that it’s okay that I’m still processing it even now! God knows that my brain has not caught up with my heart and it may not ever catch up, and that's okay. I don't need to be able to wrap my mind around what God has done in my life in order to accept it.

Last night, in prayer meeting, I'm sure we were supposed to be praying about something specific, but God had a grip on my heart and showed me in my mind's eye the cell that I have been living in. He showed me three solid walls and on open cage door. He walked into the cell, turned and looked at me with love shining out of His eyes, and then he raised His pierced hands and blew all four walls to pieces! Never again shall I live in that dirty cell when I can fly with Jesus!!

when i think about the Lord
how He saved me, how He raised me
how He filled me with the Holy Ghost
how He healed me to the uttermost
when i think about the Lord
how he picked me up
turned me around
how He set my feet
on solid ground

it makes me want to shout
hallelujah! thank you, Jesus!
Lord, you're worthy
of all the glory, and all the honor
and all the praise!
Hallelujah! thank you, Jesus!
Lord, you're worthy
of all the glory, and all the honor
and all the praise!

Phil 3:12-16
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained."

Questions? Comments?

Monday, August 17, 2009

to know His voice

I have lived with my roommate for only a few months, but I already know her. I know her voice, her quirks, the things she struggles with, the people she loves and respects, her tendencies and habits. Her character, her personality, her ways. I have a few other friends that I know in the same way: their character, personality, how they think, and even sometimes what they think. Some people I can read as if they were an open book to me. Others I can read like a VCR manual, I understand the words, but the way they are put together doesn't make much sense.

The same is true about my relationship with God. Over the years, I have learned to hear His voice, to recognize His touch, and to understand some basic truths of who He is.

There are so many revelations of God in His Word. The Bible boasts of His greatness, glory, honor, and character. We know that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8), that God's grace is sufficient for every repentant heart, and that His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). We know that His name is above all other names (Philippians 2:9), that there is no other like Him (Jeremiah 10:6), and that His wisdom holds secrets that are hidden from before time began (I Corinthians 2:7). And for as much as we know about the LORD, our knowledge of Him is but a fraction of a grain of sand as held up to all the beaches on earth.

Though He is the mysterious master Creator who hung each star in the sky and calls them by name, He wants us to love Him, to trust Him, to know Him, and to worship Him. That thought alone sets my mind to wonder! God invites us to participate with Him in a vibrant dance of abundant life through His Son, Jesus Christ. Our amazing Heavenly Father bids each and every one of us to come to Him with questions, to be held by His love, to find peace, hope, and healing in His Son. He calls us to seek Him through prayer and to experience new revelations of Him through His Word and through the Holy Spirit.

The voice of all of creation shouts His praise! I encourage you to pause in this moment to consider respond to meditate on His glorious splendor. As you do, He will increasingly become the all-satisfying desire of your heart, while at the same time, He will stir up a hunger in your soul to know Him even more.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The dream

Last night I had a dream.

Rhythm was doing a service project in South East Roanoke and I had arrived a little late. As I walked up to get some instructions on what I should be doing, Thomas Frankie grabbed a box of tissues and told me to follow him, Craig had something he needed me to do. He took off running around a few dilapidated buildings until we were standing in a parking lot sized pile of mud. Craig was there, looking down at something buried in the mud. As I walked closer, I realized that he was talking to someone who was buried in the mud from head to toe and as I drew closer, I realized that it was a woman with only her face, hands, and feet showing through the now drying mud.

Craig stood up and looked at me, pointed down to her, and said "Talk to her. She needs to talk to you." I knelt down in the mud next to her, being careful to not kneel on any part of her buried body, pressed a tissue into her hand and said, "I'm Shanna." The woman instantly began to sob and tell me her story.

She told me that she once had a good life. She was a wife, a mother, and an active woman in her community. She helped everyone who needed it without a thought about herself. But then an accident happened and all the bones in her feet were crushed and the bottom half of her legs were horribly mangled. I looked down at her feet and realized that they were crumpled, broken, and still bleeding. She said the accident happened in the very same spot she was laying and because no one helped her, she had to stay in that spot and the bleeding never stopped. The entire lower half of her body was now covered in blood and mud. She continued to talk to me, her tears making crooked paths through the mud on her face, about how all she wanted was to be clean, all she wanted was to wash the mud off.

I woke up before the conversation ended, before I saw in the dream what I did to help her, but I don't think my helping her was really the point of the dream. I'm no Joseph, but God spoke to me very clearly through this dream.

"Am I the woman?" I asked Him.

"Only if you chose to be."

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Count to Eight (Woe, Be Gone)

by Max Lucado

"We have here only five loaves and two fish." (Matt. 14:17)

How do you suppose Jesus felt about the basket inventory? Any chance he might have wanted them to include the rest of the possibilities? Involve all the options? Do you think he was hoping someone might count to eight?

"Well, let's see. We have five loaves, two fish...and Jesus!" Jesus Christ. The same Jesus who told us:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Luke 11:19 NIV)

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. (John 15:7 NIV)

What ever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24 NIV)

Standing next to the disciples was the solution to their problems...but they didn't go to him. They stopped their count at seven and worried.

What about you? Are you counting to seven, or to eight?

Here are eight worry stoppers to expand your tally:

Pray, first. "Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him...(I Peter 5:7 AMP)

Easy now. Slow down. "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him (Ps. 37:7).

Act on it. The moment a concern surfaces, deal with it. Don't dwell on it. Head off worries before they get the best of you. Be a doer, not a stewer.

Compile a worry list. Over a period of days record your anxious thoughts. Then review them. How many of them turned into a reality?

Evaluate your worry categories. Detect recurring areas of preoccupation that may become obsessions. Pray specifically about them.

Focus on today. God meets daily needs daily. He will give you what you need when it is needed.

Unleash a worry army. Share your feelings with a few loved ones. Ask them to pray with and for you.

Let God be enough. "Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." (Matt. 6:32-33 NLT).

Eight steps. Pray, first. Easy, now. Act on it. Compile a worry list.Evaluate your worry categories. Focus on today. Unleash a worry army. Let God be enough.


It's Not About Me
© (Thomas Nelson, 2009),
Max Lucado

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Satan's Plan

John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (NIV).

George Thomas, a pastor in a small New England town, came to church one Easter Sunday morning carrying a rusty, bent, old bird cage, and set it by the pulpit. Eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, Pastor Thomas began to speak.

"I was walking through town yesterday when I saw a young boy coming toward me swinging this bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were three little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the boy and asked, "What do you have there, son?"

"Just some old birds," came the reply.

"What are you going to do with them?" I asked.

"Take 'em home and have fun with 'em," he answered. "I'm gonna tease 'em and pull out their feathers to make 'em fight. I'm gonna have a real good time."

"But you'll get tired of those birds sooner or later. What will you do then?"

"Oh, I got some cats," said the little boy. "They like birds. I'll let the cats have them."

The pastor was silent for a moment. "How much do you want for those birds, son?"

"Huh? Why, you don't want those birds, mister. They're just plain old field birds. They don't sing and they ain't even pretty!"

"How much?" the pastor asked again.

The boy sized up the pastor as if he were crazy and said, "I'll take ten dollars!"

The pastor reached in his pocket and took out a ten dollar bill and placed it in the boy's hand. In a flash, the boy was gone. The pastor picked up the cage and gently carried it to the end of the alley where there was a tree and a grassy spot. Setting the cage down, he opened the door, and by softly tapping the bars persuaded the birds out, setting them free.

Well, that explained the empty bird cage on the pulpit, and then the pastor began to tell this story. One day, Satan and Jesus were having a conversation. Satan had just come from the Garden of Eden, and he was gloating and boasting. "Yes, sir, I just caught the world full of people down there. Set me a trap by using bait I knew they couldn't resist. Got them all!"

"What are you going to do with them?" Jesus asked.

Satan replied, "Oh, I'm going to have fun! I'll teach them how to marry and divorce each other, how to hate and abuse each other, how to drink and smoke and curse. I'll teach them how to invent guns and bombs and kill each other. I'm really going to have fun!"

"And what will you do when you get done with them?" Jesus asked.

"Oh, I'll kill 'em," Satan glared proudly.

"How much do you want for them?" Jesus asked.

"Oh, you don't want those people. They are no good. Why, you'll take them and they'll just hate you. They'll spit on you, curse you and kill you. You don't want those people!"

"How much?" Jesus asked again. Satan looked at Jesus and sneered, "All your blood, tears and your life." Jesus said, "DONE!" Then He paid the price.

The pastor then picked up the cage, opened the door and walked from the pulpit.

Today, my friend, consider the price Jesus Christ paid for you. Go back to the Cross - to Calvary and the darkness that once filled your world. Remember what it was like before Jesus Christ came into your life with His presence and power. We forget. We lose sight of where we were when He came and just how far He has brought us.

Today is a good day to go back over the books and celebrate! Celebrate an undeserved and stubborn love that has radically changed our lives for eternity. Celebrate a forgiveness that covers every sin and shame. Celebrate a hope that is found only in a crucified and risen Lord!

Father, thank You for paying the price for my sin and for taking my place on the cross. Your forgiveness has changed my life and Your love has set me free. I don't understand why You would choose to love me like You do, but I celebrate that love today, Lord. Forgive me when I take Your love for granted and help me share it with others - for Your glory.

  • Make a list of five things God has done in your life in the last month.
  • Take the time to re-visit those blessings and examine the way(s) they have changed your life.
  • Set aside time to celebrate God's power and presence at work in your life.
  • Invite a few friends to join you for the party! Let each person share the good things God has done for them as well.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rest in God

by Mary Southerland

Today's Truth
Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV) "Come to me all you are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Friend To Friend
We live in uncertain times. Where do we turn for rest, for hope, for peace and stability? Jesus offers rest and hope and the promise of a better tomorrow. How can we experience the peace and rest God so freely offers?

  • Admit your need for rest. Many of us have bought into the lie that who we are is based on what we do or don't do. We fill every waking moment with something or someone in order to prove our worth. After all, we must be worthy if we are doing worthy things, right? Busyness does not always equal productivity. When we admit our need to rest, we are acknowledging the fact that we are imperfect and that our human power if limited. We need to rest in Him.
  • Turn to Jesus to find rest. Recreation is anything you enjoy doing while relaxation is any activity that slows you down. Restoration is an inside job and can only be found in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We once had an Australian cattle dog named Dallas. Australian cattle dogs are extremely loyal to a master of their choice. Dallas chose our son, Jered, to be his master. When Jered came home from school each day, Dallas would greet him at the door and follow him wherever he went. If Jered was doing homework in his room, Dallas would find a spot under Jered's desk and lay down. If our son was working in the garage, Dallas was with him. When Jered ran an errand, Dallas went for a ride. Dallas knew that the only place he would find rest was at the feet of his master. The same is true in our life.
  • Lay your stuff at Jesus' feet. The number one stress in your life is the burden you have assumed that is not yours to carry. Exhaustion comes when we fail to take on a responsibility God never intended us to bear. The twin of exhaustion is emptiness which comes when we fail to take on a responsibility God does intend us to take on. God empowers His plan and agenda for our life. When we step outside of that plan, we are stepping into our own power and depending on our own strength, both of which will soon be depleted.
  • Realize you are not alone. For years, our family vacationed in the mountains of North Carolina in order to escape the brutal heat of South Florida where we lived. We all had our favorite thing to do while on vacation. Dan loved to read and take long walks in the cool, green forests. The kids loved wading in creeks, looking for "gold." My favorite activity was shopping for antiques. Now let me define "antiques" and "antique stores" according to Mary. The best stores were nestled in the mountains on some remote dirt road and the "antiques" were what most people would call junk. One year, I walked into a shop and stopped in my tracks when I saw the yoke. One of my husband's favorite passages of scripture is Matthew 11:28-30 where Jesus says, "Take my yoke upon you ... and you will find rest for your souls." For years, I searched for just the right yoke to give Dan as a special gift. It seemed that every yoke I found was either too big or too small and in less than stellar condition. The yoke before me was in perfect condition and was just the right size and price. Upon closer inspection, my excitement faded.

Yokes have two loops of leather or wood attached to a sturdy wooden frame. Two working animals wore the loops around their necks in order to bear whatever load they were given. The loops on this particular yoke were not the same size - one larger than the other. When I pointed out the flaw, the shop owner said, "It is supposed to be made like that. The stronger animal is placed in the larger loop to help the weaker animal pull the load. A shared load is a lighter load. Rest is found in a personal relationship with God and with others.

Are you tired and exhausted from trying to live life on your own? Come to Jesus - just as you are. Find rest in Him.

Let's Pray
Father, thank You for the rest you promise to give when I come to You. It seems like I am always tired and every step is hard. Please forgive me when I turn to You as a last resort instead of running to you first. Today, I turn to You, Lord, for rest.

In Jesus' name,

Now It's Your Turn

  • Read Genesis 2:2. How does this verse apply to your life?
  • Read Lamentations 5:5. How does rest apply to the difficult people in your life?
  • Read Job 33:26. Notice every "action" word in this verse. What does God promise when we choose to apply the steps He outlines in this verse?
  • Identify the areas of unrest in your life. Bring them to God in prayer and seek rest in Him.

Monday, July 20, 2009

My cousin is on his way to Afghanistan

My cousin Jonathan (the one in the back) is a United States Marine Helicopter Pilot (My other cousin, Jason, standing in front is in the Marine Reserves). On July 13th he send out a mass email informing all of us that he and his squad were being deployed to Afghanistan. This is his first deployment away from his family. He has been stationed on the base in Hawaii for the past two years and his wife and two children went with him, but now he is on his way to Afghanistan.
He is a strong Christian man and the lay minister to his squad. Here is the email I received on Sunday morning before I went to church:

Hello All,
I appreciate all of your prayers so far because I have definitely felt them. It has been a very long trip so far. We have crossed 16 time zones (yes, instead of flying the other way and crossing 8 time zones) and I spent over 27 hours on a plane over a few days. It was especially exhausting because lucky me got to sit in the middle seat and had two guys on each side from Baltimore to here. Currently, I am sitting in Kyrgyzistan (yeah, I couldn't find it on a map either until yesterday) at the Transient Base for armed forces going into Afghanistan. I will not be here very much longer, but it was nice to sleep in a bed instead of watching the sun come up three times on a plane over four days.

The best part of the trip so far has been feeling God's presence. The base has a chapel and I went to the contemporary worship service this morning. Most of you will probably read this after your own Sunday morning worship service, but I will tell you that I would not trade the experience I had this morning for any service. It was a simple yet powerful reminder of the sovereignty and the size of the God that we serve. Even at the foothills of the Himalayas at a remote base in the middle of Asia, I felt the powerful presence of God from the first note that we sang. God is so much bigger than our home church. He is so much bigger than the community and the country we live in. He is so much bigger than this war and He is so much bigger than the universe that we live in. I am fairly certain that I have spoken those very same words so many times, but today I really felt those words in a powerful new way.

As you can probably guess, it gets fairly hot in the area that I will be flying so I wear a camouflage bandanna underneath my flight helmet that was given to me years ago. On that bandanna I have Psalm 91 and I wanted to share one of those verses that already has brought me comfort.

9 If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-

10 then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

Stay in your fight and I will stay in mine.


Please pray for Jonathan and his squad! I love my family very much and pray for their safety daily.

Friday, July 17, 2009

God is...

Elohim - strong One, divine (Genesis 1:1)

Adonai - Lord, indicating a Master-to-servant relationship (Exodus 4:10, 13)

El Elyon - Most High, the strongest One (Genesis 14:20)

El Roi - the strong One who sees (Genesis 16:13)

El Shaddai - Almighty God (Genesis 17:1)

El Olam - Everlasting God (Isaiah 40:28)

Yahweh - LORD “I Am,” meaning the eternal self-existent God (Exodus 3:13, 14).

I am...

...a daughter, a sister, a grand-daughter, a niece, a cousin, and a friend.
I am a partner, a student, a young girl, and a grown woman.
I am confident and scared; terrified and excited.
I am loving and caring and thoughtful and hopeful.
I am sick and tired.
I am shy and friendly.
I am careful and careless.
I am broken and whole.
I am misunderstood, misguided, and mislead.
I am hard working and determined, but a little scared on the inside.
I wish on stars and dream my dreams.
I pray to God and cry my tears.
I smile on the outside while I am crying on the inside.
I listen to others who wont listen to me.
I walk on eggshells and I walk on fire.
I believe in passion and true love.
I love you and I push you away.
I want you but not too close.
I am everything and nothing all at once and all i want is...

to stop being a contradiction


Thursday, July 16, 2009

where have I been all week??

New job- more stressful than the last one, but I know that if I stay as close to God as possible, it will be a Jospeh experience.

Money issues- who doesn't have them!?

Life- um... not sure I really have one right now, but whatever I have is close enough to one that I'm not missing the real life... whatever that is.

Now, here's something worth reading:

Psalm 139:14-16 "I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What you have done is wonderful. I know this very well. You saw my bones being formed as I took shape in my mother's body. When I was put together there, you saw my body as it was formed. All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old" (NCV).

What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord, whose people he has chosen as his inheritance. Psalm 33:12, NLT

A cheerful look brings joy to the heart; good news makes for good health. Proverbs 15:30, NLT

Thursday, July 9, 2009

God is... I am... why should I.... how can I?

Psalm 19:7-11

"The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.

8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.

11 By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward."

These verses mean so much to me right now!In God teaching me about true intimacy with Him, these verses are showing me who God is, what He wants to do with my life, how I can let Him, and why I should let Him.

What/who God is:

  • Perfect
  • trustworthy
  • right
  • clear
  • pure
  • true
What He wants to do with me:
  • revive my soul
  • make me wise
  • bring my heart joy
  • give me insight
  • give me a great reward (heaven!)

Why should I let Him do these things in me:
  • He is forever
  • He is fair
  • He is more desirable than gold
  • He is sweeter than honey
  • He warns me because He loves me
How can I allow this to happen:
  • Obedience to Him and His word
If I'm going to get more intimate with God and get to a place where I can pour into others from a never ending wellspring of His love, joy, peace, and energy, then I'm going to need to learn these things... and quickly! God knew that I would need this summer to deal with these things because when the fall hits, it's going to be too busy for me to give this the focus and attention it deserves.

On another note, I've been drawing more and more lately. It's been very therapeutic.

Monday, July 6, 2009

now is the winter of our discontent...

I'm finding myself discontent lately. I didn't know it was happening until recently. I knew something was a little... disconnected, but I didn't know what or why. Now I know. Even though I'm surrounded by friends, family, and people that love me very much, I find myself discontent with the state of my life. Quite frankly, it's a little lonely.

But why? Because I'm not married? Because I'm not in the stage of life I think I should be in? Because I might secretly blame God for keeping me in one place too long and that's apparently a bad thing? Or because I blame myself, as if I had the choice to move on to the next stage of life and I passed it up?

E: All of the above.

I want to be married and I'm not. That's that. I see people who are the next stage of life and I want to be there. I'm tired of the problems that come with my current stage and I'm ready for new challenges. Yes, I do blame God. He's in control, isn't He? This is His show after all. And yes, I blame myself. I've had two distinct opportunities to move on to the next stage of life and I didn't.

But here's the thing about all that: if I'm not faithful with what I have been given in this stage, I won't be given anything new. If I'm not content with God in my current stage of life, I'm not going to be content in the next stage. Yes, God is in control, and He's a lot wiser than I am and He knows that moving me too quickly through life isn't going to turn out well for me. The decisions I've made in the past, I made after consulting a wise counsel and had a peace about them. Blaming myself now for making the right decisions then just seems silly, but you just saw me do it a paragraph ago.

The point is this: we, as humans, are pretty much stupid when it comes to what is best for us. Yeah, we make a right decision every now and then, but statistically, we're not good at running our own lives.

While I have been searching for contentment, the thought of asking God for it hadn't really entered my mind until today. I mean, praying for God to help me be content in Him... it just seems kinda wrong. Shouldn't my own contentment be something I can handle on my own? No, that's the point! We can't handle it! Something as huge as our own contentment, we cannot, nor should we try, to handle!

Here's what David said about it:

Psalm 62:5-8

5 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. 7 My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. 8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.

David pretty much ordered his own soul to find its rest in God and then told it why God was worthy. David then moves from his own soul to all his peoples souls. Basically, David says "do this, because God will never let you fall." Is that a good enough reason to find my contentment in God? Simply because He's trustworthy? I can honestly say that I have tried to find my contentment in things other than God and have ended up very disappointed and discontent with myself and the world. But shouldn't I find my contentment in God because that's where it really is? Shouldn't I rest in God because I love Him and He loves me? My human heart doesn't always understand that.

Later, David says this:

Psalm 86:11-12

11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. 12 I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.

David has to ask to be taught God's ways. He had to ask for an undivided heart so that he could love God as God should be loved and that he could fear God the way God should be feared.

My prayer today is this: that God would see fit to give me this undivided heart so that I can long for the things God longs for in my life. So that I would be able to see how He sees and help people and glorify God the way God should be glorified. I stink of humanity and sin and that hinders me from praising the Eternal God the way He should be praised. But that doesn't hinder me from asking that God make my heart whole so that He can use it for His glory.

I think I'll work on a drawing/painting to illustrate this "whole heart" idea...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

pity parties...

... are only fun for about 2 seconds and then you realize how useless they are. I mean, sure, things happen and sometimes those things might suck a little bit, but what's the purpose of focusing on them?

A friend sat in my kitchen one night and told me all about how her life was just going right down the tubes. She threw herself a big ole pity party right there at my table. At the end of a lengthy description of everything going wrong in her life and about 30 minutes full of self-pity, she looked at me and asked, "What should I do?" I looked right into her eyes and gave her ( I think) the best advice I have ever given anyone! "Stop it!"

Stop feeling sorry for yourself! You're missing the lesson God may have for you in your circumstances.

Stop complaining! You can't hear God speak if you don't stop talking.

Stop whining! You're just proving your lack of faith.

Stop acting like a victim! God made you to be a victor through His power.

Stop doing things you know are going to hurt you! God did not create you to be stupid.

Stop chasing away your friends by being a "Negative Nancy"! God created you to be an encouragement to those around you.

Stop working under your own power! God created you so that He could work through you.

Stop acting like you don't know what's going on! God has clearly shown you in His word how to live.

Just stop it!

end rant.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Never Alone

by Mary Southerland

Today's Truth
Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths."

Friend To Friend
The Bible is filled with miracles where God intervened directly in time and space.

· Dividing the Red Sea

· Raising the dead

· Healing the blind

· Turning water to wine

God used miracles in a limited world to demonstrate His unlimited power. It is easy to see Him in the miraculous events of life but I believe God's greatest work is in our everyday lives where He takes the ordinary and uses it to create a magnificent design. We are experiencing God daily. We simply don't know how to recognize Him.

I heard about a pastor's young son who came running in the house after playing outside for hours. His mother took one look at his dirty hands and told him to go wash them carefully. When the little boy asked why he had to wash his hands, his mother told him that there were germs living in all of that dirt. The little boy refused and began to complain, "Germs and Jesus! Germs and Jesus! That's all I ever hear around this house, and I've never seen either one!"

Just because we can't see God at work doesn't mean He isn't at work. In fact, God is always at work in our lives. We just need to look for Him.

1. Look for God in circumstances.

God is constantly at work in our lives preparing us to do what He created us to do. A.B. Simpson says: "God is preparing His heroes, and when the opportunity comes, He can fit them into their place in a moment. And the world will wonder where they came from." When we understand that God integrates every circumstance to accomplish His will, it is easier to trust Him. Even when we do not understand, even when we can't explain it, even when it doesn't make sense or seems wrong, we can choose to trust Him. It is easy to trust God when the seas are calm and the skies are clear, but the strength of our faith is measured in the midst of a storm.

A crisis always reveals what is really inside. Letting go means that we trust God enough to obey Him. Trust is demonstrated by obedience and what I do reveals what I believe about God, regardless of what I say. God will not waste direction on a disobedient heart. The more we obey, the more we will trust. The more we trust, the more we will obey. God reveals His plans to an obedient heart. When we trust God enough to surrender our will to Him, we will find that He is Lord of our circumstances.

2. Look for God in people.

Proverbs 27: 17 "As iron sharpens iron, so people can improve each other."

"Each other" literally means "companion or friend; neighbor or associate". God uses every relationship to improve us and to accomplish His will in us. People come into our lives for eternal reasons. Relationships are mirrors. In them, we see reflections of ourselves. Relationships expose the weaknesses we try so hard to bury and teach us important lessons like forgiveness, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control. If we need to learn patience, He brings someone that is irritating. If we need to learn to love, He will bring the unlovable. God takes those people we call "difficult" and uses them as pruning tools, tools of molding and refining. If we fail to learn from one, He will send another. Even if we do learn from one, He will send another to teach us a different lesson.

3. Look for God in mistakes.

Romans 8:28 "We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him. They are the people he called, because that was his plan."

Even the disasters that strike us are intended for our good. God is in control. Ivory soap is the "soap that floats" but it wasn't always that way. Years ago, this soap was just another brand among many -- until a factory foreman made a mistake. He left a batch of new soap in the cooking vat and went to lunch. He was late getting back and the soap overcooked. It seemed to clean the same. It was just lighter. He could choose to report the mistake, and get fired, or he could make the best of it and ship it out. The results of the "new" soap surprised everyone. Instead of complaints, the company was deluged with orders for this floating soap and the foreman was promoted. God often works the same way. He takes our mistakes and brings good out of them. If we let Him, God will use the pain of our sin the destruction of our mistakes as the foundation upon which He builds a new life, a better life. What we call "dis-appointment" is really "His appointment." God does not waste a single experience.

4. Look for God in a personal relationship with Him.

John 10:27-28 "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never die, and no one can steal them out of my hand."

The plan of God is revealed through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We were not created just for time. We were created for eternity and if we live just for this life, we will miss the ultimate purpose of creation. When our circumstances don't add up, the people in our lives seem to be clueless and our mistakes make no sense, we can keep coming back to this relationship because we can depend on God to meet every need. When we know God, His power is credited to our life account. We could be living in spiritual wealth instead of spiritual bankruptcy.

The story is told of a business man who was selling some warehouse property. The building had been empty for months. Vandals had damaged the doors, smashed the windows and trashed the place. As he showed a prospective buyer the property, he took pains to say that he would replace the broken windows, make any repairs needed and clean it up. The buyer said, "Forget about the repairs. When I buy this place, I'm going to build something completely different. I don't want the building. I just want the site."

God is waiting to work in your life. You don't have to repair anything or clean up anything. He just wants you and is waiting for you to come ... just as you are.

Let's Pray
Father, I want to see You and know You more. Please help me to look beyond myself and my own circumstances to see Your hand at work in my life. Help me remember that You are my source and will supply my every need. When I make a mistake, help me find a seed of victory in it. I pray that You will open my eyes and my heart to the people and circumstances around me and help me see You in every part of my life. Thank You, Lord, for all that You are doing -- now -- in my life.

In Jesus' name,

Now It's Your Turn
Read the following bible verses and think of ways each one can be applied to your life. Then memorize these verses and invite the Holy Spirit to bring them to mind when you need them.

  • Psalm 33:20 "We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield" (NRV).
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9 "But he said to me, 'My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you'" (ICB).
  • Psalm 23:1 "The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not be in want" (NIV).

Monday, June 29, 2009

Christian Noise

"Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say" (Isaiah 28:7 NIV).

May we never get so used to the "noise" of Christianity, that we cease to hear the actual voice of God.

Let me give you example. Come sit with me in an airplane just before take off on my recent trip to North Dakota...

Here we go again, I mused as the flight attendant began her routine instructions. I grabbed the latest copy of Sky Mall magazine tucked in the seat pocket in front of me and began flipping through the pages. The man to my right continued reading the headlines in the day's paper. The woman to my left was a first time flyer and paid close attention.

I glanced around the plane and noticed very few people listening to the flight attendant's life saving instructions. Then it hit me. The frequent flyers paid little attention, not because we were being rude, but because we had heard it all before. The safety procedures were routine information. The hum of the flight attendant's voice merged with the roar of the engine, so we ignored her.

But you better believe that if the pilot announced in mid-flight that a crash landing was imminent, all of us "been there, done that" passengers who did not pay attention to the emergency procedures would all be reviewing those safety instruction cards in the seat pocket in front of us quicker than you could say "buckle your seat belts."

May we never get so used to the "noise" of Christianity, that we cease to hear the actual voice of God.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


In my life, searching for truth and trying to discern what is and is not God's truth, I have noticed that people who have lived their whole lives in the same church, with the same people, with the same beliefs and have never gone outside of that environment, really don't have the strength that someone who has seen other things and experienced other places has. It's almost as if they are a child who stayed inside the house their whole childhood versus the child who went outside every day and ran and played with friends and got dirty. It's true that the child who stays inside has a less likely chance of getting hurt by circumstances and other people, but they probably won't experience the muscle growth and social skills that the child who plays outside will.

Because of my family's tendency to move around when I was a child (I was a Navy brat), I was never the one who got to stay inside. In order to survive, I had to run out and make friends. I've also been known to play in the mud and dance around in the rain. I was a curious child, always asking questions and trying to figure things out. Some things I have accepted that I'll never really understand every aspect of it. God for example, I know I will not FULLY understand every single little aspect of Him until I'm in heaven. But that doesn't mean that I don't accept Him, live for Him, and fully rely on Him for my needs.

Some things, however, I need to fully understand and I should be able to with enough research. One of those things in the Emergent Church. At this point, I've asked people I trust to give good and solid answers and I believe that they have given the best answers they could. But I'm still searching for what it REALLY means. I'm coming to an understanding of the differences, but the real and basic theology of Emergent just seems so... vague. Maybe that was their goal. If so, that feels kinda sketchy. But if not, then I need to research more. When I see something, I want to either know what it is, or know how I can find out and file it away until I can look it up (which is why I tend to always have a little notebook and pen with me, so I can write things down that I want to look up later). In this day and age, I should be able to google anything and find out what it is, where it is, why it is, and who it is. I have found a lot of info on Emergent, but I'm still not satisfied with the answers I have been given.

It's times like this that I sometimes frustrate even myself with my need to know and understand.

Power Struggles

He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. ~ Isaiah 40:29, NLT

I love the multiple meanings in this verse! It is such a simple thing, yet we find it so difficult to abide by!

Meaning #1: God gives power to those who are weak. Meaning when life, circumstances, or mistakes you have made beat you mercilessly to the ground, God gives you power (should you ask for it). When a downtrodden (to use a churchy word) believer needs power, they have only to ask God for it and wait expectantly. God gives strength to the powerless. When you have nothing, there seems to be no way out and no one to help you, God gives you strength. Basically, the traditionally accepted meaning: God helps you when you're weak and powerless. This shows the person as being powerless, not by their own choice, and God helping them.

Meaning #2: God gives power to those who are weak. Meaning, God gives power to those who make themselves weak before Him because they realize that His is the ultimate power. Those who willingly make themselves weak for God's sake will be rewarded with His power. Motivations play a HUGE role here. Making yourself weak does NOT involve self-deprecation, letting people push you around and treat you badly just so you can be shown as weak to get some of God's power to pay them back later, and it does not mean that just anyone who is weak has access to God's power. This is a believer-only offer. God gives strength to the powerless. When a believer realizes and shows in their lives via their actions that they give all power in their lives to God, God will reward that with a strength that could not have come from any person. This shows the person making themselves less so that God can be made more and can be glorified through their actions and lives.

God doesn't want His people to suffer, He loves us but he knows that a certain amount of suffering is necessary. After all, how can you know what light is unless you have experienced darkness. Will you appreciate the light as much if you had no clue what it was to stand in the dark for a while? Doubtful.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

With who's voice do you speak?

Last night was our first night of prayer for Genesis and the Tacketts. There were eight people and God. It was good. And a few things were revealed that night. Some to me, some to Lewis. For Lewis, the power of prayer in his life and in the life of his future pastor came to a new light and he felt compelled to do something about it. I smiled at the man of God I saw in him last night. And while Lewis was talking about God doing something, although he did not know what, God was whispering in my ear and showing me a glimpse at what the end result will look like in both Lewis and CT's lives. I'm pretty sure I giggled.

For me, it was something different. Yes, the power of prayer, but also the voice with which we as Christians speak. We can speak with our voice and things get accomplished. But Psalm 29 talks about the voice of God and all that it can accomplish.

3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.

4 The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.

5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
Sirion like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the LORD strikes
with flashes of lightning.

8 The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;
the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the LORD twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, "Glory!"

All this is accomplished simply by His voice! What a voice it is! What could we accomplish if we spoke with the voice of God? Meaning, how would lives, our own and of those around us, change if we spoke only what God told us to speak and then speak it with the power and authority that He has given us? How would our own lives change if we listened for the voice of God before we listened for the voice of Oprah or Dr. Phil to tell us how to live? There is a truth in the voice of God that is unparalleled!

Last night I prayed for Genesis, Craig, Brittany, and Tyler. I prayed for the people in the room with me, I prayed for people that were not there, and I prayed for myself. I prayed that I would be able to see the truth in the people around me, that I would be able to see truth like a shining light and run from any darkness. I have recently been fighting against a disillusionment that I had with a few different pastors to whom I listen. It bothered me for a while that what they were saying was not original, that it came from some other pastor. I think it bothered me most because they seemed to own what they were saying to such an extent that I hadn't even thought for a second where they learned it. But God reminded me that there is nothing new under the sun and just because they didn't personally think up these good things, that does not devalue what they were saying. The voice with which they spoke was so powerful, I didn't even stop to think where the information came from, only that it was right. Part of that scares me and prompted me to pray to see truth. The wool has been pulled over my eyes in the past and I have no desire to reenact that scene. God has given me a lot of discernment over the years, but I know I need to be closer to Him, to be engulfed in Him.

Here's a song that's been speaking to me a lot lately:

Burn Us Up
by Shane & Shane

There were three
Before the king
There were three who wouldn’t bow to him
For when you heard
The music play
And you were standing you would burn.
They looked at him and said…

Burn us up! Burn us up! Burn us up!
Oh king won’t you burn us in the furnace of
Your desire
We give up! We give up! We give up!
Oh king won’t you burn us in the furnace of
Your desire!
Won’t you throw us in the fire!

The king enraged
At what they said
Sent the three away to find their death
The palace stopped in unbelief
When the guilty raised their hands to sing
They looked at him and said…

You are able to deliver from the fire of affliction
It’s the declaration of my Lord
You’re not an image of gold
You’re the God of old
You have made us
Come and save us
We are Yours
But even if You don’t, we will burn!

Monday, June 22, 2009

a few things I learned this weekend

  1. I'm wrong a lot.
  2. Relying on the wisdom of those wiser than you is a wise thing.
  3. Never underestimate the importance of family and spending time with them.
  4. There is nothing new under the sun, but that should not make a worthy thing any less valuable.
  5. Never put two male toddlers in the same room and expect peace.
  6. Rest can happen in the midst of chaos.
  7. Within a the next year and a half, I will probably emerge as being the only single one left in my family.
  8. When friends are incredibly happy with their lives, they sometimes forget to be sensitive to others, but that should not change the friendship.
  9. Having someone to talk to is important. Talking to God is more important. Listening to God is top priority.
  10. My fears are tiddlywinks to God's plan and God's power.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sola Scriptura: one of my favorite stories!

Acts 12:1-18

Peter's Miraculous Escape From Prison
1It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 4After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.

5So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.

6The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. "Quick, get up!" he said, and the chains fell off Peter's wrists.

8Then the angel said to him, "Put on your clothes and sandals." And Peter did so. "Wrap your cloak around you and follow me," the angel told him. 9Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.

11Then Peter came to himself and said, "Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod's clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating."

12When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. 13Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer the door. 14When she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!"

15"You're out of your mind," they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, "It must be his angel."

16But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. "Tell James and the brothers about this," he said, and then he left for another place.

18In the morning, there was no small commotion among the soldiers as to what had become of Peter. 19After Herod had a thorough search made for him and did not find him, he cross-examined the guards and ordered that they be executed.

Lighthouses! Are you ready?

Someone once asked me, when it comes to me and my friends, what happens when we are all pulled away from the dock (meaning God) and are all just floating around in the storms of life? Without thinking twice I answered, "I feel like it would be my responsibility to pick my head up out of the water, find the lighthouse (meaning Jesus), and point the others to it." The reply was, "And that is why you becoming are a spiritual guide!" Now, I don't know if I'm a spiritual guide or not, I think that comes with time, true testing, and wisdom born of God. But this I know:

Philippians 3:12-14 "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do, forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (NIV).

When I came to the place where I was willing to give Him everything, a wonderful process began. He trained my immature desires to line up with His perfect ones. When I began to seek His will by laying my desires and plans at His feet - yielding to Him - He shaped, and is continuing to shape, my will until it becomes His will.

The Holy Spirit has been given to us as a Spiritual Trainer of sorts. He will lead us in the right spiritual exercises of life that will make us stronger and more mature. Many of those exercises involve the submission of our will and the yielding of our desires to God. As we allow the pain and stress of daily living to "stretch" us spiritually, we will grow and mature until one day we will realize that His desires and our desires are the same. Mature desires - Godly desires - desires that are in line with His will are the desires of a believer who is growing in Christ.

Psalm 37:4 "Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart" (NIV).

"Delight" literally means to enjoy. We can come to God with an attitude of joy, knowing that He is a Father of love who wants what is best for His child. His plan is absolutely the best one we could possibly imagine or accept. We can delight in His love, trust in His goodness and enjoy a growing love relationship with Him. A heart fully and joyfully submitted to God will produce mature desires.

High in the Alps is a monument raised in honor of a faithful guide who died while ascending a peak to rescue a stranded tourist. Inscribed on that memorial stone are the words, "He died climbing!" A maturing, growing Christian should evoke the same attitude and desire. The apostle Paul tells us that it is time to "put away" childish things. As children grow older, we train them to pick up their toys, to put away things that are not needed, to obey house rules and to leave behind what is childish, straining toward what is ahead. Right now, we have the same choice to make. To "put away" indicates an understanding of what needs to be left behind but also a willingness and commitment to do so.

The question is, are you ready to grow up in Christ?Are you tired of being a "baby Christian"? Are you ready to experience all that God has for you once you give everything up for Him? Are you ready to dive into Him and let Him teach you how to swim? Are you ready???

Monday, June 15, 2009

Zephaniah 3:17- wrap your mind around it

“The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

My first reaction to these verses was a typical Shanna "excuse me?" *one eyebrow raised in slight disbelief*

God is with me. Got that, herad it in Sunday School, proved it in Grad School.

He is mighty to save me. Yup, my mind can handle that with very little trouble.

He takes great delight in me? Now let's hold on just a minute. The God and Holy Creator of the whole wide universe takes delight in me?! um.... *scratches head* really? I had a hard time wrapping my brain around that. But as hard as it is for me to comprehend that He delights in me, His Word says it is true. When I allow myself to agree with His Word, I cannot help but smile. To me, “taking delight in” means that Jesus likes to be around me. He wants me to be near Him. He laughs when I’m funny. He listens when I tell Him my innermost thoughts and feelings. He supports and comforts me when I’m sick or hurt, and He instructs me when I screw up so I can be free from destructive thoughts and impure motives.

He delights in me as a parent delights in His child. As His child who sometimes goes astray, He disciplines me to bring me back to Him. He protects and guards my spirit, soul and mind. If I turn to Him when I am upset or fearful, He will “quiet” me with “His love”. This love is strong and unconditional. It won’t diminish over time, and I cannot earn it, but I must open my heart and allow myself to receive it. During difficult times, if I will allow myself to concentrate on what His Word says and not on my doubts or fearful thoughts, His love comes through the Scriptures and into my heart.

He will quiet me with His love. Honestly, my first thought was, "I hope so because delighting in me is throwing me for a loop." But the last one really kicked my butt.

He rejoices over me with singing. Why would He do that? I'm SO not worthy of that kind of love. And with singing?? I don't even like my own family to sing Happy Birthday to me because I don't like that kind of attention on me. Why on earth would God choose to lavish me with that kind of attention. There are certainly more worthy people on earth, why me? Who am I?............

....................... after much pondering I asked myself, "What's the catch? God is too wonderful." I don’t deserve any of this. There must be a catch. A few years later, I’ve yet to find it. There is no risk in giving all of your heart to Jesus. He already knows you intimately. He knows your fears, your insecurities, your self-centeredness, your selfishness, your anger, your frustrations, your doubts, your regrets. Nothing about you shocks Him or causes Him to despise you. He loves you, and His love is perfect and complete. He is ever ready to help you overcome the Enemy. He is “with you”. He is your Champion and Defender. He is “mighty to save”. I need a champion who is “mighty”! How ‘bout you?

To be sure, those in Christ Jesus will live happily ever after—and that’s no fairy tale. When I spend time with Jesus in His Word, in prayer, and in quiet solitude with my heart set on Him in praise and adoration, I know that I know that I know my God is real, strong, and loving . God is wonderful. I don’t deserve all He offers me in Christ Jesus. I never will. Praise be to God that I don’t have to earn it because of the redemptive work of Jesus on the cross. As soon as I confessed my sins and accepted Jesus into my heart, I became His very own and an heir to His kingdom. My Prince has come to me. And His name is Christ Jesus. It’s all about grace fueled by unconditional love. The unconditional, incomprehensible love of God.

Sola Scriptura: 1 Peter 2:4-12

Living Stones for God’s House
4 You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor.

5 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. 6 As the Scriptures say,

“I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem,
chosen for great honor,
and anyone who trusts in him
will never be disgraced.”

7 Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him,

“The stone that the builders rejected
has now become the cornerstone.”

8 And,

“He is the stone that makes people stumble,
the rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.

9 But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

10 “Once you had no identity as a people;
now you are God’s people.
Once you received no mercy;
now you have received God’s mercy.”

11 Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. 12 Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.

What Am I Doing in This Pit?

Today's Truth
Psalm 40:1-3 "I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, about of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord" (NIV).

Friend To Friend
It was the spring of 1995 and Spring Breakaway was just around the corner. Normally this conference was a highlight of my year. I always looked forward to teaching at this very special retreat for women in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. But not this year. This year I didn't even want to go, and I certainly did not want to teach.

I felt completely empty and totally drained. My energy was gone. My heart and mind seemed paralyzed. I was exhausted in every way. But then, I had a right to feel that way. After all, it had been a nonstop year for me.

My husband, Dan, was the pastor/teacher of Flamingo Road Church, a contemporary, seeker-sensitive ministry in Fort Lauderdale that had exploded in growth that year and begun meeting in multiple services. I attended every service, going early to welcome newcomers and staying late to smooth any ruffled feathers that came my way. We were in the process of transitioning from a very traditional church to a very contemporary one. Change is always hard, but this experience had been a nightmare. I had never encountered such opposition. I had never been the target of such criticism. I had never known such rejection as people I thought were my friends attacked my husband's integrity, heart, and vision. It seemed as if there was always someone waiting in line to question and criticize what we were doing. I felt like a walking wound. I knew we were being obedient to what God had called us to do, but it seemed that many disagreed. I was hurt and angry, and I did not know what to do with those emotions.

My ministry as the church pianist had become more of a pain than a joy. Singing was no longer the overflow of a daughter's full heart, but the hollow performance of a spiritual chore. I had always loved being a mom, but, lately, even this role felt more like an unwelcome burden. I was used to being the one who gave help. I was the one others came to for strength and direction. I was the great encourager -- the caregiver. People who knew me well would describe me as a very strong woman. All of my life, I was driven to excel in everything, and if I couldn't do it perfectly, I didn't do it at all. I was a raging perfectionist...legalistically disciplined...with little sympathy for weak people. Now I, the strong one, couldn't get out of bed. The simplest decision sent me into a panic. The great wisdom-giver could not compile a grocery list. The woman who taught hundreds of women couldn't bring herself to face crowds of any size. The large tasks of life were out of the question, and even the simplest tasks seemed like huge mountains.

Meals, housework, and even shopping were all left undone. If I managed to get out of bed and get dressed by the time my kids got home from school, the day was a success. All I wanted to do was sleep and to be left alone. I was paralyzed. I had fallen into a deep, dark, nameless pit. I had no idea how I got there. And even more frightening was the stark reality that I had no idea how to get out.

I decided I was just tired. All I needed was some rest, so my family and I escaped the hot, humid flatlands of Florida to enjoy three weeks in the cool mountains of North Carolina, my favorite vacation spot. That vacation is a complete blur. My children knew something was terribly wrong. They had never seen their mom so still...and so sad. Dan listened patiently as I poured out my fear and confusion night after night. There seemed to be no answers...only questions. In his eyes, I could see the growing fear that I felt in my own heart. We had never been here before. It was a foreign land. We had no idea how to navigate these unfamiliar waters. It was very simple. I was in serious trouble, and I needed help.

As each day grew darker, Dan and I both realized we had to come up with a plan -- quickly! We decided I would see a Christian counselor Dan often referred people to and in whom he had great confidence. My first appointment with Betty was uneventful as far as I could tell - and a total waste of time. I was furious! She was supposed to "fix" me in those few hours and had failed miserably. She did, however, accomplish one thing. She named my pit.

Clinical depression was a problem I knew little about. Evidently, it was an enemy that strong, committed Christians were not supposed to encounter, because I had never heard anyone in the church even talk about depression, much less admit they struggled with it. I recoiled at the thought of such blatant weakness in my life. I felt ashamed of what was obviously a great failure on my part, but I was very desperate and willing to do whatever it took to climb out of that pit. I also knew I could not make this journey alone. Over the next few months, Dan and Betty climbed down into that dark, slimy pit with me and became God with skin on. They sounded the alarm and gathered the troops.

Today, I can say with the certainty of an experienced pit dweller that there is a way out. I have good news for you, my friend. You are not alone! I believe that one reason God allowed me to experience the pit of depression is to help others find the way out. I want to say to those of you who are in that pit -- and to those of you who are peering over the edge of it wondering how to help someone you love -- you do not have to be a prisoner of the dark. You do not have to stay in your pit. You do not have to stand helplessly by while a friend or family member drowns in the darkness of depression. We were meant to dwell in the light. So lift up your head, open up your heart, and listen for the voice of the One who knows you best and loves you most. He can and will bring you out of the dark.

Let's Pray
Lord, it seems as if my world has collapsed, hurling me into a deep, dark pit. I come to you in complete surrender. I am desperate for you, helpless and afraid. Please lift me out of this pit and show me the way, Lord.

In Jesus' name,

Now It's Your Turn

  • Pour out your heart to your God, asking Him to uncover the dark places in your life. As He does, record them in your journal using simple, honest words.
  • Each day, read Psalm 40:1-3 and claim it as a certain hope from God's heart to yours.
  • Up until now, what has been your typical response to the dark times in life? Does that response line up with Psalm 40:1-3?
  • Do you really believe that if you cry out to God that He will hear your cry? What does that mean to you?
  • Are you willing to face and deal with the darkness in your life?
  • Ask a friend to be your prayer partner this week as you begin this journey to the Light!

More From The Girls
I do not like pits -- in cherries or in life. I pray that my journey out of the pit of clinical depression will encourage you or someone you love and bring hope instead of despair. It is a long, hard road, but through God's power, grace and love, you can do it! If God can deliver me, He can deliver you, friend.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sola Scritura: God is a refuge in the storm

Psalm 9:9
"The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble."

Isaiah 25:4
"You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat. For the breath of the ruthless is like a storm driving against a wall."

Acts 27:13-25
The Storm
13When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. 14Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the "northeaster," swept down from the island. 15The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. 16As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure. 17When the men had hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. 18We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19On the third day, they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. 20When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved. 21After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: "Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me 24and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.' 25So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.