Saturday, December 3

God With Us

"Do not fear for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you."
Isaiah 43: 2-3
There are many Christmas themes that are meaningful to me, but none quite as much as "God With Us." Jesus left Heaven to join us in our broken world. Amazing! And, as brokenness multiplies and life gets even harder, I become increasingly grateful for Emmanuel. 

I've been pondering the Parable of the Lost Son a lot lately. The Lord has placed it on my mind often. Then, it has been the topic of everything I'm reading and listening to for a few weeks now. This morning, I flipped to Luke 15 to study it more carefully.

I've heard plenty of teaching on the younger son in the parable. He didn't appreciate his life with his father. Clearly, he was rotten, greedy, and focused on himself. Asking for his inheritance early only publicized what he already felt privately. He cared more about what his father could give than who his father was. It hit me this morning that his heart hadn't truly been changed when he made the decision to return home.He was broken and needed help. But, he was still searching for what his father could give him. He wanted food and a place to live. He'd take on the life of a servant to get it. 

However, his brokenness allowed him to see who his father was. As he approached home, his father was running towards him. No longer could rebellious pride hinder the son's vision. He saw that his father was loving, gracious, and merciful. He probably realized he'd been that way all along. This time, though, his father demonstrated his character in spite of the son's behavior. At that moment, being with his father became the gift. Food, clothing, shelter, and anything else his father provided were simply extras. 

But, there's another son, right? The Bible doesn't say much about him until there's a celebration for the returning prodigal. Then, the arrogant pride of the older brother rears its ugly head. The father responded in the same way he did with the brother. He went to him. But, the older son rejected his father's presence. That's NOT the gift he wanted. As I was reading this morning, it dawned on me that behavior modification and pseudo-righteous living actually hindered this son from seeing who his father was. The love, grace, and mercy that transformed the life of his brother never invaded the older brother's heart. Therefore, he was still focused on what his father could give. He expected more "stuff," because he felt he'd been more righteous. 

Legalism crushes freedom. The older brother was following Old Testament law and missing New Testament liberty. His heart had deceived him, and he was actually dying in the sins of anger, pride, and bitterness. Behavior modification never works, because it forces us to rely completely on ourselves and we never look to our Savior. Fear and pride actually force us to forgo abundant living for safe rituals and routines. But, we weren't made for safe living. We were made for freedom!

God sent Christ into humanity so that we could experience HIS PRESENCE on Earth. His death brought freedom, and His resurrection left His Spirit here to dwell with us forever. Sadly, rebellious pride and arrogant pride still keep many of us from experiencing the gift of His presence. We are too focused on what we want Him to give.

This Christmas, I'm praying for pride of all kinds to be exposed for the sake of healing. The younger son acted righteously when his pride was exposed. He celebrated! The older son acted arrogantly when his pride was exposed. He shared his resume of good deeds with his father and asked why he'd never gotten a party. 

Oh, we are a messed up bunch. We could ask our questions till we have no breath left to speak, but we will never get to the bottom of this idea of God's grace. But, when we truly know that we've received it, judgement has no place. Love conquers all and mercy rules. Then, we are free to enjoy the gift of God's presence through Jesus Christ, our Savior. And, I bet, more prodigals would join the party!

"Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift."
2 Corinthians 9:15

Thursday, December 1

A Pretty Big Announcement...

I have some exciting news to share, and I also have a huge request for many prayers. Earlier this year, the Lord prompted me to begin writing devotionals for a book. Actually, He began working in me through the prompting of others a couple of years ago. My exact response to them was, "You've lost your mind!"

At the beginning of this year, though, it became obvious that He was calling me to write. He even gave me a book of the Bible to get me started. As I began studying Joshua, I realized that much of the journey the Israelites made into the Promised Land had significance in my own journey during the past 5 years. The title I believe the Lord gave me for this little book of devotions is "MOVE!" Each day, as I sat down to read and to write, I came away with one imperative command for the journey towards healing and deliverance. That led me to my subtitle, "When God's Deliverance Requires Man's Obedience."

You see, life is hard, and we all have plenty of opportunity to live in captivity due to the circumstances we live in. I've been convicted that I sometimes pray for deliverance from life's obstacles without being willing to DO my part in obeying His commands for freedom.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1
Christ has set us free, but we have to stand firm. Do you see the imperative command? Although Christ has done it, we have to live lives that follow His necessary imperatives for holding the ground He's won!

So, I've done it. I've completed 31 devotions through the book of Joshua. I've gone through more edits than I want to think about. I've worked with the illustrator on the cover. And, the book has gone to print. 



Five years ago, I learned that God's grace is sufficient for life's trials. Over the past year, I've learned His grace is also sufficient for the difficult calling. I wrote the introduction, and the book sat for a while. I wrote days 1 through 5, and then tried to scrap the whole thing. We moved to Florida, and I completed some more of the writing. Then, life got hard in new and different ways, so I wrote nothing. The process goes on and on like this. And, my gracious God kept calling me back to His work. Finally, it was completed ONLY because He wouldn't let me quit. 

Please pray for this project with me. My story is written throughout the pages of this book, but it's HIS STORY that I so desperately want readers to know and understand. God is the Hero that brought Joshua and the Israelites out of the desert and into the Promised Land. Through Jesus Christ, God is also the Hero of my story. And, I'm convinced that He is the Hero of any life operating in Promised Land freedom. That's abundant life, and He's the only One that gives it. 

Also, please pray for my sister and her husband, Alyson and Jeremy. They are in the adoption process. Their call to adopt came around the same time as my call to write. So, I'm praying for a way to financially support their adoption through book sales.

I am proud of this book, but not because of anything I've done. The story I get to tell is not one that anyone would wish for. Yet, I'm honored. First, I'm honored to have been chosen to live it. Then, I'm honored to have been asked to write it. I believe with all of my heart that this is God's story. TO HIM BE ALL GLORY AND HONOR AND PRAISE. But, He allowed me to participate. I don't know why He did it. I'm just so grateful He did!

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

Monday, October 31

It's Time For a Win/Win!

I know you may be expecting a Halloween post today. Oh, I'd love to share some old pictures. Facebook has been posting my Halloween memories all week. They are precious to me. But, that's not what is on my heart.

I was jogging this morning and writing a blog post in my head. If I told you how many times I do that, you'd be amazed. God has used this blog space time and time again to help me process the thoughts and emotions in my head. I'm an internal processor. Talking things out only works for me when I've had plenty of time to think and plan and rethink and replan. My mind is always full, but I'd never let any of those thoughts out without careful consideration.

In a crazy way, this blog has given me the freedom to do just that. But, I haven't been doing that lately. What I've noticed is that all of my thinking over the past couple of weeks has been in the form of mental blog posts. It's crazy absurd! So, this morning during my jog I decided that maybe God is urging me to write again. And, maybe, just maybe, it's for my own good even if no one else reads it!

A couple of Sundays ago, our lesson was on Jonah. I've been attending an adult Sunday school class for a month or so while we determine where I will serve. It's going to be really hard to leave now, because I enjoy the discussion so much. Our teacher reminded us that Jonah was living in rebellion in a big and obvious way. But, he asked us to think about how we all (in seemingly small ways) live in rebellion on a daily basis. I have not been able to quit thinking about that question.

During every quiet time, I'm asking myself where rebellion shows up in my life regularly. I'm also digging deeper to see where I participate in corporate rebellion in areas where behavior doesn't line up with the message of the Gospel. Every! Single! Time! I'm aware of the same answer.... DIVISION!

I know my last post covered unity extensively. But, based on the Facebook posts I saw this week, it's worth mentioning again. I believe (with all that is within me) that any place where a Christian's actions serve to DIVIDE rather than UNIFY is rebellion!

Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
2 Corinthians 13:11
I'm in a hurry this morning, so I'm just going to be quick and to the point. Is there any way a writer sits down at the computer to TEAR APART a fellow believer for their leadership, writing, or ministry with unity or their mind? The obvious answer is, "no," so I believe it's rebellion against God's call to unity. When another believer takes that negativity and posts it to her Facebook wall and a firestorm of negativity ensues, division is created. It's rebellion against God's call to love.

I'm over it! Joel, Jen, Beth, and Max have taken hit after hit from their own believing family. I don't know any of them personally, but my own walk has been strengthened by their ministries at some point. I doubt very seriously I agree with every, single thing they believe. But, I know they've led countless to the Lord. There will be a large number of people (human beings that Jesus came to live and die for) in heaven, because one of these obeyed God into ministry.And, they can't write, speak, or share anything without being crucified for it.

Jesus left the perfection of heaven, came to this messy Earth, lived a perfect life, and died an awful death to UNIFY us to Him and the Father, and we REFUSE to be unified together. 
I believe it's REBELLION! 

I'm also confronted with the fact that a great number of people were divided because of Christ's message, too. They were called Pharisees! They didn't like what He said, who He said it to, or how He said it. They crucified Him and called it protecting truth. 
When I hear a message I don't quite agree with, my first reaction is to fight it. Fear fuels that desire, because I'm anxious those around me will be influenced in the wrong way. When it comes to my family, my Bible study, or small group, I will share my concerns. I feel responsible to them. But, I share with humility and caution, because I could be wrong! I know I will enter eternity and find out I was wrong on a number of topics, because I simply lack the ability to know all that God knows and see all that He sees. I believe that sin is sin and Jesus is the only way to complete forgiveness. But, I am not 100% sure HOW to respond to the sin or the lack of belief. I'm learning to lean more toward grace, love, and unity allowing the Holy Spirit to deal with the heart of the one I disagree with. 

On that note, the Bible states that there will be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days. What if we are experiencing it through the work of people who are sharing the Gospel in a more seeker friendly way? I'm NOT talking about people who are sharing a new way to salvation or a different Jesus than the one in the Bible. I AM talking about gifted writers and speakers that share the gospel in a way that many want to hear more and more. What if they are experiencing an outpouring of the Holy Spirit? What if God is using them to pour out His Holy Spirit into lives that NEVER would have listened to any other person? 

Do not quench the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 5:19

That's Old Testament, 10 Commandments language! I'm not afraid that someone will share a message I don't fully agree with, because I know the Holy Spirit is powerful! When the Holy Spirit lives within a person, God will lead that person on their journey in Him. I AM afraid of quenching that Spirit within myself. One translation says, "Don't put out the Spirit's fire." I'm terrified of being guilty of that. If Jesus came to unify, and I am participating in division, the Spirit is being quenched somewhere! It! Must! STOP!

Y'all, I know I sound like a broken record. I say it over and over! But, we could make a difference in our world if we could agree to disagree YET still love each other! We could cause the unbelieving world stop and wonder what is going on if we could figure out how to be unified with all who profess a belief in Jesus Christ. Maybe they are wrong! But, no person can truly change another person. Only God, through the Holy Spirit can do that. And, all of our bickering, back biting, and slander is quenching His Holy Spirit. 

My ultimate and number one prayer is that God would make JESUS so real and evident in the lives of His people that we would be unable to focus on anything else. When HE is high and lifted up, HE will draw all men to Himself. I believe Satan has won in causing us (in our relationships, in our homes, and in our churches) to FOCUS on minors! Division has been the outcome, and nothing makes me sadder. As believers we ARE a family. If one family member has to "lose" in order for another to "win", it's a LOSS for the family. Enough has been lost! Let's pray for unity!

But avoid foolish and ill-informed and stupid controversies and genealogies and dissensions and quarrels about the Law, for they are unprofitable and useless. After a first and second warning reject a divisive man (who promotes heresy and causes dissension -- ban him from your fellowship and have nothing more to do with him), well aware that such a person is twisted and is sinning; he is convicted and self-condemned (and is gratified by causing confusion among believers).
Titus 3: 9-12, Amplified Version

 

Tuesday, October 11

Finding Unity in Disagreement

Oh the posts that have been written in my head since the last time I journaled here. In my absence from the blogging world, we've ended a season of home-schooling, packed up our home and moved 11 hours away, set up house in beautiful Florida, begun ministry again, weathered 2 hurricane threats, and rearranged life a ton of different ways to adjust to all the changes. I've been working on a project that kept me from writing here about the miracle celebration we enjoyed on August 26th of this year. In so many ways, life can fly by in a blur. In other ways, memory suggests it has floated by in slow motion. A lot of the past 5 years feel that way.

Do you know that I'm grateful for each and every moment of those years? I am! I believe God gave me confidence early on that He would redeem and restore and that our family would grow stronger because of the crushing! There have been so many moments when I had to simply hang on to the promise, because there was no evidence to support my hope. Now, though, I look back and see God's faithful hand accomplishing the beautiful work. I'm grateful.

Now, I'm back.

I need to write again!

I need to process the thoughts in my head.

This morning, I'm considering the idea of unity. I love even the sound of the word. Doesn't it seem like something we should desire? It's an awesome word!

How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity.
Psalm 133:1

It would be good and pleasant if we could live together in unity! When will we get there? Why does the idea puzzle us? How do we keep making steps towards it only to see it vanish into mid-air?

I believe it has something to do with disagreements. Well, it absolutely has something to do with disagreement! Somehow, we've come to the conclusion that living in unity with someone that holds different opinions is an impossibility. 

One of the reasons I'm so grateful for the story Scotty and I share is that our mess drove us to therapy. There was simply no other way to dig out of the rubble. And, in the safety of several counseling offices we found the freedom to ask questions, to hear answers, and to disagree. Now, Scotty and I agree much more often than we disagree, but the practice really opened our eyes to the reason so many relationships fall apart. No one feels the freedom to hold a differing opinion. 

The list of relationships hindered by division is long, but I'm most concerned with family relationships and church relationships. We are facing times when our families and our churches must be unified. I believe we must provide space for those we care deeply for (or those we should care deeply for) to disagree. 


Right now, I'm facing this test on a daily basis. There are two growing guys that live with me but no longer believe everything I say is the gospel truth. They have a brain, they know it, and they want to use it! Well, praise God! I do want them to learn how to think. But, often, we disagree! I can tell you that Scotty and I would have handled all disagreements with them differently if we'd not spent a good piece of 5 years on a therapist's couch holding a box of Kleenex. We don't do everything right. But, I'm proud of the times we've been able to really listen to their opinion and agree to disagree! The fact that they currently hold a different opinion than I do on a couple of matters doesn't change the fact that I'm unified with them by my love for them. 

In times of disagreement, we are confronted with two options; fight to be right or fight for the relationship. In fighting for the relationship, I've grown to listen more than I talk. Truly, Scotty and I still tie up. We still get frustrated. And, we still wish the other person would change to line up with our personal wants on occasion. But, no amount of talking will change a heart. Only God does that, and it's personal. So, I step back and allow Scotty to relate to His Savior, and I do the same. It feels like I've lost all control, and that's just not true. I never had any control to begin with!

God is sovereign! 
Period!

The end!

He knows it all, and only He really knows what's right or who's right in all situations. As my heart on the subject of disagreement has changed, God has been able to teach me more about Himself. I don't care about being right nearly as much as I used to. I care about being real, and sometimes that means admitting I've been wrong.

 
What an education it's been! Through disagreement, God has demonstrated the beauty of uniqueness in all of creation. Honestly, we don't want everyone to think exactly alike. That would be awful! Our families would be boring, and our churches would be dead! We need disagreements to remind us that we need a Savior! Left to ourselves, we just keep attempting to bully people into our way of thinking. On our own, we stifle creativity with a "my way or the highway" mentality. Refusing to give God our fear of disagreement, will ensure unity is never achieved. And, we will miss the most beautiful picture of Christ's purpose for His people. 

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:3
Let's give our opinions, our beliefs, our preferences, and our fear of being wrong to the Lord. Let's join Him in the process. Sure it would take less time to get from here to there if everyone just jumped on board with one person's ideas. But, there would be no unity. People need a voice! We need (I need) to know we're heard. Gifting our relationship with  freedom to share opinions without ridicule and rebuke, opens the door for learning, changing, and growing in the Lord. I hope I never feel too old or established to grow in the Lord through the relationships He's given!

We're called to relationships!. What a messy calling! All of our attempts to simplify the process have led to division, dissension, and God dishonoring conflict.

What if an attempt was made for unity? 

What if we each took one, baby step towards seeing another person's point of view? 

I'm most grateful for the people who've chosen to stay in and fight for a relationship with me. The relationships haven't always been easy, but fighting for unity is always worth it. Anything I've been forced to lay down (pride, my way, the desire to flee, my view of best, pseudo-control) have only been hindrances to my own unity with Christ. 

To me, unity means, "I'm in." It means there is a commitment that no matter how hard the road gets, I'm not going anywhere! Do the people in our homes know that? Do our fellow church members feel that security? The process could get messy. Pharisees won't be able to see it through. I want a Christ-like stamina that is willing to link arms, hold hands, and communicate in love with Christian brothers and sisters. Honestly, we just can't afford to do anything else.

Monday, June 6

An Open Letter to Hillcrest Baptist Church

On August 28th, 2011, Scotty and I stood at the front of FBC in Clinton surrounded by friends and fellow believers praying over us. Just a few minutes before, Scotty confessed adultery to this congregation while giving his resignation. Honestly, we didn't know what to expect when we entered the worship center that morning. We knew what Scotty had to share, but we had no idea how they'd respond. They saw our pain, felt Scotty's remorse, and they felt burdened to pray healing, restoration, and redemption over us. God gave them grace to be HIS church to us, because He knew we NEEDED it.

On the exact same Sunday a year later, our family sat in the worship center of Hillcrest. We'd been visiting another church for over a month. New Albany had been home for nearly 2 months. When I woke up that August morning, the memories of Scotty's confession the year before hit me like a freight train. For whatever reason, I looked at him and said, "I can't go to that church today." At his suggestion, we chose to visit Hillcrest. From the moment we entered, we felt the Presence of the Lord. On that day, I'm sure we looked perfectly fine physically, but emotionally and spiritually we were a wreck. It seemed every song sung spoke directly to our pain. And, the message was genuine and practical. I believe we knew immediately that Hillcrest was home for us.

I don't think that would have been obvious to anyone else, though. We were slow in getting involved. To many, it probably seemed we'd NEVER plug in and serve. And, there were spans of weekends (particularly in the summer) when most people probably wondered if we even attended Hillcrest still. 

You see.... we came to you, Hillcrest family, broken, bruised, wounded, and sick. We knew we were exactly where we needed to be. We just didn't know what we were supposed to be doing. God had revealed to us with extreme clarity that our focus had to be inward. Our family needed to be rebuilt, and that was going to take all (every! single! bit!) of the energy we had. So, for much of the time we were part of the Hillcrest family, we may have seemed cold, and isolated, and unavailable.

You loved us anyway. Thank you!

During our time in New Albany, God did amazing works in us. Much of that work came through even more trial and even more struggle. Relationships were hard. Finances were problematic. Work and school were all-consuming. In so many ways, our time here has been our desert experience. God was bringing about good in a way that we could feel! The heaviness of it all, though, made us hard to relate to. Our conversations were darker, more serious, and required more depth than most want in everyday chatter. I know that we were difficult!

You loved us anyway. Thank you!

Most of you don't even know that Scotty and I spoke with Pastor Whit in January of 2015. We were unsettled and heavy hearted. We weren't involved, and we felt detached. We had a yearning in our hearts for more, and we couldn't figure out what that more could be. He listened to us, counseled us, prayed with us. Ultimately, the decision was ours. Soon after that meeting, we realized our heavy feelings were God's whispers telling us, "It's time to serve again."

Oh my! We'd almost forgotten what that felt like. But, once we knew we had a story to tell and God had released us to tell it, there was a fire in our belly to share. And, you let us! Every time we expressed the desire to do something, begin something, get involved in something, our leadership said, "YES." Many times, I know, we were overbearing, bossy, and maybe even insensitive in speech. Our desire to help others made us a bit bold.

You loved us anyway. Thank you!

Sunday morning, June 5th, 2016, we stood in front of our worship center surrounded by friends and fellow believers commissioning us back into ministry. The prayers of FBC Clinton were fulfilled and realized at Hillcrest over the past four years. Ultimately, God deserves all the glory. But, I will forever believe that He handpicked YOU to be THE church for us. With thankful hearts, we have come full circle. We have been given the opportunity to enter into ministry again. This time we do it with MORE humility and MORE understanding of the calling on our lives.

As excited as we are to see what God will do in Florida, we are equally as excited about what He will continue to do at Hillcrest. For a little while now, I've felt a powerful moving of the Holy Spirit in our midst. We are praying for even more! As you study Mega Faith this summer, I encourage you to "pray that the eyes of your heart might be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you," because I believe He's calling Hillcrest to BIG things.

Thank you for receiving us kindly, loving us BIG, and for sending us off expectantly. As long as we live, there will be a special place for Hillcrest Baptist Church and New Albany, MS, in our hearts.

"Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you, not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives."

"Not content to just pass on the Message, we wanted to give you our hearts. And we did." 

1 Thessalonians 2:8; New American Standard & The Message

Sincerely,
Scotty, Amy, Caleb, Collin, and Claire

Wednesday, May 25

My Upstream God

What a CrAzY life we are living! In what seems like a blur of events, we have; emptied our house, had a garage sale, closed on our house, moved into our temporary 'apartment', finished a school year, and held TWO TOT Shine Time events. We have survived; however, survival was questionable at times.

Today, I hit a BIG milestone as I taught my last class at the Baptist Healthplex. For many seasons of my life, the gym has been my place. Here in New Albany, that has been especially true.

See, I didn't think I wanted to teach classes anymore when we left Clinton. I decided that it was time for me to move on. In fact, I thought I wouldn't even join a gym. For some unknown reason, I felt like I would enjoy just exercising on my own... OUTSIDE.... in JULY! That didn't last at all, so I quickly found the healthplex and went in one afternoon to join. During my conversation with the man at the front desk, he found out that I was an instructor. I remember Bobby being THRILLED at the thought I might be able to teach some classes. I assured him that I was 'done' with teaching and I'd only be participating in classes. He grinned! Then, quietly, he said, "We'll see."

I didn't necessarily want to put myself out there again. Teaching is tough for me, because I typically keep to myself. After a year in Clinton of being on display, I'd decided to seek out ways to hide, to isolate, and to heal quietly. Apparently, God said, "we'll see." And, I'm so thankful.

Our time in New Albany has been BEAUTIFUL. God has done amazing things in us, around us, through us, and with us. When I think about His work in our lives for the past four years, I'm AMAZED! But, there have been some dark days. Each of those tough days began with a fight to just to get out of bed and move. On those TOUGH days, you better believe I DID NOT want to put on a happy face and lead some ladies through an upbeat exercise class. Heck... all I wanted to do myself was sit on the couch, eat a tub of ice cream, and have my own pity party!

Maybe.... just maybe.... that's why The Lord carved out the need for an aerobics instructor soon after I arrived.

Maybe.... MAYBE.... He knew there would be some days I'd need a group of precious people depending on ME to lead them; therefore, I was going to have to depend on HIM even more to lead ME! Ohhhh..... He is SO wise!

I wonder how many times I make a plan, pray a plan, for my life while God grins his own version of, "we'll see...."

For the past five years, LIFE has taught me a number of things. One central truth is that I MUST trust Him with the happenings of TODAY, because I have NO IDEA how they'll prepare me for my TOMORROWS. I heard a pastor say once, "God works upstream." I think that's beautiful. Father God knows what the future will be. He's there! So, TODAY, He's preparing us, preparing others, orchestrating situations, and rearranging some obstacles to pave the way for TOMORROW.

So, TODAY, I'm grieving the end of my time with a group of people that is so very dear to me WHILE I celebrate the provision they've been for me. And, I'm doing this while I read sweet words of encouragement from them. Had the Lord let me have it my way, I would have missed out on more blessings than I can print. But, the gift of their encouragement at this moment in my life is one I'm so thankful I get to receive


 I can truly relate to Paul when he said to the Philippians, I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. (1:6)

Thursday, April 14

BIG News....

I have NO idea how I'm going to write about the news I have to share in concise form. My emotions are still all over the place as I try and process the events that have been unfolding. So... I'll just jump right in!

We are MOVING to St. Petersburg, FL in June where Scotty has accepted a position as Family Pastor at 5th Avenue Baptist Church. 

I'm shocked! I'm amazed! I'm fairly terrified! And, I'm humbled and grateful that God still has a place in ministry for the broken. His goodness is astounding!

As 2016 began, Scotty shared with me that he had been reminded of his calling to ministry as a sophomore at MC. The reminder caused some discomfort. So, he'd begun to regularly pray for God to open a door for us to do ministry again OR for God to take away the passion and desire to do so. Operating in the in between was too hard. Well, I was THRILLED to jump in on this prayer. I had absolutely NO idea what kind of ministry we might do. But, I could certainly get on board with praying for guidance.

We were praying daily... the SAME prayer over and over. We both felt God was up to something. In the meantime, we'd decided to attempt to sell our house. There were some things we needed to do to make the house 'fit' us a little better. We both felt the Lord leading us to just list it and see what God might do. It was a scary thing to meet with the realtors and answer a BIG "I don't know!" to questions about where we'd go next. We really didn't know!

One week after we listed our house (which we signed a contract on the first day it was online), Hal Kitchings called Scotty. Hal was our first pastor as a married couple in Clinton. His family has been dear to us for years. In 2011, he and his wife hosted Scotty and me at their home in Memphis for the weekend as we prepared to go to Branson for intense counseling. What a blessing they were to us during that weekend. They grieved our situation with us and LOVED us right through it. Hal has been a mentor figure to Scotty on more than one occasion. He'd seen Scotty's resume and was praying with him about our re-entry into ministry. When he called Scotty that Monday morning, he shared that Scotty seemed to be a perfect fit for the job of Family Pastor that his church was searching for. We agreed to proceed in the search process and see what God might do.

I won't go into all of the details of that process here. I just want you to know we went into it with full disclosure of our situation, who we are, what we've been through. We want God's will above our own. Every step has been uncertain and a little terrifying. Terrifying!!! In the end, we all feel PEACE about this decision. There's been much prayer on our part and theirs, and God is clearly saying, "Go!"

So, there are still a NUMBER of things to work out; we are looking for a rental home there, school for the kids, TIME to get all of this house packed up, somewhere to live after we close but before our departure! Scotty wants to finish well in his family's business that has been such PROVISION for us for the past four years. And, I've got to figure out WHAT I will do with TOT. But, I'm certain that God will work these details out just as perfectly as he's worked out EVERYTHING else. "He who calls is FAITHFUL and He will do it." THIS I know FOR SURE!

So, that was a WHOLE LOT about us. Let me steer this in a better direction to end. What all of this says to me is, God is HUGE.... FULL of lovingkindness..... and GOOD in all His ways. He's forgiving, compassionate, and He redeems and restores. His ways are not my ways and THANK GOODNESS! At this moment, I'm incredibly aware of my HUGE need for His guidance and care. We are humbled by His willingness to give us another chance in ministry. And, while I'm still terrified about going FAR from family and sad about leaving this little community that means so much to us, I'm completely willing to OBEY FULLY. We will FOLLOW in obedience, because disobedience is entirely too costly. Every, single time the Lord has asked me to give up something, He's replaced it with more than I could have imagined. THAT is TRUTH!

We'd appreciate any and all prayers. Thank you so much!

Thursday, February 4

It's a PROCESS!

Scotty and I talk to a lot of people about marriage issues. In these discussions, we hear repeated phrases. One phrase is this, "I just wish my husband was the spiritual leader he's SUPPOSED to be." Before I say another word, I want to affirm that, YES!, the Bible calls the HUSBAND to be the spiritual leader of the home. Also, I believe there are a NUMBER of consequences families receive when the husband refuses to be the spiritual leader of the family. Having said that, I want to also say that I've been guilty of USING THAT as an excuse NOT to be what called called ME to be, as the wife.

See, I don't think our men are necessarily REFUSING to be the spiritual leader. What if, they just don't know how? What if, God's design in marriage is that the husband works with God IN A PROCESS to develop him into the spiritual leader? And, here's the catch... what if the wife is to be PART OF THAT PROCESS?

I'll agree that it would be so much easier if we all just married the spiritual rock... the guy that grew up in the most awesome family that taught and prepared him to be what his future wife and children needed him to be. It would be SUPER AWESOME if all women said, "I do," to the man ALREADY equipped to be EVERYTHING she and their future children needed him to be. That would be amazing! However, then he'd become GOD to that woman and her children; therefore, diminishing God's plan that HE actually be God.

There go's that plan!

So, we are left with our current state. Ladies, we ALL marry men that lack the necessary tools to be the perfect, spiritual leader of our families. In fact, we live in such a fallen state that most of our men have no idea what it even means to be a leader. Many don't know where to start. Therefore, in youth, immaturity, and selfishness, our men lead poorly or don't lead at all. This is IN NO WAY a men-bashing statement. Actually, I want to speak to the women of these men (myself included).

STOP POINTING FINGERS AND GET ON BOARD WITH GOD'S PLAN! 
 
Yes! In God's design, your husband will lean on God to lead and guide your family well.  But, there will be a process to get him to that point, and YOU are privileged to be part of that process. I know! I know! You've BEEN part of the process! You've been telling him over and over and over that he's supposed to lead. But, that's not really what I mean.

Pray for your husband! During the day, pray that God will capture your husband's heart in a way that gives him COURAGE to lead. If you haven't thought about it before, leading in today's world would be SCARY! I'm glad I don't have to do it. REALLY! It's a daunting task. And, if our husbands are going to do it well, they will have to SURRENDER and lead under the authority and guidance of God every step of the way. It WILL NOT be a natural surrender. So, PRAY with all you've got in you. We must take ALL of the energy we've  been using to point fingers, complain, and grumble and use that energy to PRAY! I know that I am FOR Scotty becoming the leader he can be, but I wonder if sometimes my actions appear to be AGAINST him? When I'm regularly praying FOR him, my actions more often demonstrate that I am not against him in the everyday issues.

Pray for your heart in the process. I have learned something about myself over the past couple of years.... I HATE A PROCESS! I really, really do. I much prefer God just move and work in a MIGHTY, powerful, IMMEDIATE way. I want to pray for the miracle and watch it happen. I think most of us are that way. But, marriage is for LIFE. And, although we don't like it, some of the things God wants to accomplish through this beautiful partnership will take LIFE. You know where your husband struggles. We are most definitely praying for God to do what only God can do in those areas of struggle. I'd like to suggest that we add to that prayer, though. Let's ask God to strengthen US in the process. Only He knows how long the process will take and ONLY HE can prepare us to ENJOY it along the way. Ask The Lord to show you even the tiniest areas of progress. Those areas build hope, and we want to see them!

Pray for your cooperation in the process. For me, this is where it gets tricky. In our marriage, there are times when I need to have some time with Scotty and RESPECTFULLY point out an area where I feel he needs to lead better. When that is the case, I pray HARD and seek my words carefully. God has called me to be his helper; and sometimes, that means I have to initiate a difficult conversation. Sometimes, though, I see an area that I'd like Scotty to lead more in, and I KNOW my job is simply to pray more. In these instances I must face the fact that I'm not called to fix every struggle my husband has. He has his own walk of faith, and some things will be between him and God. I've got to know when to stay out of that. This is my struggle.... Where do I help and where do I stay out of it? I won't say I've figured it out. But, I will say I've found God, yet again, to be FAITHFUL! He leads and guides me when I confess my great need for Him.

Pray for endurance in the process!! What if you knew it was going to take FIFTY YEARS for your husband to become the husband God wants him to be? Would it be worth it to stick around and find out? I've got a little experience in this area. Scotty and I will have been married NINETEEN years this May. He tells people that my first husband was a real jerk. I'VE NEVER BEEN MARRIED BEFORE! He's talking about himself; and in some ways (not a lot of ways) he's right! The past 4.5 years have brought about REAL and HUGE changes in Scotty. He's not a PERFECT husband, but he's pretty awesome in all ways that matter. However, getting to this point has been a PROCESS. In 2011, I had BIBLICAL support in getting out! God (only God) gave me the endurance to stay and fight for our marriage. Looking back, I know He empowered me with that endurance; because, remember, I HATE A PROCESS! I'm so glad he did! I would have missed out on the beautiful work God has done in Scotty's life. He's used failure to capture Scotty's heart, and our family is stronger because of it. There will be struggles in Scotty's life that will take another 4, 10, 20, years for God to work through and work out. But, I'm convinced I want to be part of the process. When the battle is TOUGH, the victory is SWEET! And, the tougher the battle, the sweeter the victory. I want to endure until the very end! Prayer is the key!

Scotty and I know a man who STRUGGLED with all things good as a young person. In his teens, he struggled with having respect for authority and committing to purity. In his twenties, he struggled with being the young man God called him to be. As his thirties approached, all seemed to be caving in. Every area of his life was marked by this man's struggle; his marriage, his family, his work environment, etc. Life was HARD; and what made it even HARDER was knowing that his OWN choices created each difficult scenario. SELFISHNESS hindered his ability to SURRENDER his ways to God's ways. By age 35, he was going through a divorce, losing his business, and on his way to isolation and regret.

This man is older now, and God has taken hold (again) of his heart. He's not perfect. BUT, his life is bearing the fruit of repentance and surrender. His story isn't any different than MANY others. We all tend to mark our young lives with selfishness and pride. As we cooperate with God, He bends us and breaks us SO THAT we mature by losing the devotion to SELF and giving ourselves to HIS way. It's a process! What I find most tragic about this man's story is the fact that the "wife of his youth" is missing out on the beauty of what God is doing in his life. She gave up and gave in and had Biblical support to do so. However, she is missing this beautiful work of God. She doesn't get to be part of God redemption in this man's life.

I realize that someone may be reading this today that is  in a difficult marriage. My brain is swimming in the different scenarios, and some of them are BEYOND tough. I'd ask you to commit your marriage AGAIN to the Lord. Acknowledge that redeeming the mess WILL BE a process... and it could be a very long one. Admit that the ONLY person in your marriage you can change is YOU. Ask God to work in YOU so that you'll be prepared for WHATEVER He chooses to do in your marriage. Be BOLD and HOPEFUL in seeing the beauty God can bring. Remember, the harder the fight the sweeter the victory. What better legacy can you leave for your children, your friends, the world than the legacy of SEEING THE THING THROUGH! Do what you said you would do, because God WILL do what He said he would do! And, you don't want to miss it.

Friday, January 1

2016: BELIEVE

I've always thought that a common theme of old people conversation is the rapid passing of time. They (old people) commonly say things like,

It seems like only yesterday, you were...

This year has simply flown by!

and, Where has the time gone?

Yet, for months now, I have said things like,

Is it possible that my child is turning 13? It seems like yesterday I was rocking him to sleep. 

2015 has been the shortest year ever. It's flown by!

and, Where has the year gone?

Yes. I've said ALL of these things, but I am NOT old! So, clearly my thought processes were incorrect. Time really is speeding up. :)

With time progressing rapidly and life moving at break-neck speed, I'm on a mission with the Lord. He is challenging me to BELIEVE Him fully, and I'm determined to do so.

Please don't be confused. I've believed in the Lord for the majority of my life. At any moment (since I was 7 years old) I would answer questions of my belief system with FULL belief in the God of the Bible. But, I'm going to say I've not really allowed myself to BELIEVE Him as His Word calls for me to believe. I'm going to go a step further and say that I've not SEEN many real life examples of this kind of belief in the lives of Christians I've looked to and looked up to. I don't want that to seem like a criticism! I'm not judging or blaming. I'm simply saying that I am currently under the conviction that I don't live with enough BELIEF (maybe because I haven't been readily exposed to it), but I want to!

The kind of faith I'm feeling challenged to pursue is causing me to evaluate my entire belief system. I've grown up in very conservative Christianity. I'm grateful for my upbringing. However, I have to wonder if I've missed out on the full revelation of God at work among us, because I've had certain expectations and guideline about HOW He works. And, I'm not going to beat around the bush, because my posts are long enough already, but my denomination has been so OUTWARDLY opposed to the "name it and claim it" teaching that I've found myself shutting out ANY resemblance to that philosophy.

Don't worry... I'm not leaping to the other side. I'm not tossing out all of my good, credible, BIBLICAL upbringing to jump on a bandwagon of sorts. But, I have some questions in my heart. Consistently, I find myself in passages of scripture urging believers to ASK, to SEEK FOR ABUNDANCE, to GO FOR MORE, and to MARVEL at the works of God. When I look to those with more education than I have or those who've been in spiritual authority over me throughout my years, I find a cautious belief system. Often, I see powerless faith that might be too uncertain of the reality of God's activity in our lives to ask BIG things with expectant hearts and to see Him work in MIGHTY ways. I honestly want to be taught to approach God COURAGEOUSLY and to lay out my petitions with hope but also with trust that His sovereignty rules. Yet, everywhere I turn I see whole hearted, courageous and public believers being VERBALLY DESTROYED for their faith, belief, and crazy ideas that God would somehow want to bless His creation.

I feel there MUST BE a holy and sacred space between powerless, unbelieving theology and simplified "name it and claim it in Jesus" teaching. So, this year, my word is 'BELIEVE.' I am committed to searching the scripture for myself during this year with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and Godly teachers to challenge the cautious faith I've always had. Boldly, I'm going to ask for impossible things and watch for God's activity in my daily life. Don't worry, my prayer to Him also involves a pleading that He demonstrate to me where my belief is false and that he shield me from incorrect or improper thinking. I trust Him as my perfect teacher. I'm also asking that He FLOOD MY LIFE with real people who exhibit real belief. I'm asking for God to raise up people in my life that aren't afraid to approach the throne with MIGHTY requests... believing He will answer... and knowing that His answers ALWAYS come. They may not come the way I expect or want. But, if we're not asking, how will we see all the ways He is working?

I'm sick and tired of powerless Christianity! I'm completely OVER the mentality that we're here just suffering through this life to get to eternity with our Father. I've seen enough of it! This year I'm praying for LIFE CHANGING BELIEF, and I'm praying it will spread throughout all believing communities. I'm reading Beth Moore's book, Believing God. I picked it up in Lifeway a few weeks ago. I didn't want to read it. I wasn't looking for a book for me. But, I felt God wouldn't let me leave it. I got a few pages in and KNEW it was exactly what I need to be reading. I may need to read it over and over for a very long time. There are two quotes in the book that I've gone back to daily to read and think on,

A big difference exists between trying to manipulate God to give us what we want and cooperating with God so He can give us what He wants. The latter is our goal. 

Godless philosophies have not been my temptation. In my life experience the most dangerously influential opinions have been those held by intellectuals and scholars who profess Christianity byt deny the veracity and present power of the Bible. 

OK... So, I'm declaring my very own FAITH CHALLENGE. In 2016, I'm NOT going to be afraid to ASK, to look for WONDERS, or to question my current thinking. BELIEVE is my word; so to start, I'm going to trust He can handle my questions. He's God! In Him is power. John 10:10 says that Jesus came SO THAT, in Him, we could have abundant life. Personally, I want the FULLNESS of that abundant life. I don't want to miss out on what He wants to give. Ever! The Bible includes character after character that ASKED big things from God, believed Him for the answer, and received. 

Like Beth, Godless philosophies have NEVER tempted me. However, I'm afraid I've adopted a philosophy that believes in God without ever really believing in the life-fueling power He possesses and shares. I've lived with such fear of asking with improper motives that I've preferred simply not asking. How sad! I will exercise my faith by ASKING, AND ASKING, AND ASKING all the while trusting that He has priorities when giving, because He is SOVEREIGN. He knows what brings honor and glory. He knows what I need for the future. And, He gives perfectly where both are concerned. 

Full BELIEF in THAT KIND OF GOD will cast out FEAR and usher in POWERFUL, ABUNDANT, LIVING. I'm looking forward to a great year! 

It seems like only yesterday I was writing those same words about 2015.... So, maybe I AM just a wee bit old. (tear)



Tuesday, December 29

New Year/Same You

I never got around to writing that Christmas post I SO wanted to write. The "God With Us" of Christmas is AMAZING to me. And, I was surrounded by it this year. Everywhere I turned, I was confronted with Emmanuel either in the worship of Him or in humanity's great need for Him. The fact that Jesus left His home in Heaven and came to Earth in FULL human form is nothing short of AMAZING. Don't you think there were prettier ways to save us? There's not a lot of "pretty" here on Earth in comparison to the perfection of Heaven. WE are a collective mess. But, His determination to REDEEM the ugliness of sin in our lives drove Him to come and live with us. "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. And, we beheld His glory."

Maybe this concept was even more real to me this year, because my Fall was even uglier than it has been in the past. The year, 2015, is ending, and I'm not overly sad to see it go. You know what years past have held for me, and I'll agree that some have been tough. But, this year was ugly and tough in a way that I NEVER expected when 2015 began. On the EXACT Friday in August that I received terrible news 4 years prior, my family received news that someone dear to us was leaving our life by choice. And, while my devastation four years ago was met with a person ready and willing to dig in and WORK to restore and redeem our relationship, this relational break was met with distance and refusal to participate in any kind of restoring process. I have been devastated. I have been confused. And, in that trauma, I've hit the very end of me (I thought I'd already been there) and been forced to search even harder for clarity, vision, and a way out of the darkness. So, IT MATTERS TO ME that the WORD didn't just call us to light. He actually CAME to walk us to the light in HIMSELF.

Thank you, Jesus.

So, YES, this Fall was DIFFICULT! BUT... I'm ending this tough year in more JOY than I've even known, because God has USED what I would label a problem to lead me to MORE truth, MORE clarity, and MORE of HIM.

As 2016 begins, I'm extremely hopeful. I know and trust God is going to do HUGE things in me and in my family. I am BELIEVING that we are going to see NEW things in 2016.

"See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland."
Isaiah 43:19

However, the disaster that I've lived through in the past few months has taught me something about ME. I have a habit of looking for new when God may prefer that I look to make new out of the old. Earlier this year, actually I believe it was at the very start of 2015, I expressed to my counselor that I was experiencing such darkness. I couldn't explain it well, but what I said to her was that I'd leave me lengthy and worshipful quiet time with the Lord in the morning feeling refreshed and renewed only to walk into the kitchen and snap at the very first person that annoyed me. In other words, my time alone with God wasn't transferring into the life that I was leading with other people. Honestly, if that is the case, what's the point!? If my interaction with other people isn't TRANSFORMED by the power of the Gospel, I believe the power of the Gospel hasn't TRULY transformed ME!

Life is a process. Our God is a miracle working God, BUT sometimes we miss out on the miracles by expecting them to happen instantaneously. As I'm setting goals for this new year, I definitely want to cooperate with God to experience some NEW things. More than that, though, I feel called and persuaded to commit to SAME in a NEW way. I feel motivated to STEWARD WELL the relationships, possessions, and callings I already have SO THAT God can move in NEW and MIRACULOUS ways in MUNDANE and ROUTINE experiences. 

Yesterday, I went back to a sermon series that I listened to at the beginning of this year. It meant a lot to me then. But, I was afraid I didn't hear all that I needed to hear. I was right. The series was titled, The Power of Same. In it, Steven Furtick uses the John 15 command to remain in Me to challenge his congregation to spiritual disciplines that keep us GROWING in Him. Our tendency and human nature want to cut out, move on, start over when life hits rocky patches. It would be so much easier to label these times as mistakes and find an excuse to end it and move on. But, often, God allows us to LIVE in those difficulties FOR A TIME (sometimes a long time) to show us our OWN need to be pruned and developed. If I'm never forced to stick around when a relationship, a job, a situation, a church family gets difficult, I'll never learn the process through which sanctification and true growth occur in my own heart. 

As hard as life has been, I feel like blinders have been removed from my eyes. I no longer get up from my quiet time and feel all of the power leave me. I've stepped deeper into relationship with the Lord KNOWING that He brings that YUCK in me to the surface SO THAT He can expose it, heal it, and one day use it. The process may be ugly, but the outcome is beautiful. And, when He cuts back (prunes), it's always to produce MORE. 

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be EVEN MORE fruitful."
John 15: 1-2
Ouch! All branches are pruned. He cuts off the ones that bear no fruit, and that's PAINFUL. But, He says He'll also prune (cut back) every branch that DOES bear fruit so that it will produce MORE fruit. And, that's painful, too. I believe all of us would SAY we want to produce more fruit, but sticking around for the pruning proves to difficult to bear at times. I'm in, though. In the past four years, He's proven to me TWICE that the pruning will hurt (it's excruciating). The outcome, however, is COMPLETELY WORTH IT! 

Instead of asking God for NEW this year, what if we ask Him to produce MORE with our SAME as we REMAIN IN HIM. As the pastor stated, "Resolutions are meaningless without routines to back them up." Our God works miracles, but we get to participate in them. And, truly, doesn't the payoff mean more when we've actually had to participate in the difficulties along the way. Recommit. Refocus. And, TRUST AND BELIEVE that, in every situation,

"The ONE who calls you is faithful, and He will do it."
1 Thessalonians 5:24