Thursday, December 29

My Vision & An Invitation...

First of all, THANK YOU SO MUCH for the tremendous amount of support I've received for the book. The entire process has been CrAzY from start to finish. For sure, I wasn't prepared for the way you guys have loved and encouraged me by purchasing books. And, my sister has been overwhelmed by the adoption support!

With so many books out there, I've had an idea. I think it would be SO MUCH FUN to participate in a Move! Bible study together. See, this little book was born out of a desire I have to teach God's Word. The life God has given me has served as the backdrop for His lessons. As you read, He will teach you, and I want to be a part of it.

So, I'm just going for it! Here's my vision... Let's do a Bible study together!

When: Beginning January 9th (January/February)

What: Joshua through Move! Devotions

Where: The comforts of your very own home

How: Well, Facebook (of course)

If you haven't already joined the Facebook group @MoveDevoCommunity, please go and do that. We will work out more of the details as we get closer to January 9th. But, I think it would be so awesome to move through Joshua as a group and share what we learn as we go via that Facebook page. Let's use technology for something positive!

So many of you already have a book! Maybe you've begun your study, but we can begin again in January. TOGETHER! If we do 4 days of study each week, we can complete the book by the end of February. If you've never been part of a group study before, it's amazing! There's accountability in a group. But, there's also such JOY in experiencing God at work in the lives of others. 

If you need a book, please let me know. We can arrange that. I still have some available for purchase. And, if I run out, we can get some more. Maybe you know a couple of people close to you that you'd like to enter into Bible study with on a more personal level. Grab a book for them and make a plan to start. Your smaller group can join with our larger one on Facebook. It will be a marvelous thing. 

I pray you hear my heart, because I have so struggled with "selling" this book! I'm not proposing a group Bible study just to make money. I believe with all of my heart that God taught me so many things about HIMSELF through the pages of Joshua. I've got more to learn, though. I'll never ever get to the bottom of WHO He is. As I study again, I'd love to journey with YOU. I am convinced that this little book is one of the ways I am supposed to brag on my wonderful God and His Son, Jesus. 

So, let me know if you need a book. Grab a few people that you want to journey with through the pages of Joshua and Move! Then, head to the Facebook page and "like." That is where I'll make Bible study announcements. And, that's where (hopefully) we will all connect each week to share all that we learn about God through His Word.

I pray you'll consider joining me for this two month study. I believe there is much to be learned through the pages of scripture, and I believe the Lord delights when His children join together, unified in the learning process.

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 
1 Peter 3:18

Wednesday, December 14

The Gift of Broken

This is weighing heavily on my heart today, and I have to write about it. On every side, I'm being bombarded by people (Christians) fighting to miss hurt, pain, and discomfort. We are a fearful lot! And, it seems we will jump through all kinds of hoops to protect ourselves and our families from being broken.

I have to ask, What is the cost?

Often, I've said that God's gift in the trauma of life is perspective. When "the worst" happens, life carries on. If the very ground beneath is shaken, the true foundation proves unshakeable. And, because nothing in this earthly life can be trusted during those times, God proves all the more trustworthy.

But, how will we ever learn these beautiful truths if we carefully orchestrate and organize life so that nothing bad could ever happen? If all of our decisions are made to protect ourselves and others from pain, will we ever come to really know our Savior?

See, in this week alone, I've heard at least three people say, That is my worst nightmare! (By the way, all three "nightmares" were pitifully silly and unworthy of nightmare status!) Granted, this is a common phrase, and many of us use it for the sake of drama rather than reality. I believe, though, that it's the true feeling of the heart in most cases. For most of us, we've determined what would be the worst possible experience, and we spend our days setting up safe lives that protect us from those negative experiences.

The gift of having my heart broken is that Christ proved more than able to piece it back together. The beauty of living a life marked by chaos is learning (through firsthand experience) that God is better at directing a peaceful life than I ever was.

I'm afraid we are protecting ourselves right out of God's best.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
 2 Corinthians 4:7

Jars of clay are fragile! Even the slightest fall could result in devastation. Picture it, because it is the worst nightmare. If we are the jars of clay, worst case scenarios of life threaten to leave us in pieces on the floor. It's ugly. It hurts; and, sometimes it's embarrassing. 

But, if the Bible is true, God will never leave us in those pieces. He will put us back together. Our outer covering might always reveal the brokenness. However, when His light shines through the cracks, the jar is brighter, more unique, and maybe even more beautiful. Could we miss this joy by setting up lives that protect us from a blessing?

I can't say that I live with excitement over life's challenges. But, I will say that I live with less fear about them. I want to experience as much of Jesus as I can. Without the bumps and bruises of life, I know I'd miss out on the glory that HE is. And, if I'm going to testify of His goodness to the world, I've got to have some firsthand experience with it for myself. 

But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:13

Wednesday, December 7

Love Fuels Real Ministry

I'm a little unsure how to share life and circumstances right now. For my entire life, I've been a rule follower. My desire, always, is to live within the confines of what is acceptable and well received by society. Yet, over the past few years, God has allowed me to be part of situations that are socially UNacceptable to speak about openly. And, He's asked me to talk about them,

In a public blog!

With a large group of people!

So, for a lot of years, I wrote about adultery, healing, and restoration while many (you know I'm talking about you) wondered WHY I was still discussing uncomfortable topics. I did it, because God asked me to. I believe He asked my to write, because He had many things to teach ME. That's why I'm always overwhelmed to the point of tears when I hear someone else has been instructed by God through my very personal writing.

Today, I find myself in another awkward situation. I can't focus on anything else! My thoughts are consumed, and that is always the confirmation I need to begin writing. God has something to teach ME in my struggle. Writing will help me process His instruction.

The short story is that Scotty resigned from his position at our church last week. It was announced during Worship on Sunday, and we were not allowed to be there. I will not go into the whole story here (because that really would be awkward). I'll just say that there were differences in ministry philosophies. Through 5 of the toughest months we've ever lived, Scotty has tried to find a way to fulfill his commitment to a group of people we care for deeply. But, we simply weren't allowed to minister as we feel God has called us to minister. Actually, "we" weren't allowed to be in ministry together period.

While I can't go into the details of the past five months, I do feel the need to share what I've learned, through experience, over the weekend. Truly, in Christ, love conquers all!

Five years ago, Scotty resigned from a church he was serving in. His resignation was required! He'd sinned GREATLY (I feel another GREATLY is warranted) against that church. In light of his confession, two pastors called us both in and laid out the plan for resignation. I'll never forget that meeting, because there was grief written on the faces of both of our leaders. Their sole interest was God's best for an entire church body. And, Scotty and I (along with our three children) were part of that Body. They weren't looking for a way to get rid of us quickly. They demonstrated great care for us. And, we did not deserve it! Scotty was asked to read his resignation publicly, and I was asked to be with him. On that Sunday morning, our pastor followed Scotty's resignation with a brief statement about the church's commitment to praying for us. Then, he called for the church to come down front and pray over us. A large group of people participated in that prayer, and an even larger group formed a line to hug us and speak encouragement over us as we left. The church acted as God's Church to us that day. Love was the motivation, and I'll never forget it.

Because of our history, I feel I have to say that Scotty has not committed any immoral sin to warrant his resignation. That is not the reason for our departure. There have been a few meetings leading to the resignation announcement. I wasn't invited to any; and, as far as I can tell, there's not been great grief displayed over the breaking of a relationship. But, do you know that God still shows Himself as sovereign and in control even in confusing circumstances? He does!

I've invited you into our messy, crazy, and often roller coaster life at every turn, so I knew this post had to be written. I've been so torn, though. To share means telling only our part of the story, and I hate that. However, an outlet to share both sides of the whole story was refused. I've prayed and prayed for the right words. This morning, God simply led me to 1 Corinthians 13,

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is PATIENT, love is KIND, and it is not JEALOUS; love DOES NOT BRAG and IS NOT ARROGANT, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, LOVE NEVER FAILS.
1 Corinthians 13: 1-8
Paul's words to the Corinthians have confirmed a lot of what God has been showing us through our situation during the past few months. In my heart, I feel we (Scotty AND our family) have been handled poorly in this process. However, if I couldn't choose to live a life motivated by love even in that disappointment I'd expose a heart that hasn't fully experienced God's great love. So, I can't live in anger. Sadness and grief are more appropriate responses.

We have been part of 5th Avenue Baptist Church for less than six months, but we've grown to LOVE those people. Our youth have taught us so much, and we've found great joy in watching them grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. They are the real deal, and we will miss them terribly. We've seen God do amazing things in every area of the family ministry there! We've seen Him do things we could never take credit for. We are eternally grateful that He did it and that we got to be part of it.

To love BIG is always a risk.Opening our hearts in such a vulnerable way leaves it wide open for excruciating pain. That is exactly what we are feeling. Still, love is worth that risk! Every! Single! Time!

Because Scotty and I have experienced God's love exponentially through His forgiveness of our sin and healing of our marriage, we can't help but love others. Christ's love compels us to seek Family Ministry still. So, we are not quitting. This temporary struggle has only highlighted the fact that we have a driving passion and vision to serve families by equipping them to seek Jesus with their whole heart in a very real and genuine way. He's the only Savior, and we want every family transformed by that truth! 

For now, we know that GOD called us to St. Pete. We are positive our kids are in the perfect school for them. So, we are staying here. Scotty has found some part-time work options while we pray and seek future decisions. God's people here have loved us and continue to love and support us. Even in a bit of a crisis, we feel very blessed. God is good! His love endures forever! So, we will not fear! 

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

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