Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Samwise and Us

The Lord of the Rings has been one of my favorite movies since it came out a few years ago. I went out and bought the extended edition trilogy as soon as it came out in stores. The story of Frodo and the Fellowship is pretty great, but what I loved most about the story was one little character - Samwise Gamgee. I fell in love with him after seeing the movies once. (I'm sure I would be even more in love with him if I read the books, but y'all know me ... I don't read. So we'll just stick with his movie character self, which is pretty daggone heroic and honorable and loyal and all of those good qualities.)

I love Samwise because he is all of those things I just mentioned and so much more. He is, in many ways, my hero! No joke! It's goofy ... but if you think about who Sam really is, he is an amazing example for us to follow, and we can connect his life and his loyalty to Frodo to us and our loyalty to Christ.

Stay with me ... this is good.

Sam CHOSE to follow after Frodo in his mission of the ring.
Sam not only followed Frodo but PROTECTED him and STAYED TRUE to him.
In other words, he was LOYAL beyond imagining.
Sam laid his life on the line for Frodo every single day of the journey.
It did not matter what he might endure, Sam was not about to let anything bad happen to Frodo.
He was not about to let Gollum turn Frodo from the path of Mount Doom if he could help it!
Sam gave up his food and drink so that Frodo could go on.
Sam fought, defeated, and almost died protecting Frodo from Shelob.
Sam carried Frodo up the side of Mount Doom.

Sam is truly amazing.
No matter what the cost, he carried on (and carried Frodo!), honoring Frodo, and really, the rest of the Fellowship and all of Middle Earth, by remaining loyal, steadfast, courageous, and selfless even when it cost him everything. Wow ... I love Samwise!

Sam could be seen as Jesus in our lives .... he gave up everything so that we could live.

But I want to look at Sam as being us ... or rather ... how we SHOULD be.
Sam is our example in this case.
He served and loved and remained loyal to his master (Frodo) no matter what the cost.
Are we doing that for our Master and Lord, Jesus Christ?
I want to!
I want to be loyal to Christ no matter what!!!

To be loyal means to be faithful.
And as I've thought more and more about this character,Samwise Gamgee, I've thought more and more about what it would take to be like him. And I've come up with three important things.

#1 - Prayer.
I cannot be loyal to Christ on my own. I am fallen and lazy and selfish. I do not want to work at this thing called a relationship with Jesus in and of myself. So I must ask ... I must CRY OUT to Jesus to help me say "NO!" to my fleshly desires and instead, live a life that honors my Master.
Psalm 86:11 says, "Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth; give me an undivided heart that I may fear Your name." ... That's what it takes. If I want to be completely loyal to my Master, I must ask Him for His help.

#2 - Obedience.
My two favorite scenes in the entire LOTR trilogy show Sam living in obedience, sacrifice, and loyalty to his master, Frodo - when Sam fights and defeats Shelob in her lair and when he carries Frodo up the side of Mount Doom. In Shelob's lair, we see Sam crying over Frodo's (presumed to be) dead body. "Don't go where I can't follow," Sam says to Frodo, as he cries for the loss of his friend and master. At the foot of Mount Doom, Sam shouts, "I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you," as he picks Frodo up and carries him, with tears in his eyes. .... That's what we need to do. Just as Sam was obeying his promise to stick with Frodo every step of the way, no matter what, we also need to obey Christ in every area of our lives ... even to the point of tears. Joshua 22:5 says, "But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to obey His commands, to hold fast to Him and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul." We must hold fast to Jesus, remain faithful to Him, obey Him, and serve Him ... love Him with all that we've got! That, is when we walk in true obedience.

#3 - Sacrifice.
Sacrifice is probably the most important thing to keep in mind when striving to remain loyal to Christ. Keeping Christ at the center of our lives does not come easily. As depraved beings, we desire selfish, sinful things. We don't want to work. We don't want to be pure and lovely and excellent and praiseworthy. We don't want to honor Christ .... not in and of ourselves, we don't. So loyalty requires sacrifice. Matthew 16:24-25 says, "Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it." Jesus told us ... warned us that living for Him is not easy ... far from it. He told us ... "Hey, look here ... if you really want to follow Me as my closest friends and companions, you must deny yourselves. You must get rid of yourselves! You must forget your desires and take on Mine!" That's a hefty order, eh? .... God wants us. He wants ALL of us. And that's what loyalty is ... giving God EVERY piece of yourself. Did you get that, Mical? Being loyal to Christ is giving Him, entrusting Him with, and honoring Him with EVERY piece of your life.

Sam gave up EVERYTHING to follow Frodo, to serve him, protect him, love him ... honor him. And we must do the same.

GoG 26: The "Single Days" Chat With Jeremy

Jeremy, Nathanael, Marianne, and I met at Wendy's today for a frosty and some youth pastor talk. The four of us meet every Tuesday for a couple of hours just to catch up, praying for one another, share burdens, joys, time with our youth, etc. After Nathanael left and Marianne was getting some dinner to go, I was headed out the door, when Jeremy looks at me and says ... "So ...." I shut the door and come back in. And he says again ... "So ..... how's it goin'?" This by itself was a blessing. In the bigger group, it's hard to really know how someone is doing ... so he was taking the time to really find out. Gosh. That's awesome.

I said, "It's goin' alright." He said, "Yeah?" And he said, "I've been prayin' for ya." And we started talking about something I was a tad bit taken off guard with ... only 'cause it's Jeremy, and we don't usually talk about my "single days." It started with talk about SoZo, since that's our commonality. But I made a comment like, "It would be even better if I could find some youth pastor guy around here who could work with me in youth ministry ... even if it was part-time, that's fine with me." And for there, we talked about me getting plugged in to a singles/young adult group somewhere, etc. We also talked about how I'm lonely 'cause most of my friends are married or getting married and having babies, and they're leaving me in one way or another. It wasn't a conversation I was expecting, but it was really encouraging. Just that Jeremy took the time to dig a little deeper than the surface ... and then tell me that he's been praying for me about this area of my life. That's simply and amazingly amazing. And just one of the many glimpses of God's grace today. :)

GoG 25: The Stranded Malibu

7:08pm. I left Hannah's parent's house.

7:22pm. I took a curve too fast and drove off the road, getting stuck in a muddy, snowy cornfield in what I thought was Brownsburg, Indiana.

7:24pm. I called my dad to say ... "So I kind of drove into a cornfield, and I'm stuck."

7:26-and-a-half pm. I called Hannah to make sure I had my coordinates right.

7:29pm. I called AAA and told them my "right" coordinates.

8:15pm. My dad calls to tell me that he has taken 425 N. all the way, and I was not there.

8:32pm. The 9th stranger who stopped to offer his help arrives right as my dad calls for the 6th time.

8:34pm. That same 9th stranger talks to my dad, telling him that my initial coordinate were all wrong ... and in fact, I am in Pittsboro, Indiana ... near 450 N. and 250 E.

8:38pm. I get back in my car as that 9th stranger offers to wait in his truck until my dad gets there.

8:52pm. My dad finally arrives, shakes the 9th stranger's hand, and I climb into the car with my dad.

9:49pm. The AAA guy arrives with his big truck and chain.

10:04pm. We leave that spot way out in the middle of non-Brownsburg, Indiana (and nowhere) and head home at a crazy-slow 15 miles per hour.

10:29pm. Dad and I pull in to our driveway ... home safe and sound.

Hahahaha! Believe it or not, that excursion in the cornfield was my glimpse of grace for the day. Not hard to believe, it was very humbling. .... I've never run off the road before. I've never gotten stuck. Never had to call AAA. And only had to call my dad for help once ... mmaaayybee twice ... in all of my (almost) 6 years of driving. And I had to sit there for an awfully long time ... feeling like a total idiot.

So the glimpse of grace was #1 - Being humbled.
#2 - About 14 people passed by, and about 11 of those people stopped and asked me if they could help me. That's awesome! That was a huge blessing by itself.
#3 - My dad wasn't super mad at me ... he was a bit frustrated when he was trying to find me ... but when he got there, and we sat in the car together, he just laughed.
#4 - The AAA guy was really nice about it all and very helpful.
#5 - I even got a little worship in while I was waiting.

It was an excursion alright. A bit frustrating at a few different points ... but humbling and a blessing in a few ways. Ha! It funny how God works, eh? ;)

Monday, January 25, 2010

GoG 24: The Confidence and the Glory

"You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward, You will take me into glory."
Psalm 73:24

This verse has meant a lot to me in the past ... just one of those verses that God threw at me right when I needed it. And I stumbled across it again recently. .... Actually, I was reading something else in my Bible, and whatever I was reading made me think of this verse. But at the time, I couldn't remember where it was found. Let's see .... what was I reading that made me think of this verse. Let me go get my Bible. Un momento, por favor ....

Ah, yes. I think it was Psalm 71:5. I've been reading through several different books in the Bible lately. Psalm is kind of my quicker read ... the "study" I do on nights that I don't make the time to read more fully. So ... I AM admitting to my laziness here. I'm working on it. ;) .... Anyway ... a few nights ago, I was reading through Psalm 71, and I came across verse 5 and thought, "yeah! I need that tonight. Thanks, God!" Psalm 71:5 says, "For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth." ... That night, I was really struggling with the whole singleness scene ... mostly 'cause almost all of my friends are getting married and having babies. I'm one of the last ones. They're all leavin' me in one way or another. I was just really bummed the other night, and I read this chapter ... and boy, it was great! The whole chapter is full of encouragement. .... I've been reading through Psalms and picking out the names/descriptions of God. In this one chapter I found these ... Refuge, Upright, Deliverer, Rescuer, Savior, Rock, Fortress, Hope, Confidence, Sustainer, Help, Strong, The One Who Makes Me Great, Comforter, Truth, The Holy One Of Israel, and Redeemer. That's a lot! So this chapter helped me readjust my perspective. ... I was basically having a pity party ... bummin' out that my friends are leaving me ... wanting a season that is not what God wants for me right now, etc., etc. And God, through Psalm 71, was reminding me that HE ALONE is all that I need ... HE ALONE is the refuge, Savior, Hope, and Confidence of my life. HE ALONE is the One who makes me great! That is some good stuff, yo!

Alright ... so how the heck did I start with Psalm 73:24 and then go on about Psalm 71:5 for so long?? Well, it's me we're talking about ... The Tangent Queen. He he he. :D ..... For me, Psalm 71:5 reminded me of Psalm 73:24. I couldn't find 73:24 the other night, but I read it tonight in my devos and got all excited that I found the verse I was thinking of the other night. I think these two verses connect for me because they both ... well ... it's kind of hard to put my correlation into words .... hmm ............

71:5 talks about God being my confidence.
73:24 talks about God guiding me.
71:5 talks about God being my confidence.
73:24 talks about God taking me into glory.

God is my confidence because He is my guide.
God is my confidence because He is my glory.
Therefore, I have no need to dwell on the things of this world ... the season of life that I am in ... the friendships that are changing ... the instability of this life ...
I have no need of them because God is my confidence. God is the One who is forever.

Confidence and glory are nearly the same in my mind because when they are set in the right place in my life (on Jesus Christ), they do not fail ... ever! When I put my confidence (abilities, strengths, hopes, dreams, etc.) in God, I am not shaken. I do not fail. I continue on, looking to Christ instead of my circumstances. When I invest my life into glory (God's purpose for my life - glorifying Him!), I am not shaken. I do not fail. I continue on, looking to Christ instead of my circumstances. ....

Perhaps it can also be said this way ... My confidence is found in the glory of God. I have confidence when I spend my time and life, heart and mind, honoring Christ with my life. .... Yep, that be the correlation between the two verses. When I focus all of my energies on bringing glory to Christ, my confidence is nurtured, awakened, alive!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What I've Learned About Forgiveness

A wise woman once told me that I should write down the lessons God teaches me either while I'm going through them or shortly after them so that I will not forget them. She said that no matter how impactful the lessons, she almost always manages to forget them eventually. And don't we all? ... So I am taking her advice.

I shared these thoughts with the Danville High School FCA on Friday morning, and I was looking over them tonight during my devotions and decided to write 'em down .... so that I won't forget 'em. :) We'll call these thoughts ('cause titles are just fun!) "What I've Learned About Forgiveness." Or rather ... What I've Learned (and continue to learn) about Forgiveness ... 'cause forgiveness, like every other lesson, is a life-long process. ;)

Over the past year or so, I've learned a thing or three about forgiveness.

#1 - Forgiveness is a process.
When I need to forgive someone, it's because I've been hurt. That is NOT profound. But it is true. I've been hurt, and pain often brings selfishness. I must fight. FIGHT! I must fight hard to run from my selfish ambitions when I've been hurt. My selfish self wants to scream and yell ... wants to cry ... wants to wallow in self-pity ... wants to tell that person off ... wants to gossip ... want to ... get the picture? ... Forgiveness does not happen over night. That pain is gonna take a while to heal. It may take time to forgive too. But we must! Time is not an excuse for unforgiveness. I must cry out to God every single day until that person is totally and completely forgiveness.
Note: Forgiveness also works the other way. If I hurt someone else, it might take a long time for me to let go of that. I HATE hurting others. It happens though. And I am still learning NOT to beat myself up but ACCEPT forgiveness when it is given.

#2 - I can't change people's actions, but I can control my own.
I always want to fix problems, wrongs I've committed, etc. I can always try. And I'm supposed to try. When I wrong someone, I must go to them, humble myself, and ask for forgiveness. I can continue being their friend no matter what happens. But whether or not they accept my apology, accept my friendship, accept anything and everything (or nothing) I give, I can't change them. All I can do is keep loving them, keep seeking and crying out to Jesus in the situation, and keep keep on keepin' on. Giving up is not an option. I can't change people, but I can control my own actions, attitudes, and words with the power the Holy Spirit gives me through Jesus Christ my Lord.

#3 - I reap what I sow.
I've been learning a lot about reaping and sowing lately. My pastor and my surrender sister, Alex, both talked to me about reaping and sowing within a month of each other ... as well as ... God continued pressing it upon my heart ... all of this within a timespan of a month or two .... (It's like God is in control or something! Ha ha!). I reap what I sow. I don't plant one season and get the harvest the very next season. I plant ... then I cultivate ... then I keep cultivating, nurturing, waiting ... and finally, a few seasons later, I reap my harvest. If I sow bitterness and anger and jealousy and well, sin upon sin ... I will reap sin upon sin upon sin upon .... I think you get my point. I must, like I said in #2, seek Jesus and cry out to Him in the midst of the process of unforgiveness. I must sow good things ... love, grace, hope, and forgiveness (one day at a time) ... and then ... only then! ... will I reap a good harvest.

Forgiveness is a process. Don't beat yourself up about the process if it is long. Just keep striving for forgiveness. Keep surrendering the issues (or issues - plural!) every single day. Keep seeking Jesus and crying out to Him for help and strength. Keep using self-control and sowing good things. And allow God to teach you mighty things about His power and purpose.

Some verses that have helped me over the past year or two have been Psalm 73:26, Philippians 1:6, and Colossians 3:2 ....

Psalm 73:26 - My flesh and my heart may fail, but GOD is the STRENGTH of my heart and my PORTION forever.

Philippians 1:6 - Being confident of this, that HE who began a GOOD work in you will carry it on to COMPLETION until the day of CHRIST JESUS.

Colossians 3:2 - Set your mind on things ABOVE, NOT on earthly things.

GoG 23: The Hodgins' Situation

So I don't watch a lot of TV. I try not to 'cause there really are better ways to use my time. But there are a couple of shows I enjoy. I used to watch Family Matters and The Cosby Show a lot growing up. These days, I've been watching Chuck and Bones. Chuck is the only one I've been sort of keeping up with. I've gotta find out if Chuck and Sarah ever really get together! ;) .... Tonight, my mom was out shopping for food for The Porch (Stop by sometime! The brownies are amazing!!!!! And the other food too.), my dad was watching college basketball, and my brother is at USI. So I decided to take some rest time ... just chill for the evening. I got on "hulu" and watched some episodes of Bones.

One episode had a situation that I identified with a lot ... and I'm gonna call it my glimpse of grace for today. :) There are two characters in the show named "Hodgins" and "Angela." They are scientist-type people who work in the lab on the show. Well, (last season, I'm guessing) they were "together." Then they broke up. This season, Angela is with another guy, and Hodgins is having a hard time with it. He thought he had moved on and was fine, but when Angela and the new guy started dating, he realized he was really struggling.

Thankfully, I'm not going through that NOW. But I was a few months ago. I know what it's like to "break up" and miss that person. While that person was single, it wasn't toooo bad. But when he finally got a girlfriend, "it was like someone stabbed me with a knife." Hodgins said that ... and I remember saying something similar last year. ...... But what I liked most about this part of the episode was that Hodgins went to his psychologist friend and told him that he wanted to be happy for Angela and the new guy ... that he didn't want to be mad or jealous. They continued to talk, and the psychologist friend said, "I don't think you're jealous. You're grieving over what you lost." And I immediately said, "yes!" ..... I don't think I was ever jealous of my friend's new girlfriend. I was happy for them. But I still had a stinging feeling every time I thought of him or "them" being together. I truly was sad, grieving, even ... over the loss of the relationship ... and even the friendship.

This may sound like an over-dramatic depiction of my past, but it's what happened. I'm so thankful that I still love and respect that friend more than he knows, and I think his girlfriend is an amazing girl .... 'cause even though I'm healed over that situation and so happy for the friend (and new friend), it was rough for quite a while. And it WAS grief. I lost something ... someone. Thankfully, it's pretty much better. I'm actually excited about things again ... and really starting to grab hold of the lessons that God taught me through the situation ... seeing that God is "finishing the good work He started" and "working it all out for my good" ... just like He promised. So Hodgins' situation was just another reminder of the lessons and the grace that God gave me and continues to give me in the process every single day.

GoG 22: The Awesome Spring Semester

I like to talk to myself ... all the time. And I talk out loud with myself. I have full-out conversations with myself. It's very productive. ;) ..... Yesterday, I was driving home from working in the writing center, chatting with myself about the day's efforts. We haven't had many people come in for tutoring 'cause it's the first couple of weeks of the semester. I've had one tutee per day this week. But we find ways to stay busy in the writing center. .... On my way home, I was thinking about the writing center and how good it has been for me over the past (almost) three years ... and how much I've enjoyed working there. I also started thinking about how this semester has been and will continue to be great because I'm doing the things I love! :)

This Spring I get to spend my time working at Calvary prepping for time with my SoZo kids ... planning activities, lesson plans, events outside of youth group, praying for them, etc. I get to work with people and their writing every Thursday and Friday ... chatting with them, serving them, and hopefully, making their day better. I get to hang out with my Eastside kids every Wednesday and Thursday afternoon ... loving on them, helping them with their homework, running around and playing games with them. I also have more time for nurturing friendships, exercising, and spending time with God (something I need to do more of!). Life is just plain good. :) And it reminded me of God's grace because He allows me to not only enjoy but have time to work in my callings and get paid for it!!!! There is no greater blessing!

Friday, January 22, 2010

GoG 21: The Mr. Cory

Behind again. I have a feeling this is gonna happen all 365 days ... ha ha!

Thursday's glimpse of grace came in the form of one sentence.

"It's always good to see you."

An amazing guy named "Mr.Cory," as we kidos and helpers call him, visited us at after school on Thursday. He leads the Bible study for the kids on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so I see him every Wednesday but not usually on Thursdays. It's always a great surprise when he pops in on Thursdays from time to time.

Cory is probably one of the coolest and greatest men I know. I've said before (mostly to myself) that if he were 10 or 15 years younger and single, I'd marry him in a heartbeat! He's just awesome! He works in kids' ministry and has a great passion for it. Loves the Lord with all he's got and really "gets it" about Jesus ... he's not just a fire insurance kind of Christian - he is a mighty follower of Jesus Christ. He is a big kid in a lot of ways too, so he works well with the kids. He's got a loud personality that just screams Jesus and fun! He's just great. ... I've been working with him through the after school program for almost a year and a half, and he's just one of those people that brings joy to your heart when you see him.

On Thursday afternoon, he was sitting at the table eating dinner with the kids, and I was standing across the table. He looked at me and said, "Miss Mical, how are you doing?" And then he smiled at me and said, "It's always good to see you." And I could tell that he really meant it. ... And I told him the same 'cause I love it when he comes to after school - he lifts my spirit just by being in the building! His passion for the Lord and fun-loving personality are amazing! I wish I could work alongside him more often. I hold him in such high esteem. And for him to say, "It's always good to see you" was a great encouragement ... and it really gave me a glimpse of God's grace in my life.

I usually only see Mr. Cory once a week ... and it's usually only for about a half an hour. He comes just in time for the Bible study and leaves shortly thereafter. He's a busy kids' minister at College Park Church in Indianapolis. And he serves so often and across broad projects on the Eastside. We've had a number of conversations about inner city ministry, what I wanna do with my life ... and a couple of "Mical, I can see you here on the Eastside" and "Mical, I've seen real character in you" kinds of conversations. It has been a tremendous blessing getting to know him and working with him in ministry. He truly is an inspiration and an amazing man of God. Ha! Can you tell I think this guy is cool? :D ....

God allows these kinds of people in my life everywhere I go. I get to work with my pastor in ministry. I've worked with my youth pastors, Michael and Shelley. Mr. Doug and Mr. Derrick from after school. James Nilsen. Tim and Keri McRoberts. And Mr. Cory. All of these people have been a huge blessing in my ministry life. God loves me enough to allow me to work alongside amazing men and women of God in His heart's desire - people. And not only that ... but these people love and appreciate me in the process. They encourage me and provide opportunities for ministry. It's an amazing blessing to work with such people ... and it's just another sign of God's grace in action in my life each day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

GoG 20: The "Week-Long Drive"

I was headed to after school today after working at the church for a couple of hours, and I really didn't feel like going. Yes, believe it or not, I didn't want to be at after school today. The reason? The drive is so long. On Wednesdays, I drive nearly an hour to the Eastside for the after school program. And although I adore my kids, that drive is rough. I've been driving it for almost a year and a half ... and I've been driving the long haul to IUPUI's campus (only about 10 minutes shorter the distance) for nearly 4 years. The same road, the same buildings, the same speed limits. It's just redundant. I was losing my mind on my way there today. But anyway ... today I just really didn't feel like makin' the drive. I have also been feeling like I'm not really needed at after school 'cause my location only has 6 to 8 kids and 4 adults every Wednesday and Thursday. 2 kids per adult is a lot.

I don't help out at after school to feel needed ... and I reminded myself of that today. I go because I am in love with these inner city kids. I am blessed EVERY single day I go. I go to serve. And I love it! Just some days ... when that drive feels like a week. A week there and a week back ... I just let my ... well, I guess you could call 'em selfish ambitions ... get in the way.

God, in all of His mighty grace though .... ha! He did it again ... poured it on me again today. :) .... I got to Shepherd Community Center where I pick up food to deliver to the after school locations. Last semester, I delivered food to three locations including my own. This semester, we agreed that I would only deliver to my location for scheduling reasons. .... Well, today, Shepherd had me deliver to Brookside Church, one of the other locations. When I got there and walked through the door with the food, the first thing Mr. Scott said to me was "Hey, do you wanna help us here today?" I kept walkin' and yelled back "Do you need help today?" ... After I finished dropping off the food, I stopped and asked again "Do y'all really need my help here today?" And I agreed to talk to Mr. Doug, the really cool guy who runs my location ... and so ... after we got our kids settled (we had several more than 6 or 8 today ... and more adult helpers too ... whatta ya know?), I took off for Brookside and helped them out with their many kids this afternoon.

Ha! Ya see? ..... I started laughing when I got into my car after dropping off the food at Brookside because I didn't know what else to do. I immediately knew that Mr. Scott asking me to help them at Brookside was my glimpse of grace for the day. .... There I was, on my way to after school, driving that "week-long drive" to the Eastside, thinking that I was burned out and "not needed anyway." But I get to the Eastside, and not only have we doubled our numbers at my after school location, but I am needed at another location. It was awesome! .... I don't deserve to be needed, but God, in all His grace, decided to allow me the privilege of delivering to a location I wasn't originally supposed to deliver to and help at a location I don't ever help at. I was needed after all. And that, is God's grace in action! :)

GoG 19: The A, O, and W

I've been thinking a lot about servanthood over the past couple of days. Early this month, I asked my SoZo kids to write down some goals for themselves this year. The following week we talked about goals for ourselves as a group. Most of the kids said that they want to do service projects this year. I was excited to hear this from them, so this past Sunday night we started looking at servanthood. We're in the process of picking out a life verse for SoZo this year, writing out a service goal statement, and brainstorming ideas about serving in our youth group, our church, our families, and our community ... as well as the wider community - we're going to Nashville, TN the last week of June to help out with a kids' summer program. The kids and I are really excited about it. And I'm really excited about setting new goals for serving others this 2010.

Today was one of my first big days "in the office." Yep, I have an office now, which is weird. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are my "SoZo days," as I like to call 'em. I'll be at the church for a certain number of hours every T and W working on lessons and planning activities, ect., ect. Well, in beginning more hours at the church, my mind was all about SoZo today. I went to Heather's swim meet tonight (Heather is one of my fabulous SoZo girls), and on my way home from her meet in Lebanon, I talked out (yes, out loud) some ideas I have for SoZo this year. And that discussion (with myself - ha!) concerning SoZo turned into a discussion about me and my own life.

I've been praying a specific prayer for several years now .... "Lord, wherever you want me to go, whatever you want me to do, I will go ... I will do it. I will ... without hesitation." .... And that prayer is still my heart's desire. And I got to thinking about that prayer today as I thought about servanthood. .... I don't know where God is leading me. I'm pretty confident He'll put me with a group of kids or a group of youth (or perhaps both) ... but that's about as much as He's given me so far. ;) ..... And these thoughts about my future - the whole going wherever God wants me to go and doing whatever God wants me to do stuff - also got me thinking about my "waiting" post that I posted yesterday. In being ready to go and to do without hesitation, I also want to be serving God while I wait on that "wherever" and "whatever" He has in store for me.

On my way home from that swim meet, I said ... "Lord, I want to serve you now. I want to honor you with my life now. Lord, I want to be available. .... Ha!" Yep, that's it. I laughed out loud after that because being available, being observant, being willing is exactly what we talked about at church a couple weeks ago. Pastor Roger encouraged us ... challenged us ... to be available to God NOW! While we're waiting.

God loves us enough to give us grace in the waiting seasons. His grace is Him giving us purpose even while we wait. He wants us to be Available, to be Observant and Willing ... not moping in a corner hoping for something better. He wants us to act! He wants us to live in purpose and joy while we wait for that good work in us to be completed. And that's what I (further) realized today. "Lord, make me available for you to use ... and mightily!"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

GoG 18: The Grad Card

One of my earlier GoG's was about my graduation open house that I had on January 9th. Today's GoG is about a special card I got from my grad party.

My friend, Keri, is probably one of my favorite people in the whole world. She is a ton of fun, a striving mother, friend, and woman of God, and a fellow strawberry-blond. :) I've always thought that if she weren't in a separate season (ha! didn't I just talk about seasons?) of life, we would be best friends. She's an awesome woman from my church, about 9 years older than me, married, with four kids. I love her to death!!!! Every time I see her, I think, "gosh, I wish we could hang out more, talk more, be best friends, ect." No joke. Just about every time I see her I think that! She is just awesome.

Anyway ... now that you know a little about Keri ... you should know that she's the one who wrote this card. It was my favorite card of the day.

On the front of the card was a picture of a door in the side of a grassy hill. It was an open door.

And here's what she wrote in the card ....

"Mical -
This is the last card my sister-in-law made for me - she took the picture. :) Anyway, consider it an open door - a beginning of a new chapter in your life! Congratulations on your graduation. I'm proud of you for sticking it out and seeking God with tears on His direction for your life. He loves you so much - be encouraged - He knows the plans He has for you. And in the "bases sense" you've been doing His will all along: to know Him better, love Him more, share that love with others - lifting Him up. You are a wonderful girl and we are so blessed to know you - we are better people because of you.
Congrats again and may God bless you as He uses you.
Love you,
Tim, Keri, Lucy, Caleb, Will, and Sam"

This short letter was a great encouragement to me because ...
#1 - It was from Keri McRoberts, and I adore her!
#2 - It was personal ... handwritten, from the heart (those who know me well, know that I'm not a big fan of store-bought cards ... I wanna hear YOU!) :)
#3 - It was full of words of love and encouragement. Keri telling me that I have been living up to my goals of knowing Christ better and loving Him more is the greatest encouragement anyone could ever give me. Those ARE my greatest goals. And even though I do fail from time to time and I often feel like I fail in them all the time, I'm not. She is pointing out my victory in this area of my life. Yes, it's a process. It's a victory I must strive to achieve everyday. It's not a one-time thing ... knowing Jesus better and loving Him more is a life-long goal. But I'm on my way. And I am so thankful that Keri has not only been observing my life but pointing out the good that is coming out of it. Praise the Lord for being at work in me ... and for giving me cherished friends who will push me and encourage me along the way. And it's all by His grace. :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

GoG 17: The Wait

Yesterday's GoG came in the form of a song. I think I've shared it on my blog before ... a long time ago ... but it's really good. Here it is again ...........

While I'm Waiting
By: John Waller

I'm waiting ... I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on you, Lord, though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience

While I'm waiting
I will serve you while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will not fade
I'll be runnin' the race, even while I wait

I'm waiting ... I'm waiting on You, Lord, and I am peaceful
I'm waiting on You, Lord, though it's not easy
But faithfully, I will wait

I was listening to this song on my way home from church on Sunday afternoon ... just feeling down because most of my friends are getting married and having babies and well ... they're leaving me. Even if they aren't moving away (which some of them are!), they are still leaving me because they are in a different season of life ... a season I can't really be apart of. I was really sad. I was on the verge of tears before I even left the church. And when I got in the car, this song popped in my mind, so I put it on. And it was my glimpse of grace because of what I just typed ... the lyrics. The lyrics of this song are so powerful. .... I'm in a season of waiting. I don't know where God is leading. All of my plans have been changed. I am not where I thought I'd be at this stage in my life. I'm not in a bad place ... not at all ... I'm where God wants me. But I'm waiting on Him for direction in so many ways. I'm waiting for Him to give me a husband ... I'm waiting for the results of my test ... for direction after I have those results ... ministries ... I'm waiting.

But I love this song because it reminds me that no matter what season I'm in ... whether waiting, exciting, hurting, changing, ect. .... I MUST serve Him, worship Him, seek Him, honor Him while I wait. And that's what I want to do! I want to serve Jesus Christ while I wait on Him for direction ... for His plan and purpose for my life. And that's what God was reminding me of yesterday afternoon. "Mical, so much is changing for you, but I do not change. Serve Me while you wait. I love you, dear child." And so I will serve my Lord .... while I wait.

GoG 16: My SoZo Guys

So much for posting every single day, huh? Ha! Well, here's Saturday's GoG. ... If I can remember it. Hmm ....

Ah, yes ... Saturday night I went to Jonathan and Levi's basketball game at Bethesda Christian School. Jonathan and Levi are two of my SoZo guys. ...... I guess the GoG is pretty simple. I was sitting in the bleachers watching the game ... and watching my guys.

Jonathan tore his ACL several months ago, had surgery several months ago, and his knee still acts up from time to time, so he couldn't play in the game ... he's actually been out for a few weeks and is pretty bummed about it, so say a quick prayer for him as you read this, if you will. :) .... Anyways ... I watched him as he sat on the sidelines with his teammates. He would stand to his feet and cheer when an awesome 3-pointer was made. He would stand up and scowl when a bad call was made. He would stand up and welcome his teammates back to the bench during time-outs, patting them on the back and speaking encouraging words to 'em.

Levi sat on the bench most of the game. Bethesda was barely up most of the game against Indianapolis Metro, so he didn't get to play as much as he would've liked. I compare him with my brother. Wes was a really good basketball player in high school, but the coach didn't play him nearly enough. So is the same with Levi. But just like Wes did in high school, Levi sat the bench quietly, never taking on a bad attitude, always cheering for his teammates, showing real character.

And David ... or Super Dave, as we like to call him in youth group ... Jonathan's younger brother. He plays soccer, so he was standing in the student section of the bleachers laughing, cheering, eating snacks from the concession stand, simply having a good time. He likes to smile ... and laugh ... he does them both a lot and quite well, I might add. ... Some people are really good at laughing while others are lame at it. Super Dave is a great laugher! His laughs are contagious, and his smile makes my day ... if not everyone else's. :)

Watching these three guys, I could not help but smile. Smile? Heck, I was beaming. Jonathan, Levi, and Super Dave are my guys. Whether they know it or not ... whether they wanna be or not ... they are my guys. I am incredibly proud of them. And I love them more than they know. I sat in those bleachers smiling from ear to ear simply because I have the privilege of having them in my life every Sunday morning and Sunday night during SoZo. God loves me enough that He gave me 3 upstanding, hilarious, talented, quiet but fun guys to share life and growing up in Christ with. Yep ... God's grace in the form of my SoZo guys. Praise God for them!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

GoG 15: The Text Message

On Friday night, I went to hang out with some friends ... to watch movies, eat junk food, chat, laugh, and just enjoy each other's company. I got there an hour late ... took a long nap that afternoon and just took my time getting there. I don't like to be late to get-togethers, or anything for that matter, but it was nice to just chill. I was also having a kind of bad night ... just put out about something (silly) and just feeling like bllllaaahhh. I left the house hoping that some time with friends would help. (It did.)

On my way to the girls' night, Emily texted me asking, "Are ya still coming to Lawana's?" I said, "Yep, just leaving my house." And I asked her if she was still at home, hoping she could ride with me. But seeing as I was very late, she was already there. But after asking her if she was home, she said, "No, I'm already here. I just want you here. It's that whole being in the same room with you thing. I miss you." .... And it was just one of those timely little bits of encouragement that God, in His love and faithfulness, brings to us right when we need it most - hence, the "timely" I just mentioned. :)

Emily is my best friend in the whole world ... my bosom buddy ... my soulmate (until I find my husband) ... my other half ... ect., ect. And we talked a while ago about how we just feel better about everything when we're together ... or really, when we're just in the same room together. We don't even have to be next to each or talking to each other ... we just like to know the other is close by. So to get her text that night was just a huge blessing. ... And a sign of God's grace in my life because I have a friend as dear and close to me as Emily.

GoG 14: The Calling

Gosh. Gettin' behind again. This every single day thing is hard!

Today's (or rather - Thursday's) glimpse of grace came in the form of frustration. .... I've been working with some really amazing kids on the Eastside of Indianapolis for almost a year and a half now. It is an awesome time every Wednesday and Thursday ... a time of eating with the kids, laughing with them, helping them with homework, playing games, talking, and learning more about how we can love Jesus - together. ... Well, a lot of the kids didn't have homework today, so after we ate, I was in charge of 5 kids. We were supposed to set up chairs for a group that comes to the church later in the week. Kids are crazy creatures ... they are loud, rambunctious, and well ... a little distracted. We started taking the chairs down, but before I knew it, half of the kids were running and sliding across the wood floor, others were playing the piano, writing the the chalkboard, and just runnin' around actin' crazy, as kids often do. After a while (and after several times of telling the kids to help set up the chairs), I was getting frustrated. When kids don't listen (even after 5, 6, 7 times of telling them to do something), it gets a little frustrating. .... Finally, I told them we had five minutes to put of the rest of the chairs and then we'd play a game ... they somewhat got it together and started helping. We finally finished setting up the chairs and started the game. And I sighed a sigh of relief and let out my frustration ... and we started playing a game (that was actually really fun!).

The grace in that situation is that ... in all my years of working with kids, I never get burned out to the point of quitting. And as I get older, I become more patient with my kids. No matter how crazy the day is or how rebellious/crazy/frustrating the kids get (which is not very often - but definitely from time to time), I never want to quit ... in fact, I also want to go back for more! :) ... And it is in these moments that I get my confirmation that I AM, INDEED, living out my calling. And that is God's grace in action - giving me a calling and ability/patience/joy/strength to do it everyday.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

GoG 13: The Changing Seasons

Alright. One more for the night. I am finally caught up after this one! :D .... Today, I met with Alex, my most faithful blog follower, surrender sister, and friend. We meet from time to time to have "Jesus Talks," as we like to call 'em. Alex is one of those cool Jesus people. She loves the Lord with all she is, and it really shows in everything she is and does. That's why we call 'em Jesus Talks ... because she always points us to Jesus. She's pretty great. She also likes to hike out by busy streets and run ahead so I can barely catch her ... but we'll save that story for another day. ;) Just teasin' ya, Alex! :D:D:D

Anyway ... today, we were just finishing up our walk through her neighborhood, standing in her driveway, when we, like I just said .... were standing. Yep ... just standing. We didn't stand in silence for too long, but it was great. Today was a beautiful day. It was warmer than it's been in several weeks ... the sun was shining, and there was a cool breeze. Alex said it felt a little like spring with the warmth of the sun and the birds chirping. As we stood there, enjoying the warm(er) weather, standing in silence, I breathed in the cool January air, listened to the birds chirping and the wind rustling the trees, and I looked up at the pure, blue sky. It was gorgeous for those few moments. And I turned to Alex and said, "This is our glimpse of grace for today."

And it was. We chatted for a minute about how not only the gorgeous day was His grace in action but how the changing seasons are His grace. We don't deserve variety. We don't deserve the fun each season brings, the beauty each brings. But God gives 'em anyway.

So the next time you think, "I hate winter. It's so cold out here." think about God's grace. :)

GoG 12: The Little Rosey-Cheeked, Brown-Eyed Girl

Last night, I went to see one of my girls play in her first basketball game of the season. She plays on the 7th grade Avon Orioles "B" Team at Avon Middle School North. I didn't know there was more than one game, so I got to Zionsville's gym a little before 5:30pm and shortly thereafter, realized that Caylee did not play until the second game. At around 6:45pm, Caylee and her team took the floor. .... Now, I like basketball. I like sports in general. But sitting in a gym where the only person I knew was Caylee, who wouldn't be down on the floor with her team for another 45 minutes, I was getting a little antsy.

Half-way through the "A" team's game, a mother and her three kids came and sat right in front of me. She had two sons who looked to be maybe 8 and 11 years old. And she had a daughter who looked like she was 5 or 6 years old. .... She was adorable. She had really red cheeks and the biggest brown eyes I've seen in a long while. She was pretty funny to watch. One minute she was drawing on the basketball roster that was handed out before the game, using her mom's back as a hard surface. The next minute she was laying on her back, lifting the roster and her pen, trying to draw a picture with these in the air. All the while, she was talking to herself. She ran up and down the bleachers, hung on her dad's arm, continued talking to herself. Just being cute like lots of 5-year-olds are.

I took her as my glimpse of grace for the day because I took joy in watching her be a 5-year-old. Once again, it was a simple joy that tugged at my heart. 4, 5, and 6 year-olds are hilarious and tons of fun (a handful as well but great!) because they are just starting to understand the world around them. It's just a funny stage of life because they are in discovery mode .... but also 'cause they are totally oblivious to self-esteem and boundaries and what to say/not to say, what to wear/not to wear ... all of the lame things we "older, wiser" people worry about. So they are just fun to watch. This little girl named Becca (she spelled it on a piece of paper ... B e c c Q. Nice, huh?) didn't care, or even notice, that she fell off the bleacher because she missed the seat entirely when she tried to sit down or that her hair was standing straight up, static-electrified after laying down on the bleacher for a few minutes. She was just having fun drawing and talking and jumping around on the bleachers.

And that's it. The innocence of a 5-year-old. ..... I used to be like Becca. Oblivious. And it was a good kind of oblivious. I didn't worry about any of the things I worry about now. I didn't care what people thought or fitting in. I just loved Jesus, and my confidence was in Him. .... What happened to those days? And how can I get 'em back? Thank you, Lord, for this tiny glimpse of grace.

GoG 11: The Chuck Spotting

On to Monday, the 11th. .... Monday night, I went to see Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakel with my CCF, Hannah. Yes, we love the chipmunks. They are cute. They sing. They dance. They are just fun. :) .... Well, I've been watching this TV series called "Chuck." Heard of it? Uncle Mike got me hooked on it. The summary of the story behind this TV show, if you haven't seen it, is this guy named Chuck somehow gets all of the government's secrets downloaded into his brain, so a couple of CIA agents are sent to protect him: Sarah Walker and John Casey. Each episode of the series is filled with various situations where Sarah and Casey protect Chuck from being discovered as "the intersect," the guy with the government secrets in his head. All the while, Sarah and Chuck fall in love, so each show reveals the dynamics of how they can't be together because she's the agent and he's the protected, ect. So ... if you like action and you like gushy love stuff ... you'd most likely like this series. .... Okay ... well, as much as I can fall in love with an actor, I love Chuck! He is adorable, charming, sensitive, courageous, looks out for the needs of others ... ya know, all the qualities a girl wants in a guy.

Alright. I'm sure you're wondering where that came from. After all, I started off this post talking about Alvin and the Chipmunks. So let's get back to 'em. Really, I brought that movie up because Chuck (yes, Zachary Levi - Chuck's real-life name) was the main guy in Alvin and the Chipmunks. .... You can ask Hannah Baker ... I started freaking out when I saw Chuck ... or Toby, as he was called in the chipmunks movie. Posing as a bum of a guy for most of the movie, he got his act together by the end ... and was still just as adorable and fun and charming as Chuck. What fun! ... And guess what? Hannah is now hooked on Chuck too! Nice .....

This Chuck spotting in The Squeakel is my glimpse of grace for the day because I got so much excitement out of seeing this silly Zachary Levi guy in this movie. Getting excited about actors and actresses, cartoons, video games, Colts' games, ect. is God's grace in action because He gives us joy in everyday things. It may sound like a stretch to say that, but really. God loves us enough to give us goofy things to get excited about. Obviously, we should be careful with how much time and energy we put into anything or anyone that is not Jesus Christ, but allowing us joy in the simple things is just one way that God shows us He cares about us. For me to almost come out of my seat with joy when I saw Chuck on the chipmunks movie was silly ... probably even ridiculous ... but it was so much fun! And I think God wants us to find joy in the simple things. Being serious all the time is no fun ... and it's also hard on the soul.

Proverbs 17:22
"A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."

GoG 10: The Trust Issue

Whew! Gotta catch up, or I never will! Hopefully, tonight will be the night for catching up ... 'cause last night certainly wasn't. Ha! Okay ... here goes.

Sunday. Sunday, January 10, 2010. What was my glimpse of grace? Let's see ...

I think all of you (faithful followers) know that I am the youth "pastor" (director/leader/whatever) at Calvary. Well, because I'm a woman, I have "issues" with some of my guys from time to time. There are just some things that I can't/shouldn't/don't know how to handle with the guys in my group at times. I would run into the same thing if I were a single guy concerning my girls, so it works either way. But it is really discouraging. I've been praying for months that God would bring someone (specifically, a guy who loves youth - ours at Calvary to be even more specific) to help me with SoZo. (Side note: Everyone asks me what SoZo means/is .... so in case you don't know, SoZo is the name of our youth group at Calvary Chapel. It is a greek word that means "to save.") .... But anyway ... still, no one has come to work alongside me, and it gets disheartening from time to time. I don't want to just pick someone at random or make an announcement behind the pulpit, ect. because youth ministry is hard work. It is NOT for the faint of heart. And I would rather work alone forever than have somebody in there with me who doesn't care about my kids. ..... Now that we have that tangent out of the way (he he he) ... I say all of that to say ... to work in youth ministry, you really need a man and a woman ... or several men and several women. You have a really hard time doing it alone ... and for the male-female dynamics of it all, you really need (and can't do without for too long!) both a man and a woman leading a group of teenage guys and girls.

Sunday night, I really needed that guy I've been praying for. If you ask Emily, she can tell you that I went off on a "I just need a guy/I'll just marry him so that he can help me with SoZo/That's the only reason I want to get married at this point" speal. .... But my glimpse of God's grace was later that evening after I felt stupid for my goofy rant. I realized (once again) that I cannot do this thing called youth ministry on my own. I'm not sure I ever thought I could in the first place, but what I mean is that I realized I can't do any of it without Jesus Christ. I am totally and completely dependent on Him. Without His help, provision, direction ... and without Him being at the center of everything SoZo is and does, SoZo will not be ... at least not the way He intended it to be. Not having a guy to work alongside in ministry caused me to re-evaluate my heart in ministry. Are you really depending on God, trusting Him for all that you need in this calling of yours, Mical? Are you focusing too much on your lack of a guy to help you that you aren't looking to Christ for provision and strength and direction, Mical?

These are important questions to ask. And even though I'm not completely at ease with the situation SoZo is in with no male adult leader, I am continuing to work at the whole trust issue ... trusting God No. Matter. What. Happens. And like I talked about a couple posts ago ... finding joy in whatever happens. :) It's a process like all things ... but little glimpses of grace like this one can really help along the way.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

GoG 9: The Grad Party

As many of you know, I am officially a college graduate. The diploma is in the mail! :) .... I had my graduation open house on Saturday night (January 9th, which is the second GoG day that I am behind with). My glimpse of grace for Saturday was, in one word, love.

It was 4:15pm, 15 minutes after my party had officially started. No one was there, and we were running late - still cutting fruit, taking the paper cups out of their plastic bag, pouring chips into bowls, setting food out for the (hopefully) guests. And I was bummed because no one was there. I thought, "This is gonna be a long party." At approximately 4:17pm, my dear friends, Sara-Ruth and Lauren, strolled into the kitchen at Calvary. They gave me big smiles, told me congratulations, and immediately got right to work helping me put the food out and get ready for the rest of the (hopefully) party guests.

Around 4:30pm, the guests started to arrive ... just a couple of families. My beloved Nilsens and Dorene and Jim from church ... the party was rather slow. But then, maybe 10 minutes later, Ben and Brittney and Matt and Hannah showed up. That's when the party started! I got a big side hug from Ben and a "Hannah hug," which is really a fist bump with an explosion. :D From that point on, the SoZo youth room at Calvary was boomin'! There was barely room to move until about a quarter till 7, and a handful of people stayed until well after 7 just chatting and helping clean up the mess from the party.

It was such a blessing to see so many people from my church family stop by ... to chat with people from Grace Fellowship, Calvary's sister church and my second church home! Seriously. I don't even go to Grace, and there were at least 5 families that stopped by to congratulate me, love on me, and talk with me. And many of those 5 families stayed for over an hour!

God's grace was certainly in action through all the love that bounced around the room that night. So many friends saying "congratulations," "don't worry about that test, you'll be great at whatever you do," "God's got some great plans in store for you, Mical," "I'm so proud of you" ... even "You're my hero." It was an amazing night! I'm not sure I've ever felt more loved and appreciated.

Monday, January 11, 2010

GoG 8: The One Thing

Whew! Gettin' a little behind, eh? Yes, indeed. Time to catch up!

So Friday, which was January 8th, I decided to read in my NLT Bible (New Living Translation) rather than reading in my NASB (New American Standard Bible). Because I'm trying to read through the whole Bible in my NASB, I decided to take a break from my encouragement study through the book of Acts and pick something at random. That's not usually my style. I like to find a book to read through or study, but Friday night, I wanted something different. It was the night before that dreaded Praxis exam, and I was looking through the pages for a little encouragement. And boy, did I find it!

If you can, go find an NLT Bible (or look up this specific version of the Bible on the internet), and read Philippians chapter 3. That's where I found myself on Friday night, and I was incredibly blessed by what I read! And a little convicted. I'll pull out the four parts of this chapter that stuck out to me and why they stuck out .... as well as why they are considered a glimpse of God's grace in action in my life.

Philippians 3:1 .....
Wow! The very first verse I read on Friday blew me away.
..... "Whatever happens, dear brothers and sisters, may the Lord give you joy."
I was reading this chapter out loud that night, and I stopped after this first sentence and pondered it for a moment. I started thinking out loud with this small thought ... "whatever happens." I was so encouraged because ... well ... the Praxis has been a pretty big trial in my life. It has been a huge disappointment, stopped me from fulfilling the greatest dream of my life, and has almost literally shouted at me, "You're stupid! I STILL have power over you!" Of course, that's not true. I know I'm not stupid. But this test has been hanging over my head for 4 long years. All I've ever wanted to do is be the best teacher in the whole world! That's it. (Not asking for much, huh?) ;) .... And the only thing that stands in my way of that dream is this lousy test. .... But this verse. Wow. It was a reminder that no matter what happens, I have joy ... because joy is forever. :) And it convicted me ... because I haven't been living in joy as a result of failing this test 8 times (still waiting to hear about the 9th). So .... in one verse, I was more encouraged and, perhaps, more convicted than I've been in a long time after reading God's word. Amazing.

Philippians 3:3 .....
"We put no confidence in human effort. Instead, we boast about what Christ Jesus has done for us."
If I put on this attitude, I can be rid of the power that the Praxis has had over me because I have no confidence in it. It is of human effort. .... It's funny. My aunt Rose just posted on my facebook status (the one that I posted concerning the Praxis recently) that I have gifts and talents that make me who I am; a "man-made test" does not decide that for me. Cool timing, huh? Indeed. :) .... It's so true. If I can refocus my efforts to be on Christ and what He has done for me and focus my attention on honoring Him with my life, then I will put no confidence in human desires, plans, tests, ect. Awesome.

Philippians 3:8 .....
"Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the priceless gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."
This is one of those "Christianease" verses. It's thrown at us a lot as "mature" Christians. And often, we read it, say "Alright. Good one, God" and move on. But if we really think about it, we can know that E V E R Y T H I N G in this life is W O R T H L E S S compared with knowing and loving Christ Jesus with our lives. Even a silly test. That doesn't mean I can't try. It just means that I don't have to consider this test "everything" to fulfilling my dreams. .... God is working to fulfill my dreams even now. They just may be completed (and perfected!) in ways I did not expect.

Philippians 3:13 .....
"I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead."
"Good one, God!" .... Oh, indeed!!!! ....... Although I am not completely and entirely the woman God wants me to be just yet ... and I have made mistakes in my past that have slowed that process of Christ-likeness, I can, right now, focus all of my time, energy, and attention on O N E T H I N G - forgetting my failures (real and unreal, literal and figurative), my "could-have-beens," my dreams and look forward to the adventure that is in front of me. I can because those failures, like I said, were both real and unreal. Many of them made up in my mind. Just because I didn't pass that Praxis doesn't mean I failed.

Ha! Did you get that?

Did YOU get that, MICAL?????????

Just because you didn't pass that Praxis doesn't mean you failed. ...... Failure is choosing to walk in your own way, choosing to give up on God's plan and will and purpose for your life. And you didn't do that. You persevered. You took that daggone test 9 times for crying out loud! You did anything but fail!!!! And that is the one thing - forgetting the "failed dreams" and moving on toward the "God dreams." They never fail.

And that! That, my friends, is my glimpse of grace for the day. I am not a failure.

Friday, January 8, 2010

GoG 7: The Gravy Fiasco

I missed yesterday's post, so here it is right now. :)

On Thursday, January 7, 2010, I decided to make biscuits and gravy. ... I'm sorry. Let me rephrase that. I decided to demolish me some biscuits and gravy! Wow, it was a fiasco! ... I am no Julia Child when it comes to cooking. I am no Julie either. I am no anything when it comes to cooking. Okay, I take that back. I can make a pretty mean grilled cheese sandwich. I'm also pretty good at making spaghetti and cheesy scrambled eggs. French toast. Pretty good at flippin' pancakes. And my sweet tea and rice crispy treats are famous among my friends and church family. ;) But ... after hearing my story, none of these "pretty good"/"pretty mean"/"famous" Mical cooking creations will mean anything. Ha! Nothing at all.

After sleeping in pretty late yesterday, I woke up, puttered around, and then thought to myself, "Biscuits and gravy sound good." Grands biscuits are my favorite, and we've got a big bag of 'em in our freezer. I had never made gravy before but thought "how hard can it be?" So I walked into my brother's room and hopped on the internet to find a gravy recipe ... all the while asking my brother if he wanted some. And of course he said "yes" because biscuits and gravy are awesome! ... Well, they are when Mical Masterson doesn't make 'em.

The recipe was as follows ...
8 buttermilk biscuits
3/4 pound of sausage
4-6 tablespoons of flour
4 cups of milk

And that's it.

Yep ... who could mess that up, right? Well, let me tell you. The directions said to brown some sausage (the fatty kind supposedly works best). We only had sausage patties - 4 to be exact. So I put 'em in the pan, browned 'em, and cut 'em up into little pieces. Then I proceeded to follow the directions for mixing in the flour. So I started stirring in the flour one tablespoon at a time ... making sure it turned brown before I added more so that my gravy would not taste like flour ... so said the recipe. This took a while. After the flour was all mixed in, the directions said to pour in the milk and whisk it till I had the consistency I liked best. So I dumped in the milk.

Are you seeing anything wrong with these steps? I sure didn't. I was actually fairly proud that I got that far on my own.

So after I dumped in the milk ... all of it ... all 4 cups ... the sausage, flour, and milk clumped together to make the slimiest, chunkiest, wateriest gravy ever made. I stirred and stirred. And then I started to lose heart. "Why is it like this?" I said out loud. After a while, I gave up. "This is pathetic," I thought. And I started to pour it down the garbage disposal. As I heard the disposal choking down that nasty, chunky, watery goo, I started laughing out loud. I stopped, turned off the garbage disposal, walked to the bottom of the stairs, and hollered for my brother.

"Wes, I was gonna try to hide this so that my ego might stay intact, but you gotta come see this."

So my brother stumbled downstairs, and he walked into the kitchen, looked into the pan, and said something like, "What is that?" .... Wes is quite the chef ... or he's slowly becoming one, as he likes to say. And so he immediately put his hands to work, stirring and stirring, adding even more milk ... asking me what the heck I had done ... and so forth. Eventually, he gave up too.

Later that day when my mom came home, I decided to tell her about our little gravy excursion in the kitchen. As we talked about the ingredients and how I made the goop, my brother pulled the recipe out of the trash can, and the next thing I heard was ... "4-6 tablespoons." And then he started laughing. .... A "little" tid bit I failed to mentioned ... wondering if y'all would pick up on how my stirring in the flour "took awhile" ... is that I stirred in 4 CUPS of flour not 4 tablespoons! Yep. I didn't see "tbsps" at all on that silly recipe sheet until my brother pointed it out to me after the fact. So not only did I not use fatty sausage (my mom told me that fat of some kind ... whether it be from the sausage itself, butter, or another fat ... is needed to make gravy), but I also put in waaaayyyy too much flour. And the pathetic thing is that I didn't even know it!

I was put out initially ... but within seconds, I just started laughing! And then my brother and my mom joined in. 4 CUPS of flour? Are you kidding me? Oh, it was hilarious! .... Needless to say, I'm not too bright when it comes to cooking. .... I was also put out 'cause I was embarrassed .... humbled, you might say. ;) Just another glimpse of God's grace in action ... keepin' me humble day after day. :D

Again ... "God gives grace to the humble." (James 4:7)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

GoG 6: The Greater Grace

Humility, although it is difficult, is a great picture of God's grace in our lives. I'm not talking about living a life of humility and putting others first. I'm talking about being humbled ... being humiliated or shown that you have made a mistake. I think being humbled is even more difficult than being a humble person, and being humble is mighty difficult!

Today, two things happened that brought me to my humbled knees. The first one was tiny, nearly insignificant, and really about my ego being hurt, which is a form of humility (the being humbled kind). I was helping Diazaun with his math homework at after school, and we were working on subtracting 2-digit numbers. The problem was something like 40 minus 15, and instead of adding a 1 next to the zero to make it 10 minus 5 and then marking out the 4 and making it a 3 - 3 minus 1, I tried to make the zero into a 9 and go from there. The humbling part is that I not only did NOT catch this huge error, but I was determined that it was the correct way of doing the math problem. Diazaun gave a me weird look ... so I looked to another adult. Remember, this is math homework for a 9-year-old. Ha! She gently tried to explain to me why I was wrong. She explained it a few times, and I still wasn't fully understanding. Eventually, I did a couple of made-up problems on my own and realized I was just "spacing out." (What?) Haha! It was hilarious, really. Thankfully, Ms. Sandy was gracious about it. She didn't make fun of me and say "Wow, you can't do 4th grade math? What the dilio!?" She just patiently tried to show me what was going wrong in my train of thought. But evenso, I was a bit embarrassed to say the least. And let's not mention the incident 10 minutes later where I couldn't spell the word "shepherd" for the life of me! ... Oh wait! I did mention it! ;)

The other humbling experience was more a bit more serious. I actually started thinking about it yesterday, but I've been thinking about it further today and being more convicted as well. ... I have a friend who has been really patient with me. I've been incredibly wishy-washy with him, and he has been entirely patient and gracious. We've had lots of confusion in our friendship and lots of missed signals and lots of me being a real jerk if you get right down to it. Yesterday, I started thinking about how ridiculous I've been. I'll spare the details for the sake of doing something right by him (for once), but it's just been a really messed up situation. I've handled things badly, for the most part, and God started really convicting me of it all last night. Much of what was confusing and messed up we got all out on the table and talked about it, but lately, I have been harboring wrong thoughts towards him and not doing right by him in specific ways that he doesn't even know about. And today, I've been convicted for doing some of these things again. .......... All of this to say, God is breaking me down in this area. He is helping me realize that I am doing wrong by this friend even more than I thought and that I must repent ... and talk to this friend about it all. In other words, God is humbling me.

Again, humility is a very difficult thing for us depraved beings. It's never easy ... at least in my opinion. And being humbled is even worse. It is so important but always hard to face. But at the same time, it is a gift from God. A gift wrapped in His grace. He humbles us so that we can realize our need for Him. He loves us so much that He wants us to be at peace with others ... at peace with ourselves ... and at peace with Him. And that is why is humbles us in the ways that we need it. James 4:6 says, "He gives us a greater grace. Therefore it says, 'God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'"

I don't think God just gives grace to the people who live humbly before Him and live humbly concerning others. I think He also gives us grace in our moments of humilation and in the moments in which we find out we have been wrong or have wronged someone. Remember, grace is giving what we don't deserve. In our moments of weakness, God gives us help from on high, which is His mighty grace in action. :) He gives us greater grace, even greater than our weakness. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for that!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Lonely Heart

From time to time, my friend, Ben, asks me if I'm lonely. I remember the first time he asked me that. I chuckled a bit thinking "what a question to ask." Ben's really good at probing. He's real, and he wants to know what is really on a person's heart ... none of that masked stuff. :) It's one of my top 10 favorite things about him. .... I answered "no" the first time he asked. And most of the time, I continue to answer "no." But if he were to ask me today, I would say "yes."

"Yes, Ben." I would say. "I am lonely."

I'm in a crazy season of life. Yes, we all go through it. Yes, I have friends who are going through it with me. Yes, I will endure it and come out stronger because of it. But right now, living in it, it's not the funnest time of my life. It's good for me ... no doubt about it. I still have joy in this time - thank you, Lord. I am somewhat excited about the new bends in the road that the Lord is and will continue to bring. But it's kind of rough some days.

Friends are getting engaged, getting married, having babies, moving away ... and others are just headed down paths totally separate from mine. We're all growing up ... going our separate ways. .... There is just so much change happening all at once! ....................................................................................................................................................... Ha! I don't really know where to go from here.

All I hear is ... "Lonely heart, look to God."

GoG 5: The Life Blood

I love southern gospel music. I know that probably sounds cheesy to most of you ... my friends laugh at me too. ;) But it's just amazing stuff! You can't beat 4-part male harmony ... you just can't! :) ... Ernie Haase and Signature Sound are a great gospel group that I started listening to a year or two ago, and they sing a song called "Oh, What a Savior." Today, I was driving and listening to this song. There is a line in the song that is mighty powerful, and it says ... "He gave His life's blood for even me."

He gave His life's blood for even me.

Did you read that a second time? That's a really good line if you think about it. It's a good line if you don't think about it. Ha! A line. "A line" sounds like a cheap saying from some ego-strickened guy trying to pick up a girl. "He gave His life's blood for even me" is not a line. It is a saving declaration.

I love that phrase "life's blood." It really gets across the depth of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. His life's blood ... the very substance that kept Him alive was taken ... was GIVEN. Jesus GAVE His life's blood ... He gave His very life ... for me ... for tiny, insignificant, sinful me ... even me.

Usually, when I listen to that song, I get caught up in the beautiful harmonies. Yes, I think the words are great, but I often focus more on the talent of the artists than I do on the saving declaration they are proclaiming. Jesus gave His very life for me! That is big! That is huge!!! His life is our salvation!

And our salvation is something that we do not deserve ... it is something we can never deserve. And yet He gave His life's blood for even us - depraved sinners. And that, my friends, is the ultimate example of grace in action.

Ephesians 1:7-8a
In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished on us.

Monday, January 4, 2010

GoG 4: The Phone Call

I'm not really at liberty to say why Hannah's call is God's grace in action for me today ... but it nearly literally felt like a breath of fresh air to hear her say "Is this Mical? Hey, this is Hannah Kay" on the other end of the phone. Hannah is a new friend of mine, and really, it's hard to call her a friend ... not because she's not amazing ... she is! It's just hard 'cause we've only met twice, and neither time was real conducive (I hope that's the right word) for getting to know each other.

All I really know about her is that ...
She is marrying my good friend, James Nilsen.
She is transferring from Ball State to IUPUI.
She just moved to Indianapolis.
She works at a Red Robin somewhere.
She and Emily have a lot in common.
And ...
She is gorgeous, incredibly sweet, cute, and tons of fun!

Her call today was so ... I didn't think timely was the right word, but ... yes. Timely.
I have some "issues" that are nearing their end ... but there are threads of "ache" still attached to my heart, and they are in their final stages. Just some tiny details of a past hurt that need surrendering. And they've actually been weighing on me a bit the past couple of weeks. But Hannah's call. Yep. It was so timely and full of God's grace. :) .... Surrender is such a process. Surrender as a process has been the greatest lesson of my life over the past 3 years. Thankfully, God is beyond faithful. :) And by God's grace, He is bringing little things, like Hannah's phone call, along to help me surrender everything to Him - totally and completely.

Verse for the day ...
Psalm 55:22 - Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

GoG 3: The Pearl

"The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it."
Matthew 13:45-46

Today's sermon was God's grace in action for me. Pastor Roger spoke about "being all in" last week, and this week he expanded on this message by reminding us that in being all in, we should consider God to be that pearl of great value just as He considers us His pearl of great value.

God's grace, in this circumstance, is the fact that God sent Jesus to die. Jesus went and sold all He had and bought us by dying on the cross for our sins. We are His pearl of great value. I am God's pearl. Man, that is exciting!

But part of God's grace in this story is my response. Now that I know the sacrifice Jesus made so that I could be His, how am I going to respond to that sacrifice? And that's where being all in comes into the picture. Everday, I must put away my selfish ambitions and say "yes!" to the heart and mind and life that God not only has for me but wants me to live for His glory.

God's grace is that He not only gave up everything for me, but He also loves me so much that He won't allow me to stay the way I am.

So what will our response be?

GoG 2: The Best Medicine

Laughter is one of the greatest things in the world. Next to my salvation, God's grace and faithfulness, and the amazing relationships in my life, laughter is the greatest gift I believe there to be in the whole world! I also have quite the knack for it. It doesn't take much to get me laughin' so hard I can't stop. :D It's just a ton of fun to laugh!

Today, I got a glimpse of God's grace through laughter. My mom and dad and my brother and me were sitting in Chic-fil-e eating lunch, and after we all finished, we sat for a few minutes. All of a sudden, my dad said "So ... in an emergency, where should you go?" And we all busted out laughing with groans and "oh no, not again's" on our lips. He just looked over at us and smiled really big. ... You had to be there to really know why that's funny .... it was pretty great. We all laughed pretty hard about it.

If you know my dad, he's pretty cautious ... likes to have a plan for everything ... and really wants to make sure his family is safe - ya know, dad stuff. But he's also repetitive and sometimes a bit obnoxious with it all. But our minor annoyance almost always turns to humor because my dad is just such a character. Gotta love him! .... Well, more than once in the past year he has brought up the issue of where to go in an emergency that rips our house apart. Unlikely, yes. But not improbable. But dad bringing it up multiple times and in such a serious way ... it makes us, as a family, laugh and sometimes, roll our eyes at him.

For him to ask it at the moment he did was priceless. Out of the blue. In a fisicious manner. Ha! It just got all of us laughing ... which eventually, led to more and more laughing. :)

Proverbs 17:22
A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

See, it's true! Being happy, excited, laughing out loud is so good for us! And God allows us to laugh ... He not only allows us but enables us to laugh ... He even wants us to laugh! :) He considers it medicine to heal our depressed and weary and growing faint spirits. Man. God is the coolest! :) Again, this is His grace in action. He loves us so much that He not only enables us to experience laughter, but He prescribes it for our everyday lives even though we never deserve the joy that laughter brings. ..... Good stuff.

Have you laughed today? :D

Friday, January 1, 2010

GoG 1: The "all in" 2010

Alright. So we have officially started our journey! Today is January 1, 2010! Wow ... I just wrote 2009 and had to backspace. Ha! Erasing that '09' and replacing it with '10' has begun! ;) And our journey through God's grace has begun as well. I say 'we' 'cause you're gonna come with me! If you read my blog, you are (hopefully) experiencing God's grace as well in every blog post. So let's get started!

Today, I had a simple thought that helped me get a glimpse of God's grace in my life. Most of the glimpses this year will be simple, I'm sure ... because I'm a simple person. :) It's the simple things that make me the most excited much of the time. .... Today, I was brushing my teeth, getting ready for a cold day of football with some good friends ... and I stopped brushing in the middle of this thought ...

I was thinking about last night. I met with some close friends for a New Year's Eve get-together. We played games, ate some good food, and laughed a lot together. It was a good time. While I was there, though, I got to thinking about how my friendships with these friends have grown a little distant lately. They are, without a doubt, some of my best friends, but we haven't spent much time together lately ... or really talked much either. We've all just been so busy! So we haven't had (or made) the time to nurture our friendships recently. And that's where the thought started. While I was brushing my teeth, my mind connected this thought with my relationship with Jesus. ..... When I don't spend time with Him, our relationship becomes a bit distant. Just like my best friends and I haven't been staying in touch as well and have grown a little distant, so has my relationship with Jesus become distant because I haven't been really communing with Him for several months.

It's so true. Relationship is about togetherness. It's about that word communion that I threw at y'all in an earlier post ... it's about "an interchange of thoughts, about giving and receiving" ... things you can't do if you don't spend time with one another.

On Sunday, my pastor continued our study of the book of John, and toward the end of his sermon, he said three little words that I want to dedicate my life to this 2010.

I'm all in.

Yep ... this year, I want to wake up each day with "I'm all in" on my lips. I want to say "Lord, I'm yours. Use me. Mold me. Break me if need be. Just do your work in my life today. I want to be all for you." And part of that ... if not nearly all of it ... is communing with God. I can't be "all in" if I don't spend time with God. So that be the goal. :) That be the grace God showed me today. God wants to be in relationship with me. He's been calling. He's been waiting. Which is grace in action. Grace is getting what we don't deserve. I don't deserve a God who wants to be in relationship with me so badly that He'll wait forever for me to come around if He needs to. He patiently waits at the door of my heart, gently knocking, saying "If you'd only let me in, you could have a life more abundant than you could ever imagine."

God's grace. Thank you, Jesus.
So today and everyday, Lord ... I'm all in.

John 10:10
... "Jesus came that we may have life and have it abundantly."