Thursday, May 17, 2012

I'll Follow

"You lead, I'll follow, Your hands hold my tomorrow,
Your grip, Your grace, You know the way,
You guide me tenderly,
When you lead, I'll follow,
Just light the way and I'll go,
Cause I know what you got for me is more than I can see,
So lead me on, on, on and on,
Just lead me on, on, on and on."



For some reason, every time I hear these words, I get all choked up.  They are the chorus to one of my all-time favorite songs ... "You Lead" by Jamie Grace.  Seriously.  What is the deal?  Pretty much every single time I hear this song ... as soon as the chorus comes on, I can't sing it 'cause I'm too busy almost crying. ... These words are just so powerful to me.  They are such a precious promise to me and for me ... and you too.  When we give up control of our lives and our future and our everyday circumstances and let God do the leading, He holds us steady.  His grace is more than enough to get us through anything.  He KNOWS the way ... He MADE the way, for crying out loud!  So He WILL guide us in that way.  Isn't that incredible to think about??? :)  So when we follow wholeheartedly ... when we accept and trust that God knows what He's got in store for us and believe that it is sooooo much better than anything we could ever come up with, then He holds us tight and leads us where we should go.  Everyday.  In every situation.


That is powerful stuff, people!  What an incredible promise from the God of the Universe, who cares about each and every one of us enough to have a plan for us and then guide us through that plan!  He doesn't just create us and then leave us.  He is ALIVE and ACTIVE in our lives!  All we have to do is have a relationship with Him and allow Him to LEAD us in the way we should go. ... So cool.  It is a promise.  And it is my prayer for my life ...


God, when you lead, I'll follow.
I'll follow.
I'LL FOLLOW!
So lead me on and on, on and on.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

CHOSEN

1 Peter 2:9-10
"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but no you have received mercy."

God chose me, has given me an eternal inheritance, set me apart for His own purposes, and adopted me as His child SO THAT I can proclaim His excellencies, SO THAT I can live for HIS GLORY.  And as a bonus, He has poured His mercy all over my life.  How incredible!  Today, that word “CHOSEN” is MY word.  That word CHOSEN is for me!  God CHOSE me!  He picked me out at the foundation of the world … to love Him, honor Him, serve Him … be all for Him.  That is so beyond any gift I could ever imagine, beyond any gift I could ever be given.  Thank you, Jesus!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Resolution

I think the best thing I can do – today – to help me really glean all I can from this season of life is to commit the end of every single day to going deeper in the Lord. I MUST make the time at the end of EVERY day … even when I’m tired, even when I’ve been out dancing or out with Darrell or with SoZo … no matter what I’ve done with my evening … I MUST keep my time with the Lord sacred. If I can be faithful in that one thing, my entire life will continue to be transformed. As I press into Jesus more, my perspective will be completely changed and molded into what He wants it to be … just like my So Long, Insecurity devotional talked about - Hebrews 12:1-2 … God perfects our way of thinking as we fix our eyes on Jesus more and more over time. … Yeah! That’s what I want! I want my mind to be renewed, perfected, and honoring to Jesus. So I MUST stay plugged into the Source, reading my Bible, talking to God, digging deeper every single day. I will continue to do this everyday.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Demon in the Gloves

We have an unusual, frustrating, comical, and yet very real problem at The Porch: there is a demon who lives in the right hand of every dishwashing glove my mom has ever bought. Yep, you heard me right ... a demon.

We do a lot of dishes at The Porch ... I mean A LOT of dishes. When you own a restaurant, you're gonna have to do dishes ... it's just part of the job - a big part. Well, you gotta have gloves for all those dishes so that your hands don't get pruney, old-looking, dry, and hard as time goes by. My mom, being the wonderfully compassionate and gifted boss that she is, always makes sure that we have dishwashing gloves in stock. And somehow, even in the midst of a demon, she never gives up buying her employees gloves. And if you only knew how many pairs of gloves we've really gone through 'cause I know they're not all in this picture. Without fail, the right-handed glove of every pair my mom has ever bought has gotten a hole in it from something ... a glass gets broken in the sink, a fork or a knife is hiding under the soap suds ... heck! Just yesterday, a piece of plastic sliced through my right-handed glove. The possibilities are endless! Sheesh. But to no end, it's always the right-handed glove that gets a hole in it! I don't think we've ever thrown away a left-handed glove before.

And tell me ... what is more annoying than going to wash the dishes by hand just to find that your hand is getting wet, smelly, and itchy inside that daggone right-handed glove (that you just bought, by the way!)?? As if doing the dishes wasn't trying enough, right? Hahahaha! That's why I'm convinced it's a demon! Only demons are THAT persistent and THAT stinkin' annoying! ...... So if you have a demon in your LEFT-handed dishwashing gloves, never fear! We have the answer for you at The Porch ... 2411 E. Main Street in Danville! Perhaps if we stand together, we can defeat the demon in the gloves!!!! Don't lose heart! The dishes must be done!

Snuffer

So awhile ago, I was reading through Exodus, and I stumbled across a super fun word. Like all the books of the Bible, Exodus is a pretty cool book ... but somewhere in the middle, and for several chapters afterward, it gets a bit dry. It talks about the tabernacle and how tall and wide and such it was supposed to be ... about the high priests and what color their robes should be and what fabric they should be made out of ... and on and on. Not sure why God wanted that in there, but I'm sure He has His reasons. ... Well, anyways ... I was reading through Exodus, and honestly? Was bored out of my mind ... and then I stumbled across the word "snuffer." Yes, I am not joking! SNUFFER! Isn't that an awesome word?? ... Well, I didn't have a clue what it was. I tried reading the same verse in the New Living Translation to see if another word was used, a word I actually knew. Nope. There it was again ... snuffer. Later that week, I told my mom about the word, snuffer, and she asked, "Well, don't you know what that is?" And I said no. So she walks into the next room (we were at The Porch at the time), grabs something off the shelf, and brings it in to show me. It was a SNUFFER!!! Come to find out ... snuffers are tools used to put out candles (shown in the picture above). You cover the lit candle wick with the bell-looking end of this little do-dad, and it puts out the fire. Cool, huh? Ha! Well, of course, I laughed out loud to find out what a snuffer actually is ... and I laughed even harder that my mom not only had one handy, but she sells 'em at The Porch! ... So if you're looking for a snuffer (and you know you are!!! Who wouldn't be looking for a snuffer? Seriously!), we have not one, but TWO, in stock at The Porch! Just sayin' ...

Exodus 25:38 - "Its snuffers and their trays shall be of pure gold."


I can be content through Christ who strengthens me!

Wow. God is bringing lots of ideas about Himself to my mind tonight. I guess that's what ya get when you try to read THREE separate books AND your Bible for your devotions all in one night! Whew! My brain is about to shut off from fullness! But before it shuts off ... one more thought comes to mind.

Just about everyone has heard Philippians 4:13 ... "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!" But how many people think about the context? I haven't thought much about it either. But I wanted to get one encouraging thought out while I'm thinking about it. ... So often, when I've heard Philippians 4:13, people go on and on about how they can do ANYTHING with God's strength. I don't disagree with this idea, but I think it's important that we think about the context of this verse. I've seen this verse plastered on billboards ... a picture of a body builder who believes he can lift some ridiculous amount of weight because "he can do ALL things through Christ who gives him strength." And sure, God could give him the strength to do that. I doubt it. But He could. But the context. Let's think about that for a moment ...

The verses surrounding Philippians 4:13 are all about God providing for Paul's needs. And verses 11 and 12 are about Paul grasping contentment, learning to be content, stinkin' BEING content NO MATTER what his circumstances ... and his circumstances were pretty crummy. So even though God could totally help a really strong guy be even stronger and lift a really heavy weight, that's not the point here. The point is that God can give us the strength to be content (and that's a pretty huge thing 'cause contentment is often hard to come by in this crazy, unstable life). With God's strength (His Holy Spirit's POWER living and working inside of us!), we can be content whether we're excited about our season of life or not.

And I don't know about you, but when I think of God's strength enabling me to be content in every situation, I get excited! 'Cause contentment is a terror at times! ... So please, keep believing you can do ANYTHING with God's strength at work in you ... 'cause He's just that powerful. But don't forget to be realistic ... to seek God out for the right kind of strength for your circumstances.

Okay ... that's all for now. This full brain is going to bed. Good night, y'all! :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

FOTS: Peace

On to the next Fruit of the Spirit post! It's only been several weeks since my last FOTS, so let's go! ;)

I'm so excited to hash out a few ideas about peace. What a precious gift. ... If you've struggled with worry, turmoil, or fear recently, you know how precious peace is. A definition of peace (or serenity) is this ... "calmness of mind; evenness of temper; undisturbed state; coolness." Calm. Undisturbed. Don't you like the sound of that? ... Now, I'm a Spunky, Spazzy Sanguine, so "calm" is not really in my reality most of the time ... if ever. Worry? Now, that's more me. I know ... worry = bad ... peace = good. I'm working on it.

I've been struggling a lot with fear over the past several weeks. It's hard to tell you what the fear is all about. Several things feed into it, I think. I'll just say that it's been overwhelming me, even emotionally crippling me, in some ways. It's been quite the battle. A battle for my heart and future. ... But I'm finally beginning to win. Perspective really is everything. Listening to the Holy Spirit is everything. In fact, here's a great solution for you ...

Perspective + the Holy Spirit = Peace

Isn't that great? Wow! You didn't know you were gonna get the answers to REAL and FULFILLED life in Christ just by reading a blog post, huh? Haha! Well, good job, God! Thanks! .......... Huh. Wow, that's kind of fun. I knew I was excited about digging deeper about peace tonight. :) ... Anyways ... what a solution! As we listen to and apply what God is teaching us, the Holy Spirit transforms our perspective. And as we begin to see things the way God sees them, we find peace. God's perspective of life is undisturbed and untainted, and it can be unleashed in our lives if we'll just grab hold of it. And ultimately, the only way to grab hold of peace is to seek hard after Jesus. One way I have been doing that is by being sensitive to the Holy Spirit's moving in my life. I've been feeling His presence and hearing Him speak to my heart more in the past 6 months than probably in all of the rest of my life put together. I wish it were easier to describe how. I guess, really, He's speaking through God's Word, through music, and through gentle nudges. I'm trying to be specific here. :) The Holy Spirit is the part of God that makes the Word come alive in us! It is only through the Holy Spirit's work in our lives that we can experience, know, and receive what God wants for us. The Holy Spirit can make song lyrics, and even the music, itself, speak volumes into our hearts and minds, slowly changing our perspective. And the Holy Spirit moves us to action through gentle nudges ... maybe you know those moments as "God tugging on your heart."

Wow ... I'm kind of getting off the subject here. I guess I'm just trying to say that I am growing in peace these days. After quite a while of fearing, I'm beginning to embrace God's peace. The more I learn to listen to the Holy Spirit and trust what God is doing in my life, the more I experience peace. ... Let me leave you with a few great verses about God's precious peace ...

Isaiah 26:3 - "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You."
Hey, look! There's that word "trust" again. When do we receive peace? When we TRUST GOD!

John 16:33 - "I have said these things to you so that in Me you may have peace. In this world, you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
That's Jesus talking ... just in case you were wondering. :D

Philippians 4:7 - "And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Surpasses all understanding ... oh, yeah! :)

Perspective + the Holy Spirit = Peace
Take that, fear!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Just some thoughts about Trust, God's Will, and the Holy Spirit ...

What do you think about when you hear the word "trust" ???
For me, I think of dread. I've been finding out more and more over the past few years that I really struggle with trust. Trusting God. Trusting people. Trusting myself. ... I hate to say it, but I really hate not being in control. I know that every human being on the planet struggles with this to some degree. I guess it's our sinful nature. Sin is so much in opposition to God that it won't let up without a fight ... a HUGE one! And all-out WAR, for crying out loud! ... But I do think some people struggle with trust more than others, and sadly, I'm one of those "some."

Do you ever find yourself praying for change? I've been in a fairly consistent battle with myself about my life. I enjoy what I'm doing and experiencing ... I love dance, my teenagers, and working in such flexible jobs. I love my church and living at home. I love being free to do whatever I want when I want. I love growing in the Lord. All of these things are happening in my life now. But there's still a part of me (that's bigger some days than others) that wants out, wants something new, wants change. I am fairly content ... yet restless at the same time. I am determined to be faithful where I am, with what I'm doing, until God moves me. But I have been praying for God's will to HAPPEN. I've been praying that I would be faithful but that God would bring something new ... a new adventure.

Lately, I've been feeling like that something new is coming - and soon! And isn't it ridiculous? Now that I think it's coming, I'm scared out of my mind! I don't know what the "something" is, mind you. But just the thought of any kind of change scares me. Isn't that dumb? I pray for something, and then when I get it, I freak out? Are you kidding me? ... But it all goes back to that trust thing.

I was sitting in my church's office last night crying, talking to God. I was distraught over the thought that I don't trust Him. My heart was breaking over the matter. As if being God of the Universe wasn't enough ... God reaches down into my life every single day and loves me, teaches me, gives me joy and hope and purpose and strength. God, the biggest, most mighty, most powerful Being in existence takes the time to be in a personal relationship with me. ME. God is eternally faithful to me. And yet, I still do not trust Him. So I was crying out to God last night, telling Him how sorry I am for not trusting Him and asking Him for strength to trust Him, really trust Him, with my entire life.

And then I listened to a sermon by John MacArthur today. So powerful. And I'm just so thankful that God, in all of His faithfulness once again, brings His Truth and Hope (and the real Answer to my lack of faith) to my attention right when I need it. All weekend He's been doing that ... things like, calling my best friend at 1:30am on Sunday morning, having some of the most cherished woman in my life come pray with me, speaking to me through worship and Pastor's sermon on Sunday, having an incredible afternoon with my teenagers and the Calvary kids, sitting in a church office crying, a friend being up for a walk in the park one of these days, a John MacArthur sermon. All of these things are God's faithfulness and care in my life in just one weekend. ... And MacArthur's sermon is just such a great reminder to me ...

I'm sure many Christians wrestle with God's will ... I know I do. And my trust issue makes me want to have "all my ducks in a row" before I do anything, before I step out into something new ... often, no matter how big or small. And MacArthur's sermon really hit me hard. All 5 "S's" that he shared were right on, but the second, being Spirit-filled, was the ONE. And so cool ... because God's been working on me about this for a few weeks now ... through having me dwell on the Fruit of the Spirit and sending me little tuggings of the Holy Spirit in my personal life and even blurbs from books about the Holy Spirit's work in our everyday lives. There He goes again, being faithful to me! ... You see, we must be filled with the Holy Spirit; we must be conscious of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives and follow His leading in order to get rid of our fear, anxiety, anger, bitterness, jealousy ... anything we are struggling with. My trust issue is rooted in fear ... fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of change. Bluck. But if I want to get rid of this fear, I MUST be Spirit-filled. I must be walking closely with the Lord every single day. I must be getting into the Word as much as possible. If I want to build up my trust level, I must be connected to the Holy Spirit at work in my life.

Do you ever forget that? I sure hope I'm not the only one! I just have to keep trying. And I need to do what I also read recently, to "do things afraid." I may be afraid of something, but I need to go for it anyway. Do it afraid. And God will be with me. ... I hope this is encouraging for somebody out there in blogger world. It's just something I'm struggling with and learning ... and planning to overcome! :)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dear Emily #4

Dear Emily,

I
MISS
YOU
!!!

I got home from Bible study tonight feeling pretty good ... more optimistic than the rest of my week so far. And then I watched a really ridiculous video you posted, and it made me ache a little. And then I saw that you were online, so I said hi. But I don't think you were really online. So then I thought "my Dear Emily posts!" So here I am. :):):)

How are you???
I was really behind with your 366 photos blog, so I glanced through your maaarvelous pictures. The two stories I want to hear ... about the cute piece of pottery? And ... what was the other one? Oh, the keys! You locked yourself AND your client out of HER house, huh? Sounds like a hoot! You must share these stories sometime. :)

I noticed that you're still restless. Me too. What's a girl to do but keep trusting God with it all? I wish that wasn't so hard!!! It's just been a rough week from that standpoint. It doesn't help that business has been super slow at The Porch. For some reason, when business is slow at work, I always start thinking about how my life isn't what I thought, how I want something new, "oh, woe is me." That whole downward-spiraly deal. But then, of course, God brings me back to reality. It's taking a little longer this week ... but I'm getting there. Bible study with the Cooks and the Adamsons tonight helped a bit. :) We love those guys. :D ... But God brings me back and reminds me how good I've got it - I love my teenagers; I love dance (and my dance instructor!) :D; I'm in a really good season right now. I'm bound to have restless days (or weeks) ... but I'm gonna come out (more than) okay. I hope God brings you back to those realizations too, in your restless season.

Well, I'm just missing you a lot tonight. I hope you're having a great week! I'm off to do some Zumba!!! :D

Love you tons,
Mical :)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

SoZo: Show Jesus

Hey, SoZo! Since we're not meeting tonight, I thought I'd post some more Jesus thoughts for y'all.

For this SoZo devo, you need to watch the video at this URL ... http://youtu.be/x4p9CdXCPWE ... yep, you guessed it! It's another short lesson over a Jamie Grace song! :) My favorite song on her album - "Show Jesus."

Not only does this song have a great beat, but it's got a great message too. Don't you wanna be around people who love Jesus??? I love being around people who are so full of God's joy that you can see it "all over their face." And I wanna BE a person who exudes Jesus in that way!!!

Matthew 5:14-16 says, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. in the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven."
We need to SHOW JESUS wherever we go so that other people will come to know Jesus through us. Once the Holy Spirit lives inside us, He is our LIGHT. He is the Light of God that shines through our lives. We don't want to hide that light ... we want to let it shine BRIGHT - in plain sight - right on our faces, even! So that everyone who sees us, talks to us, hears about us will know that we belong to Jesus. We need to constantly set our mind to doing "good works," as the verse says. God wants us to love and serve Him by loving and serving others. Those good works have the potential to lead others to Christ, so that's go crazy loving and serving those around us!

And before you go, take a look at these two passages from Ephesians ... they are all about showing Jesus in the way we live our lives ...
Ephesians 4:1-3 - "I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
Ephesians 5:15-17 - "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is."

And what is God's will for us?
To SHOW JESUS!

Love you guys! Have a great week, and I'll see you on Thursday for Zumba and Bible Study! :D

Thursday, February 2, 2012

FOTS: Joy

The second fruit of the Spirit is joy.
Ah, joy. Such a blessing from the Lord. A dictionary definition for joy is "the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation." This definition is great on the one hand and not so great on the other.

The definition says that joy is a great delight based on something "exceptionally good." Too true. As Christians, our joy comes from our eternal hope in Christ Jesus ... indeed, that is "exceptionally good." :) On the flip side, though, there is a huge difference between joy and happiness. Joy is something that can last forever if we keep the right perspective; whereas, happiness is based on our circumstances alone. If we can keep our mind and eyes and heart fixed on the promise we have in Christ, that we are co-heirs with Him of the Kingdom of God, that we will live forever if we put our trust in Him, that we have purpose if we live for Him, then we can live in joy, year after year, day by day, moment by moment - no matter what is going on around us. But if we focus on our circumstances, then we'll only be "happy" when are circumstances are "exceptionally good." And how many of us know that our circumstances are not always "exceptionally good?" ... Exactly. I think we all know that! Sheesh ... this earthly existence is crazy!

So to live in joy, I must simply keep my focus on Jesus. Not always a simple thing to do ... but simple in and of itself.

Colossians 3:2 is one of my all-time favorite verses in Scripture. It says, "Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things." THAT'S where joy comes from ... seeing the world and the people in this world and our circumstances through the eyes of Jesus!

Philippians 4:4 says, "Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say, rejoice!" We can rejoice no matter what happens in this life if we are rejoicing (finding joy in) the Lord and His purpose for our lives.

The second half of Nehemiah 8:10 says, "Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength." Our circumstances don't have to keep us down because God's joy, alive in our hearts, gives us strength to overcome anything!

So today, God, help me think of You and Your joy. Help joy fill my every thought, every breath, every word. Make me wholly Yours, and be the joy that exudes from my heart and life so that others can see You in me. Help me grow in this fruit of the Spirit. And thank you so much that Your joy is not based on my circumstances that change more often than I can count; but instead, my joy is based on YOU, and You NEVER change. Thank you for that promise and that security, God. Be glorified in and through my life and in and through my joy. I love you, Lord! :)

Monday, January 30, 2012

FOTS: Love

I've been reading the book Spirit-Controlled Temperament by Tim LaHaye over the past week. I'm fascinated by the concept of "the four temperaments" and how my temperament(s) affects the way I live, the person I am now, and the person I will one day become as I learn to allow the Spirit to control my temperament(s).

Lately, I've been struggling with myself ... just not liking myself, to be honest. Ultimately, I'm focusing too much on my temperament's weaknesses ... but sadly, the Sanguine (that's me!) has a lot of weaknesses that must be overcome. Thank God He is strong even in our weaknesses, but He still wants us to overcome them. He wants us to be controlled by His Spirit so that we can honor Him with our whole lives.

When the Spirit controls my temperament, I produce the fruit of the Spirit.
Love
Joy
Peace
Patience
Kindness
Goodness
Faithfulness
Gentleness
and Self-control

Ideally, I should be producing ALL of these qualities EVERYDAY. But if you've read my most recent posts about depravity, you can understand that, sadly, this is NOT going to happen. BUT! I CAN take ONE quality each day and really try to put it into practice. And that's exactly what I'm gonna try to do. As I continue to read this book (and hopefully beyond that), I'm gonna try to focus on living out at least one of these fruit of the Spirit everyday.

The first one is L O V E :)
A dictionary definition ... "a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person."
God's Word ...
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love is not jealous.
Love does not brag.
Love is not arrogant.
Love does not act like a jerk!
Love is not selfish.
Love doesn't get bent out of shape!
Love forgives immediately.
Love hates sin.
Love adores the Truth.
Love bears all things.
Love believes the best in/of people.
Love is always hopeful.
Love endures.
Love never fails.
(From 1 Corinthians 13 ... with a little paraphrasing ;))

Heck, I could take just one line from 1 Corinthians to work on each day. "Love doesn't act like a jerk!" That one by itself is HUGE! ... But anyway ... I wanna try to live out these qualities. I want to honor God! So here begins a new set of posts ... "FOTS" (Fruit of the Spirit) posts. :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Depravity (Part 4): "Therefore, I will boast in my weaknesses!"

Why stop, when the brain juices are still a flowin'? :)

I've been reading through the book, So Long, Insecurity, by Beth Moore and working through a Bible study booklet that accompanies it. And a few weeks back, I was able to connect chapter 4 of Radical with So Long, Insecurity's Bible study questions. The Bible study had me read 2 Corinthians 12:6-10 and had me answer the questions, "What does it mean to boast about our weaknesses?" and "In what way are we strong when we are weak?" I think wrestling with this passage of Scripture and answering these questions is a great last step to wrapping up my thoughts on depravity because it sends us off with an application. How can we apply this Truth about depravity to our everyday lives?

"And [Jesus] has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Because our depravity (weaknesses) brings glory to God, by requiring the power of His grace at work in our lives, we are able to boast about our weaknesses. For me, I think boasting about my weaknesses means not beating myself up for my sin, but instead, striving to comprehend that God is so big, so powerful, and so perfect, that even when I sin, He STILL gets the glory. How does He do it? He gets the glory no matter what. That's how awesome and holy our God is. ...Furthermore, I should strive not to sin so that my faithfulness brings Him even more glory than my sin. And so that glory, resulting from my weakness, makes me strong because it is the power of Christ living and working in me.

To God be the glory!

Depravity (Part 3): God's Glory, that's the point!

A couple of months ago, I wrote two posts about human depravity, specifically, my own depravity. In the first post, I asked the question "Why did God create us if He knew we were going to screw up all the time?" This question brought Galatians 5:16-26 and Romans 6 to mind. So I read and thought through these passages and came away closer to the answer to my question but not quite there. In my second post, I attempted to flesh out my thoughts about Galatians 5:16-26 and Romans 6 in reference to my question. I concluded that getting rid of my sin, or even striving to get rid of my sin, brings glory to God. And although I think this idea is mostly true, it doesn't quite answer the question I started with. It simply made me feel better, knowing I was a step closer to the answer I sought.

I received a super encouraging message yesterday from a friend I haven't talked to in several months. In the message, he mentioned that my depravity posts had got him thinking on his own sinfulness. And so I immediately went back to my posts and read them over again. And I (re-)realized that the ideas needed to be hashed out further. ... I've read a bit of the book, Radical, since I wrote those depravity posts a couple months ago, and part of chapter 4 really hits my question of "What's the point of my sin?" right on the head. So here I am again ... trying to figure out this complex, yet simple, reality of human depravity.

The simplicity of depravity comes from David Platt's (the author of Radical) popular phrase from chapter 4, "Enjoy His grace; extend His glory" (64). By enjoying and accepting God's grace, we bring Him glory. ... Cool, huh? The complexity of depravity is that God's grace is not about us; it's about Him. Really, that's not complex when you think about it 'cause "it's all about Him." Everything in this existence, this universe, is about Jesus. But in our finite minds, at least in mine, we have a hard time wrapping our mind around grace being about someone other than ourselves. ... When we think about grace being about Jesus instead of about us, we can start to glimpse the glory in it. I love what Platt says about God's grace ... "God blessed the human race, not because of any merit or inherent worth in us, but simply out of pure, unadulterated grace" (65). God didn't create us or enter into a relationship with us because we deserved it or earned it but because that "pure, unadulterated grace" brought glory to Himself. And because "God is at the center of His universe, everything He does ultimately revolves around Him" (Platt 71). So you see ... our depravity makes us entirely dependent on the grace of God, and the grace of God brings glory to God. And so, ultimately, our depravity brings glory to God. Therefore, the answer to my question is that God created us, depraved human beings, so that He could lavish His Self-glorifying grace upon our lives. His glory is the point. It's all about Him. The point of everything in our lives, on this planet, in this universe, in all that God created - ever - is HIS GLORY.

Which leads me into more thoughts ... haha! Part 4 to follow :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 30



Day 30 - A picture of someone you miss

Without a doubt, this post belongs to Shelley Chambers!!!
Wow, I miss her! It was hard when she and Pastor Mike and the kids moved to Poplar Bluff, Missouri ... 6 hours away ... but now that they live 27 hours away in Prescott, Arizona??? Oh my goodness. Someday, I WILL get out there to see them! But until then, I'll just have to cry when I hear her voice on the phone (ahem ... just yesterday). Haha!

It's amazing how close you can get to your youth pastors. Wow. For me, it's a bond I have a hard time describing. When people love you, really love you, and pour into your life ... invest their time, energy, advice, love, encouragement, hope (and more importantly, God's hope) into you ... it really sticks with you. Maybe that's why I'm still in youth ministry? :) I think so. I want to invest in young people the same way Pastor Mike and Shelley invested in me. It is a very rare gift. Sure, there are youth pastors out there ... some good ones! ... but I had the best! :)

Shelley listened to me; she laughed with me (and at me :)); she sacrificed lots of time and energy to love and spend time with me; she was a source of strength and encouragement and support. And what's so great is that she STILL is!!! :) Years after I've graduated, 27 hours away ...

*Big sigh* ... And so yes, I really miss her. Love you, Shelley!

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 29



Day 29 - A picture that always makes you smile :)

Haha! I am smiling just thinking about looking at this picture. Such good memories come from this picture. It's of me and a very dear friend of mine, Jon Adamson. Haha! This guy is such a nut. We are a great pair of friends! This picture was taken at CIY (a youth conference), the summer after I graduated from high school. What a couple of dorks. I love this picture! This picture always makes me smile when I see it 'cause that week at CIY was tons of fun ... but also because Jon means a lot to me. We've been friends since I was in the 8th grade ... that's a long time. Hmmm ... about 10 years. Crazy. We've had lots of fun together over the years - playing basketball, singing on the worship team, singing specials with Uncle Mike, recording tracks in Uncle Mike's studio (lots of singin' huh? Great fun!), being in youth group together, going for coffee, sitting in the car listening to Southern Gospel music (and even, dare I say? Weird Al - ha!), hangin' out with his family and the Cooks ... tons of great times. He never ceases to make me smile or laugh. Just a very dear friend. So I can't help but smile when I see this seriously goofy picture of us. Too funny!

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 28



Day 28 - A picture of something you're afraid of

Whew! This is not a fun one to write about. :(
For as long as I can remember, I've been absolutely devastated when friendships, relationships of any kind, go awry. If I offend someone or someone dislikes me or I've hurt someone in some way or I've acted like a fool or someone is disappointed in me for some reason or a say something nasty or thoughtless or ... need I say more? If someone I know has been hurt by me in anyway, I just die inside. I have to reconcile as soon as possible. And if something can't be reconciled? Oh, my. Jesus, help me. And so, yes. Needless to say, my greatest fear is broken relationships.

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 27



Day 27 - A picture of you and a family member

My Aunt Peggy is so awesome! I don't get to see her very often. Like nearly all of my other family members, I only see Aunt Peggy once or twice a year ... usually at Thanksgiving and sometimes at one other family get-together throughout the year. And when I see her, I don't usually get to talk with her too much. But every time I see her, she is always a great encouragement to me. I think one reason she's so encouraging is because she smiles all the time. :) She's always so positive when I see her. And she believes in the Lord and what He's doing. All good reasons to think her encouraging, right? And, I think, without fail, Aunt Peggy always tells me how beautiful I am. Points for her! ;) Haha! But seriously, isn't that always one of the best compliments, best words of encouragement, you can get? Someone telling you you're beautiful? Oh, it always lifts my day! She always tells me that I'm beautiful and that she's proud of me. And ya know ... that may seem small, but wow, it is big! Don't you agree? And it doesn't matter that I don't see Aunt Peggy often or that we don't get to talk much. I know that she loves me. And that's what matters the most. So Aunt Peggy, if you're reading this ... Thank you so much for always encouraging me. It does so much more than you know! Love you! :)

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 26



Day 26 - A picture of someone who means a lot to you

I am incredibly blessed to have so many dear friends in my life. Sooo blessed! But I have to pick Uncle Mikey for this post. Uncle Mike and I go way back. One of my favorite things about our friendship is just that ... we've been friends for going on 19 years, since I was 6 years old. :) I'll never forget the Masterson-Cook get-togethers every week after church. Yeah, there were other families who joined us ... but the Mastersons and the Cooks were the two core families of these get-togethers. And so I've been so blessed to be apart of their family in a lot of ways and for them to be apart of mine. Uncle Mike and Jen and Adam are definitely like a second family to me. Uncle Mike and I have done lots together over the years - in addition to the Masterson-Cook family get-togethers every week ... I've spent tons of time over at Uncle Mike and Jen's house watching movies, eating yummy food, playing the wii, hanging out with the guys (Adam, Jon, Jason, Jarrod) and their honeys (Kristina, Melissa, and Susan), singing and making tracks in Uncle Mike's studio, swimming in their pool, drinking hot chocolate and eating popcorn, watching Chuck, having late-night conversations (usually after Chuck) about fun, serious, and silly things ... and I'm sure I could think of more if I thought long and hard enough about it. We've had many heart-to-heart conversations, and he's told me so many priceless Uncle Mike jokes (if you know him, you know the kind I'm talking about). :) He's taken me out for dinner. We've gone to Southern Gospel concerts before. So many wonderful memories with this dear friend. :)

Uncle Mike is my Chuck buddy, my singin' buddy, someone who never fails to make me laugh and make my day better, and we share a bond that is incredibly special to me. He really is my UNCLE Mikey. And I am so grateful to know him. :)

SoZo: Psalm 124 :)

Hey, SoZo!

Since we don't have Bible study tonight ... lousy weather ... I thought I'd share a "lesson" with you here on my blog. That way, we can still "meet together" this week.
So ... go grab your Bible real fast ... and I'll wait here. :)

Okay, you're back ... here we go.
We've been talking about relationships in SoZo lately. Last Sunday, we talked about confronting others when they need it and being confronted when we need it for ourselves. Tonight, I want us to think about how we should respond when people "rise up against us," like it says in the Scripture passage we're gonna look at.

Open your Bible and read Psalm 124 - yep, the whole chapter. It's pretty short. You can also read it below, if you so desire ...

Psalm 124
"If the Lord had not been on our side - let Israel now say - if the Lord had not been on our side when people rose up against us, they would have swallowed us alive because of their burning anger against us. The waters would have engulfed us; a torrent would have overwhelmed us. Yes, the raging waters of their fury would have overwhelmed our very lives. Blessed be the Lord, who did not let their teeth tear us apart! We escaped like a bird from a hunter's trap. the trap is broken, and we are free! Our help is from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth."

Take a second to think about how people "rise up against us" sometimes. Write down some of your answers somewhere if you like. But think about it ...
~ What does it mean for someone to "rise up against us?"
~ How do people rise up against us?
Maybe by gossiping about us ... by calling us names or tearing us down ... by not believing in us? What about someone dissing our family or the way we sing or the way we play soccer ... or maybe someone making fun of us or being hateful to us because we stand up for Jesus? Have any of these things ever happened to you? Think of some of your own scenarios ... when have people risen up against you? What was it that they said or did?

Now ...
How did that person or situation make you feel?
Probably pretty crumby. It is never fun to be persecuted, looked down upon, disliked, or slandered.

Psalm 124 (and our own life experiences) tells us that these situations might "swallow us up" and "overwhelm us." Basically, when mean or evil things happen to us, it can really start to bring us down ... we may even become super distracted or even consumed by our discouragement. BUT!!! What I want y'all to think about tonight is the HOPE Psalm 124 gives us. ... Look at verse 1 again ...

"If the Lord had not been on our side ..."

That means that God IS on our side! And that means God is going to help us through those times when people rise up against us. It is inevitable that people and situations are going to discourage us, tear us down, humiliate us, harm us, make us feel horrible ... BUT GOD will sustain us. He will be our HELP! ... Look at verse 8 again ...

"Our help is from the Lord, who made the heavens and the earth."

Yep ... the same God who made everything we see on this planet loves us, EACH of us, enough to be our Helper ... to stand by us and build us up ... in the most difficult of times. So take courage in that, my SoZo-ers! If you are discouraged or feel beaten down today because someone is hatin' on you, take heart! Cry out to God for help. He is ready to comfort you and give you strength.

Take a couple of minutes to seek God for His help and strength. Meet with God ... He is ready to fill you up! :) I love you guys! See y'all Sunday morning. And don't forget about lunch at my house from 12:30 to 2:30pm this Sunday afternoon. Hope you can make it! :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 25



Day 25 - A picture of your favorite season

Without a doubt, my favorite season is fall!!!!
It's gorgeous ... not too hot and not too cold ... great weather for walks in the park, playing sports, puttin' on jackets and sweatshirts ... and toward the end of the season, hats, scarfs, and gloves ... the leaves change colors; the leaves "crumple" beneath your feet ... you can see your breath in the air ... 50-degree weather and 60-degree weather (my all-time favorite weather!) ... some rain, which I also like ... fall is just the perfect season! Love it! :D

Friday, January 6, 2012

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 24



Day 24 - A picture of something you wish you could change

Reading.
I wish I could like reading.
Although I am trying to change this ... I think it's gonna be a process. I have to really like a book to read it for more than a few minutes at a time, day after day. Occasionally, I find one. I'm reading A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers. It's about a 500-page book. I think I started it the day after Christmas, and I'm on page 361. That's pretty awesome for me. So I'm working on changing the fact that I don't like to read. But it's still pretty hard to pick up a book a lot of the time.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

30-day Jesus Day 7: Reaping the Harvest

Ever been in a season of life when you can't believe how much God is at work??? I sure hope so 'cause it's incredible! Most of 2011 was a spiritual drought for me, but over the past few months (and what I know will be for ALL of 2012 and beyond), I've been reaping a harvest of lessons and Holy Spirit stirrings and peace and guidance that felt so distant and non-existent last year. It's great! It's more than great - it's absolutely cool, yo!

The only downside I can see in this kind of season is that because God is so at work, it's hard to keep up! I mean, it's like lesson after lesson keeps coming my way ... I've barely begun to grasp, let alone learn and DO, one lesson, and God starts workin' on me in some other area. Take the revelation "believe without seeing" for example. Man ... I'm not even close to putting that to TOTAL work in my life, and yet God is already (and has been for a while) convicting me about my attitude (more so in general than about my current life circumstances) ... and I'm only beginning to change my attitude in small ways day after day (I've still got soooo far to go) ... and He's moving on to "Do everything without arguing and complaining" (Philippians 2:4). ... Wow! Will it ever end???!!! Hahaha!

Thankfully, no, it won't.
God is too faithful to leave me the way I am. And boy, am I thankful for that!!! I want to be more like Jesus, people! Don't you?
It's amazing how God works when we let Him.
Be sensitive to the Spirit, my friends ... He's got so much to teach you! :)

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 23



Day 23 - A picture of your favorite book

Ah ha! I was able to get two in one picture!
Books are hard for me ... hard to narrow down, believe it or not, since I don't like to read ... but they are also hard because I don't comprehend or retain very well. So ... when I tell you that these two are my favorite books it's hard to tell you why. And of course you want to know WHY. ;) The titles of these books say a lot ... "Calm My Anxious Heart" and "Having a Mary Spirit." And like all good titles, they sum up what each book is about. But, to be truthful, I don't remember any specifics about these books ... I only remember that, in the season of life in which I read them, they changed my perspective. And believe me, if you don't know it already, texts that change your perspective on life, God, trials, anything really, are invaluable! :) And that's what I remember from these books ... that they taught me some great lessons when I read them ... ha! Too bad I can't remember those lessons. Too ridiculous, huh? But again, they were invaluable THEN. And so they are my favorite books for the time being ... until some other books come along and teach me some more perspective-changing lessons, I guess. :)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 22



Day 22 - A picture of something you wish you were (naturally) better at

Singing.
I can do a little more than carry a tune in a bucket ... but I'm a pretty average singer all in all. Which is great. I'm thankful I can sing. I got to be in Warrior Choir and Encore and Music Shoppe while I was in high school and Delegation in middle school. And those were some of the best experiences of my life - especially Encore - Danville's show choir. Wow, that was a blast!
I've done some singing throughout my life ... but I've always struggled. I love harmony - I'd prefer to sing it over the melody just about any day ... but wow, is it tough! I can hear some harmonies on my own but not many. And man, it takes me such a long time to learn harmonies I don't naturally hear. I would love to sing trios and quartets with Uncle Mike and the guys at church more often (all the time, really!) ... but it takes me so long to learn parts ... I don't like to bother them with my "slowness."
I love Southern Gospel music. I love trying to hear the different parts and sing with the singers. And I'd love to sing more Southern Gospel with the guys ... oh, to be a better singer!
But again ... I need to be thankful. But the challenge did ask for a picture of something I wished I were better at ... and singing is what I pick. Just being honest. :)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 21



Day 21 - A picture of your favorite late-night snack

You may find yourself craving some yumminess from time to time, but you scour your fridge and pantry and cubbards and find no ice cream or oreos or pie or donuts ... or anything with the tons of carbs and sugar that you so desperately crave. So what do you do? Well, let me tell you. You take graham crackers ... left over from your last bonfire. You take some chocolate chips (only semi-sweet chips for me!) for your next cookie baking day. And you take some peanut butter (preferably crunchy, if you're like me). And put 'em altogether; nuke 'em in the microwave; and you have a delightfully delicious treat that has all the carbs and the sugar and the yumminess factor that you so desire. Yep, chocolate peanut butter graham crackers are a yummy late-night treat for me ... and for you - try 'em! :)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

30-Day Photo Challenge Day 20



Day 20 - A picture of somewhere you wanna travel

NEW ZEALAND!!!!
Oh, yeah! Ever since I first saw the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I've wanted to see New Zealand. Man, it looks incredible! I'd love to go hiking through the sites ... maybe hot air ballooning. But just bask in God's beauty for a few days. I know it would be entirely incredible - maybe even life-changing.
Yep, if I could go anywhere ... New Zealand would be the place - fo sho!!! :D