True Thankfulness is Learned

true thankfulness

There is a discipline to true thankfulness.  It takes a journey to develop an attitude that is truly thankful for everything.

Are you thankful for everything?

On Sunday, the preacher asked if we are truly thankful.  We all ask this question around this time of year.  One I think we should ask more often, but that’s not the point I want to make today.  So, right there in my chair third row from the front, I asked my heart if I was thankful to God for everything in my life.  It’s easy for me to say I am thankful for my family, because they are amazing!  I live in a fantastic community and go to a wonderful church.  I feel accepted and loved by my friends and I know I belong.  But am I grateful for the pain and hard work it took to bring me here?  That is a much harder question.

James 1:2-3 says, “Count it all joy my brothers, when you meet trials of many kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

Thankful for suffering?

I’ve never understood how I could count all my trials as joy.  I’ve really struggled with the concept.  About three years ago I began a journey to understanding.  I learned that year I have PTSD from some experiences in my younger years.  EMDR is specialized therapy used primarily on patients with PTSD and trauma.  Therapy is exhausting and can be hard, but I believe healing is worth the struggle.  It was instrumental in bringing me healing and health in so many areas.  Therapy taught me if I put up walls to protect myself I don’t just keep bad things out, but I also keep bad things inside.  Those walls can also keep God out.

This was also the year both my grandfathers passed away within months of each other.  It was a tragic loss when my Grandaddy died.  As I grieved I learned I had wrapped a good bit of my identity in whether or not my Grandaddy was proud of me.  I wanted more than anything in the world to earn my Grandaddy’s approval.  After many months of therapy and hours spent in the word, I realized I was striving for something I already had, love and acceptance.  I realized the striving I was doing for my Grandaddy’s acceptance was the same striving I was doing for God’s.  He freely gives love, acceptance, and also hope.  So when my pastor asked on Sunday if I had true thankfulness in my heart, I had to take into consideration the journey I have been on.  My world was turned upside down.

True Thankfulness

Luke 17 tells a story about ten lepers that had an encounter with Jesus.  The passage says they cried out “Jesus, Master have mercy on us.” Jesus gave the healing they so desperately desired and sent them on their way to present themselves to the priest.  But only one of them turned back and thanked Jesus.  This one had a worship service at the Lord’s feet.  There is a lot to be said about the other 9 in the story.  Why didn’t they go back and at least acknowlede what Jesus did?  How long did it take to realize they were healed?

But Luke 17:19 is the verse that really struck me that day.  It says, “And he said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.'”  What a miraculous thing!  Jesus healed leprocy.  But what is more miraculous is the word well can also be translated as saved, or whole.  Then it hit me.  We can be healed from whatever trials or afflictions we face, but only Jesus can make us whole.  Only Jesus can save us.  

This last year has been incredibly hard for me.  I have been tested and stretched emotionally, physically, and even relationally, yet I am thankful.  I am thankful for a God who is unsatisfied with just healing my heart.  He wants to see me made whole.  James 1:4 says, “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  Thank you Jesus for loving me enough to make me whole.  I lack nothing because I have you!

What are you thankful for today?  Are you truly thankful for everything God has given?

Curvy Lines and Control

I love to create.  Singing long and loud feeds my soul.  Putting paint on canvas helps me breathe.  I’m not really that great at it, but that’s not the point.  I have been writing for years because it helps me process.  However, the one thing I go to in times of stress is making things with wood.  I want to share how my last project helped me understand the truth about curvy lines and control.

Curvy Lines

My grandfather, Robert Barlow, was one of the most amazing men I have ever known.  He was a man of great integrity and raised a family who all love Jesus.  I could write a whole other post devoted to the things he taught me, but I won’t do that today.  What I will talk about is how much he loved to work with wood.  It’s a love that I know I inherited from him.  There’s something about drawing up a plan for something and seeing it come to life.  This summer, my son asked for a bookshelf in his room.  Instead of going and buying a new bookshelf, I decided I would make one for him using some wood I had gotten from my grandfather’s house.  This would be an amazing way to remember my grandfather and release some of the tension and angst in my heart.

So I sketch the project out and gather all of my materials together.  I have to plan it out and do a good bit of measuring and remeasuring before I start putting anything together.  For those of you who care, I am an Enneagram 5 so I have to be completely ready before I cut a piece of wood.  I have done research on the best wood to use.  I know the average size of bookshelves sold in stores.  I’m a huge nerd, I know.  No matter how long I research, I eventually reach the step where I cut the wood.  The thing is, I want to look like I know what I am doing.  I hate making mistakes, and my lines have to be completely straight.  I draw straight lines to follow but rarely ever cut a completely straight line.  The curvy lines I cut on this project made me think.

Control

I had curvy lines where I thought there should be straight ones.  Here’s the thing, I like predictable straight lines in life.  It is comforting when I see the road ahead and know what’s coming next.  Straight lines make me feel like I am in control.  Some people might think it is boring, but I would argue that people love the idea of boundaries and predictability in life.  I see it in the eyes of the children I teach each week.  Then it occurred to me that life is very often one curvy line after another.  I make a plan that I think will be fun for family time and the kids start to argue, curvy line.  I share my heart with a friend and they don’t acknowledge my feelings, curvy line.  Things at work are going great and I get called to my bosses office, curvy line.  When everything piles together I start to feel out of control.  I want things to follow the plan in my head, and when it doesn’t I get mad at God.  My faith starts to get shaky because it feels like God isn’t in my plan.  

Who’s Really in Control Here?

The fact is if I serve a god I can manipulate that easily, he’s not big enough to take care of me.  Control is an illusion.  Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”  In this simple verse, we see the true nature of our hearts.  We spend too much of our time trying to make our curvy lines straight, and not enough of our time looking at where God is leading us.  God establishes our steps.  What feels like a curvy line to us may be the opportunity we have been praying for.  We have to learn that it’s better that we are not the ones in control.

Our walks with Christ aren’t supposed to be straight lines full of all the blessings this world offers.  If that is the brand of Christianity you signed up for friend, I’m afraid someone lied to you.  Look at the life of Paul.  In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 he said, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”  Do you think that Paul would have planned a life of persecution for himself?  No, this man was not in control, but I think he was better because of that fact.

So What?

I could be completely wrong.  I could be the only one who struggles with wanting to be in control and manage my own life.  However, I think there are people like me who have to let go of the illusion of control.  Instead of making a plan and inviting God into it, we have to pray about what His plan is for us.  Just think of the freedom we will find if we could just surrender to His will.  When things don’t work out like we think they should, it wasn’t our plan anyway.  What if all the things we are experiencing aren’t for our benefit, but are to glorify God instead?  How would you feel if you could share your suffering with someone else and they could walk closer to Christ because of it?  What if it led to their salvation?  Wouldn’t such a life of freedom be so much more attractive to the lost people around us?

A New Way to Hope

Hope

Hope (verb) \ ˈhōp \ Definition of hope: to cherish a desire with anticipation: to want something to happen or be true

I know, it’s Christianese and written about by every person with a blog. But, it has always been a theme for my life as a Christian. God has shown me a new way to look at hope. 

It’s Actually More Like Fear

I had some challenges growing up. In my heart, I believed that the only hope I had for a better life was for me to get a scholarship and go to college. My parents were young and did the best they could with the life they had chosen. So, I knew my hope was in my ability to succeed with the plan. I built walls around my heart, and at a very young age became self-sufficient. In the classroom, I was told I was a joy because I always made the right choices. My teachers told me I was a good student. Each word of encouragement I was given only made me try harder to accomplish my goal on my own. I became my only hope. 

Can you imagine a 10-year-old trying to take care of everyone and everything on their own? I realized I was wishing for something great to happen because of my goodness. That’s when fear settled into my heart. I had no business carrying such a heavy burden, and the worst part is that nobody knew. Fear kept me from meaningful relationships with people. I didn’t share with my friends or the adults around me about what was going on in my life. There was a constant fear that I would make the wrong choice. When I was a teenager, I was so afraid of making a mistake that I stayed home and went to bed at 9:00 p.m. every night. What I have learned, through a lot of help, is reliance on myself didn’t lead to hope but to fear.

Future Hope

When I placed my hope in myself and my ability to succeed, I was crippled by fear. No one could live up to the expectations I set on myself! I reached a breaking point in my life and I am grateful Christ came to my rescue.

Romans 5:1-5 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

After a while, I couldn’t take the pressure anymore. I couldn’t hide the fact that I was stressed out and depressed. The walls I built to keep people out was keeping all of the bad locked in with it. We started going to a church in town, and even though I didn’t deserve the invitation, I was invited to camp with the youth group. While I was there, I heard a speaker who told me about a hope that I didn’t know existed. He told me about Jesus and the hope of glory. The speaker that night said there was no way for me to be perfect. He told me that through faith in Christ, I didn’t have to wish for a better life. I was given a guarantee of future hope. 

A New Way

I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was 16 years old at Covenant College during Student Life camp. It was an amazing experience. I had a joy I never knew before. I wish I could tell you that I never lost sight of what Christ did for me that day. The truth is, I have stumbled through life at times. The Holy Spirit is still working to show me how to live in the promise of His hope. You see, it’s easy to say you have a guarantee no matter what life throws at you. It is an entirely different thing to live as you do. 

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” The speaker at Student Life camp told me through Christ, whether I stayed in my present circumstances, or whether I made a better life, I can have confidence in my hope for eternity. I didn’t have to rely on myself to be the perfect daughter, or the perfect student anymore. I don’t have to fear to make a mistake. God and his offer of hope are steadfast and sure. My future is in the hands of God where it has always belonged.

So What?

So what does that mean for us? First, if you are a Christian, it means you have the responsibility to tell people about the hope you have received. Stop acting like you have earned the blessings you have received. People need to know that it was perseverance through suffering that led to hope. The reality is, you and I aren’t that holy. 

Second, we have to put our trust in Him whether things are going the way we planned or not. Things are not supposed to go the way you planned. If you serve a god that goes by your plan he is not as powerful as you think. Stop wishing for better and believe that God’s way is better. God’s plan may not be what you wished for and that’s ok. Let’s show a lost and dying world a living hope, not in ourselves and our ability to be good, but in Christ our future hope of glory.

Showing Up Is My Brave

The school year has begun and it has been a whirlwind!  My favorite part of the year is learning about my kids and how I can help them be successful.  This is also the hardest part of the year because some kids don’t make it easy.  When they say there is no tired like teacher tired, that isn’t a lie.  The beginning of the school year reminds me showing up can be brave.

Showing Up

I am an introvert, a type 5 on the enneagram, so I’m one of the most introverty of introverts.  That doesn’t mean I don’t like people.  On the contrary, I love people, they just make me tired.  Every day at school I am with little people who require a good bit of my attention and energy.  These little people are some of my favorite people in the world, but at the end of the day I am spent.  Hear my heart, I love my job and the people I work with at school.  Teaching is a rewarding profession. I share my time with like-minded people who want what’s best for children.  I give my all at work and I love it.  If I’m telling the truth though, the most important people in my life, my husband and children, don’t get the best part of me.  My family gets the version of me who doesn’t want to be needed for a few minutes.  All because I tied shoes, gave hugs, and tried to instill confidence for my new little people.  So it’s important for me to come home after school and take a minute to collect myself so I can show up for my people.  Showing up for my people may look like helping with homework or listening to whatever drama happened in the 6th grade.  Sometimes I just need to be present when I want to check out.  Showing up is important.

Why Showing Up Is a BIG Deal

I said before I’m an enneagram type 5.  If you don’t know anything about the enneagram there are several resources I can recommend.  Here is a link to a free online quiz to learn your type.  The enneagram has been a tool to help me understand some of the patterns or ruts I get stuck in.  I have learned that I’m not afraid of a lot of things.  I mean, spiders freak me out, and I’m not a big fan of enclosed spaces.  However, the biggest fear I have is being incapable or insufficient.  I want to be enough and have enough energy for the people I care about.   I’ve learned during times like the beginning of the school year I have a tendency to withdraw.  I don’t even realize I’m withdrawing until someone calls me out.  It’s my 5-ness coming out.  So, when I make the effort to show up it’s a big deal.

Being Brave

In Acts 2:46-47 it says, “Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.”  The New Testament church had it right.  The community they built was diverse.  I’m sure there were even a few introverts in the group.  They relied on each other, broke bread together, they did life together.  God intended the church to work that way.  He desires for us to be in community.  This can be hard because we have thousands of Facebook friends, but we haven’t sat down with a friend face to face in ages.  It requires us to be real and honest, sharing what’s going on in our lives with the people around us.  Keeping up the facade is taking all of our energy, and we don’t have anything left.  That’s why being brave for me looks like showing up even when I don’t feel like I can.  The people in my life deserve the effort.

He Is Everything I Need

Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  Paul is telling the church at Philippi that because they gave to support his ministry that God would supply every need of the church according to God’s riches.  So how does that apply to us showing up in the lives of the people around us?  I believe that when we are investing in the lives of people and showing up when that’s all you feel you can do He will supply you wth the energy, the words, and the love you need. It’s not always perfect.  Showing up after a long week at work isn’t easy, but for the church to be what God intended, we have to try.  Our connections with people are so vital to the work God is doing in your sphere of influence.  So, how are you showing up for the people in your life?  How are you being brave?

Trust in God: It’s a Matter of the Heart

Trust

Trust.  What does it look like to trust in God?  This question plagues me because it is my biggest struggle.  I struggle with trust in several areas of my life.  I want my relationship with God to shift from a head knowledge of trust to a heart knowledge.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3

Trust Defined

First, I want to define trust and see how it applies to God.  The English Oxford dictionary defines trust as “firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.”  I love words and their meanings, and based on this definition it would seem that it should be easy to trust in God.

Is God Reliable?

I absolutely believe that God is reliable.  I have evidence of His reliability from this summer on my trip to Haiti.  He sent people who had key connections that would take care of us by guarding us as we walked the streets.  We were able to find hotels with rooms available for us to stay.  We knew our prayers were being heard and answered by a God who is reliable.  He has shown me He is reliable by sending people into my life to speak words of encouragement.  I did not accept Christ until I was a teenager.  I needed plenty of encouragement and direction because I was hard-headed.  God was always reliable and always sent the answer I needed.

Is God Able?

I know what you are thinking, is this really even a question?  I believe in a creator God who “is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20)  Genesis 1:2&3 should be enough to illustrate that.  “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.”  My favorite part is next because scripture tells us, ” And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”  God spoke a word and light was created.  His word is strong and powerful enough to create.  When you look at all of the “And God saids” in Genesis 1 can you see how He is able?  When He speaks creation obeys.  He is able.

Is God Strong?

Scripture tells story after story of God fighting battles for Israel.  Gideon in Judges chapter 7 did not fight the Midean army alone!  Samson was not strong of his own accord.  It was the strength of God that led to victory.  Psalm 9:9 says, “The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.”  We can turn to Him because He is the source of all strength.  I can testify that the Lord has been my strength.  This last year has been a stretching season for me.  I was finishing up my Master’s Degree in Elementary Education, working full time as a third-grade inclusion teacher, my husband is a youth minister, and I have two fabulous children.  The Lord was the only thing sustaining me around March of this year!  He was strong when I was very weak.

Can I Believe What He Says is True?

Let’s be real, all of this is based on whether I believe His word is true.  Did He do those things from the Bible?  Did Jesus really walk the earth, heal the sick, and forgive sins?  The Bible contains historical fact, poetry, and prophecies that God wanted His people to read so that we could know His character.  You can fact check the Bible for historical accuracy.  I believe with all of my heart that the word of God is inerrant.  It is remarkable that God used humans to convey His message to us.  These men saw the works of Jesus and even though they did not use the exact same words or structure, they told the same story.  I love the word of God because it is His gift to me so that I can learn more about Him.

So What’s My Problem?

Why is trust an issue for me and so many other people?  Why is it when I am going through a stressful time I try to step in and take God’s place?  My problem is that I have plenty of head knowledge about how reliable, truthful, able, and strong God is but my heart hasn’t gotten the message.  I want to live out the trust I have in God.  I want it to move from belief to unwavering trust in the God who is bigger than all of my fears and problems.  So my plan will be to focus on Philippians 4:8.  “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”  I want to think about things above because Proverbs says this leads to perfect peace.  Not that everything will be perfect, because that is not how the world works.  The world is a cruel place.  Following the way of Christ is not popular or easy, but we can have peace.  If our minds are on “stayed on Him” the circumstances won’t matter.  We can begin trusting God with all of our hearts.

Do you struggle with trust like me?  What truth can you hold on to in your life?  What can you think about that is worthy of praise?  How can you begin to trust with your heart not just your head?

Music: Reckless Love

Reckless Love Cover

I have been a worship leader for several years.  I love music, but most of all I love lyrics.  Reckless Love has gotten a lot of love on the radio and in worship sets in the last few months.  Some people have said that it has become the next Oceans, and I can see where they are coming from.  I do believe that with all the radio play a song can lose some of it’s power.  This is why I think that Reckless Love by Cory Asbury is not one of those songs.

Reckless Love: The Lyrics

Verse 1
Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me
You have been so, so good to me
Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me
You have been so, so kind to me
Chorus
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine
I couldn’t earn it, and I don’t deserve it, still, You give Yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God, yeah
Verse 2
When I was Your foe, still Your love fought for me
You have been so, so good to me
When I felt no worth, You paid it all for me
You have been so, so kind to me
Bridge
There’s no shadow You won’t light up
Mountain You won’t climb up
Coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down
Lie You won’t tear down
Coming after me
First of all, everyone can identify with the lyrics of this song.  I have had times in my life when I needed rescue because of the dumb choices I made.  The lyrics refer to Matthew 18:12-14 where Jesus says, “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”  We are all sheep and have moments where we need the good shepherd.  This is a message that everyone can identify with in some way.  The church needs songs like this right now.  The American church has become a nation of people who are hiding behind nice smiles and cute church clothes when our hearts are crying out for someone to see who we really are.  We all mess up.  We all have imperfections.  The church should be the place where we can say, “I just need Him.  I need His love.”  We all, at one time or another, have been the 1 he left the 99 to save.

Reckless Love: The Author’s Heart

I listen to Annie Down’s podcast as much as humanly possible because she is amazing.  She doesn’t know it yet, but one day we will be friends.  (Who knows?  It could happen.)  In March, Annie had Cory Asbury on her podcast “That Sounds Fun” to talk about the song, along with several other things.  On the podcast, he talks about the love of God and how nothing else matters.  He desires for his record to bring the peace of God that passes all understanding.  The record was a labor of love for him, not just another money making machine.  You can find that podcast here.  You can also see his passion for the lyrics here on Instagram.

In Worship

I love using songs in worship that sing words to God, not just about God.  I think when planning a worship set it is important to remember that the music portion of worship should point our hearts to scripture.  Music is only one part of worship.  Prayer, scripture, and music should all work toward the purpose of tuning our hearts to the message God has for us.  So, do I believe this song should be sung in every worship set because it speaks to our hearts?  No, I don’t.  I do believe that it is popular because the church needs the song.  I always think singing a song that people know and identify with is important to worship.

Haiti and Why I Will Always Go

I have a responsibility to show you how much I love Haiti and why I will always go. I have tried for days to sit down and write my thoughts and feelings about my 5 days in Haiti.  Every time I do my mind goes blank.  It’s almost as if I don’t want to admit what really happened.  Haiti has been in the news this week for protests and riots because of political unrest. Despite what I saw this week I will continue to go.

The Problem

The average American spends $140 a day.  The average Haitian lives on less than $2 a day.  Sometime on Friday, the government in Haiti raised gas prices 38%, which may be good for the businessman in Haiti but not the average man.  Understandably the people were angry, and that is why they were rioting and protesting.  There were people in the crowds we saw on the news that was just trying to get home from visiting family.  Innocent people were being punished because a select few resorted to violence to respond to a corrupt government.  The people you saw on the news throwing rocks are not a good representation of my beloved friends from Haiti.

Let’s Get Real

I want to be very clear about a few things.  The first is that we were in a very dangerous position because we drove through blockades.  We also walked through an active area on our way to a hotel that promised to be a safe haven for us.  We saw angry people throw rocks and we heard gunshots.  The tire fires burned hot and the tension was very real.  The second thing I want to make clear is that there are some amazing people that worked very hard to keep us safe.  Not just the group from my church, but other groups as well.  So, while there were people being injured and even dying on the streets I was being led by an armed guard to keep me safe.  We even had a worship service at the hotel that gave us refuge.

Go: But Use Your Privilege for Good

I know it was necessary for us to stay safe because we had students with us whose families were counting on us to bring them home.  My own children were waiting for their parents to come back.  At the same time, I wanted to run through the roadblocks and yell at them to stop what they were doing.  I wanted to tell them to stop the violence and come up with a better way.  I knew that would not be the best use of my time there or the influence I could have.  If something had happened to any of the groups while the rioting was going on, fewer people would want to go serve.  The best use of my American privilege is to shed a light on the need in Haiti but also tell you about my wonderful friends.  It is my job to be a witness so you will see Haiti and why I will always go.

Go: Give Hope

The need in Haiti stems from a corrupt government.  They seem to pander to big business and make the rich even richer causing the poor to stay poor.  My beautiful friends need Americans to go so that we can bring awareness to the problem.  We can use our American privilege to bring much needed medical supplies and food.  We can sponsor children so they can go to school and get a meal each day.  They need us to go and give them some hope.

Haiti and Why I will always go  Haiti and why I will always go

The friends I have in Haiti are kind and loving.  They share so that no one goes without.  They see orphans and widows and give them shelter even when they have so little themselves.   I’ve given a hungry child a pack of crackers, expecting them to consume the whole pack by himself, turn around and share with his friends.  Our group goes to visit families who welcome us by bringing out chairs so that we will stay and visit.  The Haitian people are a beautiful group of people.  They sing passionately in worship and love each other well.  I go to Haiti to offer the hope I have in Christ.

“Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:15

I will continue to go to Haiti to share Christ because that is what God has called me to do.  Our church partners with But God Ministries because they equip Haitians to help each other.  They offer a medical clinic, child sponsorship for school, ways to help with food and water, and clothing when available.  They aren’t trying to make Haitians like Americans.  I don’t want Haiti to be like America.  I want them to know Jesus.  Even the protesters and rioters.  Especially the protesters and rioters.  I will continue to go and give them hope, the hope of Jesus.

I pray that someone reading this would be compelled to go.  Go online to But God Ministries and see how you can get involved.

Let Love Be Genuine

Last week at camp, to read that post click here, the pastor spoke about the difference between seeming and being.  He talked about how we often hide who we really are instead of being who God called us to be.  I believe what truly marks us as Christians is our genuine love for each other.  We have a call to let love be genuine.

Genuine Love

Romans 12:9 “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”

In this section of scripture, Paul says “Let love be genuine”.  The word that we translate as genuine actually has a deeper meaning.  The word Anupokritos refers to the theater masks used to depict different emotions and characters.  In ancient Greece, masks had several uses.  They made it easier for three actors used in a play to portray more than one part each.  They enabled the all-male casts to play both men and women.  Some experts even claim that the masks helped amplify the voice so that it could be heard at the back of the large open-air theatres. However, the most significant role of the mask was the transformation that could occur.  An ordinary man could go beyond his real identity and become a mythological hero, a foolish old man, a beautiful young woman, a god, or a slave.  In disguise, he could say and do things that he could not in everyday life, and could present to the audience events, actions and ideas that were horrifying or ridiculous, inspiring or fantastic.  Paul is saying we need to let our love be genuine.  We need to love without the mask.

The Masks We Wear

Let love be genuine

My husband has a nice shiny testimony where he came to know Christ when he was very young.  He was in church much of his life because his dad was a pastor.  I do not share his experience.  I lived in a small town, and people knew enough to expect very little from me.  At an early age, I became the queen of mask-wearing.  As a teenager, I wanted everyone to believe that I had it all together and was doing just fine.  I wanted to prove that I could rise above their opinions of me.  I have risen above those assumptions and opinions, however, when you are always wearing a mask and never letting anyone close it’s a lonely road.

If you are reading this you know I am not alone in my mask-wearing.  We walk the halls in church with our smiles on so that nobody knows we are struggling.  We want everyone to think we have it all together. Would it make you all feel better to know that I don’t have it together?  Look at the women around you.  They don’t have it all together, nobody does.

How to Love

I have learned through 16 years of ministry with my husband, that people have a church face and a public face and the two should be kept separate. I have also learned that people don’t really like it that way, but they don’t know what to do about it.

Romans 12:10 – 18 says, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

Seeming Rather than Being

When I came across this passage and its meaning it blew me away.  We spend too much time comparing ourselves to each other instead of loving each other.  Can you imagine a church where people “outdo each other in showing honor”?  What if we realized our need for Jesus and there was no need to pretend like we have everything together?  Can you imagine what it would be like if we all put our talents together for the glory of God?  Don’t you think that is what our crazy world needs to see?  The lost people in our community don’t need people with shiny lives to tell them how to fix their mess.  They need real people with experience in the mess to come alongside them and love them to Jesus.  They need to see us rejoicing with each other and weeping with each other.  We need to remove the masks that make us seem like we have it all together and be the people God has called us to be.

What mask is God asking you to remove?

The Mission: Is My Mission

Being a youth minister’s wife is an exciting adventure.  There is nothing like seeing students grow in their walk with Christ.  We spent this week in Mobile, AL with MFUGE learning all about the mission and living it out.  I love how God speaks through students and camp staffers!

The Mission

Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Jesus laid out the mission for the disciples in this passage.  Not only that, but He reminded them of the power they will receive through the Holy Spirit.  Anyone who professes Christ as Savior and Lord have been given this mission.  This week we talked about being a witness.  Webster’s dictionary defines witness as one who attests to a fact or event. Simply put, we are should be ready to give a testimony about what God has done in our lives.  The beautiful thing is that we all have something to share.  We all have a story about how once we were lost and without hope and now we have a hope and a future.  Tell your story.

Is My Mission

Acts 1:8 tells us that we are called to be witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth.  Does that literally mean all those who profess Christ need to go to those specific places?  Of course not.  The mission that Jesus is calling us to includes our hometown (Jerusalem) AND the ends of the earth.  He didn’t tell the disciples Judea OR Samaria.  He told them, and now us, to be witnesses to Jerusalem (our hometown), Judea (our state), Samaria (our country), and the ends of the earth.  The call is not optional because we owe the world hope.  Whether we are delivering food backpacks to students in our community or giving to missions in East Asia, we are called to be a witness.

MFUGE

This mission is my mission This mission is my mission

MFuge is designed to give middle school and high school students a mission experience that opens their eyes to the opportunities around them to share the gospel.  We had worship experiences, Bible studies, and chances to serve on different mission sites in Mobile, AL.  This week I met and served alongside some amazing people.

The mission leaders

The first person I want to brag on is my mission site leader, Caity.  FUGE hires college students to lead mission sites in the host city for camp.  A college student could be doing many other things during the summer.  Caity shared her heart with complete strangers for the glory of God.  She made an impact on some students in our group that I believe will make a difference for the kingdom.  Caity thank you for being authentic and not holding anything back this week!

The next people I would like to brag on are the worship leader for the week, Austin and the emcee, Sara Beth.  It was week three of camp for all these guys.  Could you do three weeks of the same Bible study and activities and keep it fresh?  Austin led us to the throne during our worship time each day.  I love to see a worship leader who cares more about seeing people come to Christ than being cool to students.  Another person that spent a good bit of time in front of the students was our emcee for the week, Sara Beth.  I was grateful for an emcee who could get the students pumped up for the day, but could also get serious and share her heart for the mission.

Our camp staff was amazing!  Jalen you really are a rockstar.  I feel blessed that I got to spend the week with such a great group.  Because of great leadership, I have blown away by the stories our students told this week.  These college students gave their summer to point our students to Christ and I will be praying for them as they continue the mission.

How are you continuing the mission of Acts 1:8?

Worship Is More Than Just a Song

Worship more than just a song

I have a passion for worship.  God created me for worship leading through song.  I never feel closer to the Lord than when I am singing my guts out to Him.  My people know I have a song in my head from the moment I wake up until I close my eyes at night.  Worship is more than just a song we sing corporately on Sunday morning.  It is so much more than that and can be a major part of our Christian walk.

What is Worship?

Romans 12:1 “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  Paul is saying here that worship is more than just going to church and singing a few songs.  God is the source of hope in my life.  The Creator of the universe loved me from the beginning and saw fit to make a way for me.  This knowledge alone compels me to follow Him and give Him my life.  Offering our lives to Him is the proper response to a powerful, all-knowing God, and He deserves nothing less.

Corporately and Privately

Jesus knew the value of corporate and private worship.  He was at the temple, he preached to large crowds, and he spent time alone with the Father.  The early church followed the lead of Jesus.  Acts 2:42 says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”  There is nothing like voices being lifted together in praise to a holy God.  Something special happens when God’s people pray and come together to hear His word.  I have learned that corporate worship times are richer and deeper when I spend private time in scripture, prayer, and praise.  Our private time with the Father makes it possible to “offer our bodies as a living sacrifice”.  There is no other way we will be prepared for the things this world is throwing our way.  We need to spend time in corporate and private worship.

A Battle Tactic

Ephesians 6:12-13 reminds us, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”  I will be honest and say that the past year has been quite the battle.  I have experienced some pretty low moments, but because of my time in worship, I have experienced some sweet times with the Father.  Using worship as a battle tactic has dramatically changed my life.  I discovered in the midst of my deepest sorrows I could sing out to Him.   Now, when I feel defeated, I praise Him.  When I am afraid, I search through scripture for words of comfort.

We were created for worship.  It only makes sense for us to turn to Him in our times of deepest need.  What are the ways that you worship and connect to God?