Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Consequences

God has been doing so much in our Body of believers over the last few months and it has been amazing to see!! Chains are being loosed and captives are being set free. Shame is being identified and lifted from the shoulders of those who have borne it for far too long. It's been a beautiful thing to see but, as is usually the case, it has not come without attack and the stirring of chaos and confusion from the enemy. We are seeing one of the greatest attacks in the area of marriages that I have ever seen.

I'm always hesitant to give the enemy too much credit in the midst of sin because, while I DO know he schemes and desires to lead our hearts astray, I never want to discount the fact that we have personal responsibility when we start going down a dark and sinful path. That being said, marriages are being torn apart and families are being left in fragmented pieces, wondering what just hit them.

Over the course of our 26+ years in ministry we have counseled more couples who have struggled in their marriages than we could ever begin to count. Many of them have struggled for years and stable misery is the best that they have come up with to get through the days that have eventually led to years of dissatisfaction. That's not what I'm talking about here, though.

Lately, we are seeing people who are in church every week, hearing Truth and appearing to desire to stand on Truth's side absolutely trip a switch and not just crack open a door of sin, but throw the door open and march on through. It is heart-breaking!!! I have cried more the last few months and, particularly the last few weeks, than I may have ever cried before in my life. I've cried for the collateral damage that these people I care about are leaving behind, but mostly I have cried for those who have broken covenant themselves. I've cried because of this one thing...

There are severe and lasting consequences for disobeying God and violating His Word!!!!!

Oh, how my heart breaks for them. Sin is pleasurable for a season, but eventually, once the newness has worn off and life again becomes routine (because the level of excitement a new relationship brings can not be sustained forever), these wayward souls will wake up one day and see the ruins that their choices have created.

Hebrews 4: 12-13 says, "For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable."

We can rationalize our actions all we want, but God sees our hearts and they are laid bare before Him!!! There is NO escaping it!!! Here's the thing, though...

It is NEVER too late to repent, turn from our sin and reconcile ourselves with God and others!!!

Psalm 51: 7-11 ~ "Purify me from my sins,[c] and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
 Oh, give me back my joy again;
    you have broken me—
    now let me rejoice.
 Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.
 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
 Do not banish me from your presence,
    and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me."

Oh, how I pray that those whom I love and care about have their eyes opened and their hearts arrested with the truth of their sin. How I long to see them fall on their faces and confess their sin and and violently repent!!! It may be too late to reconcile their marriages, but it is NEVER too late to be broken before the Lord and restored to a right relationship with Him!!

During war, the only way a victory has a chance of being experienced is for the troops to be united, all pulling in the same direction and working toward the same goal. There is no difference in this spiritual battle that is going on around us. For that reason, there is a group of us who have come together and developed a battle plan! Our brothers and sisters may have entered into enemy territory, but we are not going to allow them to stay there without a fight!! To that end, we have each chosen a particular time of day and set a daily, recurring alarm to go off on our phones and when it does we stop and intentionally and specifically pray for those we know are behind enemy lines. We may not see all of them experience brokenness and repentance, but it will certainly not be because we let them go and didn't intercede on their behalf!!

Ephesians 6: 11-12 says, "Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places."


We're suited up, armed and ready...and I challenge you to do the same!






Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ministering Angels

A couple of weeks ago I experienced a few days of deep brokenness. On the same day that I learned my friends' 15yo son had drowned, I also suffered a betrayal from someone I had considered a fairly close friend. As someone who is generally able to muddle thru even the toughest days and who is not much for crying, I found myself unable to do much more than sit and cry endlessly. It just all seemed like too much. 

While the betrayal hurt and felt like an extra burden, the tears were much more as a result of feeling so utterly heart-broken for my friends. When I saw them at the funeral home they, as is often the case, seemed to do more to encourage me and speak words of peace to me than I did for them. In a very uncharacteristic show of emotion, I teared up while talking to them, but managed to hold it together until I got outside and then...the floodgates opened. And I wept. For hours. I missed a birthday party for a special person in my life because I could not stop crying. I finally cried myself to sleep and awoke in the morning only to have the tears begin afresh.

I expressed to Tim my confusion because I have dealt with some horrific tragedies in our ministry to others, but never had I felt such an uncontrollable need to sob. I cried for hours that morning and pulled myself together enough to walk into church without causing a scene. The tears began to fall again during worship, I sniffed my way through the message and then I bawled like a baby during worship at the end of church. I left by myself to go home and get lunch ready and I cried so hard on the way home that I thought I'd have to pull over. In my desperation to understand why I was struggling so, I cried out to the Lord. I asked Him why I was experiencing such uncharacteristic brokenness. Now don't get me wrong, I have felt devastated for people I have cared about before and I have shed tears as I watched their pain, but this was different. This felt like such a personal loss and I told Him that as I drove. 

I truly felt almost like I had lost a child and was mourning as a distraught Mama would mourn the loss of one of her own babies and, as soon as I voiced that to Him there in the quietness of my car, I felt deep inside that He told me I was right. He told me that He was allowing me to bear some of the Mama grief for my friend because she had 2 memorial services she was speaking at to honor her son and she needed to be able to help her other children process their own grief. As strange as it may sound, I knew at the moment that this was what it would feel like to lose a child and, while my friend would have a lifetime to mourn, for these few days He was letting me shoulder some of her pain.

I came home and texted my friend and told her what the Lord had shown me and she said she wasn't surprised because from the first time we had met we had a deep heart connection. In that moment of confirmation, the pain I felt suddenly went from feeling like a weight upon my shoulders to a holy privilege that I carried with care.

Now my reason for sharing all this isn't even to highlight the part I played in what happened that weekend, but rather to set the stage to share how the Lord ministered to me in a deeply profound way in my distress. For when you are a part of the Body of believers, He allows us to be ministered to by some we know will be by our side always and others who He puts in our path to lift up our arms in unexpected ways...and that happened for me that weekend. 

He, of course, used Tim, my kids and my parents to love me and let me cry when I needed to, regardless of what I might be neglecting at the time. He used Karen, the one who I always say is the reason I am not in a padded cell yet, to encourage me, check on me, pray for me and offer to do whatever I needed her to do. He used Kim and the rest of our Bloom leadership (Mikki, Amanda, Shelley and April) to pray for me and to encourage me and to release me from any need I might feel to be there for others because they had it all covered. He let Anthony and Rachel come over Saturday night to check on me because He knows laughter is good medicine and they were the perfect ones to make that happen. He allowed my dear friend, Tonja, to be able to be at church that Sunday and I was able to sit with her and her husband, Bengie. This was so huge for me because, when I finally came totally unglued at the end of service, Tonja held me and rubbed my back and kissed my head and did what she does best...she mothered me. He let a lady who I have not gotten to spend much time with, Betty, come up and pray for me without knowing exactly what she was praying for. He allowed my sweet friend, Michelle, to give me one of the best hugs I've ever had and then take me by my shoulders and look deep into my eyes and tell me she loved me. He used Lisa and Nic and so many others, so many that I know I'm leaving some out, to simply give me a hug because they knew words were not necessary. And He used them, all of them, to remind me of this very important scriptural principle...


we need each other!!!

Those who love us are important when times are good, but those who love us are essential when we are hurting. He also showed me that, while He often has me on the giving end in times of need, it's okay to admit when I'm the one who is hurting and has needs. 

That weekend taught me a lot. It made me realize, first and foremost, that life can change in an instant and so we need to keep short accounts with each other. It made me realize that having good friends is a gift and being a good friend is a privilege. It made me even more attune to the pain and needs of others and it gave me a renewed desire to work at relationships and not let petty disagreements cause us to get sideways. 

I'm thankful He always uses pain for our good when we yield to Him and I pray He will forever let me remember the first weekend of August 2016!!

Monday, August 22, 2016

He Shouldn't Always Have to Shout

Tim is reading a book by John Ortberg entitled, "God is Closer Than You Think", and he was sharing with me some portions out of it this morning. What he read to me piggybacked perfectly on what I had already read and been meditating on this morning and that usually means (to me anyway) that God might be trying to make a point.

John Ortberg said, 'So why doesn’t He (God) send us all dreams every night? Why doesn’t he make every day a rainbow day and send epiphanies twenty-four-seven? Maybe it’s because God wants us to learn to see him in the ordinary rather than be dependent on the extraordinary. Maybe it’s because if God regularly satisfied our demand for special effects it would be like a mother who inadvertently trains her children to pay attention only when she raises her voice.'


This is the reality, for those of us who love Jesus, know His word, read His word and walk intimately with Him (at least the majority of days), He is always speaking to us. That is why He tells us that we should hide His word in our hearts because...


every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another—showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us.


The difficulty comes when we become dissatisfied with usually hearing from Him the way everyone else does (through his Word, either when reading it or having Him bring it to the forefront of our minds at a specific time) and we start needing to go from one "God told me" moment to the next. The reason this becomes dangerous thinking is that we can end up using it to promote self's ability to hear rather than God's ability to speak!!! 

God doesn't suffer from bouts of laryngitis. He is never restricted from speaking to us...ever. To circle back around to John Ortberg's example of the mother who must raise her voice to get the attention of her children, she had never lost her ability to speak. Her children had just lost their ability to hear unless she shouted.


I wrote a blog post a few years ago and I made the observation that there must be beauty in the mundane, everyday rhythms of life because, otherwise, the extraordinary would become the standard and not one person can maintain that for very long without becoming burned out and exhausted. The same is true when it comes to hearing, or more appropriately "listening", to God.


Now, before you start getting your panties in a wad and think I'm saying there are not times that God speaks to us in a more momentous and time-stopping way...I'm not. There are definitely times, to use the mother analogy again, when I gather my children (or a specific child) to me and begin by saying, "Look, I really need you to listen to what I'm about to say because it's important." I'm a firm believer that God has those moments with us because I've experienced them. I've had those experiences in church, one time in particular, when everyone else may as well have gone home because the message He was delivering through the pastor was just for me. There have been other times when I've heard that still, small voice whisper in my ear and there have been times when I've been halted in my tracks because He has bellowed for me to, "Stop", or otherwise I would be walking straight into danger!! 


It happens...I just don't think it happens all the time because then we would become immune to all the special, everyday moments He gives us. Similarly, if this were the case, our "Eucharisteo" (our ability to express gratitude) would be reduced to only thanking Him when He did the extraordinary...and what parent wants that to happen? I think maybe...just maybe...the problem oftentimes is that we become distracted by the voices we are surrounded by, not to mention the voices in our own heads, and shouting may be His only option to gain back our attention. And truth be told, I think sometimes we give Him credit for speaking things that He really doesn't want to be credited with because it really wasn't His voice we heard at all. 


Thank You, Lord that You give us the ability to see You in the everyday, mundane, coming and goings of our lives. Thank You that You are as intimately involved in our lives when You speak to us in a relaxed way, such as through Your word, as You are when You seemingly stop time in order to get a point across to us. Thank You that I need not focus on my great ability to hear You, but I can rest in the knowledge that You are constantly speaking to me thru Your Word and will make sure I hear what I need to hear when I need to hear it because You will never lose Your ability to speak.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Donkeys and Siri and Other Ways God Speaks to Us

As I sit down to write this morning, I am so excited that I am praying my fingers can keep up with the rate at which my mind is spinning and needing to get the words down on paper (which is actually a screen, but I prefer to think of it as paper). I am a firm believer that God still speaks to us in a myriad of ways, just as he did in the Bible. I do think we need to be careful when we say, "God said...", or "God spoke...to me", because sometimes I think we put words in His mouth to manipulate situations, but I digress. The point of this post is to share with you that God spoke this morning and we need to listen!!

I was texting with a friend and we were discussing the pruning that God is doing in our own lives and the pruning that we see Him doing in our Body of believers. During our conversation I was type-texing and my friend was using Siri to speak-text. My friend's message to me through Siri was that God had shown her it was time to quit focusing on the pruning and to start focusing on the growth that we are seeing as a result of it. Growth in our own lives and growth in our Body. But here's the thing...


Siri changed the word "growth" to the word "eucharist". 

Eucharist!! 

I don't know about you, but there is nothing that sounds the least bit similar in the words "growth" and "eucharist". I can't imagine anyone saying, "We need to focus on the 'growth' He's bringing about", and me saying, "I'm sorry, did you say we need to focus on the 'eucharist'? It's just not going to happen!! Now this may not rouse the same degree of excitement in you as it did my friend and me (okay, maybe we were initially a little freaked out at first) because you might not understand what the word "eucharist" really means.

The word "eucharist" in Greek is the word "echaristia" and in Hebrew it is the word "berekah". All 3 of them simply mean, " thanksgiving or praise for the wonderful work of God." Additionally, the root of "eucharist" is the word "charis" which means "grace" and it also encompasses the word "chara" which means "joy". Are you starting to see it now? We were looking at pruning from the simple standpoint of growth, but God (by way of Siri) was saying...


"My pruning should be something you give praise and thanksgiving for because of the work I'm doing in bringing forth incredible grace and joy in your midst."

Suddenly "growth" seems like a measly and insufficient word when you compare it to "eucharist"!! And the crazy part is that God used Siri to help remind us what He is doing in our midst.

Now I'm sure some of you may think I inhaled too many paint fumes last week while I was refinishing furniture and that I'm creating something that isn't there just for the purpose of having something to write about, but may I remind you that God used a donkey to speak to Balaam in the Bible. Read it for yourself in Numbers 22:21-35. It's right there. God had sent an angel of the Lord to speak to Balaam, but he kept missing it. The donkey didn't, though. The donkey saw the angel every single time and tried to get Balaam's attention and finally, when it seemed like Balaam was just going to miss out on God entirely it says "God gave speech to the donkey". God was so determined that Balaam not miss what He was doing that He used a donkey and made it talk.

That is why I am fully convinced that if God can use a donkey back then He can use Siri now and this is why I think He did it...

I can get so consumed sometimes by how painful the process of pruning is in my own life and in what I see going on around me that I miss out on the purpose for the pruning. His purpose for pruning in our lives and in His Body as a whole is always to remove anything that causes us to be unhealthy or weighed down by unnecessary, non fruit-producing baggage so that we can experience growth and so that His work of grace and joy in our lives has the freedom to flourish. Pruning is always for our good! ALWAYS!!!

How thankful I am that I can be assured that, while never pleasant at the time, I will always look back on the pruning process and see the purpose...even though it may take a while. How thankful I am for the grace and joy that I am witnessing in my own life and in the lives of those I get to walk with and do life with. 

And how thankful I am that God can use a virtual assistant named Siri to make sure we don't miss out on what He is ultimately doing!!!


Lord, I thank You that You have no limits and no restrictions on how You can speak to us! I thank You that You love us so much that You will stop us dead in our tracks to get our attention so we can witness firsthand what You are doing. Thank You for the pruning that You have recently been doing in me, personally, and thank You for the pruning in our Body. May You find us faithful in obeying what we know You have laid out for us to do and may we all rejoice together at the grace and joy that is bursting forth in our midst. I want You to continue to "create in me a clean heart" even if it means cutting away those things I continue to allow to hinder the process. I love You, Lord, and I love watching the way You work!!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

It's Not About Me......


It can be easy sometimes to wonder if God really sees all that's going on and cares about all of it. I'm here to tell you He does.

I recently acquired Hannah's old bedroom in a rather extensive room swap that went on around here. I waited almost 26 years, but I finally have my own space...an office/craft room. Last night I was getting things organized in there and I came across 2 index cards that I had written out many years ago and had not seen in at least 4 years because they had been tucked away in a drawer. I pulled them out and began to read them and wasn't sure if I should laugh or cry because they were exactly what I needed to read after a day that was hard on my heart…



So there it was, His quiet explanation and reminder that…

It's not about ME!!!!

I'm not here to tell you that relational discord is easy, enjoyable or any less hurtful the more it happens. I AM here to tell you that none of it…NONE OF IT…goes unnoticed by Him!!!

Today is a new day with new mercies. Weeping may last for a night, but JOY comes in the morning. May we each experience a day filled with gentle reminders of His intimate involvement in every minute detail of our lives and may we be filled with joy because of it!!!


Life is Hard...

I needed to revisit this post yesterday and today (and maybe a few more days till I can let some things go) and so I thought maybe someone else might need to read it, too...

Life is hard!!! Can I get an, "Amen"? There are so many situations and so many cases of relational tension that can make us feel like life is a set of land mines we must successfully navigate without getting blown up. Add to that being in full time ministry, and it can feel very lonely and challenging at times. Tim and I really desire to take the high road in situations that arise because we know the other option can cause too much collateral damage and we don't want to go there. It can be quite an inward fight, though, because my flesh doesn't particularly like the high road! Ha!!


There was one day in the last 6 months that I was feeling very broken. I had cried and ranted to the Lord until I felt like a rung out dishcloth. One thing I kept reiterating to Him (like I thought He didn't understand it the first 14 times I spewed it out) was that it didn't seem fair that often times the people we invest the most in are the ones who hurt us the most. Now, I realize life is rarely "fair" and, as Tim tells our kids..."We don't live at the fair!!"...but it still seemed like the scales of justice and rightness were tilted decidedly against me. As I sat in the corner of my room, curled in the safety of my recliner, I had no sooner gotten my statement of injustice out for the umpteenth time when I heard His still, small Voice in a most powerful way. He didn't bellow like an exasperated parent or cut me down with a sarcasm borne of frustration. He simply said...


"I know, remember Judas."

I instantly felt my body's rapid intake of breath as the force of His words felt like a punch to my gut. His intention was not to deliver a blow, but His words hit me as such.


"Remember Judas."

The one whom He selected. The one whom He treated like everyone else. The one whom He invested in, spent time with, taught, laughed with and shared His most intimate thoughts with on a daily basis. The one whom He knew, before he had ever answered the call to follow, would be His betrayer. The one whom He knew would deliver a lethal kiss for a few lousy coins.


"Remember Judas!!" 

It became a rising crescendo in my brain...echoing with the weightiness of what those words signified in my own life. Jesus chose to invest in Judas in exactly the same way He invested in the other 11. He washed Judas' feet and then  He let them know that this seemingly devoted follower was about to deliver a devastating blow to them all.


"Remember Judas!"


2 simple words that radically changed the way I looked at things. 

Now I'm not going to lie and say that all of a sudden the rejection and betrayal didn't hurt. I'm not going to tell you that He changed my circumstances or made me okay with being cast off and cut off. What He did do was identify with my struggle like no one else had ever done. I had a Saviour, a sovereign intercessor, who had experienced everything I had...only He knew it was going to happen and He went there anyway!!!


"Remember Judas!!"

 There have been a number of times since then that I have found myself on the receiving end of a hurtful revelation. There have been times when my kids have hurt me, my husband has hurt me or those in the church have hurt me and I want to dive under the safety of my covers and stay there. Each time, though, I hear His gentle whisper remind me...

"Remember Judas."

Just yesterday a discovery had me stopped in my tracks and wishing I could wring a certain person's neck. No sooner had I felt that familiar stiffening of my back and knot forming in my stomach than I stopped and laughed. It was the first time I hadn't heard the whisper, but had actually turned to Him instead with a chuckle and said...

"I know. Remember Judas!!"

I am certainly not saying my tassel has been turned and I won't ever need Him to take me by the shoulders, look deep in my eyes and remind me of this simple, yet oh so powerful, truth. It was a day of victory for me, though, when I realized I had caught myself before I got too far down the "poor me" path. 

Are you struggling with hurt? Betrayal? Have you been cut off by someone who you have spent intentional time investing in on a regular basis? I'm not going to lie...it stinks!!!! I encourage you to sit down and take a deep breath, though, and...

"Remember Judas!!"

Lord, thank You for the way You are so intimately involved in every facet of my life. Thank You for always knowing exactly what I need to hear and when I need to hear it. Thank you for loving my friends as much as You love me and for Your willingness to remind us all to...

"Remember Judas!"

Monday, June 6, 2016

Second-Guessing

Being in leadership can be challenging...to say the least. There are so many expectations placed on you and sometimes the hardest expectations to manage are your own. When Tim and I started pastoring it was a completely new arena, even though we had already been in ministry for 20 years. The thought of being responsible for leading and caring for so many people was somewhat daunting.

It didn't take long after our arrival to realize the church as a whole was in disarray and the women's ministry was in a constant state of confusion. Knowing where to start was overwhelming and felt akin to trying to get your kids clean after they played in a mud puddle…sometimes hosing them down in the front yard is your only option. The spiritual equivalent of "hosing them down" began and it was quickly apparent that some wanted to be clean and would make the trip, but there were some who had wallowed for so long that getting clean would take too much effort in their minds and so they left. (I must insert a caveat here because I realize not everyone left for this reason, but many made it known that did not take kindly to the changes that were taking place.) This process took a while and didn't always end well which hurt my heart, but I had to stay focused on those who remained.

During this time I spent many hours asking the Lord for direction so I would know how to lead these women who had been placed in my care. There were some very vocal spokeswomen during that time who felt they had all the answers, but I knew that I would ultimately be held responsible for the outcome and so I took the weight of this decision as to how to lead very seriously.

After much prayer and seeking the Lord, He reminded me that leading a church was essentially no different than leading the Bible studies Tim and I had led for all those years, even though the church was exponentially larger. It all hinged on sharing truth freely because of the relationships that had been built and sharing with each other how this truth was changing our hearts, our lives and those around us. I had my answer, but implementing it would prove to require plenty of patience and steadfastnesses because, for many, this was a very foreign and scary plan of action. It would require allowing ourselves to be known by others by dropping our masks of perfection, self-protection and indifference. The Lord kept placing Revelation 12:10-11 on my heart and it only served to confirm that this was the direction we should take...

 "Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens,
“It has come at last—
    salvation and power
and the Kingdom of our God,
    and the authority of his Christ.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters
    has been thrown down to earth—
the one who accuses them
    before our God day and night. 
And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb
    and by their testimony.
And they did not love their lives so much
that they were afraid to die."

Initially it was slow-going, but everything began to change when I shared a lesson on forgiveness about 2 1/2 years ago. This proved to be the catalyst that would blow the doors wide open and allow the Spirit to begin to set the captives free. What began as a 1 week lesson morphed into close to 3 months of life-changing testimony after testimony after testimony. One lady would share her story of abuse, rejection, pain and the path to forgiveness and you could literally feel the courage that it would infuse into the room for the next person to share and the next. Over time the chaos was replaced with an underlying peace that was almost tangible and we began to move forward in a much healthier way.

I felt it was necessary to lay this groundwork so we could see where we began and where we find ourselves now, for yesterday was a powerful day at The Cross Loganville. Tim has been teaching a series entitled "This is War" and his message yesterday was about sexual strongholds. He shared in a very transparent way and laid out the truth of what is needed to not be a pawn of the enemy in this area. We know from 25 years of ministering and counseling that this is one of the most effective ways satan uses to keep believers in bondage and we sensed that just hearing a message would not be sufficient. So, in keeping with that thought, last night anyone who wanted to continue the discussion gathered together…women with women and men with men.

To say that there was tangible evidence of the Spirit at work would be an understatement. So many shared their stories. Stories of sexual abuse, misuse and bondage. Some of their stories involved freedom that had already been experienced while others were still in process. It was a beautiful portrait of that passage in Revelation for the accuser of the brethren was being thrown down and many were being set free by the blood of the Lamb and the word of the testimonies!!!

Unfortunately I had to hear about everything that took place yesterday morning and last night secondhand because I was out with a stomach bug. I SO hated to not be there, but being home and hearing from so many throughout the day gave me much time to reflect about where we began and where we are 5 1/2 years later. One of our Bloom leadership girls called me last night to let me know how it went and as she excitedly shared what God had done I felt my eyes begin to fill with tears. I was overwhelmed with His goodness to us, but I was overwhelmed by the way He had confirmed to me in such a powerful way that I had, in deed, heard from Him and no more second-guessing was necessary. Teaching and studying Truth is essential and we are ultimately set free by the blood of the Lamb, but we cannot discount how much we benefit from the word of our own testimony and the testimonies of those we are walking this road with on a daily basis.

Timothy Keller said…

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

I am so thankful for these people I get to do life with day in and day out. Leading and shepherding is an exhausting job, but seeing my friends step forward with the courage needed to share their stories and walk forward into freedom makes all the tiring days and sleepless nights worth it. One of the passages that the Lord showed me many years ago as it pertains to our ministry is Thessalonians 2:3-13. I am going to leave you with these verses so you may know how full my heart is this morning…

3-5 God tested us thoroughly to make sure we were qualified to be trusted with this Message. Be assured that when we speak to you we’re not after crowd approval—only God approval. Since we’ve been put through that battery of tests, you’re guaranteed that both we and the Message are free of error, mixed motives, or hidden agendas. We never used words to butter you up. No one knows that better than you. And God knows we never used words as a smoke screen to take advantage of you.
6-8 Even though we had some standing as Christ’s apostles, we never threw our weight around or tried to come across as important, with you or anyone else. We weren’t aloof with you. We took you just as you were. We were never patronizing, never condescending, but we cared for you the way a mother cares for her children. We loved you dearly. Not content to just pass on the Message, we wanted to give you our hearts. And we did.
9-12 You remember us in those days, friends, working our fingers to the bone, up half the night, moonlighting so you wouldn’t have the burden of supporting us while we proclaimed God’s Message to you. You saw with your own eyes how discreet and courteous we were among you, with keen sensitivity to you as fellow believers. And God knows we weren’t freeloaders! You experienced it all firsthand. With each of you we were like a father with his child, holding your hand, whispering encouragement, showing you step-by-step how to live well before God, who called us into his own kingdom, into this delightful life.
13 And now we look back on all this and thank God, an artesian well of thanks! When you got the Message of God we preached, you didn’t pass it off as just one more human opinion, but you took it to heart as God’s true word to you, which it is, God himself at work in you believers!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Just Live...

I don't know about you, but I'm a planner. My actual paper planner is an essential for me. I liken it to my brain outside my body and I would be fairly lost without it. Plans are good. Plans are necessary. Plans can be so misleading, though, because, if we're not careful, they can give us a false sense of being in control. Plans can lure us into complacency and the illusion that we have all the time in the world to, well…

just live.

"How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? 
Your life is like the morning fog—
it’s here a little while, then it’s gone."
James 4:14

And then there's a phone call…a phone call with a sobbing friend on the other line. She tells you there has been a tragedy and time seems to hover in a holding pattern while you gather your thoughts that have just suddenly spun out of control. You move through the physical motions of arranging care for your children, calling a friend to accompany you to the hospital and changing out of your Sunday napping clothes. Outwardly you seem capable and composed, but inwardly every fiber of your being is on high alert and your mind is screaming that you're not qualified to deal with such deep despair and you wish you could ask Him to send someone else.

"Then I heard the Lord asking, 
“Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? 
Who will go for us?”
I said, 'Here I am. Send me.'"
Isaiah 6:8

So you go to the hospital and you hold your sobbing friend. You listen to the wails of the only family member who physically survived the tragedy, but sustained emotional wounds that may never fully heal. You watch a husband grieve the loss of his new wife AND his mother. You witness a dad suddenly envisioning living out his final years alone and a son as he has the realization wash over him that he can't ever pick up the phone to call his mom again. You comfort, you pray, you rub a back and you wonder desperately how to answer the question that your friend has just rolled up in front of you on the nurses chair and asked…

"God knew this was going to happen, right? 
He knew that today my mom and sister-in-law would die, right?"

You know there is no simple answer because really, who can even truly begin to comprehend how it all works? But your friend is looking at you pleadingly to help him understand and you recognize that in and of yourself you have nothing to offer as you utter a silent plea for help...

"If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, 
and he will give it to you."
James 1:5

So you find yourself opening your mouth and hoping the words that tumble out are not yours. You hope that what you're sharing is from God's mouth to your friend's ears and that they help, for the moment, to settle the real question that's being asked…

Is He really a good God and can He truly be trusted?

And, of course, there are no verbal bandaids that will satisfy so you don't pretend to have all the answers. It's not a time for reminding them that all things work together for good because the grief is too raw and the future so murky that the idea of good is unfathomable. Christian cliches that speak to His faithfulness would be ill-placed there in that hospital hallway full of pain so tangible that it hangs like a heaviness about our shoulders.

 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
Iaiah 55:8-9

You encourage your friend that God is not offended by his questions. You let him know that He can handle whatever emotions the pain causes to wash over him and out his mouth. You remind him that even Mary and Martha were mad at Jesus, their friend and frequent houseguest, because they thought their trust in Him had been ill-placed. And you assure him that you and many others will walk beside him as he navigates the rocky and uncertain road of grief because…

that's what LOVE does.

"We love each other because He loved us first."
1 John 4:19

Later that night you find yourself in bed, wondering how long sleep will elude you. You contemplate how we can all plan and dream and imagine what our future will look like, but ultimately we must each come to the place where we wave the white flag of surrender and acknowledge that the One who first breathed life into us can call for that breath back at any moment.

"We can make our plans,
    but the Lord determines our steps."
Proverbs 16:9

So you make those plans and dream those dreams. You try to keep short accounts of wrongs done to you and treat others as you really would want to be treated yourself. You love fiercely and seek to forgive quickly. You realize that earthly treasures are just that and will one day be all that's left here. You surrender to Him and at the start of each day you reach for His hand and you…

just live!

"I cling to You; Your strong right hand upholds me." 
Psalm 63.8

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Grace

Sometimes you have a week…

where the kids have been sick and everyone has cabin fever…

and you have some friends who are hurting and there's nothing you can do…

and you're tired…

and you're working through forgiveness even when you don't really want to...

and you spend time wondering if you've really got what it takes to do what you've been called to do…

and one of your babies has a birthday and reminds you of the passing of time…

and you remember that 7 years ago to the day your Granny left this earth…

and you want to curl up in bed and stay there for a bit because it seems like a lot when you put it all together. But then the boy comes in from the mailbox and there's a box with your name on it and inside the box is a note…




And under the note is a picture…




And the picture is covering up a beautiful leather purse that you had seen online, but knew you could not spend the money on, even though it supported a wonderful cause…




And you realize that God has used a kind, thoughtful and sensitive friend, whom you rarely get to see even though your hearts were bound together 2 decades before, to remind you that He sees it all…

And the tag line for the company that made the purse makes you laugh out loud when you see it because isn't that just like Him to remind you in an unexpected way that you're one of those women who has overcome and that's not going to change…



 because it's not about you

it's about GRACE

and this Grace upon Grace flows out of HIS fullness…

So you breathe deeply and continue to do what the card suggested…


be assured of His great dream of…

ME…

because…

I AM LOVED!!!





Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Little Things Can Be Big Things

Today I was thinking over the last 5 years since we have come to lead The Cross Loganville and all that has happened during that time. It has been an amazing time and it has been a hard time, but the things that stand out the most are the little moments. The moments that involve a passing word or a kind deed. The moments that don't involve any fanfare, but ultimately communicate so much. I started thinking about all the kindnesses that have been shown to us these last 5 years and, while they are way too many to count, some really stand out.

One of these moments came to mind as I was pondering it all and it made me feel loved and cared for all over again. This moment came in the midst of something that had me unusually flustered and out of sorts. I'm normally pretty laid back and not much gets my feathers too ruffled, but I was all in a tizzy this particular day. It just so happened that the reason for my frantic state came about on my way to church so when I got there a friend got a firsthand glimpse at "crazy Barb". This particular friend is quiet, soft-spoken and exceedingly kind. She overheard my dilemma as I related it to Tim and she gently stepped in and offered to do something that would alleviate much of my stress at the moment. She didn't have to offer and no one else was there to witness it. She didn't ask for an explanation with all the gory details attached. She just saw a need and did what she could to help. 

After I got done replaying this special moment in my mind, I texted my friend. I reminded her of what had happened (although "crazy Barb" was probably hard for her to forget) and I thanked her again for the kind, quiet way that she ministered to me that day. I told her that moment with her made me feel cared for and it made me feel like I mattered and I wanted her to know I hadn't forgotten. 

How about you? What are some of the small, seemingly insignificant moments that really stand out to you? Who has extended a kindness to you that you haven't forgotten? Who made you feel like you had value and you mattered? 

Why don't you tell them? Call them, text them, or pay them a visit. Let them know what they did and how it made you feel. While initially it was them who encouraged you, you just might be able to return the favor by encouraging them. My friend told me my text made her smile this morning and that meant the world to me. I hope it made her feel like who she is and what she does for others matters…and that's worth remembering!!


"Encourage one another and build each other up!!!!"
1 Thessalonians 5:11


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Fresh Slate?

We hear a lot about how the beginning of a physical new year is a fresh slate full of new opportunities. While there is some truth to that, I think the concept can be a little deceptive, not to mention disappointing. The things I was dealing with on December 31, 2015 didn't mysteriously disappear January 1, 2016. The people with whom my life was intertwined in 2015 didn't all hit a personal reset button so that we could begin our relationships again this year in a healthier, less messy way. Much of my life in 2015 has spilled into 2016 whether I wanted it to or not. I didn't get to take a giant eraser and smudge out all those things that weighed me down in 2015 so that I could start fresh and less encumbered.

What I do get to do, though, is have a physical mile marker along the road of my life at which I can pause, contemplate and make a new resolve. I often pray and ask the Lord to give me a word for the year. It's not necessarily a Biblical exercise whose origin I can point to anywhere in scripture, but it's rather a personal exercise designed to recalibrate as I move forward into the new year. Some years I know way ahead of time which word the Lord is impressing on me to pursue and others it has felt so forced that I have abandoned it all together.  This year, though, I believe the Lord clearly showed me a word because it is the message I kept hearing Him whisper to my heart the last few weeks, before I even really started thinking about the need for a new word.


Focus…

Focus…

Focus…

That's my word.

When I feel overwhelmed with all that's on my plate…

FOCUS!

When I feel pulled in so many different directions…

FOCUS!

When I'm tempted to listen to the lies of the enemy…

FOCUS!

When I would rather distract myself with Netflix, Facebook or Solitaire…

FOCUS!

When the words of accusers ring louder than than the words of Truth…

FOCUS!

When I feel the overwhelming urge to roll up the sidewalk and stay in bed with the covers over my head…

FOCUS!

When relationships feel messy…

FOCUS!


So while my slate may not be clean and shiny, I am choosing to focus on Jesus! I am choosing to eliminate distractions and find my best YES when presented with opportunities. I am choosing to not allow the frenzied requests of others to dictate my decisions. I am choosing to put down the phone and the iPad and engage instead of using them to escape. We are not victims of our circumstances and we always have a choice!!!

(Image before "Jesus" was added taken from http://blog.picsart.com/post/how-to-draw-a-camera-a-step-by-step-drawing-tutorial)

I choose Jesus!!!!!



Colossians 3:2 ~ "Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth."

 Hebrews 12:2-3 ~ "Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through."