Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Your Ultimate Fear

I'm still going through this book called Whiter Than Snow by Paul David Tripp. It has been one of the most challenging things I have read with such continual focus on sin and the need for grace. Meditation 32 is called 'Your Ultimate Fear.' The title captured me right away. I live with way more worry and fear in my life than I should. I say that I trust that God is in control, yet continually try to do my own thing. I would like to just give a cliff notes version of this reading:

"Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me." -Psalm 51:11 This should be our greatest fear in all of life, but is it?

She had it all and maybe that's why she was so afraid. Everything she had was nicer than she ever thought would be hers. But morning after morning she'd sit there and worry. She'd worry about her marriage, finances, children, and health. She even worried about natural disasters.

Something very significant had happened to her, and she didn't even know it. The very things for which she'd been so grateful, the very things she once though she didn't deserve, had morphed into things that she was convinced she couldn't live without. What she had once greeted with surprised gratitude were now the sources of major anxiety. The things that had once seemed out of place in her life had become the very things that defined her life. And so she lived with fear. 

Something else had changed. The thing that was meant to define her life, and that once did, no longer defined her. There had been a time when everything in her life was defined and evaluated by her relationship with God. There was time when she greeted God's grace with a surprised gratefulness. Now these thoughts were no longer center stage. No longer would she identify herself as a sinner, rescued by grace. No longer did she get her meaning, purpose, and sense of well-being from the Lord. That once heartfelt and wholesome question, "Where would I be without the Lord?" had been replaced by the question of how she'd cope with the loss of any one item in her personal catalog of material things. 

But I didn't think long about David or about my friend, because my mind turned to me. What is the thing in the world for which I'm the most thankful? The loss of what thing do I fear the most? The existence of what in my life gives me meaning, purpose, and that inner sense of well-being?"

Questions to ponder:
1. Be honest: what is it that brings the most fear into your heart?
2. What things in your life are you convinced that you cannot live without? Pray for a heart that is so fully satisfied with God that you are able to be content with what He has placed in your life. 

These words have to cut to my heart these past couple of days. I've been thinking about some of the resolutions I made for 2011. One of them was this - I desired to learn what it means to be content with God and what He has provided. So often during 2011, I have failed in being satisfied in God. I was challenged with one of my favorite verses of Scripture over the weekend, "You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16:11). Oh that my greatest fear would be to not experience the fullness of joy that comes from His presence! I need it and want to be fully satisfied in Him alone. 

“The enjoyment of God is our highest happiness, and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant accommodations here. Fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of earthly friends, are but shadows; but God is the substance. These are but scattered beams, but God is the sun. These are but streams. But God is the ocean.”
― Jonathan Edwards

Friday, December 09, 2011

Where Your Treasure Is...

Today is my Mom's birthday. She would have been 67 years old. A little over 3 years ago, God chose to allow my Mom to enjoy the continual celebration and joy of Heaven. Who needs a birthday there, right? 3 years ago this day was so hard, but today, it is not so much. I miss Mom, but I do not miss cancer and seeing her suffer. I can only imagine that she is so much better off than she ever was here on earth. As I think of her, my thoughts normally go to what she taught me (or how I failed to learn more cooking skills from her.)
One of her favorite verses was found in Matthew 6. Verse 21 says this, "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." It helps to back up a few verses to see this short verse in a little more context, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6:19-21). My family did not have a lot when I was growing up. We were fed, clean, and taken care of, but did not have money for extras or fancy things. As my brothers and I like to talk about, we ate the generic brand of most foods along with a lot of hot dogs and mac 'n cheese. We were loved by two parents and cared for, so I am thinking the extra stuff didn't matter too much and I would say that we had a great childhood!
On more than one occasion as Mom was teaching truth from God's Word, she would make sure to say that she was more concerned about storing up treasure in Heaven than here on this earth. She wanted her kids to know about Jesus, she wanted the students she taught to know about God's love for them, and even the many people that she encountered in her Tupperware business knew about Mom's relationship with the Lord and had probably heard the Gospel from her. She spent a LOT of time talking to people. (I get my love for talking on the phone from her.) I think her heart was better focused on eternal things than most people I have encountered, although I believe she did a pretty good job living in the moments that God blessed her with here. 
As Mom neared death, we saw even more clearly and frequently where her treasure really was. We knew she loved us and cared deeply for her family, but she knew she was going to see Jesus. The things that she had worked hard to accomplish in life paled in comparison to her relationship with Jesus and wanting to make sure those she loved knew Him. She talked to so many people in those last few days. She was going to see Jesus. He was truly her treasure! 
I am unsure of what all Mom had accomplished for the Kingdom in her life, God knows. I am so thankful for her example. I know that I am challenged, especially around Christmas time, to not dwell so much on the things that "moth and rust destroy" or what thieves desire to steal. I'm sure that Heaven's greatest treasure will be experiencing Jesus for all eternity. For now, I pray that God will give me opportunities to further His kingdom and store up treasures in Heaven. I don't want my heart clinging to the things of this world, when what God has promised is so much greater!

What can I do
How can I live
To show my world
The treasure of Jesus
What will it take
What could I give
So they can know
The treasure He is

And if I can sing
Let my songs be full of His glory
If I can speak
Let my words be full of His grace
And if I should live or die
Let me be found pursuing this prize
The One that alone satisfies
The treasure of Jesus
-Treasure of Jesus, Steven Curtis Chapman

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Story - Part 1

**the other half of the relationship has already approved this blog**

As of Saturday, October 1st at sometime after 5pm, I became an engaged woman. So many have asked me for the engagement story. It is truly one to blog about because I think it is the best engagement story ever, but I'm not biased - just stating opinion. However, with all good stories, you never start at the middle or the end. 

For the past year and a few months, I feel like I have been living in someone else's story. Yet, when I think about Who writes and fashions the story for each of our lives, I should not be surprised that my loving Heavenly Father would bless me with more than I could have ever expected or dreamed. 

Adam and I have known each other for 8+ years. He was probably 16 or 17 when we met, which would have made me 20 or 21. (Que the old woman jokes.) We were not really friends, but I did talk to him and things like that. We just ran in different social circles. He was totally into music from the time I met him to this day actually. My musical talent and ability can probably fit into my thumbnail, maybe... I'm incapable of keeping rhythm. Yep, we are a good match. When people at our church found out of Adam's music talent he began playing for everything Youth Ministry related. This in turn caused girls to swoon over him. If I had nickel for every time a girl said to me, "I want a guy who plays guitar and sings..." I would have a lot of nickels. For years, I gave Adam a hard time about this. Now, I like to say to him, "I like you cause you play the guitar and sing..." He loathes that. 

Anyway, that's not the story. We were friends and co-workers and that was about it, until June of last year. I'm not exactly sure when it all started. We would hang out with groups of people and at the end of the time, we would be the last ones left. This would lead to some good conversations and then we would leave. The conversations continued over text messaging late into the night. (Yes, sometimes dating even as adults is kinda like high school.) I lost a lot of sleep in the first few weeks of his pursuing. Adam asked a lot of good questions and I guess I answered a few them correctly. We were in a long, boring meeting one Tuesday night and he sent me a text, "Want to get some food?" Most guys would say something sweet like, "You look nice or... something." He got right to the heart of the matter by appealing to me with food. My text back was "Sure." We went a bit away from our area of town to get food at a Wendy's. Super duper romantic, right? It was a bit awkward and fun all at the same time. I remember him opening my door for me and I was thinking, "This is strange, but I like it!" There were quite a few more awkward moments, but that's part of the fun, I think. Little did I know that a sovereign God was orchestrating in my life what I had resisted for so long. 

For the first few months of our relationship, we kept it on the downlow (DL). Our families knew and my roomies were aware, but we had decided that we didn't want to make a big deal about it. After a couple of weeks, it seemed like this was going to be the real deal. I'm sure I was the one who became attached quite quickly (Adam prefers to use the term smitten when referring to my feelings.) Normally, relationships involve some type of risk. Adam was definitely worth the risk. From the very beginning, God has given peace in my heart about him. One of my constant desires for the man I would marry is that there would be time to see his character and those around me would confirm that he was a Godly man with integrity. Despite his flaws/sin (which we all have), Adam has proven himself to be faithful in his walk with Christ. I did not need friends to affirm his character, I had seen it for many years. However, I was thankful for the encouragement from so many family and friends that our relationship seemed to be something the Lord had done and not anything we tried to manipulate.

Without a doubt, this past year + has been the best of my life. We have learned a lot about each other and have hopefully grown closer to the Lord in the process. The story is not over Part 2 has just begun. Stay tuned. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Unfailing Love

I have been a blog slacker... Please forgive me. Sometimes life is busy and a bit tiring.
I'm still reading through the book Whiter than Snow by Paul David Tripp.

This is Meditation 17 entitled Unfailing Love

For You would not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; You will not be pleased with a burnt offering. -Psalm 51:16

I wish I would live with You in view;
Eyes to Your glory
Ears for Your wisdom
Heart for Your grace.
But I live with me in view.
Eyes to my kingdom
Ears to my opinion
Heart captured by my will.
I know I was made for You,
I know that Hope
My agenda for every day,
Is to be found in You.
But I want my own kingdom
I love my own glory
I define my own meaning
I delight in my control.
I know You are not fooled
By my burnt offerings.
There's a war that never ends;
The battleground is my heart.
It's a moral skirmish
Between what You have ordained
And what I want.
So I don't find pleasure in Your glory,
I don't delight in Your law.
But my heart doesn't rest;
I know there's a better way.
I know You are God
And I am not.
My sin is more than
Bad behavior
A bad choice
Wrong words.
My sin is a violation of the relationship
That I was meant to have with You.
My sin is an act
Where I replace You
With something I love more.
Every wrong thing I do
A lack of love for You,
A love of self.
Help me
To see
To acknowledge
To weep
And say,
"Against You, You only have I sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight."
And then help me to rest
In Your mercy
In Your tender mercy
In Your faithful love,
Even as the war goes on.

-Paul David Tripp, Whiter Than Snow, pp. 59-60

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Romans 7.

Taking a break for a minute to share with you something I read last night. I am using the book Whiter Than Snow - Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp for discipleship. This has definitely been one of those books that have bothered me with some conviction. My two favorite things about this book are: the close look at Psalm 51 and a presentation of the right view of God along with the right view of man. I have a tendency to think of myself better than I really am and bring God down to my level. I desire to have a right view of Him and His holiness.

Anyway, Paul David Tripp has 52 "meditations" in the book. Each meditation is a little different style. Some are stories along with the Scripture. Others are almost like poetry, this is one of those. 

Meditation 11 - Romans 7
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! -Psalm 51:2

"I am a mass of contradictions; I don't want to be but I am.
I preach a gospel of peace, but my life isn't always driven by peace. 
I talk about Jesus who alone can fully satisfy the soul, but I am often not satisfied.
I celebrate a theology of amazing grace, but I often react in ungrace. 
And if I rest in God's control, why do I seek it for myself?
Even in moments when I think I am prepared, I end up doing what I didn't want to do.
Wrong talk
Are not the fruit of the new life, are not the way of grace.
So there is this law operating inside of me.
When I step out with a desire to do good, evil follows me wherever I go.
There is this war that rages inside of me, between a desire to do good and sin that is anything but good.
There are times when I feel like a prisoner, held against my will.
I didn't plan to be mad in the grocery store, but that guy made me mad.
I didn't plan to be discontent, but it just enveloped me in the quietness of the car. 
That discussion wasn't supposed to degenerate into an argument, but it did.
I'm thankful for God's grace, but there is daily evidence that I'm still in need of help.
That battle inside me cannot be solved by
Helpful hints
I have been humbled by a war I cannot win.
I have been grieved by desires I cannot conquer.
I have been confronted by actions I cannot excuse.
And I have come to confess that what I really need is resuce.
So, have mercy on me, O God,
According to Your unfailing love
According to Your great compassion
Blot out my transgressions
Wash away all my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions
And my sin is always before me.
I embrace the rescue that could only be found in You.
Thanks be to God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

-Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy, Paul David Tripp, pp. 43-44

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

30 for 31. God's Word.

 I haven't forgotten that I stopped last week with 29. I did turn 30 and not 29, but I promised 31, so on I go...

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, 2 Peter 1:3.

I believe the truth of this verse, even when my actions fail to reflect my belief. God's work through His Word draws one to salvation. His divine power grants this beautiful salvation. He does not stop at salvation, but this verse offers the promise that He gives all things needed for life and godliness. Where does all things needed come from? A deep, intimate relationship with Him, which we find through His Word.

I fail so often to realize that God's Word is enough. Our society tries to teach independence. There is nothing wrong with learning to do things and do well, but by nature God made us dependent. A created being produces a dependent being. How easy it is to depend on other things, but the Word of God! Our independent Creator gave His dependent beings exactly what we need for life and godliness through His Word. Even though I often forget that God's Word is enough, it does not change the Word. Every time I come to it, I can clearly see how God's Word is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Want to get a better understanding of how good the Word of God truly is? Take a look at the short chapter of Psalm 19 or spend some time in Psalm 119.

I think I spent the last 10 years (or so) of life realizing the truth of 2 Peter 1:3.  My desire would be to spend my next 10+ years of life putting this truth into practice.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

29 for 31. Reading and Studying.

I really wanted to blog about Adam for Post 29. I spent my entire 29th year of life dating him, but he has this rule about facebook, twitter, and blogging about our relationship, which I try to mostly follow. I will shamelessly plug his music (no rules about that) and the fact that he is seminary student. Him being a seminary student is a good lead into today's post. Since he is a student, some nights when we hang out we read and study. I know fascinating, right?!? Thankfully, I learned to read and study long before he came along.

My mom taught me to read. She made these awesome phonics charts on posterboards. We would go over them at home. You know what I am talking about - A-Apple, B-Boat, C-Car, Ch-Chair, D-Dog... You obviously had to sound the letters out. It was great fun and I loved the phonics charts, especially when they got into the blended sounds. (Some days my Arkansas accent gets in the way of good enunciation.) Mom had this thing she said about reading: "reading is caught not taught." My family was a family of readers. We didn't have to much of a choice, because they bought us lots of books. In the mornings, we passed around the cereal boxes to read the back of them. Yes, we were that family. If we were bored, we were always told... "Go read a book."

The summer I broke my arm, I loved the Babysitter's Clubs books. My aunts would send money for books and I would buy like 10 of them at time and read them in a week. Books were important and given high priority in our house.

One book was given special priority as Mom and Dad went to it everyday. I cannot remember a day when I got out of bed that I did not see Mom and/or Dad reading God's Word or knew by where their Bible was setting that they had already enjoyed time in the Word. My heart is thankful for their Godly example. When it came to Biblical things, I felt like they already knew so much. The knowledge of God always sent them back seeking and desiring to learn more. I may not have appreciated then, but I definitely do now! Proverbs seems to show it best, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight." (Proverbs 9:10)
My parents' example of time reading and studying God's Word would be something that I would try to follow beginning when I was a teenager and continues even now. We are never too old to learn, especially when it comes to studying God's Word.

Stay tuned for more about God's Word...

28 for 31. All Things New

Mom's story ends and her eternity begins with Heaven.

Most days of my life, I wear two bracelets:

The teal bracelet is an Ovarian Cancer Awareness bracelet. The pearl bracelet is a special gift from Dad. It has twelve pearls, some gold, and beautiful crystals. It is called a "Heaven bracelet" taken from the picture we see in Revelation 21:21, "And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass."

I love the bracelets and enjoy the reminder as I wear them each day. I actually like to read a few verses earlier in Revelation,  "And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” -Revelation 21:3-5a. I experience joy like nothing else when I read these verses. God will dwell with His people. The things here on this earth that hurt and break our hearts will be no more. "He who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'" As believers, we experience an abundant new life when we trust Christ, but it goes beyond my imagination to consider what we will enjoy when God makes all things new.

I am not sure what eternity is like now as believers in Heaven await the day when all is made new as well. Mom wanted to see Jesus. I smile when I think of her worshipping our Savior, and no cancer to be found. I am sure she has encountered many others whose life had been made new by Christ here on this earth and now they experience Heaven together.

I go to see His glory,
Whom we have loved below:
I go, the blessed angels,
The holy saints to know.
Our lovely ones departed,
I go to find again,
And wait for you to join us.
Goodnight, goodnight till then! 
-Goodnight, Matthew Smith. 

For those who remain, we anxiously await the promises of Revelation 21. We tell others about the glorious gospel of Christ that can change one's life. Scripture reminds me once again that what we know here is only temporary, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself." -Philippians 3:20-21. All power and glory is His in Heaven and here on earth. In life or in death, may our hearts rejoice in Him!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

27 for 31. Suffering.

Chances of finishing this by the end of August are looking a little slim. However, I will finish. Perseverance is not my middle name, but sometimes I try. Onward...

I don't remember when my Mom started talking about her suffering, but I do remember that when she did, these verses were repeated over and over again.  "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." -Philippians 3:10-11. I didn't grasp the intensity of Mom's suffering. I do know that cancer can be quite painful. I think she much better understood that her suffering was drawing her to a closer relationship with her Savior. As a believer, I would never pray for or desire suffering, I like the "good life." However, God uses suffering to draw us to Himself. I need be reminded that I am not independent, in reality I am solely and entirely dependent on Him for all things. He draws us into the sweetest relationship and often to do this, He uses suffering.
I think Mom got it, she knew. I think my family understood just a little bit too about how God uses these times to draw us to Himself. I have wrote the past couple of days about suffering and God being a refuge. It is all summed up so very well in these verses. We experience suffering to know Him and His power. His desire for a relationship and His power is on display at all times. He is a great God. Suffering is an opportunity to draw close, to hear His Words, to see His power, to trust with the unknown, and be more like Him. That should be my desire at all times whether in good or bad - to know Him and become more like Him!

One of my favorite cd's during this time was Come Weary Saints by Sovereign Grace. I remember singing the words of this chorus over and over again.
King of Glory, I know You love me
So I will trust You, yes I will trust You
God Almighty, You have saved me
So I will trust You, yes I will trust in You

I love how this song shows me who He is - King, God Almighty, Who loved me first, Who died to save before I knew I needed a Savior. Oh, He can be trusted, even in suffering! 


Monday, August 29, 2011

26 for 31. Refuge.

One of the biggest lessons, I get to learn over and over in my life, and especially during the difficult time with Mom, is that God is who He says He is. Not only do I read in the pages of Scripture, but I get to experience it with His work in my life. During the time Mom had cancer, I would read through the Psalms and see that God is a refuge.

"O LORD my God, in you do I take refuge..." -Psalm 7:1 

"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!" -Psalm 34:8

"For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us." -Psalm 62:5-8

"But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works." -Psalm 73:28

"He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'" - Psalm 91:1-2

These are just a few examples. In the Psalms, we also see God being a refuge against enemies when one was in battle. Cancer was not the battle for me, but it was Mom's. I needed shelter from the storm that seemed to be swirling around my life. I found it in the best possible place. God was and is still my refuge. I know God is who says He is and it is our responsibility to believe that. During some difficult days when life seemed broken, God proved over and over again that He is just that - a refuge, a hiding place, a shelter. I rejoice in the fact that His Word true. "for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I will sing for joy." -Psalm 63:7

25 for 31. Romans 5:1-5.

In July of 2007, I went to Brazil on a Mission Trip. Mom and I had decided that we would read Romans 5:1-5 each day of the trip and then talk about it when I returned home. We actually got to talk on the phone once about it while I was in Brazil. She emailed me something about it almost every day of the trip; something she was learning or how she saw God fulfilling the truth of His Word in her life.  These are the precious words of Romans 5:1-5, Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. At that time, we were learning to rejoice in hope of the glory of God, but having a hard time with rejoicing in suffering. Or maybe we were actually learning to rejoice in suffering because the end result is hope. Mom reminded me of who we were in Christ in light of these verses. She experienced the peace and grace from Christ during that time. I had a much harder time with the truth of these verses. I did not want to rejoice in her sufferings. Fortunately for me, the work of the Holy Spirit is not up to me and what I want. I learned the truths of these verses ever so slowly. Because of Christ, we stand in grace. Suffering is the beginning and the ending is hope. These verses are really all about the work of Christ. He justifies. He brings peace. He gives faith. He allows suffering to produce endurance, character, and hope. His Holy Spirit is a beautiful gift that He gives. Our Sovereign God is at work during times of suffering. It took me a long time to see that and I don't even see everything clearly, yet. Someday though.

For now, I read these truths in Scripture and desire to keep learning. I am certain there will be future suffering in my life, believers are not promised an easy life. However, no suffering is without purpose. We suffer for and hope in the glory God.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

24 for 31. Romans 8:18

For a few days, I have been working on/mulling over in my head a series of posts about what I experienced and learned when my Mom was diagnosed with cancer, her suffering, and her passing. Apart from my salvation, nothing else in my life has had a greater impact on me spiritually. I felt like during that time my faith was shaken and my world was broken. When I get the opportunity to tell people about this part of my testimony, I cannot say enough how God's Word comforted and gave hope to my helpless heart. I didn't get all the answers then, and still don't have them now, but the words of Scripture still ring out true again and again in my life. I'm going to try to take you on my journey through Scripture during that time. These verses remain precious to me even now.

March 6, 2007 was the day my family heard the word cancer. It is such an ugly word. It is a word that you hear that produces questions, doubt, and despair. That day was an emotional one for me. I didn't handle the news well. I left the hospital that night feeling hopeless. I had been reading through Romans and was somewhere in the middle of chapter 8. For those who don't know Romans well, chapter 8 is a meaty one. There are so many fantastic theological truths in this chapter. (But don't take my word for it, read it here.) Romans 8:28 may be one of the most popular verses of Scripture, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose." Sweet promises we find in God's Word. That day, I was reading a little earlier in the chapter, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us." (Romans 8:18) I am pretty sure I had no idea at that time of the work that God was going to do. Through Mom's suffering, I believe I saw glimpses of the glory of God and His work in my life, my family, and those around us. This verse is actually talking about the future glory. John MacArthur describes it like this, "This looks forward to the resurrection of the body and subsequent complete Christlikeness which is the believer's eternal glory." (MacArthur Study Bible - ESV).  Yes, we suffer now and it is hard, but is suffering on this earth worth it to experience what Christ has for us in the future? According to Paul, it was. In our present suffering as believers, I believe that God reveals Himself in ways that provide hope and comfort to our hearts. Suffering is for His glory now and points us to the ultimate glory of eternity with Jesus.

Romans 8:18 was and is a big truth for this heart!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

23 for 31. Discipleship (Titus 2).

I have quite a few of those moments where I think, "Why do you want to use me God?" I know He doesn't need me, He is God. Yet, in my weakness, He grants opportunities for me to serve Him in ways that I did not see and was not prepared for the work He was going to do.

If you asked me, if I had ever been discipled, I would attribute that to my Mom and Dad. The Word of God was predominant in our home, school life, and of course, church. They gave me a great love for the Word and an encouraged my God-given desire for the things of the Lord. Also, they answered lots of questions. Dad still answers lots of questions about God's Word and the application of it. I am thankful for that.

If you asked if I would ever disciple someone, I would have told you that was for the retired ladies in the church. How wrong and naive, I was to think that! God put a middle school girl in my life who wanted some attention and in the process, used her to help me understand that God calls all believers to discipleship. It is something we call, the Great Commission, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..." (Matthew 28:19) God used my years with her to help me grow in relationship with Him as we experienced life together. Seven or so years later, I consider her a sweet sister and always enjoy the opportunity to talk about the Word together and the work that God is doing in our lives.

I'm thankful that God did not stop with one girl, but continues to put people into my life. I would not consider myself an "older woman," although 30 seems like it some days. Titus 2 reminds me that God desires to use women in this area to teach other women, "Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women..."(Titus 2:3-4a) My desire is to be obedient God's Word and hopefully teach others to be obedient to God's Word as well. Even though our efforts fall short each day, I am thankful that He uses people for discipleship. I had no idea of the truths from God's Word that I would learn as I desired to teach others, and am so thankful that discipleship is a growing process. "And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

22 for 31. Brothers (Part 2)

Brothers - The Youngest.

Since 1984, I have had Middle Child Syndrome. (Haha, not really.) 26 almost 27 years ago, our family welcomed James David into the world, I prefer to call him Jimbo. I have a lot more memories of him because we were closer in age and he didn't move away when I was a preteen. (No offense, Darryl.) ;) At a young age, like 2 months, I remember Jimbo liked to pinch people. I'm sure that he was never aggravated by his older sister, he was just a pincher. He was the cutest kid of the bunch with a really round head and big ears. Mom liked to call him Charlie Brown. She also liked for him to wear bowties. I failed in finding a bowtie picture, but I'm sure Jim had one suit for like the first two or three years of life. It was pinstripe blue with a vest and a bowtie.

Christmas some year - We are from Arkansas; kids played with tractors.

Jim established himself early on as the funny one in the family. As the baby, he had Mom wrapped around his finger and he knew it. Darryl and I have stories of how much better the baby was treated, but no worries, we are not bitter. :) Jim did not get into as much trouble as he should have... I think by the time Mom and Dad got him, they were tired from disciplining their daughter, so Jim got away with stuff.

As teenagers, Mom said that we needed some family time. For this special bonding time, we would watch the Sound of Music. This began our tradition of Sound of Music singalongs. We mostly dislike the movie now. Jim and I can also quote Green Eggs and Ham back and forth to one another. Important things you get to experience with your brother.

I only remember one major fight with this little brother. It wasn't pretty and I apologized quickly. There are probably like a million and one stories I have about Jimbo. He's not afraid to tell the story of Thanksgiving of 1999 to anyone we meet. He has a list of nicknames for me and has called me everything from fatty to the most common "Snow" - because I have super white skin.

The last time Jimbo was shorter than me - 1996.

When Mom got sick, he became a pretty faithful buddy. On the day we buried Mom, he understood that we should go back to the cemetery one more time, just for us. We've been through some tough things together and have had a whole lot of fun times. He is one of my closest friends and we always have a blast just hanging out. I'm not sure what God had planned for my family when He gave us Jim, but I am so thankful for my sweet little brother! A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. -Proverbs 17:17

Monday, August 22, 2011

21 for 31. Brothers. (Part 1)

Brothers - The Oldest.

Big brother fixing breakfast!

Darryl and I became acquainted when he was almost 7 years old and I was well, a newborn baby. I have a few recollections of our early years together. I remember him more as a teenager. I was probably the annoying little kid in his life, who he had to watch and help take care of. For years, I tried to do the things that him and his friends did, but they all rode a bike faster, hit a baseball further, and could actually catch a football. One of my earliest memories of Darryl is with our "go-cart." We had something that resembled a go-cart made for parts of an old lawnmower. Sometimes it kinda sorta worked and other times, we just pushed people in it. About once a week, Darryl would take the go-cart apart, just for the fun of it and then put it back together. This should have been an early indication of what he should do in life... Darryl's first car was this awesome old green truck. We listened to Contemporary Christian Music in the truck when Mom would make him drive me places. CCM wasn't allowed in our house, so I felt pretty special that Darryl and I had a cool secret to share. I was 10 or 11 at that time - that was a big deal. 

Darryl and I became friends when he joined the Army sometime in 1992. We wrote snail mail letters back and forth. I think those summers of him being away really helped both of us grow up. I wasn't dependent on my older brother to take care of me and he realized that God did not give little sisters just to ruin your life. After the summers away in the Army, Darryl went to Bob Jones University. (He's a little bit crazy.) I think he loved college life. Jimbo and I missed him, but did alright. We did not miss him making tuna casserole. Yes, everytime we talk to Darryl or about Darryl, we kinda have to bring up tuna casserole w/the crushed chips on top. To this day, we are not sure why anyone would think kids would like tuna casserole. Now, he just puts mushrooms in everything he cooks. So random.

I can't really say a whole lot about Darryl without talking a bit about Becky. Darryl met Becky sometime in 1994. They have an interesting story... They survived most of the their dating years at BJU. I didn't care too much for Becky at first. She won me over with multiple trips to the mall and a shared love for cookie sandwiches (aka dinky doozies.) With a little attitude adjustment, I came to love Becky and was happy when we added another girl to our family in December 1996. We used to write letters to one another too. She gave great advice to a crazy middle school girl. At this point, I have known Becky for more than half my life and cannot really remember too much of life without her. Darryl definitely married way out of his league when he got her!

Now, Darryl is the ultimate geek working with computers and a Dad to three of my favorite kiddos. We only work a few minutes away from one another, so he still buys lunch sometimes. Also, he still has that overprotectiveness that older brothers are born with. I'm not sure I could've asked God for a better older brother. I got exactly what I needed. We've been through a lot of good stuff and some bad times together and I wouldn't trade him or our experiences for anything. 

Becky, Darryl, and Jim - December 1996

Sunday, August 21, 2011

20 for 31. Favorite Picture.

This is my favorite picture.

It was taken with a cell phone on July 16, 2008. The evening before, our family had been told by the Doctor that Mom would soon be going to meet Jesus. When Mom was sick, if you went to visit her, she would hold your hand. She loved holding hands. This is her holding Jim's hand. We would sit at the hospital for hours, just holding hands. We have no other pictures from the hospital, and for me this one is perfect. Just a week later, Aunt Connie and I would hold Mom's hand as she was carried into the presence of Jesus.

19 for 31. Being an Aunt.

From the moment my older brother got married in 1996, I think I ready to be an aunt. As a 15 year old, it seemed like one of the best possible things... Well, the Lord's timing forced me to wait until 2001. It was a cold day in February when I received that long awaited phone call. Darryl was somewhere in Ohio at the time I think. I don't remember any of our conversation except for that fact that he said, "You are going to be an aunt!!! He may have not used that much enthusiasm, but you get the idea. From that point on, I was so excited.

The first boy was born in November and the excitement of meeting him that Thanksgiving was insane. He was the cutest baby with a big, round head. It was an incredible joy to realize that you could love someone who was completely dependent on his parents and others, and who didn't have any idea what it meant to love you back. He was special and precious in so many ways. He is so much like my brother and dad. Now, he is mainly too cool to hang with me because of my lack of Nintendo DSI knowledge. We do share a common love for Legos. He is almost 10 and still has this place in my heart... He is the kid who made me an aunt.

Almost exactly two years later, our family was blessed with the girl. The girl shares my love for pink and purple. She might be a little more girly than I am. She is funny and so artistic. If you ever visit my office, she has some artwork in there. She is pretty forgiving like when I hit her in the head while playing Kinect. She is a mini-me of her mom and the middle child. As the middle child, we can relate. Since her arrival, it is always been more fun to go shopping for clothes. Now, she makes sure to tell me if it has been too long since we have seen one another. I love her honesty!

Finally, in 2007, the baby boy came. This was in the middle of my brother's family moving from Ohio and my Mom being sick. He was a joy in the middle of her cancer treatments. We have some sweet pictures of him and Mom together. I know he will not remember her, but Darryl, Becky, and others will remember how he made her smile, even on the bad days. This boy is a wild child with more energy than I can imagine. He gets excited and says, "Sha, Sha, Sha" when I show up for a visit. Sha is a nickname from the niece and nephews - I like that it stuck.

The latest niece was added in April of this year. I will just call her K. Her mom likes to blog about all her sweet adventures here. K belongs to my adopted middle sis, A and my bro-in-law P. She is kinda like me in that she is nosy and likes a crowd of people. She is still a little on the small side, but from what I have discovered she likes Jerry's Sno Cones and her thumb. She worries about me which makes me feel kinda special. I admire her Mom and Dad because they got to do something I've always wanted to do - adopt! I think that will need to be a post in itself! Love some K and her parents for letting me be her Auntie!

God has given me some more "adopted" nieces and nephews in my church family. Sweet friends with fun kids, who like to call me "Shady." It is a title I enjoy, despite what connotations shady may have. The best word to describe being an aunt - Joy.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

18 for 31. Prayer.

Today has been a day of prayer and thinking. A lot of times I encounter believers who talk about not being consistent in their prayer life. As people, we talk a lot everyday, but fall short in talking to God. I don't want to be that person. I want to recognize that there is power when a believer prays and be expectant that God hears and answers. Prayer has had a major impact on my life in these ways:

1. People have prayed for me. For as long as I can remember, I knew that my parents and grandparents prayed for me. I'm sure there were many others as well. When I got to the age where I could grasp the truth that people prayed for me, I realized what a blessing it is that they cared enough to pray. I'm sure my parents and grandparents prayed for my salvation for a long time. When my Grandpa and Mom passed away, one of my first thoughts was that I would definitely miss knowing that they were praying for me. They were faithful in their prayers. Even now, I am humbled when random people come up to me and say, "I am praying for you." My only response is "Thank You." I love that others in my life are living out the truth to pray for one another. I like what James 5:16b says, "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." Amen and Amen.

2. I was taught how to pray. I know that sounds kinda prideful, like I am the perfect pray-er. That's not what I mean all, but my mom thought it was important that her daughter know how to pray. She taught me to talk and I'm glad she also taught me how to talk to God. Never should we be excused from prayer simply because we don't know how. Jesus was the perfect example and gave us a model in the Lord's Prayer, not necessarily to have to pray those specific words, but how to pray and what to pray for. I think it is an excellent example to follow especially when the words of Jesus serve as our teacher, "Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come..." (Luke 11:1-2)

3. My weakness is prayer is matched with the Holy Spirit's strength. Life is rough sometimes and there are always points where we don't know what to say to God on behalf of others or ourselves. The Bible says that doesn't matter, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words." (Romans 8:26) Often I have cried out to the Lord, not knowing what how to verbalize the brokenness of my heart. The Spirit knows and His work brings me great comfort and joy.

4. My anxious heart finds rest in God's sovereignty. Philippians 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

This list is definitely not exhaustive, but a small reminder of the power of prayer in my life. Thankful for a God who calls us to a relationship and opens the door for us to communicate with Him through prayer!

Friday, August 19, 2011

17 for 31. Computers, Social Networking, and Such.

I will return to more serious/spiritual posts soon...

I'm a big fan of the digital age. I'm thankful I did not have to grow up plunking on a typewriter and using other products we would consider "outdated" now. I was a big fan of cassette tapes and my walkman as a kid/preteen, but I am glad things have progressed since that. The first computer I remember in my house was a Commodore 128.

I'm sure that computer was as awesome as it looks now with it's fancy floppy disk drive. My favorite game was probably Frogger. Yep, that's what I'm talking about... 

Graphics were so awesome back in the day.

My family got the internet in 1995. We were the first ones in our group of friends, church family, etc. People thought my dad was bad for letting the "trash" of the internet into our house.  According to some people we knew, "Christians shouldn't use the Internet. It is evil." He would just tell people that it was a great educational tool for his kids and they would monitor what we did on the internet. Dad followed up on that statement. 

Obviously technology has progressed into some of the wonderful things that I enjoy now --- Facebook, Twitter, or anything on the iPhone. Side note ---- I had to wait for awhile before I joined Twitter because of dare from Adam and Nathan. For the record, I was stubborn and won "the dare." Don't dare me to do or not do things... ---- (Side note over). 

I like what John Piper has to say about Facebook and Twitter.
I see two kinds of response to social Internet media like blogging, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and others. 

One says: These media tend to shorten attention spans, weaken discursive reasoning, lure people away from Scripture and prayer, disembody relationships, feed the fires of narcissism, cater to the craving for attention, fill the world with drivel, shrink the soul’s capacity for greatness, and make us second-handers who comment on life when we ought to be living it. So boycott them and write books (not blogs) about the problem.

The other response says: Yes, there is truth in all of that, but instead of boycotting, try to fill these media with as much provocative, reasonable, Bible-saturated, prayerful, relational, Christ-exalting, truth-driven, serious, creative pointers to true greatness as you can...

“All things were created through Christ and for Christ” (Colossians 1:16). The world does not know it, but that is why Twitter exists and that’s why I tweet. 

I hope as a believer I am using the technology that He gives for His glory. I am grateful for the opportunities provided in our time to share Jesus through technology. May we use it to make much of Him!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

16 for 31. Apple.

"It is not idolatry, but righteous love for the iPhone." -Josh Harris

This post has no spiritual implications at all, just a post to express my joy and delight for this sign.

I love the people/friends in my life, but want to beat them up when they tell me how much better a Droid is. They may be right, but what is a droid and who wants one when you can have an iPhone? An iPhone very clearly tells you exactly what it is... a phone that belongs to me.

First, I was sold on Apple products with an iPod, but everyone has one of those. My older brother should take the blame for my love for things made by Apple. He talked me into buying a Macbook about 4 years ago. I still use the Macbook daily. I like the simplicity of it. I like iPhoto and iTunes... sometimes I use the fancier stuff like iMovie. It just works and it works well for me.

My iPhone was given to me and is one of the most fantastic and useful gifts I have ever received. It is kinda old, but still works great, so I'm keeping it. I'm sure any smartphone would do a great job and meet the needs of the things I use my iPhone for, but why have a plain, ole smartphone when you can have an iPhone.

I also have superficial reasons for my love for Apple Products... They are just better looking. Simple as that. I'm a girl I like pretty things, a Macbook is a pretty thing.

Lastly, I leave you with this fantastic/sarcastic blog post written awhile back about using Apple products and being a better Christian. Please do not be offended by this as it is meant to be funny and not offensive. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

15 for 31. Surrender.

Part of this post was part of an old blog post back in 2006. Nobody read my blog then, so I thought I could post it again. Before I decided that I would surrender to be used by the Lord in Christian ministry, I wrestled. I wrestled with the Lord in my mind and actions. The main reason for this wrestling is because I didn't want to be like my parents. I wanted to be better off financially and not deal with some of the heartaches and heartbreaks that the ministry had caused them. More than anything, I did NOT want to be them. I was definitely the girl that said I will gladly serve the church, but I will never be like Mom and Dad and serve full-time in Christian ministry.  

-Excerpt from a previous blog...
Somewhere back in April 2003, I wrote down these words in a journal from Isaiah 42:16, "I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known, I will make the darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them." This was one of the verses that God used to point my heart in the direction of full-time Christian service. God used this to soften me for the next best thing He desired to show me. I was blindly reaching out for something and God planted this verse in my heart as I could not get it out my head. Around that time, God used some Godly people in my life, including my parents, to help me see clearly that His way was so much better than mine.

I had set out to control my future and pursue success in my career and financially. God had different plans, and had to do quite the work on this stubborn heart. I'm thankful He doesn't give up on me when I want to choose my own way. I'm thankful He didn't give me the success I was so desperately craving. I don't think I would have handled it well and would have given the credit to myself. Instead He has shown me that He will lead me through the right paths and make darkness light. Not one time have I felt forsaken by my wise Heavenly Father. He knew what was best for me and He knows what will be best. Still a lesson I'm learning.

All my plans and all my dreams
I’m giving it all to You
I lay it all down at Your feet
I’m Yours

So what song can I sing but this song?

I’m giving it all back to You
All back to You
I surrender
I’m giving it all back to You
All back to You
This is my surrender
Take it all
Take it all
Lord, take it all
Take it all
-My Surrender, Steven Curtis Chapman

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

14 for 31. 1 Samuel 12:23-24

My little brother informed me that I was behind on my blogging. That's why God gave me Jim, to inform me of my inadequacies in life. More on him in the future.

Today is the actual day of my birth. 30 years ago on a Sunday afternoon, I made my entrance into the world. I think I have a funny birth story, but it is better to tell it in person. I was a late birthday present for my Dad. I'm thankful he didn't try to return me. :)

1 Samuel 12:23-24 seem to have become my birthday verses. Actually, they were Mom's verses for her kids. I can't find a card or letter she wrote to me without these verse. I wish I would have asked more about them when she was alive, but they are a bit self explanatory. "Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things He has done for you." Theses words were Samuel's final address to his beloved Israel. The past few birthdays have prompted me to look closer at these verses and if I am striving towards what Mom prayed for so many years.

I made a resolution in 2011 to try to study, learn, and practice the fear of the Lord more. The book of Proverbs says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight." (9:10) Understanding and practicing the fear of the Lord seems to be an everyday challenge in my life. Adam tries to tell me that as we grow as believers, we get a better understanding of the fear of the Lord and how to practice it, but it will always be an ongoing process here on this earth. I agree. It is easy to talk about fearing the Lord and harder to practice, but God gives what we need to practice truths from His Word, so thankful that I can learn from God's wisdom!

The next part of the verse talks about serving the Lord faithfully. This is also an ongoing process. I get the opportunity to learn faithfulness from the only One who can truly be called Faithful. He is Faithful; His Word is Faithful! Am I serving Him faithfully? I certainly hope so and I know by His grace He will sustain me until He calls me home.

"Consider what great things He has done for you." That's why I am writing these reflections - to consider. When I consider big things---Salvation, Life---it prompts consideration for lists and lists of little things or should I say great things He has done. At times my faith seems so small; I don't expect God to do great things, but He has and He has done them for me.

In the coming year, I hope to fear the Lord more, serve Him faithfully, and consider what He has done. I'm thankful today for Mom and Dad who gave me life, prayed, and taught me from the Word. Truly great things He has done!

13 for 31. New Mercies.

In 30 years of life, I would say that I have had a few bad days. Some bad days were caused by circumstances beyond my control. Most of my bad days have been caused by myself. I've said a lot of unkind words and hurt others with the things I did or did not do. Mostly, I've committed sin that has lead to more problems and effected people in my life, but ultimately it hinders relationship with my Heavenly Father. So often, I have taken great comfort and joy in these verses in Lamentations 3:22-24, "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in Him." I love these verses as they remind me of what I am not, but who my Lord is. I could never make claims of steadfast love, continual mercy and faithfulness. Those who put their hope in me will surely be let down, but because of who He is, you and I can have hope.
Today, I am hoping for a good day, but I'm sure some rough days are ahead. I need this continual reminding of who the Lord truly is. I need those new mercies each morning. He is the faithful Provider of exactly what we need.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As thou has been, thou forever will be.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside. 

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! 
Morning by morning new mercies I see 
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided 
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Monday, August 15, 2011

12 for 31. Legacy of Faithful Marriages.

So many good things happen in August. Today is my Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Jerry's 46th anniversary. As they were sweet to inform me this past weekend, they were children when they got married. Well, maybe not children, but young. It prompted thoughts about the extended family that God has blessed me with. Before my Grandpa went to Heaven, him and Grandma had celebrated 67 years of marriage together. My mom and dad made it to 40 years. My dad's sisters have all celebrated more than 40 years of marriage with their spouses. This is one of those blessings, that I often miss as I go about my everyday life. In a world of divorce and broken relationships, I am grateful for their example that love can last a lifetime. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to a young bride and groom once, "...it is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love." For each aunt and uncle, I have heard stories of how life has been rough, but have also seen their faithfulness to one another during the good times and the bad.  I have seen sacrifices and promises kept between them and how God has strengthened their relationships. Looking at them now, it is fun to see that not only are they husband and wife, but great friends! Today, I am thankful for the legacy of faithful marriages God has given in my family! Thank you for your sweet example to my cousins, my brothers, and myself! You are loved and admired! 

"Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." -Genesis 2:18

11 for 31. Mission Trips.

In the Summer of 2004, I went on my first Mission Trip. Prior to the summer, you have to choose to go on the trip. My church was sponsoring a trip to Brazil. One part of the team would participate in a Medical Mission. The other part would drive up the mountains of Brazil to a small church and do sports camp. Guess which team I decided to go with? A ten-hour drive up the mountain in a school bus was not the most pleasant, but God allowed me to keep my lunch. The trip went exactly as planned, except it was freezing. Each day, a huge group of kids were there to greet us as we walked up to the church. We had a fantastic week of playing basketball, wiffle ball, soccer, and volleyball. They didn't need us to teach soccer or volleyball, they were so much better than us. During the evenings, we would worship at the homes of church members. One of the sweetest times for me was when we knew a song and would sing it in English and they would sing in Portuguese. I cried my eyes out as I got on the bus for home. What an incredible week we had in that little city. Little did I know that God would allow me to come back to Brazil two more times to serve on Mission Teams! (I cannot find pictures from 2004. I'm sure I have them on a cd somewhere!)

Before the next summer, I would begin to work at a church serving with Student Ministries and Missions. I'm so glad my first mission trip wasn't my only one. I have had the privileged of serving in Czech Republic, Honduras, and in a few different place in the US. I hope and pray that my Mission Trip serving is not even close to over, but God grants many more opportunities. I love when God opens the door for believers to assist another body of believers in a place where the Gospel may not be so well known or Missionaries are on their own with trying to reach a huge group of people. A Mission Trip is simply a chance to help build the Kingdom! I'm thankful for those amazing opportunities God has allowed in my life! 

Psalm 67
May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!
The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him

Saturday, August 13, 2011

10 for 31. Dad.

Today is my Dad's birthday. Happy Birthday to my favorite Dad, ever. He's a few years older than me... quite a few. My dad cannot be described in just a few short sentences, he's more like a one-of-a-kind. He's Godly and loves his family. He is geeky and enjoys technological stuff like computers, fancy cameras, and amateur radio. He has done a lot of stuff in his life, like being in the Navy. He has experienced a lot of things that I have admired, like being in the ministry.

Dad has definitely been a spiritual father to me as well as my earthly father. His favorite books of the Bible are probably Proverbs and Philippians. The best advice he ever gave me from Proverbs was this verse, "The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it." (Proverbs 27:12). Dad likes to talk a lot about being prudent. (If he is passionate about something you know it, cause he talks about it, a lot.) He helped me wrestle through a lot of theology and doctrine when I was in school, and continues to listen even now. When it comes to spiritual things, he has never talked down to me, but will talk in a way that would hopefully be a learning opportunity for me. I also appreciate his insight into ministry, since he has had a few years of experience in Christian ministry as well.

Dad is not just a good man, I think above all else, he is Godly man. He's retired now, but still serving Jesus where he is. I admire that and will continue to look to him for Godly wisdom. Happy Birthday Dad! I pray that Lord gives you many more years to serve Him.

The righteous who walks in his integrity-- blessed are his children after him! -Proverbs 20:7

Thursday, August 11, 2011

9 for 31 - Salvation Story.

"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." -Romans 5:8

A testimony of salvation is such an amazing thing for so many reasons. It is the work that God does in an individual person's life. How He works on hearts so personally for so many baffles me. Another beautiful aspect is that the salvation story doesn't stop at conversion, but continues.

I was somewhere in the my 10th year of life when I repented of my sins and confessed Christ as my Savior and Lord. My church mainly used the Roman's Road plan for explaining the Gospel from Scripture. My mom was the one who truly helped me understand what it means to be saved and accept Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. I will not ever forget my Dad's excitement when I told him. I realized at that time, Godly parents pray for the salvation of their kids. I love that salvation is available for all and even a child can receive it. I love that our salvation is still taking place as we are sanctified more and more to be like Christ. I love the blessed hope that one day our salvation will be complete. 

I used to have a hard time with my testimony because I wasn't saved from anything crazy, or so I thought. Only when I took a closer look at Ephesians 2 did I begin to grasp the magnitude of the greatness of salvation. "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience--" (Ephesians 2:1-2) It changes my perspective and thoughts on salvation when I think about being dead in sin. How horrible! Ephesians 2 contains more than 2 verses though.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— (Ephesians 2:4-5) "Alive together with Christ" - I cannot think of anything greater than being able to make this claim. Alive because of Christ and His work on the cross! A testimony of the work of Christ is a big deal when I think that He brought me from death to life. The same is true for all those who have repented and placed their trust in Christ alone for salvation. Death to Life. Still amazes me. Still glory in God's Work.

Adam taught the students at church this song a year or two ago. It's an awesome picture of Salvation's Story, including Ephesians 2.

Made Us Alive. 
Written by Seth Jones, Michael Bleecker, Jeff Capps, Isaac Wimberley, and John Warren                                        

The weight of all of my shame            
Released when You came     
And gave up Your life
The freedom You give in Your grace                        
Chains broken replaced
With Your own life

We sing to the One who has made us alive      
We sing to the One who has made us alive

There on the cross He bore our sins 
And we became His righteousness                                                      
Now we stand here justified 
Now we live because He died 
Crucified with Christ, 
No longer we live, 
But Christ lives within
You’re crowned with many crowns, 
Our praises resound, 
To Jesus our King

He came to a broken world that was yearning for a Savior moaning for a rescue
We came dead in our sins, with our blinded eyes just hoping for a breakthrough
By His grace, He has shown us hope, He has shown us joy, He has given us life
And it’s only by the blood of the King that we sing 
We sing to the One Who has made us alive
We sing to the One Who has made us alive
We sing to the One Who has made us alive   
We sing, oh we sing

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

8 for 31 - Old Friends.

Today, my friend Micah turns 30. Happy Birthday dear friend!! Micah is 6 days older than me. Our moms met when we were still in womb. Micah's family lived down the street from me. I think we were friends before we knew what friends were, then we when figured it out we became inseparable. Before we went to school, we spent all day playing at each others houses. If one of our parents had to leave we just went to the other person's house. Micah's house had the best toys and my mom always had homeade snacks, so we had the best of all worlds. We went to different preschools and eventually different schools, but as soon as we got home for the day, I was off to find Micah or wait for her bus to come home! I don't remember a lot of fights, although I am sure we had our moments. I'm so thankful to call her my lifelong friend. (I wish I had a good picture of us, but most of them are a bit embarrassing.)

God blessed me with a church friend in the nursery who continues to be my friend today! Kimberly and I met somewhere in our first couple months of life. As we grew up, we had the best slumber parties at her house and watched the movie, "It's a Mad, Mad World" more times than we could count. Her parents and my parents were very close friends, so Kim and I had many opportunities to hang out. We have great memories and can look back as having survived the "Independent Baptist years" together. She turned 30 a few months ago and it was my joy to be able to celebrate with her, even if she wasn't crazy about the surprise party!

Although I did not meet her when I was a baby, Misty became my friend somewhere in elementary school. I think we disliked each other than becomes friends, then disliked each other again and then... Well, we were girls and you know how the friendship cycle goes. I still enjoy getting to hang out with her. We share a mutual love for El Acapulco in Jonesboro and will always laugh when we think about the fact that, "It's not a party unless there is cheese dip." (Good words of wisdom.)

God gave me a few Memphis friends that I would consider old friends. The first friend I had in Memphis was Danyel. We met in Accounting class. Why we decided to be Accounting majors, only God knows. Her family has loved me as one of their own and my parents were always pretty fond of her as well. They would always feed us poor college students. Danyel also decided that I should learn a choreographed dance for her wedding. I told her this white Baptist girl didn't dance. She thought I could learn. Hopefully, I didn't embarrass her too much on her special day. We definitely look back on that day and laugh, and she also knows that I don't/can't dance. She's the friend where you always pick up where you left off.

My old friends circle is complete with Amanda and Eric. They go together. I was their friend first and got shafted when they decided to date one another and eventually get married. A fantastic reason to get shafted! I'm not exactly sure when we became friends, well I kinda remember, but who needs to hear that. :) They've been around for a lot of stuff. I have had the joy of sharing life, church, and so much more with them. They have real good theology, so we get along well. Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. (Proverbs 27:17) Their friendship is something that I truly treasure in my life.

When my mom passed away each one of these old friends showed up. It overwhelmed my heart and made me even more grateful to them. They are a gift from God. I am reminded that He gives all good things, including friendships! Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17)

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

7 for 31. Psalm 34.

When I get the opportunity to tell people about the comfort I find in the Word of God, my mind automatically runs to Psalm 34. The Bible is full of amazing promises, encouragement, words of peace and joy, but for obvious reasons Psalm 34 is extra special to me. I am so often reminded that the comfort and promises outside of Scripture are temporary and help for a moment. The comfort and promises from the Word are lasting and sure. They are sure because Scripture says so, "This God—His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him." (Psalm 18:30)
Tonight, I offer no commentary on my favorite passage except to say verses 8 and 18 are my favorites, but I really just love the whole chapter. May you find comfort and joy in the Word of the Lord that always proves true! 

I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt His name together!
I sought the Lord, and He answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to Him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints,
for those who fear Him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems the life of His servants;
none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.

Monday, August 08, 2011

6 for 31 - Fingerprints of God.

Work and the need for rest kinda got the best of me, so I'm a bit behind, but I will catch up. No worries.

For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14).

My family is a big fan of life. That's like a duh statement, right!?! My parents had kids a little later than some. Mom had a miscarriage between my older brother and myself. I like to think that God has a sister for me in Heaven, but I'm sure He probably blessed me with another brother. Someday, we will know. Jimbo was born right before Mom turned 40 and we decided to keep him. I think the parents got 2 votes and kids only got 1. Either way, we got him (and we love him.)  I tried to get my parents to adopt a little sister for me when I was around the age of 9. My persuasive words were unsuccessful, even though I tried for many years. Somewhere along the way, my parents had instilled in me the value of life and not because it was a good thing, but because it was a God-thing. My mom was especially a fan of the outcast kid, the one who everyone else had given up on. She loved them. I think she tried to teach some of this compassion to her family, and it is a lesson we are still learning. In my family, we were taught to value and treasure all human life, because God, the Designer, creates and values life. 

This truth has prompted one of my most enjoyable, compassion-learning experiences. Three to four years ago, God gave me the opportunity to work alongside a crisis pregnancy center for a student ministry event. Little did I know at the time, that He was softening my heart to learn to have compassion on others who needed to know of the grace of God. I'm not really the normal crisis pregnancy volunteer. I don't have tough story from my past where I can related to girls in crisis pregnancy situations. I realized that I didn't need a tough situation to rest in the truth that each life God gives is valuable and a perfect Creator does not make mistakes. I just needed a heart of compassion - God's still working on that in my life. :) In true Kelly fashion, as I have been told so many times, "If you miss the lesson, you missed the point of why God has you in that place..." These are lessons I have learned from the crisis pregnancy center (I'm sure there are many more):
  • The power of the Gospel is the only thing that changes life. 
  • The grace of God extends beyond any crisis, any sin. 
  • The Gospel must be preached to myself before it can be shared with others.
  • All our dependency is on the Lord as He is the Sustainer of life. 
My heart has been torn apart at times when I encounter a sweet girl trying to choose the best in what she sees as a hopeless situation. My heart has also been overwhelmed at times when I have seen God take a girl from that point of hopelessness to experiencing new life in Christ.  

Never has there been and never again
Will there be another you
Fashioned by God's hand and perfectly planned
To be just who you are
And what He's been creating
Since the first beat of your heart
Is a living, breathing
Priceless work of art

-Fingerprints of God, Steven Curtis Chapman. 

"Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well."