Monday, November 19, 2012

Green pastures

Courtney and I were talking this past Saturday morning and freedom in the Lord came up.  I remember in college being told that there is real freedom in discipline and obedience.  We will find freedom in the Lord when we learn to obey Him and do as we are called.

I see things differently now...  I no longer think that obedience and disciple produce freedom in Christ.  No, now I think that freedom in Christ produce obedience and discipline.

Galatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

The cross has to come first.  Because of the gospel, those whom are called are free - are freed from sin and slavery and free to do as we choose.  Yet, having a relationship with the Lord Jesus spurs us to live obedient lives.  Not so we can be good Christians (what is one anyway?) BUT so we have a more intimate relationship with the Lord.

I think it is so easy for us to get caught up in what we do and don't do.  This side of heaven, we will all fail.  We will not do as we should and we will do as we shouldn't.  A week or so ago, I was taking something before the Lord, and He said to me, "Elizabeth Ann.  I know you want to go and do.  I want you to learn to BE."  Such a hard, but important, lesson for me to learn.

I was excited - and chuckled a bit - when I read Jesus Calling later on that afternoon:

Ask and you shall receive

Since January, some friends and I have been serving supper to homeless people downtown on Sunday nights.  It started with two friends and I carrying around a pot of chili looking for folks to eat, and has turned into something really cool.  We meet in an old gas station parking lot and there are usually around 50 or so folks that come by to eat and hang out.

We've gotten to know a lot of the guys that come each week.  It's been really cool to meet a tiny portion of their overall physical needs, make friendships, pray over people, and hear their stories.

Back in March, I flew in from Nicaragua at midnight on my birthday.  After some time out with friends, a bit of sleep, and church, I cooked supper and feared I'd be the only one serving that Sunday night.  Completely out of the blue, this guy pulled up and dropped off a bunch of food.  He'd seen us and wanted to help out.  He said he couldn't stay to help serve because it was his birthday and he had plans.  We were birthday twins!

Turns out, he's a chef.  Since March, he's cooked a few meals for us and has always been willing to help.  I've been busier than normal lately and have missed the past few Sunday's downtown.  Last Thursday, I sat in my office thinking about who would cook this Sunday?  I could do it, but knew I'd be exhausted and it would stress me out more than make me glad to serve.  (Does that ever happen to you?)  (As I've been learning more and more about being in the presence of the Lord, a by-product has been learning about rest and more freedom to know my boundaries.)  Anywho, Thursday I was thinking about it and getting a bit stressed out.  Later in the day, I took it to the Lord.  Casually, almost.  And you know what?

"Email Heath" was the Lord's response.  Hmmm...I hadn't seen him in months and it was really last minute to ask.  But, I emailed him anyway and his response blew me away.  Not only was he willing to cook food for Sunday, but he and his friends had a fundraiser planned for that Saturday.  Wow.  He and his friends asked their friends to bring clothes, dry food goods, and cash to help people downtown.

He brought his rugby team buddies downtown last night and they had TONS of dry food and clothes for people to take.  Heath cooked a great meal.  They were all really cool and will hopefully be back.

I was really blown away by the provision of the Lord last night.  It was a beautiful picture of entrusting something to God and watching Him go above and beyond anything I was planning to ask for.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mushrooms or oaks?

I read this quote on Facebook this morning:

When God wants to make a mushroom, he does it overnight, but when he wants to make a giant oak, he takes a hundred years. Great souls are grown through struggles and storms and seasons of suffering. Be patient with the process.-Rick Warren

Such good perspective for me.  I like things to be done quickly and seamlessly.  Yet, from what I have gathered so far, life isn't like that.  God could work that way all the time, but often times doesn't.  He could have sent his people to the promised land the quick and direct way, but he chose to have them detour over and over again for 40 years.  Jesus could have lived an easy and pain free life on earth, but he didn't.  Instead, He was mocked, disregarded, tempted by satan in the wilderness, and persecuted to the point of death - for something He was not guilty of.

I heard a sermon the week before last.  He said the life without struggle and pain would be easy.  You would wake up, go to work, go home, do it again the next day.  And that life would be boring.  As much as we say we do, we don't really want a life free of trouble.  Because then we don't experience the victory found only in Christ Jesus.  In the struggle and pain, we see, we feel, we embrace the power of God.  God's love is able to rescue us...even in the midst of trouble.

Isaiah 61:1-3 are some of my favorite verses.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

Yes, I think I'll take the struggles and storms in order to become an oak tree rather than a mushroom.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A few updates...

I just haven't been in the mood to blog.  Sharing funny stories seems futile to me these days.  Other things seem to heavy to blog about - who wants to read the heavy?  I wonder.  And so, posts are few and far between.

That being said, here's a mixed bag of things going on lately:

  • I'm still loving teaching.  My students are fun and I feel really natural up there.  Definitely a blessing that I've been given this opportunity.
  • It came up that one of my students is a good break dancer.  I called him to the front and made him do it for the class.  It was awesome!  :)
  • Adult acne: it is the worst!  
  • Celebrated Courtney's 30th in style.  Had a fun party in the Big Burg.  She loved it.  We all did.  Maggie and I came up with this for her birthday gift.  I have to say, 7 months of planning and scheming paid off! Check it out:
  • I got to celebrate Shannon and Chris tie the knot this weekend in Greenville.  Had a great time; I'm still sore from dancing!  The true mark of a good time!
  • I ran 40 minutes last night.  Kick start to getting back on the exercise train.  Felt really good.

  • Last week I got some really good time with the Lord.  At one point the Lord said to me, "Elizabeth Ann. I know you want to GO and DO. I want you to learn to BE."  And I wonder how many of us need to hear the same thing?  Identity: it keeps coming up and I don't think that's going to stop any time soon.  Do I really know who I am and who I belong to?  Why is it that it is harder to be than to do something?  Because there isn't anything to show for it?  Because sometimes it takes more discipline to sit and be still with God than to do a Bible study or help others, etc.?  
  • Went to the 6:00 pm service last night for the first time.  The sermon was from 1 Peter 4:1-11 and spoke a lot about suffering.  Been thinking about the blessings that come from suffering.  We all have things we'd rather bypass, but in those things, the Lord can do so much.  
  • I have a case of the Monday's.  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My first time as an instructor

Way back at the end of January I was meeting with one of my pastors and somehow mentioned that I went to grad school.  He asked for what and I told him economics.  He said he taught world religion downtown and had a phone call that day -- they were looking for an economics instructor!  Did I want to teach there?  Seriously?  I've always wanted to teach and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.  The school is on the quarter system so it would be for 10 weeks, one night a week.  Small classes; seemed like the perfect way to try my hand at this.  I met with the Gen Ed chair and the job was mine.  Wahoo!

However, no one signed up for the class and it was cancelled.  Boo.  I got an email a few months ago saying the class would be held in the fall and the job was mine if I wanted it.  I thought that I did, but also wanted to pray about it and make sure I would have time for this adventure.  Shortly after that email, I went to Nicaragua in July.  Early into the trip I knew I wanted to do this and had a peace from the Lord about it.  Towards the end of the trip one of Osvaldo's prophesies over me was that I was called to "teach and preach -- not in a church."  Pretty cool confirmation from the Lord.

Fast forward a few months and I was ready, or ready as I'll ever be, to teach my first class.  I made sure I wore a suit and heels.  When you look like you're 23 you have to dress professional.  (Thank you Mr. Scarborough!)

I headed down there after my day job to meet with HR and turn in one last thing.  As I walked to the building, I started wondering what in the world I was doing.  I started feeling completely inept and wondering  how in the world I would pull this off.  Two things happened:

  1. I heard the Lord say to me, "I'm fulfilling part of your dream!"  How sweet to hear those words!  Yes, yes He is/was!  I've longed to teach and He's set it could I not trust Him?
  2. There's a restaurant right next door.  If this thing went terribly wrong, I would certainly be heading there afterwards and treating myself to a cold beer and burger with fries.  

After my visit with HR, I wondered around to where I thought I should be.  The dude that hired me wasn't there, so I made myself at home in a random cubicle.  At some point, I went to grab my jump drive.  No where to be found in my messenger bag.  Shiesta!  Must be in my car...not a big deal.  I tell the secretary of sorts that I'll be right back; she could care less if I told her I was the pope.

I scooted down the street to grab it out of my purse.  Calm, cool, and collected.

Y'all, it was.  Not.  There.  Double shiesta!

I put it in at work yesterday and must have forgotten to take it out!  Ah!  I headed down to my regular office and bolted in the door.  Of course it was locked so I found the security guard who gave me lip about having an ID badge but oh well.  I ran to the office, grabbed it, and headed back.  Praise the Lord I made it back in time!

I've been reading Jesus Calling for a month or so now and yesterday's was pretty perfect.  It came back to mind in the midst of my frantic/anxious/ah! what am I doing? freak out moment:

So, armed with truth I headed back to my cube and got things settled.  I made the copies I needed to make and felt calm and prepared.  Now, let's talk about food.  I brought some delicious lemon/brussels sprouts/walnut/feta/lemon zest quinoa to heat up for supper.  However, I started feeling odd about that: where would I heat it up?  Get a spoon, etc?  So I decided to grab the 2 packs of cheese/peanut butter crackers I had in my car.  A pack before I started and one during the break and I'd be good to go.

So...I opened the first pack and OMG it was nasty!  Way too OLD!  Gross!  The next pack was edible, but certainly a smidge stale.  Things to think through for next week!

I headed down to my classroom and two students were in there.  I tried to log on the computer, but could not.  This is the first time I needed help.  One of the dudes walked me around the school until we found another instructor who very kindly showed me how to work it -- gave the tricky password.  We headed back to class and there were 6 students in there.

We got started with introductions, the syllabus, etc.  About that time my 7th student strolled in late.  I'd have been a bit frustrated, but he had just flown in from Hong Kong and loves bacon so how frustrated could you be?  Also, he was a huge asset as he worked the computer glitches for me throughout the evening.

The class runs from 6:00 to 10:00 pm; that is a LONG time to keep people entertained!  I'm supposed to teach for 50 of 60  minutes, so we left at 9:30 and took a 10 minute break.  We went through all of the business you do in a new class, went over two chapters of PowerPoint and read/discussed two articles.  I was thrilled with the participation of the students and loved the small classroom feel.  I felt really comfortable teaching and engaging the students.  They did a great job participating and were respectful.  There was a good balance of learning/seriousness, but also some personality and bit of banter.  That is really how I work best.  Ha!  It was fun getting to know the students and look forward to knowing them more as the class continues.  I didn't know what to expect, but couldn't have asked for it to have gone better.  I'm so thankful!

And, if it ever gets really rough...there's always the restaurant next door...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Get a clue

Since our office moved, we've gotten pretty tight with the IT dude.  He's about my age and easy to chat with.  My computer/printer needed something done yesterday, so we spent about an hour and a half together yesterday mid morning.

He popped back in later in the day to check on something and I showed him my new favorite You Tube video.  (Thanks, Jane Harper!)

At the end of the day, he came by with another IT fella.  Here's the back story on the other guy: he's incredibly nice but definitely the male version of a single cat lady.  And I know for a fact he loves cats.  I see him every couple of months or so around campus.

So these two IT dudes come to my door...  I'm sitting at my desk and the older dude can see a ring I wear on my left hand.  This ring to be exact:


Older guy: Hey Elizabeth!  So you got married?  Congrats!
Me: No...
Older guy: Oh, so you're engaged?
Me: No...
Younger guy: It's not an engagement ring (attempting to smooth things out).
Older guy: Oh, so it's a promise ring?
Me: No.
Older guy: Oh.  So, is there someone special in your life?
Me: No.
Older guy: Yeah, I've never been married either...I still keep hoping and holding out for that one day.
Me: Ok.
Older guy: So I guess you and I are in the same boat?!
Younger guy: Uh...maybe we should watch that You Tube video?!  (again, trying to smooth things out)
Me: What are you here for?

Here's your life lesson for the day: learn social cues.  In case you were wondering, the correct response would be to say Oh, that's a pretty ring and promptly change the subject after the first or (at most) second, "no" from me.

And if you're not laughing already, please enjoy this video!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Time marches on...or does it?

Courtney and I were discussing some of life's greatest things tonight: parties.  Long story short, I need to send a funny yet persuasive emails.  Speaking of funny emails, we remembered the one time Courtney wrote some faux grad school emails.  Here's her blog post from the summer of 2009.  Enjoy!

4 Years Later...Not Much Has Changed

So apparently one night at PC I was trying to muster up the words for my application essay for grad school at USC. The essay was something to the effect of why they should let me in their highly prestige school to get my masters in ice breakers (which as I had a discussion today with some co-workers is always really awkward when people namely student affairs people take a drinking game and try to turn it into a G-rated ice breaker such as never have I ever or I love my sister who, when you are playing in front of your "new friends" and all you really want to shout out is I love my sister who didn't sleep in her own bed last night not something silly about preferring your toilet paper to be on the roll so it unrolls from the front not the back. but I digress.) So I am sure the scenario looked like most did for me in college. Me sitting around goofing off not doing what I was supposed to be doing, bc I can NEVER get anything accomplished until the last possible minute...I think I eventually had to overnight the essay and application. So as I was sitting around procrastinating in our bedroom at B5, with the productivity nazi EA breathing down my neck trying to make me get things done, which she always does in the nicest fashion. She helped me brain storm some ideas, and this is what I wrote...and saved to my computer because I knew there would come a day when these things would come in handy. Turns out not much has changed in my life 4 years later...except I did get that masters.

Hi my name is Courtney. I go to PC. I need a job, so I will go to school…hopefully your school. I am very much of the single and am looking for a future mate. I feel that your program would be excellent for husband shopping.
Sincerely yours,

Dear USC, I am an averagely smart slightly over weight college senior. I make subpar grades, just enough to get by and maybe a little extra should the mood hit. My GPA is somewhat low due to the ridiculous notion I had to be a biology major for a few years, I think I was smoking crack rock.

I was somehow elected to serve as my sorority president of which during my reign as queen adelphean I received hate emails, and was attempted to be over thrown. Nothing what so ever went right from rain on significant events, or musical entertainment not showing up to social events. From all of this criteria I am sure that you can see I most definitely deserve to be a part of your program. Also, I share a bed with a really cute five footer.

Right, so just to clarify...EA and I did share a bed but only kind of...the idea wasn't originally ours but of course Courtney (Thain) Molony can get away with things that we just can't. Somehow Courtney and her roommate, plus 2 other girls in their house managed to "share" beds and no one thought they were awkward or a fraternity boy's wet dream come true. Yet, this just wasn't so for me and EA. For the record...we shared a comforter (which happens to be the one I still use) but had seperate my ridiculously creepy cute baby doll Christina until her head and appendages finally fell of. 4 years later as EA lays next to my bed (but she will go sleep in her room when its time to go to bed...just to clarify) as I write this she just commented "It's really amazing we're still single." I concur. What a catch we are.

Alright peeps, time to go catch some T&D, and Real's hoping the bitch fight is tonight!

And three years past that, not too much has changed.  We lay in our beds (respective cities of course!), on our computers, and talking on the phone with each other.  And yes, in case you were curious, we're both single.  Eighth wonder of the world...

And, true to nature, I'm "encouraging" Courtney to be productive.  While she's keeping me from the work I need to be doing.

Good times.  Great oldies.  Best friends.

Learning to Fly?

I feel raw.

I had a GREAT morning yesterday.  Woke up, watched some Grey's on Netflix.  Ate breakfast.  Spent really good time with the Lord in prayer.  Read in Mark.  Felt the presence of the Lord with me.  Showered, dressed, and drove to church.

And somewhere on that drive, I burst into tears...and fought them throughout church.  And truly, it was an incredible time of worship.  The Spirit of God was in the worship.  The sermon was incredible -- empowering, challenging, and life giving.  I was with people I love.  And still, I fought the tears.  Not even fully sure why they were present.

I feel raw.

There are a lot of circumstances I'd like to be different.  However, I see the Lord working.  And I am thankful for many things.  And I know it's a season.  And the Lord uses the hard stuff.  And all of the things I would tell a friend in a rough place.

I know those things.  But my heart can't seem to bear it all.  And yet, one foot in front of the other.  And sometimes tears accompany the forward walking.  Sometimes laughter.

And then, I hear something a friend is going through and my heart literally wants to crack in half for them.

I certainly think I'm learning (yet again) that there is much I don't have control over.  Today's Jesus Calling reminded me that, "You will not find my peace by engaging in excessive planning: attempting to control what will happen to you in the future.  That is a commonly practiced form of unbelief."

What's the balance of being honest about where you are and sharing truth?  I'm still looking for it...

Perhaps completely unrelated, this song came on Pandora and hit home.  I am digging the live version.

Friday, August 31, 2012

My week in review

My Aunt Dean has been here; that has been great.  A huge blessing!

Dad's melanoma has been removed successfully and he is recovering.

I have felt the peace and presence of the Lord time and time again.

I bumped into an old co-worker last night.  Good to catch up.

It rained so hard in Charleston one day I seriously contemplated making a boat out of card board to get home.  There were kyakers in the Market!

Krissie has made me laugh and cry -- in the best of ways.

Wednesday night services at my church started back up; time of worship was great.

I went for a 45 minute run to clear my head the other day.  I can never run that long, but it was great.

I have been eating terribly and need to start eating salads next week.  Ask me how that's going next week!

I'm still rocking out with my egg shaker.  Thanks, Weston.

A few good cries.  

Long stretches of dry eyes.

Fighting for peace rather than understanding.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Comic Relief

Saturday night while I was sleeping, I missed two calls from a number I don't know.  I also received a text from the same number saying, "rave tonight, down?"

Interesting.  Right?

Clearly, I didn't respond.  However, I did relay this information to Maggie this morning.  Together, our investigative skills deducted:

  • he sells quite a lot on Craig's list
  • we think it is likely he helps his mom sell her goods on CL
  • he's a high school kid in the Charleston area
  • he isn't too active on Facebook
What would we have done before the internet?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Hope deferred

Proverbs 13:12

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is ia tree of life.

We long for things...we all have hope for __.  True, some things are more noble than others; yet, our hearts long regardless.  Eternity has been set in our hearts (Ecc. 3:11).

I don't know about you, but today I am taking great comfort that my God knows I hope and knows that my heart can ache/be sick over the deferral of things I hope for.  

And then I read this and it puts things into perspective all the more...

When in doubt, dance it out!

Our last evening in Chinandega, we were waiting around to load up the vehicles to head back to the barrio (neighborhood) for a revival.  Our drivers/friends/ministry companions/hosts were late (something we were accustomed to), which left us hanging out in the hotel lobby.  

When there I spotted it - perhaps the greatest discovery in Chinandega!  This picture won't do it justice, but it was a disco joint.  A few of us walked over and started dancing.  One wall was lined with Shakira posters; another had CD labels with things like Romantico #7 and then 12 songs.  Hilarious!  We loved it.  Somewhere there's a pretty cool video of us dancing floating around.  :)


This is when my motto was born, "When in doubt; dance it out!"

And, I'm still dancing.  Currently to a playlist entitled "therapy" and using an egg shaker to hype the jams up a bit.  

And...since I'm talking about dancing.  This is a true story that happened to me Tuesday.  I was having dinner with my friend, Heidi.  We had some time to kill prior and stopped in Kudu.  A chill coffee house/good beer shop where our friend Drew works.  

A dude walks in and I say to Heidi, "if that guy's British, I've totally danced with him one night while our friend Jay played.  He's a great dancer.  Let's try to hear if he's British."  Hahaha.  We make eye contact and he says he knows me but from where?  Dancing!  Yes!  Of course!

My British buddy also knows Drew.  Small world, no?!

Drew:  How do y'all know each other?
Brit: We danced together one night in a bar one time.
Drew: Gotcha.  We (he and I) danced together on top of a bus one time.

Oh, how I wish there were pictures of Sweet Drew and I dancing on top of this: 


in this parking lot: 


Good advice.

I would love to claim these thoughts as my own; however, they come from Todd - Year Team leader and pastor here.

I emailed him the following:

If the heart is deceitful above all things (jeremiah 17.9) - how do we make decisions that aren't clear cut?!

This was his response:

Society says, "Go with your heart" or "Follow your heart." It is one of the
great lies. However, like any lie from the enemy, there is an element of
truth in there that has been perverted.

What I think is a MUCH better filter for discernment is Colossians 3:15-16:

"And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were
called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you
richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms
and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."

So you're not trusting your're trusting the peace of Christ. If
a decision is hypothetically made, is there peace that comes with it. That
word 'rule' in the Greek is probably better translated 'referee.' So I like
the image, "Let the peace of Christ referee in your heart."

Second, Paul is reminding his reader they have been called to one body. How
does your decision sit with the community of believers around you? This is
why it is important to have people speak the HONEST truth to us...not just
tell us what we want to hear.

Last, how does it align with the word of God? It drives me crazy when I hear
people say, "God doesn't speak to me." He's given us an entire book of words
through which He desperately wants us to seek Him and know Him. So does a
decision line up with Scripture?

Trusting your heart is emotion and feeling. What happens when the feeling
changes? Trusting your heart rests entirely upon ONE individual's moral
compass. Not good.

Discernment is filtered through 1) the peace
 of Christ, 2) community and 3)
the Word.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Good folks

I started a note on my phone for things I am thankful for.  Throughout the day, I try to jot things down -- anything from my Nalgene to having healthy lungs to the rain and fun music.  And throughout the list there are people.  People I talk to all the time and some not so much.

I got an email from a long time buddy yesterday.  Tyler's got this way about him that brings comfort and encouragement, coupled with truth.  He's always had the ability to make me cry.  As we exchanged a few emails, I grew increasingly thankful for the people in your life that know you.  That you can pick right back up with.  That don't think you're crazy because they've seen you in many facets.  

I talked to a child hood friend last night on the phone and was again grateful for those in your life that continue to be woven in - the bond is tight even if it's not relied upon often.  

As I type this, a Phil Wickham song plays on Pandora.  It's called Safe - this line provides truth: when everything is falling apart, you will be safe in His arms.

Praise the Lord for that!  And praise Him for being a relational God - using people to challenge and encourage us, to remind us who we are, and who we belong to.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Meet Jerrell.

I went to ATL this past weekend and seriously y'all, it was great.  I think I needed an escape from my reality and it was just that.  I ate way too much, laughed really hard, and danced like a rock star.  Also, have you had a Moscow Mule?  Go ahead - give it a whirl!

Leigh and I headed from Charleston and somewhere out of town I realize we could pick Weston up saving him a trip alone.  He takes us up on our offer and the three of us share our current ups and downs and laugh and realize that life is hard, yet humorous.  We stopped at Wal Mart in Madison, GA so that Weston and I can use the restroom.  Leigh can get razors, Weston needed deodorant, and we all needed M&M's.

We make it to ATL in good time and go our separate ways.  Well, Weston and I both went to Maggie's.  Again, the weekend was incredible filled with many friends, Yacht Rock, and Waffle House.   Need I say more?  Oh, we also got to see Mary Alice and Stephen's beautiful home and watch Andrew try sherbet for the first time.

We celebrated Maggie's birthday well!  And today is her actual birthday.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAGGIE!

After a brunch at Goldberg's, Weston and I met back up with Leigh for the trip home.  We were all excited to de-brief our weekend and continue our "car therapy" session.  About an hour out of ATL, we heard a funny noise.  Leigh asked if it was her car.  I said, "No; I don't think so.  I think it's an airplane."  Really?  An airplane?  Yes!

I roll down the window to find the plane...still searching...

Weston rolls his window down and says, "Oh, I know that smell anywhere; it's a flat tire."  Leigh pulls off the side of the road.

We all empty out of the car.  Weston is right.  About the tire: it is flat.


 And the smell: it is tragic.  At first I thought it was the tire...but was a large decaying armadillo!  Gross!


Weston immediately goes to work to change the tire.  Only Leigh's fancy Volvo is different than typical cars and so it isn't working.


At some point, flashing blue lights come up behind us.  I'm excited because if we can't figure this tire thing out, surely the patrol officer can, right?!  Wrong.  SC offers tire changes as a service; GA does not.  Homeboy knew less about changing tires than I did.


At one point I had this thought: why are we here?  On the side of the road?  It is taking forever.  I really really want to get home to go to downtown ministry, but that is out.  There must be a reason.  The cool thing is that none of us got frustrated.  We kept our cool and pressed on.  {I think God knew we needed more time together or something?!}  Leigh is on the iPhone reading about tricky Volvo tires.  We are trying everything we can.  Then Leigh starts calling tow trucks.  Weston and I are praying over the tire...


This picture isn't great, but that is her in the cop car making calls.  At one point, I got in, too, to see if Dad's AAA would work for us.  It would not.  I called dad to let him know that and he said, "just call the highway patrol; they'll come take care of it for you!"'m in the highway patrol's car and they won't.  GA is different.   I have to go.

The patrol officer found a guy that would come change our tire.  He'd be there in 45 minutes minimum and would charge us $85 to $95.  To change the tire!  None of us wants that to happen.

I keep praying.  Leigh and Weston keep kicking the tire (per Google).  Just as we are about to give up and do something else, Weston gives that tire one last kick.


I wish we were on video.  The three of us jumping up and down on the side of the highway!  Thank you Lord!

The doughnut is put on.  And we're not sure where to go in small town GA on a Sunday.  Wal Mart; of course!  And what do you know?  We're in Madison -- the same Wal Mart we went to on Friday.  The patrol officer followed us there as we cruised at a mere 50 MPH down the highway to the next exit to turn around and pull into our old stomping ground.

This is where we met Jerrell.


He's 76.  Loves the Lord and used to say the opening prayer at his church, but now he has to work on Sunday's.  He was such a sweet dude.  I told him he was cute; he blushed a bit.  :)

While the Volvo got two new tires, we got Magnum ice cream bars.  Why not?!


The tire situation added two hours to our trip.  But you know what, it was still a good time.  Good friends.  Good conversations.  Good reminder for me that life doesn't always go accordingly to plan.  We can't control that, but we can control our responses.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Valley of the Dry Bones

I went on my first mission trip when I was 16 - spring break of my sophomore year of high school.  My church youth group went to Mexico.  I would become a Christian a few months later.  Though I didn't know Jesus personally, the trip was still meaningful.  And as I've gone on more trips the past year or so, I keep thinking back to Mexico.

We were each given a little journal - a green spiral notebook with a picture of a skeleton on it that said, "The Valley of the Dry Bones."  Ekekial 37:1-14.  I can still picture the notebook now and it may be buried somewhere at my parent's house...

Through my Bible in a year reading plan, I read that passage while in Nica last month (I can't believe I left a month ago today, ps! Where does time go?  I miss it!):

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.”
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.
Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.”

I am pretty sure I've only read this passage those two times: in Mexico and Nicaragua.  SO much has changed in my life in the span of 13 years.  Not only did I come to know and love Jesus, but now I truly believe in prophesy and that God can raise the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I have seen the Lord do crazy things and things like this make me incredibly excited!  Parts of our trip felt like we were in the valley of dry bones - be it the dust or spiritual darkness we encountered.  Yet we watched the Lord restore and revive and bring new life in - no matter how dire circumstances may appear.

I am broken.  And messy.  And sometimes my bones feel dry.  I have had life breathed into me...and I constantly need new life breathed into me.  Today, I told Courtney that I was tired of crying in my office.  {Yet, I'm thankful I'm not in a cube so others don't have to see me.  There's always something to be thankful for, right?!}

So much has changed in 13 years and so much of me is the same. At the end of the day, we are all broken and messy folks who's bones need to be revived by our savior.  The last verses of that chapter say:

My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.”

The Lord is in my midst.  He's in my mess and my brokenness.  He is with me in the darkest of times.  As my heart teeter totters between peace and anxiety these days, I am thankful I can rest in the truth that God is mine, I am His, and He's not going anywhere!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Understanding v. Peace

Is it an Allstate commercial that says, "Life comes at you fast," ?  I can't be sure, but I think so.  I've definitely been feeling that way these days.  Personal issues.  Family issues.  Work issues.  Is there an end in sight?  I don't think so...not because I'm being a pessimist, but because life keeps going and that inevitably means there will be mess and hardship along the way.

However, this morning, in the midst of troubles, I am thankful.  Thankful for a friend that woke up at 5:00 am and felt the Lord call her to pray for me and my family.  Thankful for support from friends.  Thankful for people coming alongside me and loving me in the middle of my junk.  I'm thankful for Psalm 27 as I read it over and over this morning while IT worked on my computer...again.  Thankful for the book Jesus Calling.  Though I don't own it (yet), the Lord keeps using it to challenge and comfort my soul.  

Maggie sent me this from August 7:

"Understanding will never bring you Peace. That's why I have instructed you to trust in Me, not your understanding. Human beings have a voracious appetite for trying to figure things out in order to gain a sense of mastery over their lives. But the world presents you with an endless serious of problems. As soon as you master one set, another pops up to challenge you. The relief you had anticipated is short-lived. Soon your mind is gearing up again: searching for understanding (mastery), instead of seeking me (your Master). 

The wisest of all men, Solomon, could never think his way through the to Peace. His vast understanding resulted in feelings of futility, rather than in fulfillment. Finally, he lost his way and succumbed to the will of his wives by worshipping idols. My Peace is not an elusive goal, hidden at the center of some complicated maze. Actually, you are always enveloped in my Peace, which is inherent in my Presence. As you look to Me, you gain awareness of this precious Peace." 
I love to understand.  I love to figure things out: what's the problem?  What's the solution?  Let's make it happen.  Sometimes that works; sometimes it doesn't.  When the solutions aren't clear cut and when things are out of your hands, it can make you (me) grow anxious, fearful, and the likes.  But you know what?  

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  ...  I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in land of the living!  Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!  
Psalm 27:1,13-14

That doesn't solve anything; it solves everything.  I can't understand or fix, but I am with the Lord in the land of the living and he is in my midst.  He is worth waiting for.  And I  

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Beautiful Mess

Sometimes life is a mess.  Mine sure seems to be one these days.  I'm reminded of a few things:

A friend told me you get to decide who you invite to dine with you at the table: hope, despair, joy, fear, etc...  Who have I been inviting?  Whom would I prefer to dine with?

I read The Shack a few years ago and was shocked at how much I adored it.  I couldn't find the exact quote I was looking for, but found this summary here.  What I see as a mess, the Lord sees as a beautiful work in progress.

Sarayu (the Holy Spirit) shows Mack a messy, fractal garden. The garden is full of colors, herbs, flowers, plants. Mack describes it as a “chaos in color”…”confusing, stunning, and incredibly beautiful.” As they walk, Sarayu picks various herbs and plants and flowers, giving them to Mack and creating a bouquet.
She then gives Mack some garden tools and leads him to a secluded patch of absolute beauty—breathtaking. She asks for his help in clearing the patch because she wants to plant something else here instead. Stunned at her request to destroy something so beautiful, he joins her in clear-cutting the beautiful patch of garden. Their conversation turns to the topic of Good and Evil where Sarayu makes the comment, “You humans, so little in your own eyes. You are truly blind to your own place in the Creation. Having chosen the ravaged path of independenc, you don’t even comprehend that you are dragging the entire Creation along with you.” She also states that “humans have a great capacity for declaring something good or evil, without truly knowing.” She begins to question Mack about his ability to really know what is good for him or what is evil. He says a lot of it is based on how something or someone effects him…that somethings he thought were good turned out to be bad, and visa-versa. They continue to work and dialogue together.
Sarayu tells Mack that Evil is simply the absence of God, much like Darkness is simply the absence of Light, and Death, the absence of Life. That Evil and Darkness can only be understood in relation to Light and Good..that they do not actually have any existence. Light and Good actually exist. So by Mack removing himself from God plunges him into darkness. That is death because he has separated himself from God: Life.
The conversation turns towards Mack daughter, Missy, and he asks if she had the right to be protected. Sarayu says, “No Mack. A child is protected because she is loved, not because she has a right to be protected.” This floors Mack. She continues, “Rights are where survivors go, so they don’t have to work out relationships…” that “Jesus didn’t hold on to any rights; he willingly became a servant and lives out of his relationship with Papa. He gave up everything, so that by his dependent life he opened a door that would allow you to live free enough to give up your rights.”
Papa then arrives. Mack says how, though the garden is a mess, he somehow feels strangely comfortable in it. Papa and Sarayu smile at each other. Sarayu says, “And well you should, Mackenzie, because this garden is your soul—thismess is you! Together, you and I, we have been working with a purpose in your heart. And its wild and beautiful and perfectly in process. To you it seems messy, but to me, I see a perfect pattern emerging and growing and alive—a living fractal.” Mack crumbled. He looked at his garden and it really was a mess, but incredible and wonderful at the same time.
The chapter ends with Mack walking up to the workshop to look for Jesus so they can go for a walk…

Friday, August 10, 2012

My most favorite Nica story July 2k12

I wasn't supposed to go on this trip.  The trip was technically full, but Edy told me I could buy my own ticket and tag along.  I did exactly that!  Three of my four flights were with the team, but I'd be solo from Miami to Managua.  Initially, I was pumped about the alone time.  However, I was having a great time with the team and when we landed in Miami, I decided to ask the airline folks if I could get on with my buddies.

Since I checked a bag, I could not.  I turned to Rennie and said, "I'm not in a good place.  I love alone time and the idea of having four hours alone with me, my thoughts, and God scares me right now."  Yikes!  We grabbed breakfast (second of the day) and then some friends came with me to my gate to hang out while I waited to board.  Typically, I'm an eager beaver to board, but not this day.  I waited until I was one of the last.

Some things going on personally and being scared to come face to face with my thoughts and what I'd been avoiding/trying to hide from the Lord, I started crying as soon as I was out of view from my friends.  When I stepped foot on that plane, I KNEW beyond a shadow of a doubt, way down in my gut, that I'd ride in first class.  My ticket said otherwise, but the Lord whispered to me that I'd be in first class that day.

As tears quietly rolled down my cheeks, a flight attendant asked if I was ok.  I said yes and then made eye contact with a boy in first class.  After a minute he said, "take my seat."  "No!  I'm not taking your seat!"  He said, "no, take it.  Give me your ticket."  We switched seats and for the first time in my life, I was in first class.

LESSON ONE.  Just as I didn't deserve first class, I don't deserve salvation and a relationship with Jesus.  Jesus switched places with me -- took death so I don't have to -- as this kid switched seats with me.

Turns out, there was a group of 80 Catholics heading to build water wells.  The kid in front of me turned around and said, yeah, Alex is really nice; he's like a Catholic Catholic.  {Note to self: he's a Christian.}  The flight attendant brought over a tray of mimosas and waters.  I went to grab a mimosa and knocked the entire tray over.  Yes, of course I did!  I'm now covered in orange juice and a crying mess.  She brings over a towel with club soda and I have to chuckle.

Y'all, if you ever get to ride in first class, DO IT!  They bring you a warm towel to clean your hands with.  Then I received a warm bowl filled with warm mixed nuts.  They were yummy.  Then I had a glass of red wine.  Then they asked if I wanted chicken or filet for lunch.  Really?  Filet was the easy choice.  As I sat there, awaiting my food, I started feeling guilty.  Alex wasn't even getting a snack in coach, yet I was about to eat a delicious meal.  I didn't deserve this at all!

LESSON TWO.  The Lord spoke to me and said, "Just accept this.  Let me love you."  I needed to be reminded that the Lord loves; He is love.  He pursues.  He cherishes His children.  I try to run and hide, but he will always seek me out.  He is the greatest lover and pursuer of all time.  And I needed to receive His love.  His love doesn't always come in the form of first class and lavish amenities, but it does always come.

The first course was a beautiful salad of arugula, shaved Parmesan, and balsamic.  Second course was filet with fancy cheese on top (I don't remember what kind), awesome mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, and a balsamic roasted tomato.  There was caramel cheesecake for dessert.  And I had a second glass of wine.

I had fun talking to the kid next to me and the dude in front of me.  Dude in front of me needed a life change; in a huge way.  I hope and pray that his time in Nicaragua changed his life forever as he had a real encounter with Jesus Christ.  I also had good reflection and time alone with my thoughts and the Lord.  And, I was able to write Alex a thank you note for giving me his seat.

I got off the plane and waited for Alex, saying thank you and handing him my thank you note.  He looked me in the eyes and said, "you're welcome.  I could see that you were in pain and I wanted to do whatever I could to take that away from you."  Y'all!  This kid was like 18 years old!  How great is he?

LESSON THREE.  I think that's how the Lord looks at us.  He sees our struggles and our pain and he wants to take it away from us.  It doesn't mean life will be smooth sailing or perfect; it doesn't mean we won't struggle or be in pain, but it does mean that He will walk with us through those times.  And, when we submit to Him, we will be released from the things holding us in bondage.

I was able to speak publicly three times during our trip and twice I shared this story.  Most of the people I spoke to haven't left their country, let alone been on an airplane, or in first class.  However, the lessons don't change.  We all fail and make mistakes and get hurt and are broken in certain places.  We all need to be reminded that God is love and when we know him, we encounter his love in real and tangible ways.

It certainly was a plane ride I will never forget.  I'm so grateful for Alex and his generosity!  AND the most amazing thing happened.  The way home -- my actual ticket from Managua to Miami was in first class!  Can you believe it?!  I did the best thing I could do and traded seats with someone else...

Time flies!

Do you ever have one of those moments where you just don't know where the time went?  Jenn just told me I hadn't blogged since June and I could hardly believe it.  I checked and what do you know?  She's right.

I have had many thoughts over the past month and a half or so, but haven't had the discipline to put them on virtual paper.  Here are some things I've been up to:

  • Forth of July was a blast.  Had a grand time eating Bojangles, making friends, and acting like I was a college kid again.
  • Courtney and Krissie came for a visit! 
  • Work has been insanely busy.
  • Visited the Thain sisters and their families at Edisto!
  • Went to Nicaragua.  
Y'all, I left part of my heart there.  Again.  This was likely my most favorite trip of all.  We got to go to Masaya -- where our fearless and faithful translator, Melvin, is from.  It is a gorgeous part of the country.  I laughed and danced more than I have in ages.  I felt and saw the Holy Spirit move in some really powerful ways: people were healed, people came to know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and savior, some really personal prayers were answered as I got time with Hazel and Jilman.  I thought it would be impossible to see Jilman, but with God, nothing is impossible!

I have a favorite story from the trip that I'm hoping to share sooner rather than later.  

As for me today, I'm trying to get through month old emails at work and make to the end of the work day.  Dinner with friends in Charleston then driving to Edisto for some quality time with the Sheltons!

Friday, June 29, 2012

In the year of drought

The other day I read

Jeremiah 17:7-8
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
     whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

I couldn't really put my finger on why these verses grasped me so.  At first I thought it because they remind me of Isaiah 61:1-3 (beloved verses):

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
     and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
     to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lordthat he may be glorified.

But I knew there was something more.  I re-read it a few times.

And, then it hit me.

Not anxious in the year of drought, for it continues to bear fruit.

I have been feeling spiritually dry lately.  My relationship with God ebbs and flows.  During the dry periods, it is easy for me to feel like the Lord would/will never use me.  That He's not at work in my life or the world around me.  It's easy to slip into a bit of despair.  

So, I need this reminder: even in times of drought, if we belong to the Lord, He will work and we will continue to grow and bear fruit.  It might not look glorious for a while -- but the buds are never as pretty as flowers that bloom.  In this time of drought, I want to focus on the fruit, but even more so, focus on the Lord that is working it all out.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


(Mostly written Monday)  As I cruised through my Google Reader this morning, Kelly's words stood out to me:

He said "Don't ever let your past stop you from your future ministry".  That is so true. I think so many people think because of something they did in their past - that they aren't good enough for God to love them or to use them. That is simply not true.  God can use you BECAUSE of your past. I love the saying "God never calls the equipped. He equips those He calls".  No matter where you are in your life or what talents you have or think you don't have - God can use you for mighty things if you are just willing.

Past.  For some reason it easily has a negative connotation.  It can easily feel like a burden we carry with us.  Today, I've been listening to Josh Garrels' Farther Along.  If you don't know it, I suggest to listen to it on repeat for at least a few hours.  I haven't listened to it in a while and it seemed perfect for this rainy Monday. These words stood out to me:

That deadweight burden weighs a ton
Go down into the river and let it run
Wash away all the things you've done
Forgiveness alright

Wash away all the things you've done.  The truth is, some of us have pasts full of pain and misery, things we are ashamed of, things we wish we could erase, things that make mercy and grace and the cross that much sweeter.  And some of us have pasts that appear quite tame, or even wonderful.  Perhaps most of us have pasts filled with good and bad, things we're proud of others we're ashamed of.

Regardless, they are over.  Yesterday is just that: over.  We can't edit it, but we can steer the course for today and tomorrow.  If we have lived pasts either shameful or glorious, we are in danger of being defined by them.  We are in danger of not trusting the Lord for the here and now and the future.  Looking back can help us see the hand of God at work, and can encourage us and challenge us.  But aren't called to be stuck there, rather to live ever present in the moment...

To be frank, I'm not even sure why these words effected me so much today...I'm not struggling with my past, per se.  Though, there's always things I would change if I could.  And, it's been rainy which tends to make me more introspective.  Perhaps I just needed to be reminded that 1. God uses me (and you)  2. to be engaged with the Lord today  3. renewed hope for the future.

There's something so freeing and so exciting about not having any burdens (of the past) and being washed clean.

Titillating debate

I got in a debate the other day with a few friends: which is the better, classier food establishment: Hardee's or Burger King?

Between those two, I'm a Hardee's gal all the way!  You?!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Food for thought this morning.

On my drive to work this morning I was trying to be silent and let the Lord speak to me.  My mind started rambling, as it tends to do.  Somehow I landed on pre-nups and how one of my friends was asked to sign one.  Then I heard the Lord say to me, "with me there is no need for a pre-nup because I have given you full access to everything that is mine.  All that I have is yours.  Yet, you still hold tightly to things...why?"

Then I read Jeremiah 7.  Verse 11 stood out to me, "Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord."

I couldn't shake the phrase "den of robbers."  In Matthew 21:13, Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46, Jesus says, "My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers."

Then I went here...

Isaiah 56:6-7
“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
    to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
    and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
    and holds fast my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
    and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
    will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
    for all peoples.”

I took a theology class at church last year and this NT story came up.  It is most likely that Jesus was mad that people were selling things (for sacrifices) because that was of the custom.  But they were selling things at too high of a rate/too harsh exchange rates.  Therefore, those traveling far and wide got the short end of the stick financially so that a few could prosper.  Jesus  got angry over it.

All of this to say, I have been reminded today of how often I want to charge others too much so that I might gain.  I do this with God, too.  The Lord's house is to be a house of prayer.  Our relationship is to be a prayerful one, an engaging one, a relationship constantly in communion.  Yet, I want to take all that I can.  I seek the Lord's hands more than his very presence.  I am selfish.  

So, today I am challenged.  Am I a house of prayer or a den of robbers?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A few things

It hasn't been a month since I've been home from Nicaragua and am already anxious to be back there.  One month from today, I will be!  Super excited!

I started reading Love Does today.  I think it's going to be a good one.

I've been helping Krissie a smidge plan a trip to NYC.  I'm a bit sad I can't tag along in her suitcase.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Vicarious Living

A friend of mine, Chops, quit his job and left a life behind in Boston for a while.  He's touring the world; a few months in, he's been to Costa Rica, South Africa, Australia, and Thailand.  I've been enamored with his travel blog and thought I'd pass it along:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Life and death.

My cousin Virginia got married this past weekend in Charlotte.  She was beautiful.  We all love her groom, Jordan.  We laughed, we danced, we told stories.  The food was delicious, including an amazing spread of Chinese food.  It was just one of those weddings where everything, especially the reception, was done right.  They're 22 and green: full of life and not yet burdened by adult affairs.

Driving home yesterday, I found out my friend Beth's mom passed away.  Years of fighting came to an end.

The juxtaposition of new life and death in one weekend.

I don't remember the episode, but I kept hearing Meredith Grey's voice in my head saying, "life isn't supposed to be like this."  And, it isn't.  God created us to live in harmony with him, but we wanted to do what we wanted to do.  It started with a piece of fruit in the garden and turned into one messy place...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting rooms

I've spent more time than I would have liked in hospital waiting rooms this week.  It's a luxury of working for a medical university: when people are here, you get to be there, too.  It's an interesting place filled with lots of emotion, family dynamics, friends, spoken words and the things left unsaid.  And, if you're blessed, it is filled with love. That's what has impressed me the most this week: love.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
1 cor 13.13

Monday, June 11, 2012

Today's thoughts.

It's my plan to continue talking about my recent time in Nicaragua.  If for nothing else, I love the record of it.  But today, I am reminded at how very precious life is.

My sweet friend Beth's mom has been fiercely battling cancer for some time now.  She's in the ICU now and as I prepare to go see Beth after work, I just want to make things better.  But, I can't.

Our dear family friend is in a brain rehab center in Greenville.  Ideally, she'll re-learn how to eat and walk by herself.  Typing those words doesn't seem real.

I noted on my calendar that yesterday marked the 13th anniversary of me coming to know Jesus as my Savior. There have been many ups and downs in our relationship.  I am utterly undeserving and utterly grateful that he saved a wretched sinner like me.

As I've contemplated life today -- the joys of being born again and the brevity of it in the flesh -- I can't escape thinking how precious it is.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it."  Matthew 13:45-46

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Come ye sinners.

This was the sermon I gave:

Good morning, friends.  I am beyond blessed to be here.  I had the privilege of coming to Nicaragua for the first time in March and I fell in love with your country, your people, you.  It is an honor that the Lord has brought me back.  I’m going to speak from my heart, about what the Lord has been teaching me over the past month or so.  It is my prayer that this will resonate with at least one of you.  That God will use these words to pierce someone’s hearts as they come from Him and not me.  

Let us pray.

You don’t have to raise your hands, but answer for yourself:  do you have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus?  What does it mean to KNOW Jesus?  Sometimes it is easy to think knowing Jesus means being “good enough.”  

Yet I don’t always feel good enough.  Do you?  Friends, sometimes I feel like I can’t move forward.  Sometimes I feel like I keep getting stuck doing the same old things over and over again even though I know Jesus.  Do you ever feel that way?  Do you ever wonder if you’ve really been changed by the blood shed on the cross?

A lot of things that we do one day look different when we wake up the next morning.  I shouldn’t have slept with my girlfriend.  I shouldn’t have said that nasty thing to my friend.  I shouldn’t have been mean to my mother.  I shouldn’t have gotten drunk.  I shouldn’t have stolen. I shouldn’t have gotten pregnant.  I shouldn’t have walked out.  I shouldn’t have stayed.  There are so many “I shouldn’t haves...” out there...

How many of you just want to “get it together?”  How many of your fight the battle in your head that you can fix yourself?  I know I have.  

What I want you to hear today...what I need to hear today is that Jesus offers GRACE.  

John 1:14-17
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. ( John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Verse 16, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has given us grace.  BUT do you accept it?

John 20:30-31
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Jesus is the Son of God the Father.  He gave His life for our lives -- that we might have eternal life in heaven and abundant life on earth.  If we are living with Jesus, shouldn’t we be living abundantly?  

Romans 6:12-15
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13  Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!

It is one of me beautiful mysteries of being a Christian, of knowing and loving Jesus.  That, yes, we are to fight our sin.  But we don’t have to fight alone!  We have been given a helper!  We have been given the Holy Spirit!

Romans 5:5-6
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. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.

And, when we listen to the Spirit, when we walk with Him, we are able to be more obedient.  Yet, we will fall down.  And when we do, there is grace.  Christianity does NOT tell us we have to be perfect.  It does NOT tell us we have to get it together, that we cannot make mistakes.  Quite opposite really.  God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit tell us to come as we are.  

Romans 6:20-23
20  For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21  But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Friends, as you know, life is not always easy.  We face money problems.  We face people problems.  We get heart broken.  We do things we wish we could take back.  We are sick.  We lose loved ones.  We wonder how we will survive.  

And, yet, we have been promised life.  Those who know and love Jesus have been promised abundant life.  Jesus does NOT promise that our lives will be easy.  We will endure hardships and troubles and pain.  But we will endure those things.  Because He has promised NEVER to leave us and NEVER to forsake us.  He has promised to provide for all of our needs out of His glorious riches.  He loves us.  He loves us more than we can understand.

1 Peter 2:9
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

So, yes, there are times when we make bad choices.  Times when we do things we know are wrong and are not glorifying to the Lord Jesus Christ.  However, we are NO LONGER slaves to those things.  No, we have been bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  We are His.  We are chosen!  We are royalty!  We are holy!  

Is this how you perceive yourselves?  If you’re a believer in Jesus, then you are royalty!  It doesn’t mean that you will be perfect.  It means something so much greater!  It means that God sees you.  He knows you.  He thinks you are special.  He loves you.  It means that no matter what you do, He loves you.  It means that there is nothing you can do to separate you from His love.  

The Lord has spent the past year reminding me that I am royalty.  He has patiently been telling me and showing me that I belong to Him.  That I am his daughter, beautiful and beloved and anointed.  He wants me to know those things; I want to live out of that truth -- to live a life that reflects the inheritance one can only receive through the cross.  Living a life out of the love I have so greatly been given.  

You don’t have to do enough.  You don’t have to try to make yourself good enough.  You don’t have to keep trying -- only to feel burdened from doing so.  Someone told me a few weeks ago, “this is your identity; you can accept it or reject it.”  So, I ask you: how do you see yourselves?  Do you know who you are?  Are you living like royalty?  Are you accepting the identity that can ONLY be given to you by God?  

Our earthly fathers are sinful just like each of us is.  But our father in Heaven is perfect and he loves us perfectly.   Because when we live as God’s children, we see God more clearly.  We see Him providing for us and blessing us.  We know that we can go to Him with anything.  We know that He loves us.  We know that He cares for us.  We know that He delights in us.  We know that we belong to Him.

And when we live out of that truth, when we know who we are and who we belong to, we are able to trust God.  We are able to be thankful and grateful, even when life is not easy.  We are able to live full and abundant lives.  We come as we are, we come messy and dirty, and full of mistakes.  We come and we let God love us and make us into the children He created us to be.

I am reminded of the hymn, “Come ye Sinners,” with the following words:

Come, ye sinners, poor and wretched,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus, ready, stands to save you,
Full of pity, joined with power.
He is able, He is able;
He is willing; doubt no more.

Come ye needy, come, and welcome,
God's free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.
Without money, without money
Come to Jesus Christ and buy.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Bruised and broken by the fall;
If you tarry 'til you're better,
You will never come at all.
Not the righteous, not the righteous;
Sinners Jesus came to call.

Amen.  Let’s pray.