Monday, March 30, 2009

My World was Fixing to be Rocked

"Purified hearts are worth the risk of harsh realities." (Beth Moore in Living Beyond Yourself)

As I shared with you last week, God spoke some huge things to this heart two weekends ago. On the Saturday afternoon session, Dr. Bruce touched on forgiveness and how unforgiveness is a sin. Oh boy I was NOT ready for what was going to happen.

First let me remind you that we were surrounded by women who have experienced horrible, unspeakable trauma. The heaviness of that settled on me when this particular session started. I knew because we had shared lunch in the "green room" with the speaker, that the afternoon session would be hard for us. Even with the inside scoop, I wasn't quite ready for what I experienced.

I was reminded that making the choice to NOT forgive ANYONE of ANYTHING is S.I.N. He had us read Matthew 18:21-35 which is the passage of the Unforgiving Servant. Remember? Servant #1 owes the King 10,000 Talents (about 20 years wages for a laborer). The King wants the account settled. Servant #1 couldn't pay and begs the King for mercy. The King grants it and releases the servant.

Servant #1 leaves and runs into Servant #2. Servant #2 owes #1 100 denarii (1 denarii is about a days wage). #2 just like #1, begged for mercy and patience BUT. #1 refuses to grant it to #2 and has him thrown into prison until he could pay his debt. Story coming back to you now?

The King got wind of what #1 had done and boy was he livid. #1 found himself in the Kings presence where he was severely reprimanded. The King even called #1 wicked for not showing mercy when mercy had been shown to him.

Verse 34 tells us what the King did next...

"And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt."

It was at this point that I became very aware just how serious unforgiveness is. See that word "jailers"? The Greek meaning for that word is: torturers. What do torturers do?

They torment.

When we make the choice to NOT forgive any offensive, after a time...God releases us, or as Dr. Bruce said it..He throws us to be tormented. I think the best way to describe this is that God removes His hand of protection.

As we moved on, we talked about what a person who doesn't forgive looks like. We heard words like, resentment, bitterness, anger, and hatred. Eventually an unforgiving person lives a life of vengeance. I don't know about you but to me, those are pretty accurate descriptions of a person who is being tormented.

Dr. Bruce then had us take a piece of paper and then pray "God show me who I need to forgive."

We were then to record every name that came into our mind. It was shocking. I'm ashamed to tell you that my list was much longer than I thought it should be.

What came next was hard. I'll share that with you next time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Simple Pleasures 1

My dear (now a real life) friend Patty has begun to host "Simple Pleasures". I am so on board as this theme is something God has been singing over me lately.

One of the things I LOVE about my girls is that they love to shop. They enjoy trying on shoes as much or more than I do. Monday, was a shoe shopping day. Chloe needed to get a pair for the musical so we headed out. At some point we wound up in Target. It's a new Target and it is lovely.

We spent quite a bit of time looking at flip flops, sandals and clothes. Then we walked around and looked at all the "decorating stuff" as my girls call it. We could have spent all afternoon in there. :)

It was a simple pleasure to spend that sweet time with the girls. We talked about girlie stuff and just enjoyed each others company.

After a very heavy weekend, it was ministry to my heart. :)

I still want to share more from the weekend, but I just haven't had the time or mental energy to put it's coming because it was huge in my life. I just want to do it justice.

Hey...can I tell you just how precious you are to me? You are and I have missed you this week!!

We have a lot on our plate this week and I'm not reading blogs very much...I'll be back on a more normal (HA) schedule after this weekend is over!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

So Amazed at My God

I recorded here about an incredible conference I was blessed to attend. It totally transformed my thought pattern in a couple of areas and challenged me. Boy, was it good.

Last night and all day today, I along with my Freedom's Call teammates had the opportunity to sit under Bruce Wilkinson's teaching again. However this time, we weren't sitting in a church surrounded by "church people" giving the typical "churchy" answers to everything.

We found ourselves surrounded by 200 beautiful women. Women who have experienced more than my mind can imagine. Out of respect and security for this organization, I will not tell you the name. I will tell you that it was a substance abuse facility for women as well as a place for homeless women and their children to come and get back on their feet.

The founder, and beautiful woman that runs this facility is a mighty woman of God. She puts up with nothing, and her desire is to see her girls not only become sober, but to become addicted to JESUS. I am telling you when this woman opens her mouth to speak to these ladies she pours out the Word. Literally pouring life into those broken hearts.

Dr. Bruce, as the ladies called him, well....he poured everything in him out this weekend. Wow. I don't know how he was standing up when we ended. There is so much I want to share, but I am still processing. I think what I want to do is just list a few of my highlights.

1. Friday night when their choir got up to sing. We were on the front row and I quickly noticed that several of the singers had blue bracelets on their wrists. I smiled because this girl remembered wearing her blue bracelet during "Believing God". After we broke Friday night I asked "J." if she was doing that study, she lit up and we started..."GOD IS WHO HE SAYS HE IS"...went through the five statements and I was moved by belief I saw in her beautiful eyes when she said..."I am who God says I am".

2. Also on Friday night, "Dr. Bruce" had us partner up with someone we did not know and share our dream. Oh boy..."S" shared her dream with me and I was honored. She was precious. And I have no doubt she will get that job done.

3. Saturday morning. The babies. Seeing those mommas hold those babies. This one is hard for me. You could see in a few of their eyes that they want to change things for their little ones.

4. The teaching, especially this afternoon was on the sin of unforgiveness AND the effect of unforgiveness. This was huge and deserves a post all to itself. (Probably Monday) I will say that you don't want to miss it. This is where we witnessed a miracle. Just typing this vague paragraph has brought the tears again. I can't do it justice so I have to stop.

It was quite an honor to experience this weekend with these ladies. I'm humbled that they asked us to sing for them today. And let me tell you...these ladies...they worship. I can hardly wait to go back in June when Freedom's Call will be doing a weekend conference with them.

There is so much more to share but..

I'm mentally exhausted. So I am going to make you wait! :) Have an awesome Sunday!!!

Friday, March 20, 2009

I know, I know....

I know that posting this will bring MUCH ridicule by some of my dearest friends. But I don't care. :)

Patty has been posting and sharing about simple things lately. I too have had the concept playing over and over in my mind.

SO earlier when I read Patty's God Stop Friday post, she talked about some simple things..I knew that I had one to share. And believe me when I say it's simple. :)

Monday night as I was cleaning up dinner I made the comment, "I need cake." I didn't think anyone heard me, the girls were heading upstairs, Chad was playing with Paddington and I was just talking to myself.

A few minutes later, I sat down to scan FaceBook. I updated my status to something like "I want cake." About the same time Chad came out of our room and said he needed to run to the store for shampoo or something. I didn't think one thing about it. He buys his own "beauty" supplies. No big deal.

When he returned this is what he brought in:

Isn't she beautiful! That's a cream cheese filling between the best two layers of chocolate. Oh. MY. Goodness. The Publix bakery outdid themselves with this one!!

I will be enjoying the last little bit of it after lunch. :) the thing that will bring ridicule like you can't even begin to imagine.

Last week I referenced here the song "Simple Things". (By my all time favorite artist) Well...I'm going to share it with you today.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Post You Have All Been Waiting For...

I could hardly wait to announce the winners of Mandisa's new CD! I LOVE giving things away and this has made my morning. Okay, Okay...

Our winners are:

Comment number 1 BethAnne from Waiting for the Shout.


Comment number 6 Cheryl at The 29:11 Promise. (Who by the way is great with child and could use your prayers right now!)

I'm so happy for you both! E-mail me your mailing address and I will make sure you receive your copy ASAP.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Mandisa Have I Mentioned I Love Her?

Sometimes an artist just feels like an old friend. You know the type, you feel like you could sit and talk for hours about nothing. I think Mandisa is that type of artist. As beautiful and talented as she is, she still seems real or maybe better said approachable. This woman and her music make me want to love Jesus a little more. She never ceases to encourage me to have an attitude of worship. Love that about her. Plus...the girl can just flat out sing.

So imagine my surprise this week when I opened my in-box to find an e-mail from some of her people asking if I would be interested in hosting a listening party. Are you kidding?!?! On top of that...they want to give TWO of YOU an autographed copy of her new CD, FREEDOM.

Oh boy I'm so excited!!!! I got to hear "My Deliverer" on Thursday evening and I LOVE IT!!!! So here is the deal.

Do you see that little box to your right? Well...turn that volume UP and start listening to this fabulous new music. I'm telling you, you're going to love it.

Once you listen:

1. LEAVE ME A COMMENT with your favorite song or if you're like me and you can't decide...tell me which song seems to minister to you right now. Or just tell me how beautiful you think Mandisa is...:)

2. If you have a blog, mention this give away and if you know how, link back to this post. (If you don't have a blog that is OKAY!)

I will leave the comments on this open until Tuesday, March 17. I will use the super neat random number generator on Wednesday morning to figure out who our winners will be.

Come here real the others don't hear... I'm secretly hoping that YOU win one!! :) Just don't tell everyone else okay?

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE FREEDOM'S CALL Link in my sidebar...I'll be posting there on Sunday. I would love to have you visit us there. :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Glorious Impossible

Matthew 19:26 NIV
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

I have avoided blogging all week because I knew exactly what I was supposed to share and quite frankly, I don't want to. It's hard and it hurts...but I have to.

Over the last two weeks, I have shared with you that we have, what has felt like an impossible situation. Last week the heaviness of that situation was at an all time high for me. As I prayed about it I got nothing. No writing on the wall, no answer in the mail, no word of direction. Simply put, silence.

The impossible continued to become bigger. It was soon demanding ALL my time, my energy, and my emotion. My impossible had become my idol.

I was allowing the enemy to use what I felt was impossible to distract and discourage me. Before I knew it, I was opening the door and saying "come on in" to an old stronghold....FEAR.

At some point toward the end of the week and into the weekend, I began to think about this song our choir sang last year during the Christmas season, "Glorious Impossible". This song talks about Jesus being THE Glorious Impossible. His miraculous conception and birth, His sinless life and His victory over the grave.

As our pastor preached Sunday morning I had a hard time concentrating. My impossible was fighting for my attention. As pastor continued to talk about chasing down that lion, I felt like my personal lion was circling closer to me than ever. Taunting me and having a good time doing it.

Honestly, I felt like he had already knocked me down and I was struggling to stay up. I finally had to just say God tell me what I'm supposed to hear from you today. He did.

This is what I felt Him say to me:

"You need to let THE GLORIOUS IMPOSSIBLE make your impossible glorious."

(Okay Esther girls...what do we call that??? Maybe a little chiastic structure????)

You see, for several weeks I have been praying that I would live a life that says "That had to be God." Making His name known is the deepest desire of my heart. If He has to take us through this so that He can get some glory, then okay. I surrender.

So this week, I have meditated on Matthew 19:26 and each time I feel that overwhelming sense of fear...I ask Him to make my impossible glorious.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Way to Go Emma and An Unexpected Arrival

We spent most of Saturday watching Emma participate in the Awana Games. Her sparks team came in 2nd! They did just great. :) We are so proud of her for conquering her fear and participating! That is huge for Emma and a testimony to what prayer can do.

Sunday morning, she got another piece of evidence that God answers prayer. One of Emma's Sunday School teachers lost his job about 3 weeks ago. The Sunday that she found out, Emma got into the car with "urgent news". She has been praying every day since then that Mr. Rick would get a new job.

Yesterday, he shared with the class that God had answered their prayers and that he had a new job! Once again, she got in the car with "urgent news". It was sweet. However, I think God used that little thing to remind her mom and dad that God still answers prayers. Whew....did we need to hear it too.

I told you on Friday that God had sent a surprise in an unexpected way. Well....

My blogging and now real life friend Melinda sent me a treat. Earlier in the week on the LPM blog, Beth asked us to leave the name of our favorite book in the comments. I listed my all time favorite book..."The Secret Garden".

A couple of hours later, I received an e-mail from Melinda saying that we shared the same favorite. (Excellent taste she has.) Anyway, she asked me if I had a particular edition. (The one with Tasha Tudor illustrations) She shared that her husband had given that particular edition to her for Christmas one year and it was just a beautiful book. I told her no, but I thought it sounded beautiful.

On Thursday, my stinky day last week, our doorbell rang late in the afternoon. UPS had left a box at our front door and I'll just be honest here...I said "What in the world has Chad ordered." I'll go ahead and just confess that I was ready to give him an earfull if he had bought ANYTHING. Boy..did I have to confess my attitude.

When I opened the box...this is what I found.

Not just "The Secret Garden" but my second favorite book...."A Little Princess". Such a treat. A timely treat on top of that. God used two beautiful books and one beautiful Siesta to encourage me last week. Thank you Melinda for being so generous. Each time I pick up these books I thank God for you. I wish you lived close enough to hug your neck! We'll just have to wait until a conference or something!!!

You was so precious to open that surprise, but as my girls and I were reminded last's also a blessing to be the giver of a surprise.

Last week on our snow day, the girls and I got to use our God pocket money for the first time. To keep the details private,I just told the girls we were secret agents for God and that we were on our mission. We needed a lesson in putting others first and they LOVED it. In fact, one of them asked me last night if we had any special missions scheduled for this week. It was all I could do not to crack up at how serious she was, but it also thrilled my soul.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Simple Things

As I write this, it's 6:15 on Friday morning. God woke me up a little before 5:00 and we have had quite the time this morning. I don't tell you that to brag or to make you feel bad for not getting up early. Please don't take it that way! I tell you that so you kind of get into your head where I am right now. But in true Stephanie fashion...I need to back up a little.

Yesterday stunk. Bad.

I had very little time with the Lord before the family got up. The phone was ringing almost non-stop with people wanting to sell me stuff, or charities asking for money. The girls had a candy hang-over from Awana on Wednesday night, the list could go on and on....

I went to bed asking God to wake me up so that we did not have another day like Thursday.

This morning God reminded me of a song. One of my favorite artists has a song called "Simple Things". (Jim Brickman in case you want to hear it.) Anytime I hear this song I am challenged to slow down. To sit on the front porch and savor each breath.

After sometime journaling I picked up my Esther study. In today's lesson Beth had us list some of the "simple" things we have on our prayer list right now. Wow. I had to pick up my journal because there are so many complicated (or what I think are complicated) requests at the forefront of my mind. I began to list those simple things. Things like finding the perfect outfit for Chloe to wear in the musical this month. Emma's spark-a-rama games this weekend. (And that her coach will call to remind me what time to be there since I can't find the letter!) That Chad will be able to run without shin splints this week. That I will have patience with our dog who is pushing every button I have right now. (I'm not crazy about animals, but this one has grown on me a little. Still ~ HE IS GOING TO BE BANNED TO THE BACKYARD IF HE DOESN'T CHANGE HIS BEHAVIOR!)

What God began to speak to my heart was that He cares so much about each detail of my life. Did I know this before? Yes. Did I believe it before? Yes. No doubts there. However, the impossible situations that are in front of me and people I love right now are the things I have been focused on.

This morning, I just sat a little longer thinking about all those "simple things" that God has done for me. The longer I have been quiet, the more excited I have become. If He takes the time to answer and care about the simple things, I have no doubt He cares about the complicated, seemingly impossible things.

Have a wonderful Friday!!!

PS ~ I have the sweetest surprise to share with you later in the weekend! I can hardly wait..but I need to get a thank you note in the mail first!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Take the limits off

Yesterday during our blizzard, I downloaded session 6 of the Bible study I'm doing. I was all settled with my coffee my Bible and my workbook. The girls were running in and out playing, and the man was taking his regularly scheduled Sunday afternoon nap. Life was good.

I was about five minutes or so into the video when our power went. No big deal, I thought my laptop's battery would prove itself faithful. plan suddenly changed.

To say I was slightly aggravated would be an understatement. I do not like sudden changes. I was VERY comfortable and looking forward to receiving the Word that I felt certain God was going to deliver to me.

I tried to read a magazine, but couldn't concentrate. I picked up a book, it just seemed boring. It wasn't going to do me any good to keep fighting Him, so I picked up yesterday morning's sermon notes.

To say I hesitated to go over those notes again is an understatement. As powerful and awesome as our pastor's sermon was was very personal and quite frankly made me uncomfortable. I really didn't want to go there. But I had to.

Yesterday, my pastor said the following.

"Sometimes God will NOT intervene until things are totally humanly impossible."

Oh boy. I have fought letting that sink in. And by fought I mean plugging my ears and saying LA LA LA LA.....

You see, I have what to me feels like an impossible situation. Oh I have talked to God about it, A LOT. Believe me, I have poured out each and every thought, concern, fear...I have exhausted myself from all the talking. His response?

Well. He gives me verses like...Is. 59:1 reminding me that His ears are not dull and that yes He does hear me. He reminded me through song that He is mighty to save.... but yet at the point I am typing resolve to this impossible situation.

I know that this situation is an avenue for God to teach me something new about Himself. I want that. I've felt that for quite sometime. The next statement our pastor made was this:

"Our impossible situations are opportunities to experience a new dimension of God's glory."

A new dimension. A deeper level.

I have to have it.

I have to know that all of "this" matters. That all of "this" is part of the process God is going to use to refine something in me. I have to know that this process is going to remove something in me that keeps other's from seeing Him ON ME.

If God chooses to do it little by little okay. I'm taking the limits off of Him and going to rest today knowing that as much as I think I know about my impossible situation...He knows more.

This post is so long but I have to share one more thing.

After I re-read my notes from the sermon, I grabbed my journal to write down some thoughts. Before I started...I read what I had written Sunday morning before we left for church. This gave me cold chills. (FYI ~ I write in my journal like I'm conversing with God.)

"I thank you for being adequate to do the impossible!"

I did not know that our pastor's sermon would be entitled "Impossible Odds".

Is God cool or what?

God reminded me what He has been teaching me for almost two years. Sometimes He has to take you through a season to teach you humility before He brings a season of increase.....

Once the power came back on I finished my Esther session 6. Can I just tell you that had I watched the complete video BEFORE I soaked in yesterday morning's notes, it would not have meant as much. Just one more way God is proving to me that I can trust Him with "this".

Listen to God speak to you through this song...(If you can't listen to the entire 9 minutes...listen to about 2:50 seconds) Just close your eyes and let God speak to your heart.

When I grow up...I want to play keyboards with Israel. :) Don't laugh, God wants us to DREAM!!!!!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

SNOW!!! And LPM Memory Verse Challenge #5

I have to admit, I was so jealous of Fran's pictures last night on Facebook! She had the most gorgeous backyard covered in snow. :) THEN, I got home from church, dried off from this gross rain, had lunch and saw Patty's BEAUTIFUL home covered in it.

Right now, we are watching the news coverage and apparently in parts of the ATL there is SNOW!!! Please Lord, let it come to our little town soon. :) Our pastor announced at the end of church that there would be no afternoon or evening services. So we are in for the day. (AND I LOVE IT!!!!)

Once again, our pastor delivered the Word this morning. Powerful, applicable and timely in my life. I just can't begin to do it justice right now...I'm going to have to ponder it for a while and then maybe I'll share it.

My new verse is back in Isaiah. I keep finding myself in that book.

"Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened that it cannot save, or His ear dull that it cannot hear." Isaiah 59:1

I referenced it earlier in the week and it seems to be the verse that I am saying over and over again. So I'm going to ask God to make it sink in deep over the next two weeks.

AND GOODNESS I JUST LOOKED OUT OUR LIVING ROOM WINDOW IT'S SNOWING!!!!!!!! Emma wants me to be sure to tell you that she saw it first!!!!

Okay....I'm off to play.....