Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The End of a Study

I am a bit sad this week. It's the last week of "Ruth. Loss, Love and Legacy" and I just don't want it to end! The ladies in our Connect group have been so faithful and it has been such a sweet time for us, that I don't want it to end. We have all experienced some pretty incredible moments with the Lord during this.

In some ways, I'm not sure how I'm going to function without Ruth. (I tend to feel this way at the end of any study.) But it's time. She and I have been together since Thanksgiving. I did the study on my own and then in January three of us met and decided this was the study God had for our Connect ladies to do.

I'm honored to lead this last week and have been asking God what He wanted Thursday night to look like. Last week in the midst of preparing for Saturday's conference and the worship time for the Connect the Dots party on Saturday night, I kept thinking about the word "acrostic". I had no idea why I couldn't get it out of my mind and honestly, I was so focused on Saturday that I didn't even think it was about this week's Ruth study. (I'm just slow sometimes people!)

Saturday when Beth started building that acrostic with the word Secure, I felt a tug. God wanted us to build an acrostic Thursday evening with the word Legacy. Yikes. Can't we just do the discussion questions? Can't we just share what we will take from this study? An acrostic? REALLY God? Me?

This morning my sick Emma slept until 10:00 and Chloe was studying for next week's final exams. I had three hours of quiet and let me tell you.

God gave me the acrostic. All five sayings, points...whatever you want to call them. It was incredible. It was proof that when He calls you to do something He equips you with exactly what you need. We only have to say yes. Thank you Jesus!!! Isn't He the coolest thing ever?

Like I said earlier, I have a sick child and it's medicine time again. So I'm off to distribute the drugs to stop the coughing!!!

Check out how I came home last night....

You can call me Tinker Bell, Emma did!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Personal and Detailed

My parents gave me a pair of silver earrings with my "married" initials the first Christmas I was married and I wore those things every day for 3 years. I am not kidding. (The back broke off of one and I lost it at work.) :(

I guess it's the personal touch that makes personalized gifts SO special. They are marked, named, engraved for a specific person. While someone else may appreciate the beauty of that item, the gift is meant for one person. One.

Saturday, as we sat and listened to Beth Moore I was amazed at how each point seemed to echo something that God had already been engraving on my heart. Amazed. But what got me was that Sunday morning....SEVERAL things our pastor said went right along with what Beth had said on Saturday.

I won't lie and say it was an easy word to receive because it wasn't. At points it was a very tough pill to swallow. Some of it I am still working through.

Saturday and Sunday I was reminded that we were all created for a purpose. Goodness Ecclesiastes 1 shows us that even nature has a purpose! God DOES have a purpose and calling for our life. I want to as Eph. 4:1 says live a live that is worthy of the calling God has given me. That calling is personalized and detailed for me. Your calling is personalized and detailed for you. You can't complete mine and I can not complete yours.

As we talked about Saturday night, 1 Peter 4:10 says, "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."

Grace. This was another theme from the weekend. This was Point 4 on Saturday and Sunday by the way. Beth reminded us that secure women have been upended by grace. She said grace takes up the space in a secure woman. Love that. Our pastor challenged us as well to live in response to grace.

Grace. It amazes me. Who am I that God would extend such a beautiful thing to me, and yet I am stingy with it. My favorite, well one of my favorite quotes from Saturday, simply says:

Grace is the only thing we can give away and still keep.

I was immediately convicted of some relationships where I have not extended grace. There was some unforgiveness that needed to be turned upside down. It was quite clear that if I desire to live as a secure woman of God and fulfill His purpose for my life, I needed to extend some grace.

Personal and detailed. It is how my entire weekend felt. Even though the message was hard, it was what He wanted me to hear. We started off by asking God to open our ears to hear the word of His mouth (Jer. 9:20) and boy oh boy. He spoke a personal word.

This is one of my favorite passages of all time. God placed it on the heart of Lisa for Saturday evening. It never fails to remind me just how precious each one of us are to our God.

But now, this is what the Lord says-He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel; Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I Am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; Isaiah 43:1-5a

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rejection Thoughts (A repost from Jan.09)

This is a repeat post. I don't normally like to repeat, but because of several prayer requests over the last few days, I felt like maybe I should. I pray it ministers to you.

Like many of you, I'm doing the Esther study right now. I'm in week two and loving it. I finished week one right as I was packing and leaving for the retreat last weekend. One thing from week one that really stuck out in my mind was how fast King Headache (Xerxes) was to dismiss Queen Vashti from his life. Just did away with her...she didn't do what he asked and was done with her.

Rejected. This beautiful woman was just dismissed, done away with. I wondered what happened to her. Where did she go? Did they execute her, or allow her to return to her family? Did she leave that mansion and hide the rest of her life?

If we girls were really honest with each other, we all know that sting of rejection. Dismissal. The "I'm done with you and moving on" feelings. Whether those wounds are given by a boyfriend, a spouse, or one of your good girl friends, it hurts.

While the word "reject" was not the focus of last weekend's retreat, I heard several ladies touch on it. Some had just lost their jobs and even though it was all based on the economy, it was still rejection. It still hurt. Other's were more private matters that were not completely voiced out loud, but you could see in those beautiful eyes that rejection was at the heart of the matter.

Since I have been home, I have received a few e-mails from women going through some sort of rejection. Everything from family circumstances to work or ministry related rejection. Let me say something.. even when it feels like you have been dropped off on a street corner and those closest to you (the ones you should be able to trust the most) have forgotten to come back for you...GOD CARES. HE IS STILL THERE. HE HAS NOT LEFT YOU. It's against His nature remember He said "I will never leave you or forsake you!" You are not forgotten.

I can't help but think of Psalm 27 especially verses 7-10. Verse 10 says.. "For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in." (ESV)

Do you need to personalize that for you today..maybe "My employer has replaced me, let me go, but the Lord will take me in." or "I wasn't chosen to be part of that ministry team...but God will take me in!" "My husband has left, but my Lord will take me in."

Oh sweet friends, don't allow that hurt and disappointment to make you bitter! All that does is fuel the enemy. You take that hurt right to the One who knows you better than anyone. TELL HIM you are hurt, disappointed and need his comfort. Let Him be the lifter of your head. Be still and quiet enough to hear Him sing over you. It may be the hardest thing you do today, but it will be the BEST thing you do.

I love Psalm 91:11-16. Verses 14-16 say the following

"Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him. I will protect him because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."

Now...if you are feeling like you need to hear from HIM...replace each he or him with your name and read it again...OUT LOUD.

God will be with YOU in trouble. In pain, in rejection, in loss. He is there.

Let Him satisfy you today. I promise if you let Him, He will.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What God Showed Me Between Fried Okra and Turnip Greens.

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1

Our party of eight consisted of four little girls, the mommies of those girls and a set of grandparents. The hostess seated us at a table in the middle of the restaurant famous for country cooking and rocking chair front porches.

While our four little girls colored their menus and played with each other, another party of four was seated at the table directly in front of where I was seated. At first glance, they looked much like my own family will look in a few years. Two young teenagers, a mom and a dad with heads buried in their menus debating on biscuits and gravy, or fried okra and turnip greens.

It wasn't long before I locked eyes with the mom. We were once friends, ministry buddies, but life took us different directions. I smiled and was prepared to get up and hug her neck. She didn't return the smile. Her countenance changed and it was clear that she did not want to speak to me. My heart sank.

Her chipper personality, the one I had known and loved so many years ago was what I saw at that table before our eyes met. After our exchange not so much. She just looked down. I sat there asking God do I get up and go over? It has been at least 6 years since I've seen her. What do I do? They finished before we did and left. We did not speak.

Later that evening, I sat alone in my parent's guest room. Why God? Why did she act that way? Did I do something? Goodness, it's been years since we spoke! God reminded me of something He has been putting in front of my face for a couple of months. (I'm a slow learner.)

Sometimes, we Christians do very ungodly things. Sometimes we fall. Sometimes we make choices that grieve the heart of God. And sometimes, the consequences have generational impact. Notice I said we?

We ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Rom.3:23) As we often sing sin had left a crimson stain, but Jesus washed it white as snow. Forgiveness, it's a beautiful, wonderful life-altering thing. I will never get over it. NEVER. If you know Jesus, I know you feel the same way.

Enter the lesson from last week.

Sometimes we Christians are unwilling to let people walk in their freedom. Oh, we want to see people show remorse, repent and even be disciplined if needed. However, sometimes we don't forget. We hang on to it. While we may not verbally remind them of it, they know we know. Make sense?

This morning, we sang "East to West". The chorus says "I don't have to see the man I've been come rising up in me again." I love that line. When God forgives he separates our sin as far as the East is from the West.

Psalm 103:8-12 says

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Compassionate, gracious, ABOUNDING in love.

Will not accuse.

Does not treat us as our sins deserve.

If I could go back a week I would get up and walk over to that table. I would look that old friend in the eye and say, "it's SO good to see you!" I would ask her about her daughters. I would tell her how much I admired her musical ability and what an joy it was to serve with her.

I'm afraid that by NOT doing that last week, I sent the wrong message. While I may have been feeling compassionate, I don't think she felt it. I have no idea where she is spiritually right now, but. I know she knows Jesus.

This morning, as I stepped down to sing "East to West", I could not get her out of my head. After the second service I headed out to my car and thanked my Savior for my forgiveness, but my mind quickly turned to her. I'm praying tonight that she will walk in freedom. I'm asking God to surround her with godly women who will help her walk in that freedom and stand by her when others try to keep her from it.

Let's be women who encourage each other to walk in the freedom Christ died to give us. Because really, if not for the grace and mercy of God...where would we be?

Friday, April 9, 2010

What a Week

What a week. One week ago today we were so focused on Good Friday and preparing to celebrate Easter Sunday. It was a an incredible time of worship and reflection on what the empty tomb means for us today. I had to smile and chuckle at God because our pastor's sermon points began something like "Because the tomb is empty..." I was loving it because last week on Facebook, Travis Cottrell had posted "It's time to celebrate because the tomb is empty, we aren't!" I honestly thought I would hit the floor if Pastor Larry had made that the last point. He didn't, but I wrote it in my notes because I LOVE it. :)

Because of the area I served in on Sunday, I came home a little later than my people. I had planned ahead and put a roast in the crock pot early Sunday morning and had plans to have a big afternoon meal. All week I had planned to set the dining room table with my formal china, crystal and silver. There were fresh purple tulips for the table and yes, even dessert.

I had not been home an hour when my Dad called to say it looked like my grandfather had suffered a stroke and they were putting him in an ambulance and headed to the hospital. I knew that I needed to leave for Chattanooga that afternoon instead of Monday morning.

I was tired and worried so Chad offered to finish up lunch while I took a nap. He and the girls set the table, finished cooking lunch and when they woke me up an hour later, the girls had themselves packed and suitcases in the car.

We ate, cleaned up and left. Not exactly the Easter afternoon I had planned. We made it to my parent's house and unpacked as my dad called to say they had finally moved my grandfather into a room.

Chloe and I spent a little time with him on Monday. He was his usual jovial self. Cracking jokes, and making us laugh asking me if he looked frumpy because he hadn't shaved. (He was trying to impress his nurse.) BUT, there was a seriousness to him that I don't often see. "It's a bad thing to be old." he told me. We just listened.

He is 91. In his mind, he doesn't understand why he can't go and do like he did 20 years ago. He wants to LIVE, but his body isn't what it used to be. It's hard to watch.

He was diagnosed as having a TIA and actually went home Monday evening. THAT made him happy.

Since we've been back home, I've been thinking about how short life really is. I'm so glad that I know that my grandfather knows Jesus. I'm thankful that no matter how bad his memory gets, when he closes his eyes in death, he will open his eyes in the presence of his Savior.

I'm thankful that one Sunday afternoon when I was about 5 he listened to the Holy Spirit when this blond haired granddaughter asked him why he didn't go to church and love Jesus.

I'm thankful that he has shown me what it means to be a cheerful giver.

I'm thankful that, as hard and difficult as my grandmother can be, he has loved her and been faithful to her for 70 years this June. (This man has carried and stacked more shoe boxes than any man should ever have to!)

There is so much to be learned. So many things to remember, so many stories. 91 years just doesn't seem long enough.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Cross Speaks (3)

It's Good Friday. My heart and mind are consumed today with the sacrifice Jesus made for us. He is so precious to me. I'm not sure there will ever be words to adequately express how I feel about Him. Thank you Jesus for loving me so.

Okay the last two points from "The Cross Speaks"

6. A Word of Invitation. John 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished". With that, he bowed his head and gave up his sprirt.

For me. For you. The entire reason he was on this earth, the mission he was sent to accomplish had been completed. Done. I love that it says he gave up his spirit. They thought they were taking his life, but in fact he was GIVING it. They didn't take anything from Jesus that he wasn't willing to give.

The thing that has been gnawing on my heart about this is how selfish I am. MY time, MY reputation, MY, MY, MY. I make myself sick. Jesus willingly lived, served and ultimately died for me. Oh that I would be that selfless. OH that Christians would be that selfless.

His gift was personal and the invitation is extended to each and every person. Who can I, who can you share it with this week?

7. A Word of Invincibility. Luke 23:46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last.

What safer place to be than in the hands of the Father. As a Christian, I know that is where I am. He is a hands on kind of parent. This doesn't mean life is going to be easy, or free from hard times. But it does mean that God, our provider, our shelter, our comforter, our deliverer our....everything will be with us.

He will NEVER leave us, or forsake us.

He is constant and unchanging. He is faithful and true. He is ALIVE and ACTIVE in our lives. He is here.

And you know what...nothing, and NO ONE can separate us from his love.

Today, Good Friday 2010, I pray that you know Him. I pray that this day is more than a Sunday School flannel graph story to you.

This is the day that marked the beginning of my freedom. I pray you can say that too.

To quote Travis Cottrell (Who I think snagged this from Beth Moore) It's time to celebrate that because the tomb is empty, we aren't!!

He is Risen!

Happy Easter,