Wednesday, August 31, 2011

No More Cornflakes

I have a confession to make. Sometimes I feel like my faith is flakier than a box of Kellogg's  Corn Flakes.

I would love to say that I am strong pillar of faith, unshakable, undoubting at all times. But then that would be a lie. And last I checked, lying is a sin. True, I never lose faith that God exists, but sometimes I forget (doubt? worry about?) HIS faithfulness and sovereignty. Just last week during my morning quiet time at the kitchen table, I was studying Romans 4 where it was discussing Abraham's faith and salvation through righteousness, not works. Before I could stop myself, I was praying for God to give me faith like Abraham.

Then, midway through the prayer, I panicked. Literally. I remembered all of the things that God commanded Abraham to do, including the near-sacrifice of his son Issac. I freaked out!! I tried to take back my prayer. God, I can't handle anything that big. Developing faith involves potentially scary stuff. I was just kidding. Please cancel my request. 

THEN I realized the ridiculousness of my "please disregard my previous prayer." Why shouldn't I want faith like Abraham? Sure he was challenged and much was asked of him, but seriously, MUCH was given in return.  Where was my faith?

It turns out that as a woman, my natural flesh allows the enemy to sneak in doubt, fear and worry when it comes to our faith in God. Amidst homework, blogging, devotional writing this week, I felt very (surprisingly) calm with my busy schedule-- then actually caught myself starting to worry that I wasn't worried! Seriously, Satan? BACK OFF.

We have to lean on our Father at all times, because he gives us the weapons needed to combat the enemy. We can come away with Him daily and know that He is, was, and will forever be faithful to us. He can and will leave us without worry, and their will be no more "cornflakes" for breakfast (or any other time of day for that matter)

Do you have the courage to pray for faith like Abraham? What worries or doubts are keeping you from it? Ask  for His strength and glory to shine down on you... He will take away your fear,  and replace it with faith.

Say no to the "cornflakes" in our faith. Let's chow down on God's Promises for breakfast instead. 


"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mistaken Identity

Who am I?

This is a question I have pondered all my life. Some days the answer seems rather clear, other times I got nothing.  Somedays I feel as if I am 27 different people. I have always heard about having your identity in Christ. I honestly assumed that I did. But truly, I didn't know what it meant until this last Sunday in church. I watched our healthy church support and love on a church leader who had to suddenly step down from his position in order to redefine his identity in Christ. It was an incredible act of obedience and courage. Amazing.

I got to thinking... Where does my identity lie? Then BOOM, lightbulb moment. The last few years have been God transitioning me to a place where my identity is found FULLY in Christ Jesus. My identity used to be within my friends and network. Well, life happens, we graduate, move to different states and poof, daily best friend time, gone. God was still my daily friend.  It used to lie in a career of making money. My first "big kid" job was a wake up call that sometimes the cash just isn't worth it. I quit. But I was still a daughter of Christ.  Fell in love-- he deployed, so my identity couldn't solely fall as an army girlfriend (or not now as an army wife either.) But God romanced me daily.  My love of bragging about my leadership accomplishments? Oh snap, God calls me into ministry and humbles me to let Him guide me. He blessed my obedience.

"Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you." --Matthew 5:48
It is not about what I have done or what I aim to do. It is about Him. The one, the ONLY thing in my entire being that cannot be stripped away by man or God is my identity in Christ. It is my own. He desires for me to identify with Him and allow my entire self to revolve around the cross on the hill. His sacrifice allows me to have a true identity... One that will NEVER be mistaken.

Do you have a mistaken identity? Where does your heart live? In what ways can turn more to Him, allowing Him to shine his light into your identity?

In Christ,

Monday, August 29, 2011

In the Garden

Growing up in northwest Kansas as the daughter in a farming/ranching family provided me with many chances to "get away." Ok, let's be honest-- we were 90 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart. We were always "away," so actually going somewhere was a big deal. Anyway, Dad worked a lot of hours taking care of the cattle and crops, but some of the most precious memories I have of my youth were those moments when I would climb onto the bathroom sink, lather up my face and pretend to “shave” as he did the same in the mirror. We would sing as we “shaved,” and to this day the song “In the Garden” takes me "away" and back to solidarity on the farm... and now to solidarity with God.

The song "In the Garden" reminds fondly of my youthful days on the farm and also of my relationship with God. It brings back around the importance of spending time with Him daily, reflecting in his glory and love for us.
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

Check out the link to hear the song...

Jesus deeply desires to spend time with us, love on us, romance us. Are you giving Him that opportunity? Where is your garden? Is it literally a garden? Maybe someplace else in nature? Perhaps at your kitchen table before the rest of the family awakens? It might even be at the bathroom sink, staring into the mirror, talking to God and thanking him for the memories of the past and the promises of the future.

Spend some time to go your "garden" with Him today. None other will ever know the joy you experience with Him as you walk, talk, and tarry there.

Walking in the Garden,

"The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 58:11

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Winning Team

This 8 wk semester I am taking an Evangelism class as well as a team leadership class... Here is one of my latest Discussion board posts...  Hope it hits a home run! (or at least a grounder to 3rd) 

Although the Bible doesn’t blatantly use the words “team” or “teamwork,” I truly believe that team ministry is important and can be found in a variety of Scripture references as well as foundational principles for Christianity. However, for this posting, I have determined that 1 Corinthians 12:20-26 speaks the most significantly to my heart about team ministry.

“As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
I believe this passage is foundational to the implementation of team ministry because the body, as a church, a family of Christ, is made of many, MANY very different parts and pieces. This represents significant emphasis on the team ministry viewpoint. Everyone has different spiritual gifts and purposes given by God, and we can glorify Him at a greater level if we work together through empowering and equipping one another through His name. The above passage states that God has made the body (team/family) and combined different (not right or wrong) parts together to give “greater honor.” While it sounds corny, ministry teams can truly follow the acronym of Together Everyone Achieves More. Not only does team ministry expand our networks and enhance our capabilities to reach others, but our gifts and abilities can complement one another to serve at a more efficient and higher level as opposed to going at it alone. I personally believe that this passage from 1 Corinthians is a representation of relationship, community and the lecture acronym of “Togetherness, Empowerment, Accountability, and Mentorship.”

God desires for us to have a relationship not only with Him, but also with one another. Just as we need Him in order to live our lives fully and wholly on this earth, He gave each of us strengths and weaknesses so we could also need others to be in fellowship and community with. We are not perfect for a reason. So whether we are serving as an eye, head, ear, foot, toe or pinky finger, team ministry showcases that we all have an important place in his Kingdom. We can achieve so much more together than we can apart. As a team within ministry, we can rejoice together, suffer together, grow together, serve together and fellowship together in order to exponentially increase the glory that is given to the Lord. Let's be members of the team-- because God is our coach! 
Are you a part of a ministry team? Maybe a member within a body of Christ? Regardless, you are one of God's children and can "play" for Him as he coaches you through life. Go ahead and ask God to put you on the winning team. Seek out the opportunity to serve and utilize your Spiritual Gifts. God can empower you to hit a HOME RUN! 

Bringing it home, 

"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken." --Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Little Big Conversation

I have learned over the years that I am a talker... Making small-talk, chattering away, sometimes talking very fast dominate my conversations. Fortunately over the years of maturing, I have learned to slow down (a little) and shut up (on occasion... still a work in progress.)

Part of this conversation development over the years has been found in my ability to talk to the Lord. We all have the ability to talk to him any time, any place. Some folks think that it has to be some flowery prayer, with a lot of "thous" and "thees" and "doeth" etc... If that is a comfortable method for you, go for it. But if you are a little more casual, we can have a "normal" and informal conversation. We all can have a personal relationship with Jesus, so it doesn't have to be showy or involve using the right vocabulary words.

As an army wife recently moved to a new location, I have learned that talking to God is even more important. My little-big conversations with Him happen anywhere and at some random times. I talk to him while I am jogging with my dog, while I am grooming for the days activities, when I am driving in the car, sitting in my chair in the living room, getting ready to sleep, when I wake up in the morning. I don't say these things to sound righteous and legit in my prayer life (I have a VER Y long way to go, trust me)-- but as a woman who is at a new army post with no extremely close friends to talk to (yet), it brings me comfort to have someone to talk to while my husband is gone/out on the trail training baby privates how to make good life decisions. I have a friend in Jesus, one that lets me talk as much/little as I want, about anything.

So what can prayers look/sound like in our little-big conversations with Him? A great place to start is in Scripture in the Psalms. There are three primary types of Psalms that I have learned about: Praise, lament and petition/protection. I don't know about you all, but all three of those can apply to me on any given day. Praise is pretty self explanatory as they are primarily giving thanks. Lament can be the conversations of "Why God why?" or "This is really lame sauce, man." Then petition is a plea for guidance, protection from enemies (The Enemy?) etc. Some Psalms stick to just one category, while others can be a mixture of two or three.

We can talk to God without fear, pouring from our heart whether it is a praise, lament or petition. He is a big boy and can handle our crying, yelling, stomping, pain, laughter, joy, hope, requests all at once. Plus, it is therapeutic for us personally. Prayer is an act of faith, showing that we believe in his sovereignty.

What is on your heart today? Are you in need for a good conversation? Go on, get chatty. Just ask him "Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth." (Psalm 54:2) Spill your guts. He is a great listener. Enjoy your little-big conversation with Him.

Oh... and how can I pray for you today? Facebook, Tweet or message me.  (I can never have too much to talk to God about :-)

Thankful for His listening ears.

"My mouth will speak in praise of the LORD. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever." -- Psalm 145:21

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Best Medicine

I love to laugh. It doesn't matter what kind of laugh-- a small chuckle, a loud obnoxious snort, or a stomach-shaking-ribs-hurting-can't-breath-tears-rolling all out hoot. It is such a release.

I've mentioned it  before, but there are a lot of things in this world that I have to ponder/laugh about. Sure, I could choose to be upset and frustrated at things I don't understand, but instead I decide to just chalk it up to the "Only God Knows" category. I really do have a list of things to ask God when I get to heaven. Yes, some are very deep and theological, but I have been reflecting the last couple of days on  things of a lighter nature. I really believe that God has an incredible sense of humor-- like what is the deal with Mondays? Or the platypus? And what is the purpose of the University of Kansas Jayhawks? (Just kidding. But seriously...)

Hope this short list of light-hearted questions directed to God brings a slight smile to your face, and maybe even a little bit of joy to your heart.

  • Why is popping bubble wrap so much fun? I mean really, I am an almost 26-year-old grown woman with 2/3's of a masters degree and could still spend an afternoon popping bubble wrap. I might even fight my 13 yr old brother for it.  
  • Who invented panty hose and why did you let them? And why do they run at the most inconvenient time if you simply look at them wrong? 
  • Why can't sweating during an outside work out be an indication of how hard you are working instead of the humidity level?
  • What's the deal with wet paint signs? I believe things like how many stars there are in the sky and how many calories are in a box of chocolates, but when I see a sign that says "Wet Paint" I have an irrepressible urge to touch it to make sure. 
  • Why are dogs so incredibly fascinated with chasing flies? Honestly, our puppy Justus is a relatively behaved creature until a fly comes into the room-- then all bets are off and he is trying to climb the curtains to attain his "target."  
  • Who are the 4 out of 5 dentists who recommend stuff, and how did they get that nominated to that role?  
  • Where did you get the idea for marriage? Don't get me wrong, I adore and love my husband with all my heart, but sometimes it fascinates me that you decided to create man and woman so incredibly differently then charge them to live in the company with one another for the duration of their time on earth. (I love you Brandon! :-)
  •  Who thought it was a productive idea to create the color navy blue? I think it is a pretty color, but also believe it causes a lot of issues when you end up pairing it with something black because your lightbulb was out in your bedroom closet. 
  • What's the purpose of nasal allergies? Other than creating awkward experiences in public? 
  • Who is Pete and why do people love him so much?  
  • Why do puppies shed so much, typically in the opposite color of the dress/suit that you are wearing? 
  • Why did you allow the department store managers to create sales signs on the clothing racks that say "$1.99 (and up)." Seems like it is pretty self explanatory and it's dancing on the border of misleading advertisement. 
  • Seriously, what IS the deal with KU Jayhawks? :-) 

Laughter is like a medicine... So don't take life too seriously-- none of us are going to make it out alive, and if we choose to follow the way of Christ, our future glory is nothing compared to the experiences on this earth!

Living Joyfully, 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

No Devil's Food Allowed

So here's the thing with eating, feasting and cooking. You have to have ingredients. How do we get ingredients? Agriculture. Now, I am not going to get all wound up talking about ag, because many of you know I could go off on a tangent and write a blog that is term paper length on that topic. But in order to feed ourselves and others, we have to first GROW the ingredients.

Just like growing crops or basic household herbs, it all starts with a seed. When it comes to planting things in our brains, we can either plant something that is going to help us feast with God or eventually produce Devil's food (and sadly not the cake.) "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)

Both types of seeds involve the same "soil" in our soul. For example: If we plant something productive, like wheat or corn (Godly thoughts), we can tend it with continual mediation and living a Christian life, then eventually produce food to feast with God. Similarly, if we plant something like a weed or musk thistle in our noggins (AKA negative, unGodly thoughts) and continue to dwell on it, that too will grow... which produces Devil's food, and sets up a scenario for dining with the Devil.

I don't say this kind of stuff to freak you out and make you panic. I just say it because I have (and still) fall victim to cultivating ingredients that creates Devil's food. All it takes is one tiny thought or feeling in my heart of doubt, worry, or fear to draw my eyes away from heaven and focus inward. Like noxious weeds, the more I think on (aka fertilize and water) those things, the faster they grow, and the more food for the Devil is produced.  And man, does that punk have an appetite!
So how do we make sure we are growing the right ingredients to dine with God as opposed to the enemy? Well, just like any agriculturalist, it is a full time job. We have to be able to recognize when those "weeds" start to grow and ask God for help to "pull" them. We also have to be aware that as our "ingredients" are closer to being used for our Godly feast, the Evil One doesn't get ahold of them and make them mold or spoil. We can do this through Jesus, keeping our eyes focused on Him through prayer and placing our hope in Him as it says in Romans 13:14--"Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature."

Don't think you have what it takes to "grow" those ingredients to feast with God and avoid feeding the devil? By the grace of God, it takes faith as small as a mustard seed to get the process started. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32)

Grab your trowel, your big floppy hat and your seeds... We have a harvest to prepare for, and Satan isn't on the guest list.  No Devil's food at this feast!

Growing with God,

"For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations." Isaiah 61:11

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Friendly Feast

I love to cook. Ok, let me rephrase that: I love to feed the masses. Yeah, that is more accurate. I definitely am not the "chef" that uses fancy stuff like real garlic cloves and state-of-the-art equipment. Rather, I love to surprise people with food whether it is bringing a little something extra/unique to a picnic or feeding and entire company of drill sergeants strawberry pretzel salad dessert because they have been working ridiculous hours. It is one of the ways that I love on people. 

As I mentioned yesterday in my post, eating is not only a necessary aspect of life, but it can also be a fun (or maybe awkward) social experience, depending on the situation. I have, on more than one occasion jacked up a meal I cooked. Example: 4th grade, zucchini brownies when I thought the recipe said 1 CUP of baking soda instead of 1 Teaspoon... my mom saved the batch before I mixed it up, but then later realized that I had managed to blend up the rubber spatula into the mix and bake it... fortunately I was the only one (to my knowledge) that chomped into a bit of spatula later in my brownies at the 4-H picnic. I have also spilled things at restaurants and once shot a lemon across the room into a lap of a stranger as I was trying to squeeze it into my water. Regardless of these mishaps, my intention has always been good-- and God calls us to "feed" others with his spiritual food (no rubber spatulas included please.) 

Proverbs 22:9 says "A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor." Yes, being generous is important, but "poor" doesn't mean only financially-- maybe someone is poor in spirit and doesn't know the gifts that God has freely given. We can become the "chefs" and cook up a recipe that will soothe their soul... literally.

When we are feeding others, we have to keep in mind they may or may not be ready for our type of food that we are eating. Think of the different foods that people of different ages eat. Hence a baby Christian will need different spiritual food in smaller, more delicate doses than a mature Christian. "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!" (Hebrews 5:12)

Our ability to feed others isn't limited to just friends or people we know. We can feed and dine even with people that we don't know or don't really even like through utilizing the Love of God. EVERYBODY needs to eat. "I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them. (Hosea 11:4) Romans 12:20 also says “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do you know the Lord? If so, take the advice of Jesus that he told to Peter in John 21:17: "The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep." Jesus set the example by feeding the masses with minimal bread and fish. He has already given us all the spiritual food we need to pass it on and feed those around us. 
Let's round up a "herd" and feed Jesus' sheep with His Word and sharing the Good News. You don't have to be a great cook. You don't need to worry about blending up a spatula or using too much baking soda. You don't really even need the ability to boil water. You can simply grab a chair and a companion, sit down, chat and join the friendly feast! 

Hungry for Him, 

"He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." Deuteronomy 8:3

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Deep Fried & Covered in Chocolate

Living in the south makes me hungry! (Can you say Paula Deen??)

Correction.... Living in the United States makes me hungry! (ORDER UP!)

Additional Correction... Living makes me HUNGRY! (Om nom nom)

I love to eat. Maybe you do too. It has evolved from a necessary means of survival to a social event, a cultural experience and and a daily conversation (argument?) among people. "What's for supper? Where do you want to eat?" Oftentimes, it is a daily battle to stay focused on the "big picture" of staying healthy and eating "properly." (Let's be honest... many of us wouldn't really have an issue with eating fried chicken, mashed potatoes and chocolate cake every day if we knew it wouldn't lead us down a scary path! If I had the metabolism of a 3 yr old, you bet I would partake!)

I try to behave myself (ish) when it comes to consuming calories and chowing down on a daily basis. Sure, I splurge every now and then, but over the past few years I have learned my lesson about the lasting impact of eating anything, anytime, in any amount. The great news is that while yes, I still occasionally crave something deep fried and covered in chocolate (insert drool moment here), God has led me to feast daily on a different kind of food... with no guilt included.

God is the Ultimate Chef to cook for and feed our spirit. He guides us, grows us and lets us gain pleasure from our spiritual food. Without him, things in life would taste pretty bland. "A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25) Sometimes our spiritual food comes easily through music, prayer, reflection or reading. Other times, especially when we (ok, me) are distracted by things of this world, we have work a little harder to get that spiritual food.

Why do we need to feed our own spirit? Because it not only grows us "big and strong" and is "good for us," (sounds like my growing up days and battles with lima bean consumption) but it helps us to mature as believers. "But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:14)

God invites us to feast with Him daily, for every meal, anywhere. He grants us this privilege and freedom through his love and grace. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:31 "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." Let's join in His bountiful buffet of His love! It is such a smorgasbord, it makes me hungry just thinking about it.

Just like physical food, spiritual food can in many forms, in many portions. Take a few moments and think about how you would like your spiritual food served. Where can you find it? How often do you feast on food for YOUR spirit? Are you eating your fill?

Let's eat daily at his banquet through prayer, thankfulness, fellowship and studying His word. It's a "free" meal for us, already paid for in advance by the Cross. Your reservation is booked. Your spirit is hungry. You don't have to count calories. Oh, and I have heard that the dessert menu features a variety of delectable dishes... many of which are deep fried and covered in chocolate.

That's my kinda soul food.


“Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding." Proverbs 9:5-6

Monday, August 15, 2011

Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Knock Knock.
Who’s there?
Avocado who?
Avocado a cold!

Knock Knock.
Who’s there?
Tarzan who?
Tarzan stripes forever!

Knock Knock.
Who’s there!
God Who?
God the Father.... Come on in my child.

Ahhh, gotta love a good knock knock joke huh? Sure, they can get a little corny and slightly obnoxious after awhile (Knock knock... who's there... orange... Orange who? Orange you glad I'm not gonna tell any more jokes!?) But here's the thing-- we can joke all we want to about Tarzan, avocados and oranges, but it is pretty serious (and awesome) business when it comes to knocking on God's door. He loves us and will let us in! Hence the third part of Luke 11:9 "Knock and the door shall be opened unto you." 

If that isn't a legit promise from Him, then I don't know what is! By asking, seeking, then knocking, we can enter into his presence by living through Him in our everyday lives here are on Earth. As with most "doors," there are two sides-- we can invite Him to come hang out with us right now this very second, then someday he will invite us to literally join Him in heaven. “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:14, 20.)  Pretty sweet huh? 

Just like a great knock knock joke, asking, seeking then knocking is a great way to "break the ice." God is romancing you, and while I haven't heard many success stories about knock knock jokes being used as pick up lines, He is knocking on the door to your heart. Song of Solomon 5:2 says "Beloved I slept but my heart was awake. Listen! My lover is knocking: “Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my flawless one." You have a Key to God's heart, and He has one to yours... Do you hear him knocking on your heart's door? Go ahead, open up and let Him in! 

Maybe you already know Christ (YAY!) so you are wondering what this "knocking" business has to do with you... Well, how many doors in your life are you requesting to be opened? Can you open the heart of another to the Lord? Can you dive in even deeper with your relationship with the Lord? Ask for it. Seek Him. And knock. 

Yes, some knock knock jokes might flop a little bit, especially when they get on the corny side of things. But when you knock for God or answer when He knocks, it isn't like a door-to-door salesperson situation. It doesn't have to be awkward. Don't be afraid. Have faith. He won't laugh at our disheveled appearance or tears or giddy laughter. Instead, it is a joyous occasion, a freedom of abiding in his presence. He WANTS to let us in, so we can forever lay on his thousand dollar rug. (For "rug" clarification, see earlier blog post "Now That's Some Heavy Metal)

"Fear Knocked. Faith Answered. No One was there." 

If you knock, the doors according to God's will shall be opened for you. Luke 11:10 affirms the rewards and experience of asking, seeking, knocking... "For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

So go ahead, share one of your favorite knock knock jokes with a friend, family member or even a stranger. Then tell them that they too can knock on His door. We can seek Him. Ask that His will may be done. Because of this, we will be in His presence and in the words of Bob Dylan, we can be "Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door!" 

Asking, Seeking, Knocking, 

"Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked." Psalm 84:10

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Not-So-Hide And Seek

"...97...98...99...100! READY OR NOT, HERE I COME!!!" 

Oh, those were the days. <Insert nostalgic sigh here> I remember those fun games of hide and seek, playing with friends, kids in the neighborhood, at school on the playground or on the farm with just my little sister and I. That rush of trying to find an ingenious hiding place... heart pounding... adrenaline pumping... waiting to see if you were found or you could find them (depending on your current "it" status.) Sometimes it was a lot of work-- especially if you instigated a "home base" rule. It then became a battle of the fastest runner once the hiding was over (or a battle of the most efficient tripper, if you were a kid who played dirty. Which I of course would have no experience with ;-) The seeking was such a rush-- So that brings us to the second section of our study verse from Luke 11:9 "Seek and ye shall find." 

Let's be honest. Sometimes we just couldn't find the other players. They were too good. So after hollerin' at the top of our lungs saying we give up, they would show themselves. Well, I have great news. God doesn't play like that. He doesn't even hide!! I must say that attribute makes our "seeking" of him much easier. He promises this in Jeremiah 29:12-14. "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity."

Seeking God goes hand in hand with the asking portion that we have been discussing. In fact, asking can be the first step. It is based on the intention in our heart, just like the game of hide-and-seek. If we are "it" and not looking very hard, chances are we probably won't find who we are looking for. But if you sincerely reach out, pray, study and yearn for God through seeking, He will appear directly before you, anywhere, anytime.

God is always in the light. When we go "looking" for him, seeking him out, we don't have to go far. He isn't going to be hidden in some random, abstract place like a cabinet, behind the entertainment center or outside the game "boundaries." He is always present, even if he does feel distant. When he feels distant or "hidden," it is often our hearts (probably with the "help" of Satan) reverting back to the 2-year-old hide and seek peekaboo method, convinced that if we close or cover our eyes, everything disappears. But He is never gone. We just have to keep seeking. "This is what the Lord says to the house of Israel: "Seek me and live." (Amos 5:4)

Just like there are tons of different strategies to "winning" a youthful game of hide-and-seek, there are a lot of ways to seek Him. Maybe you want to seek as a team, so engage your friends/family/spouse to "search" after God with you. Or perhaps you seek best through music. Or quiet meditation. Or conversation. Or reading, writing, prayer, or through acts of service. Seek him in your own way.

Be earnest in your seeking. Seek his love. His presence. His wisdom. His guidance. His counsel. His prosperity. His freedom. His glory. His honor. You name it, you can seek it. Play the game-- it's a game of not-so-hide-and-seek and EVERYBODY WINS! Isaiah 55:6 says "Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near." You don't even count to one hundred!

Open your eyes and heart, grab your spiritual flashlight and freely seek Him... You will find Him. Because ready or not, Here He is!!

Thoughtfully Seeking Him,

"Hear my voice when I call, O Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek." Psalm 27:7-8

Friday, August 12, 2011

You Got Questions? He's got Answers! (Part 2)

"Dear Santa... Christmas is coming in a few months, so I need to ask for a few things. Please bring me endless motivation for my workouts. And a lifetime supply of chocolate that won't make me gain any weight. Oh, and a pony. Don't forget the pony.

Sharita lo quita jo mama

PS-- When you bring the pony, please supply a revised housing contract that states we can house farm animals in our backyard on a military post.

PSS-- Oh, and you know when I asked for consistent weather? I take it back. Please take away the endless high temps and excessive humidity from Georgia. Sporatic Kansas weather was fine." 

Ever heard the phrase "Be careful what you wish for?" Just like some of the ridiculous requests that we dream up in our mind that WE think would be "good" for us, we tend to ask God for things we want, but what probably wouldn't be the best (in the long run) if we received it. So, welcome to Part 2 of "Ask and it will be given to you." (Luke 11:9)

God isn't our "Santa" or "Genie in a Bottle." He is MUCH grander than that. He is all powerful AND all-knowing... and since he is all knowing, he can see (and already knows) the bigger picture plan. So if we ask something and it doesn't happen according to our "plan" it is probably because His will has a different path.

I remember when I was still very much a baby Christian, and would pray a robot prayer every night before I went to sleep. It was a rather immature prayer (rightfully so), same thing every night, and I would always end my list of requests with "May your Will be done." The kicker? I ended it "officially" before the AMEN with a little subscript or whispered heart message of "May your will be done... as long as it doesn't hurt me or cause me pain." Yeah, bout that.

That is the thing with being a Christian-- we have to have the FAITH to ask that whatever he has planned for us is legit. Because it is. Seriously. Part of Romans 12:2 reminds us that " will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." His will is GOOD, PLEASING and PERFECT. We have probably all asked for something, it didn't happen, things did a 180, it totally stunk at the time but now we look back and can say "Ohhhh NOW I get it. Thanks for that one, God. Good call, man." It's His perfect will at work.

God always answers. I've heard His answers range from "Yes, Not Yet, or I have something better planned." Psalm 38:15 says "I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God."  It can't hurt to ask... But sometimes the answer (or the waiting) does hurt. I can't explain death, sin and evil in this world and why He lets it happen. (I vote we blame Satan's presence and Adam/Eve's inability to not chomp on the fruit, and thats a whole 'nother blog post) It IS on my list to grab a Grande Skinny Caramel Macchiato and have a sit down with Him when I get to heaven to ask/discuss such topics. But in the meantime, we can rejoice in the fact that He WILL (and always) answers us in the form that is best for ourselves big picture and for his Kingdom.  After all, "An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips."(Proverbs 24:26) Since He is our groom and we are the bride, we can squeal internally (or externally if you want) every time we get any answer from Him. So pucker up for this next story...

The Tale of Three Trees
Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: "I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I'll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!" The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on it's way to the ocean. "I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I'll be the strongest ship in the world!" The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. "I don't want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me they'll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world."

Years passed. One day three wood cutters climbed the mountain. The first wood cutter looked at the first tree and said, "This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining ax, the first tree fell. "Now I shall make a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!" the first tree said.

The second wood cutter looked at the second tree and said, "This tree is strong. It's perfect for me." With a swoop of his shining ax, the second tree fell. "Now I shall sail mighty waters!" thought the second tree.  "I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!"

The third tree felt her heart sink when the last wood cutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the wood cutter never even looked up. "Any kind of tree will do for me," he muttered. With a swoop of his shining ax, the third tree fell.

The first tree rejoiced when the wood cutter brought her to a carpenter's shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feed box for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, or treasure. She was coated with saw dust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals. The second tree smiled when the wood cutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and made into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river, so instead she was taken to a little lake. The third tree was confused when the wood cutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. "What happened?" The once tall tree wondered. "All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God..."

Many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box. "I wish I could make a cradle for him," her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. "This manger is beautiful," she said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.

One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and a thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She new she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through the wind and the rain. The tired man awoke. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, "Peace." The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth.

One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten wood pile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man's hand to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God's love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.

We might not get what we ask for, but God will grant us something MUCH greater than we could have dreamed (ultimately ending in a reunion with Him in heaven!) What will you be asking for as you pray today?

According to His Will,

"I call with all my heart; answer me, O LORD, and I will obey your decrees." --Psalm 119:145

Thursday, August 11, 2011

You Got Questions? He's Got Answers! (Part 1)

Any Family Guy viewers out there? I know, I know... it's not the most wholesome show on the planet (sometimes I wonder what the writers were thinking) but thanks to my husband's prodding, I watch it (ok, and almost kinda like it) on occasion. Brandon and I constantly joke about the scene in which Stewie is trying to get Lois' (his mom) attention. For all of you non-viewers, it goes a lil something like this:

Stewie: "Mom. Mom. Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mom! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Momma! Momma! Momma! Momma! Momma! Ma! Ma! Ma! Ma! Ma! Ma! Mom! Mom! Mom!"

Lois: "WHAT!?!?!"

Stewie: "Hi!" [runs out of room]

Kind of reminds me of our puppy Justus who will squeak his toy in your face until you acknowledge him, but then runs away satisfied simply by being acknowledged. Pay attention to meeeeeeeee! We can do the same thing of God... ask, ask, ask... and He will acknowledge us.

That brings us to the first part of Luke 11:9 "Ask and it will be given to you." The great part about God is that he isn't annoyed when we act like Stewie/Justus... He gives, no INVITES, us to ASK anything. Ask and it will be given to you. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that all your prayers will be answered tomorrow the way YOU want. "Dear Lord, make me a millionaire." Poof! Yeah, not so much. Why? Because yes, he always answers, but gives us what is BEST for us, not what we think we WANT (more on that tomorrow.)

Today while praying during quiet time CRAVE at church, God led me to Matthew 7:7-8... I looked it up in the Message version of the Bible and realized later that it was the "ask, seek, knock" verse. (Talk about divine guidance, because I honestly wasn't looking for it.) Matthew 7:7-8 (MSG) says "Don't bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn't a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we're in." Instead, He invites us to ask anything, as often as we wish, with a childlike faith knowing that eventually we will get an answer.
3 yr old Son: "Daddy, where are we going?" 
Dad: "We are going to the grocery store, son." 
Son: "Why?"
Dad: "Because Mommy asked us to get some milk & eggs." 
Son: "Why?"
Dad: "Because she is making a cake." 
Son: "Why?"
Dad: "Because Grandma is having a birthday." 
Son: "Why?"
Dad: "Because as people grow up they get older and celebrate birthdays." 
Son: "Why?"
Dad: "Honey, why don't you look out the window?"
Son: "Why?"
Dad: "Because I said so!!"
Son: "Why?"

You get the point. But with our Father, He doesn't get frustrated with our repeated inquiries, and with Him there are no dumb questions. My friend Kayla and I once joked about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit chillin' up in heaven, watching their favorite show: JFV (Jesus' Funniest Videos). Can't you imagine them cracking up at the ridiculous things we do here on earth because we failed to listen or ask first?

Jesus: "HEY Dad, get over here, quick! Sharita is about to mess this up again! Man, she shoulda asked first. WHEN is she gonna learn?! Oh, and bring me some popcorn and a Diet Dr. Pepper-- this episode could take awhile." 

Ok, so I really don't think they laugh at us like that (although they certainly have a right to!) But God invites us to ask Him for answers, for information, for guidance, for anything, any time of day, anywhere.  "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him." (1 John 5:14-15) 

The REALLY awesome thing about asking God "stuff" is that it doesn't have to be formal. You can talk to Him ANYTIME, you don't have to wait for Sunday at church, or for the right weather, or for complete solitude/quiet. I have found myself talking to Him when I wake up, when I am happy, sad, driving, confused, cleaning, supposedly studying, jogging, cooking, showering, crafting, gardening, you name it. Also, your "asking" can be outloud or silent. Or maybe written in a journal. It can be nice and polite or it can be "shouting-at-the-top-of-your-lungs-why-did-this-happen" angry/upset. (Been there, done that.) Great news: God is a big boy. He can handle it all. And He still loves us. So ASK Him! He longs to be addressed!

Asking/addressing God is simply an act of faith. It means you believe that He exists. Ask faithfully, and you will receive. Again, it might not be exactly what you want (or what you think you want) but He will give you what you need to fulfill your purpose in this life and bring Him glory. As an example (and to prep for the future post about His Answers) I leave you with this poem, written by Anonymous (that guy sure writes a lot of stuff!) 

I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for. 
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
 I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

Take some time and ask God... ask Him questions, ask for guidance, ask for blessings, ask on behalf of others, if you aren't yet a believer, ask him to come into your heart. It is easy as that. (Again, cue the Easy Button) Be like Stewie/Justus/3-yr-old-son. Keep asking. He WILL acknowledge you. Ask and it will be given to you. 

Endlessly Asking, 

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."-- James 1:5-6

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Three Step Game Plan

I don't know about you, but I enjoy a good list. That's right, I am a list maker and checker-offer. I have a color-coded white board right inside the front entryway of our house to keep track of my masters homework and general "To Do" stuff. I have virtual "sticky notes" on the desktop of my computer. And don't even get me started on making grocery lists. Yes, I am THAT girl that, if things are uber busy/crazy and I do something that WASN'T on my list that perhaps was semi-profound, I write it down after it is completed THEN check it off or erase it. I know. I need help. It's on my list ;-)
Are you still there? You didn't slam your computer shut running in the opposite direction? Ok, good. Some of you might be able to identify with my OCD-ness when it comes to list-making, and others are still stuck on "List? Do what and how? WHY?!?!" But I have great news. You don't have to be a list maker to grow closer to the Big Boss. He gives us a simple three step game plan.

Ask, Seek, Knock. Unlike a majority of Christians, John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whoever shall believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life") was not the very first Bible verse I learned (it was the second, and I learned it via song, fun fact.) My first verse was internalized into my brain when I was 12, right before I was saved. (Thanks to Great-Gma's Faith Baptist Church Sunday school in Sapulpa, Oklahoma) My first verse was Luke 11:9-- "Ask, and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and the door shall be opened unto you." (Whoever gave a 12-yr-old the KJV of the Bible was thinking very optimistically on my ability to memorize/comprehend.)

When I was saved at the age of 12, I would love to say that my growth from a baby Christian into a maturing Christian rocketed forward. But honestly, I kind of stalled out for about a decade or so (ish.) Luke 11:9 and John 3:16 both essentially remained the only two verses that I could even get close to identifying. All throughout high school, I kept my list-making habit (eventually switching from writing on my hand/arm to paper, much to my Mama's delight.) In college I discovered the glory of a white board for list-making. But, until the end of college, I never really dug into the fantastic "Grow Closer to Me" checklist God gives us, and I could definitely tell that SOMETHING was missing from my life.

Now, don't get me wrong-- asking, seeking, knocking isn't a legalistic REQUIREMENT to receive God's love. He loves us, even if we sometimes aren't on speaking/seeking/knocking terms. But just like any effective grocery shopper (or football coach or teacher or Army Drill Sergeant) having a game plan just makes things roll much smoother. (Plus you don't end up walking all the way back to the produce section as you reach the bakery since you realized you forgot onions 'cuz it wasn't on the list. SIGH.)

God has a plan for all of us (aka, His Will) so why shouldn't we return the favor by approaching the throne with a plan to ask, seek and knock in His direction? I ran across this quote this morning on a daily devotional that always pops up on my igoogle: "My Will is the Unspeakably rich treasure. Seek it. Know it. Ask Me for it." (Talk about blogging topic confirmation huh?) We are going to dig a little deeper over the next few days about asking, seeking and knocking, so get excited! (that was just FYI for the list-makers, so they know what is coming and they can add "read future versions of More Precious than Rubies" to their list.)

Take some time to think about the ways that you are (or want to) ask, seek, knock. Do you have a game plan in place? Just like working out or going to the grocery store, getting in the car ( AND remembering to bring your list/gameplan) can be one of the most difficult steps.  His Word reminds us of this in Amos 3:7-- "Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets."

Let's ask, seek, and knock for His Will to be accomplished! Now if you will excuse me, I have to go cross "Write daily blog" off my list. CHECK!

His Will Be Done,

"Do not those who plan evil go astray? But those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness." -Proverbs 14:22

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Look Sharp Out There!

Greetings World O'Technology. I am back. You might have been curious as to where I have been the last couple of days. (Oh wait? You didn't notice? Well, for the sake of this post, let's pretend you did ;-) Anywho, I temporarily disappeared. No writing. Minimal productivity for three whole days. And not because I was unmotivated. Not because I didn't have anything to write about (believe you me, there are enough little thought bubbles floating around in my head for a lifetime of blogposts-- quantity vs quality perhaps?) What did I do on my brief sabbatical? I took some time to "Sharpen the Saw."

Before I get too far into this, let me set a bit of context. Stephen Covey (the guy who wrote Seven Habits for Highly Effective People) deems his 7th habit as "Sharpening the Saw." Many of you might be familiar with this concept, but let's review. One version of the story goes like this:

Two old school lumberjacks were out in the deep foresty woods of Kansas... Ok, Georgia. Ok, somewhere with a lot of trees. Anyway, they were, as do most lumberjacks, cutting down trees. Lumberjack #1, we will call him LJ (lumberjack) Jim, was furiously working at a high rate of speed. He was desperate to get home to his beloved wife who's wife had agreed that if he would get home in time for supper, that he could have the remote for the ENTIRE evening.  (Talk about man motivation eh?) LJ Jim pressed forward, sweat dripping, never stopping.

LJ #2, we will call him LJ Bob, was also intensely sawing away to make his quota for the day, because his beloved wife promised if he made it home before dark, that he would get eat a Buffalo Wild Wings once a week for the rest of year. (Again, man motivation.) LJ Bob, however, had a slightly different strategy. While he still worked very hard, he would stop for about 3 minutes every hour to sharpen his saw. Take a wild guess who was chowing down on 24 Asian Zing wings four times per month and who was stuck watching "Say Yes to the Dress?"

Ok, the moral of this "slightly" modified story is this: We all have goals, most of us have a desire to work hard. That is all fantastic. However, if we work furiously ALL the time without taking a few precious moments to sharpen our saw, we are going to be very dull, not staying sharp and essentially working harder instead of smarter. It's exhausting.

So, what do we do? First of all, we should all try to take a few moments from our day to have a smidge of quiet time with the Lord, listening to Him and maybe even spending it in his word. As it says in Hebrews 4:12 "For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edge sword..." That alone will set you on a path for motivation and success throughout your day (hint: This could be a soon-ish future topic of blogging, so stay tuned!)

But all your saw-sharpening activities don't have to be time-consuming, extremely routine or overly intellectual/spiritual. It can be a few moments or an activity to get you away from the daily grind and bring you to a grinder to make you sharp once again! Working/living tired and stressed sometimes builds up and become counterproductive. But Sharita... I don't have TIME/MONEY/ABILITY/ETC to sharpen the saw! My response? Make a bit of time. Get creative. Your ME time is important.

How do YOU sharpen the saw? Take 15 minutes a week (or a day if you can spare it) to do something semi-unproductive but rejuvanting (I am not talking slothful behavior here... recharge, sharpening behavior instead.)  Read a non-school book. Take a hot soak in the tub (my next stop, fyi.) Pray. Listen to music. Run away from the "world" to a secluded place in nature/bookstore/yogurt shop. Drink a fancy cup of coffee. Go for a run. Meditate. Sit on the porch and watch it rain. Play an instrument.  Sleep in without feeling guilty. Drink a glass of wine (note: glass. Not case. Not box. Unless it is spread over a period of time-- with friends ;-)  Find a reason to LAUGH. ("A cheerful heart is good medicine... Proverbs 15:30) You want me to continue?

Sharpening the saw doesn't have to be an excursion, costing a ton of cash. Because let's be honest, time and money are two things that always seem to be semi-strapped. But if we can take a few minutes each day to just BREATHE, we can be that much sharper in our daily tasks, furthering the kingdom of God, so that when we say "TIMBERRRRRRR!!!" for the final time, we hear an echo of "Well done, my good and faithful servant." (Matthew 25:21) 

Living and active through Him,

"Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest." -- Exodus 34:21

Friday, August 5, 2011

Now That's Some Heavy Metal!

When it comes to my iTunes playlist, my iPod, my Pandora account or car radio preset stations, you should know that there is no pattern, rhyme or reason to any of them. People have told me (on more than one occasion) that I have quite an eclectic variety of songs in my collection. I can't really blame them for the loud exclamations of shock when my computer shuffles from Alison Krause to Asian techno to Broadway show-tunes to christian praise, back to classic country and yes, even over to a collection of heavy metal favorites.

But there is another type of heavy metal that I enjoy; the "Heavy Metal" of BROKEN chains of sin that bound us. Have you ever specifically looked at all the lyrics of Amazing Grace and contemplated their meaning? The re-make of Amazing Grace "My Chains are Gone" by Chris Tomlin takes it even farther by showing that we have been set free... God's tremendous sacrifice in the life of his Son has dropped the "heavy metal" burden we bear, all thanks to His grace.

My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace

Galatians 5:1 says "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." We are free in Christ because of His never-ending, boundless grace. Think SPECIFICALLY how you can extend grace to other in YOUR life. Maybe write it down. Pray about it. Marinate a bit. See what happens.

Potential recipients of my grace: 

  • Family (Parents, Siblings, Extended Family) 
  • Spouse/Significant Other
  • Kids (For me, this is my Puppy Sweet Justus) 
  • Friends (As friends of Christ, we can certainly share His grace with our earthly friends!) 
  • Coworkers
  • "Enemies"
  • Strangers (Have you ever prayed for a complete stranger? Or given some leeway (aka grace) to the grumpy cashier? Consider it.) 
  • Other (For me, this includes the US Army... Who or what can you be grace-full to?) 

This morning on the radio I heard a song called "20 Dollar Dog" by Allen Levi... The basic premise is that he "extends" grace to this stray, whining dog and invites him into his home. Part of the lyrics say "Man if this ain't love... you are just a twenty dollar dog on a thousand dollar rug." The message is that we, as humans, are the dog and God is the master. Even though we don't deserve it, He loves us enough to let us lounge on the "thousand dollar rug" through salvation by his grace. Check it out:

Are you telling others about God's "thousand dollar rug?" (Don't worry, you don't have to sing it) Whether you are a fan of pop, rock, hip hop, country, bluegrass, or any other genre, consider this: we can all be fans of "Non-Heavy Metal" in the form of Broken Chains. Our chains are gone. We've been set free... Free to rest on his thousand dollar rug.

Freedom through Christ,
"Oh Lord, truly I am your servant; I am your servant, son of your maid servant; you have freed me from my chains!" Psalm 116:16

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Amazing Grace-centered Living: How Sweet the Sound!

As you might have noticed, God has been tugging on my heart A LOT lately about grace. Ironically, the following post was a discussion board prompt I submitted dealing with grace-centered vs. law-centered living and ministry last week... It has been "edited" a bit for bloggity-ness, but hope it gets your wheels a-turning! ~SGK


“He’s still working on me… to make me what I ought to be. It took him just a week to make the moon and the stars, the Sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars. How loving and patient He must be… 
'Cause He's still workin' on me.”

I grew up listening to this song via cassette tape, and as I was reflecting on this prompt, I realized that my grace-based living is a direct result of God’s grace and continual work on both my heart and ministry. Don’t get me wrong—I do believe there is a place for law in this world, living by the Ten Commandments for example, but I am in no way in a position to enforce that law or judge someone because of their choices. A sin is a sin and let’s be honest, we are all pretty big ol’ sinners.
For many years I have “ unofficially” ministered people through the challenges of life by providing impromptu pep talks, support and love. As I have grown closer to Christ over time and recently realized my call to ministry, I know that grace-based living is a must for myself as a Christian. I have just started an internship at Christ Community Church under an incredible SERVE director. Part of my (future) responsibility includes presenting and coaching people to discover their Spiritual gifts. In that process we talk about “Life Experiences,” and I know I can’t judge them for what they have done or where they have been. I am not the rule enforcer. I can, however, speak the truth in love, offering guidance on the law, yet still extend to them the same grace God has so graciously given me. As it says in Romans 6:14 “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” That is powerful reassurance for my choice of grace-based living. Can I get an AMEN? 

Grace-based living has a significant impact on my relationship with God and others. Not only am I attempting to model my life after Christ (I fall short ALL the time) but I am also praying for those I am serving to extend grace to me when I make a mistake or fall into sin. Living “gracefully” opens more doors to spread the Good News. God’s grace is free and undeserved—so why should my grace on others be any different? Being a Christian isn’t about checking things off of a To Do list via laws, rules and regulations. Rather it is holding ourselves to a Christ-like standard, and embracing God’s Amazing Grace whenever we (and others) fall to sin.

One of the most positive aspects of grace-centered living focuses on my leadership expectations of others and myself. It allows me to revel in God’s grace and attempt to grasp this extraordinarily generous and vast concept. By doing so, my heart can be filled with the sincerest of passion, love and words to share with others about this free and wondrous gift that is available to them as well. Centering my life and ministry on grace boosts my credibility and relational capacity with others… we are all sinners, in the same boat, praying to have faith to walk on water towards the ultimate, heavenly, graceful judge in Jesus Christ.

So yes, He is still working on me. I am a wretch, once lost and now found, and it is all because of his amazing, remarkable, generous grace. I pray that my ministry will flow by his graceful means, extending it to others that I lead. My strength for grace-based living is said well in Galatians 2:21… “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

Daily Deliberation: In what ways has God extended Grace to you today? Do you believe you show grace to others at the desired level? How can you continue to grow your ability to extend grace?

By His Grace,


"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world. but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather thing of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." -- Romans 12:2-3

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Art of Being "Grace-Full"

I am not graceful. In fact, if you ask my Mama, she would correctly (and lovingly?) state that I am downright clumsy. She loves to tell people that I am "that girl" that can manage to fall UP the stairs. I find it rather an odd bragging right and slightly ironic, since the very thing happened yesterday morning. My flip-flop-tripping-up-the-stairs-experience was followed by a very loud cry of "OH BOLOGNA SANDWICHES!" as I stared down at my throbbing toes/knees. (I've been working on weeding out word-vomiting of the occasional profanities, hence the random reference to lunch items.)

Thankfully, I have yet to break a bone or receive stitches from my inability to balance, sit or walk like a "normal" person. (I still can't catch a flying object i.e. especially a baseball, but that is a story for another post.)  BUT the even better news is that we, as in you AND me, have been granted a bigger blessing to be grace-FULL... by the GRACE of God.

Understanding grace can be a difficult task. Before we begin, a word from Hebrews 4:16-- "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Ok. Ready to approach the throne? AND GO. What IS grace?  According to Webster, grace means mercy/forgiveness and/or charm/loveliness. God's grace encompasses both of these definitions. Other words for grace include benefaction, benevolence, charity, compassion, favor, forbearance, generosity, good will, goodness, kindness, leniency, love, pardon, reprieve, and tenderness. Intense, huh? (Didn't know you were getting an English/vocab lesson today huh? Eh, maybe it's a perk?)

Grace is mentioned 127 times in the NIV of the Bible. Of course if you count the "synonyms" listed above, that number grows exponentially. So why, oh WHY does God continue to forgive us each time we fall short? It is because of His endless, boundless, infinite love that comes in the form of grace via the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. Titus 2:11 says "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men." It is as simple as that... He love us. He forgives us. He asks us do the same towards others.

If my God-message-interpreting radar is correctly calibrated, I have a feeling that we are going to continue to dig deeper into the topic of grace in future posts. After all, grace is even mentioned in the FINAL verse of the ENTIRE Bible. Revelation 22:21-- "The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen."

So, I might not be graceful when it comes to climbing stairs, dancing ballet (that would be entertaining, HA!) or even walking down the street. But God has given us something much greater... He meets us where we are and has both showered and filled us all with endless grace. I am beyond thankful to be THAT kind of Grace-Full. How about you?

Food for thought: "I asked Jesus how much he loved me... He said 'This much.' Then He stretched out his arms... and died."

A Grateful and Grace-Full Daughter of Christ,

"The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you." -- 1 Corinthians 16:23