Saturday, October 28, 2017

7:23 AM 0

A few weeks back, I came across something on social media, believe it or not, that broke my heart.  It broke my heart because, although it had nothing to do with me and I hardly knew these folks, I could clearly see how Satan was orchestrating a plan for the destruction of a marriage.  There is so much bitterness, hate, and jealousy in the cyber world that I have thought countless times about removing myself from all social media.  However, at the same time, there are so many occasions from which I glean such encouragement, that for me to fully take the plunge, I would also be removing shining stars from my life that manage to always leave me with a greater hope, a more beautiful view of the world around me, and a love towards my fellow man.  What is a girl to do?

It would seem that removing the FACE-TO-FACE element of true communication has become the downfall of our society.  Comments that we would never make when sitting down with someone face-to-face have become a routine part of our day in this nation, and yet we wonder why America is so depressed now more than ever.  

It is because we were designed to exist and live in UNITY.  We were made in the very image of God as is stated in Genesis 1:26, and we were created to work together.  When we attempt to live outside of God’s plan, we invite discontentment and bitterness into our lives. However, when we understand that His way truly is best, we can experience a joy that surpasses our circumstances. One of my most favorite verses reminds me of just exactly how God designed His body to work and thrive.

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:15-16)

We all succeed in experiencing this beautiful thing called love to the extent that we are participating in this beautiful thing called UNITY.  If we truly believe this verse to be true then what does that mean for our lives as active joints in the Kingdom of God.  What type of sisters, mothers, brothers, wives and friends should we become?

It is my desire to become a FACE-TO-FACE sister, a FACE-TO-FACE mother, a FACE-TO-FACE wife and a FACE-TO-FACE friend - one that speaks the truth in love, but also receives the truth in love, knowing that it is for my best interest and the best interest of the body as a whole, that I am willing to see the truth in my life.  Lord, make me willing to speak it and willing to receive it FACE-TO-FACE.

Christ must be my head.  He must be the source of whom I seek to please, not men. He must be the source of whom I follow, and He should be my standard. Lord, keep my eyes fixed on you, FACE-TO-FACE.

I must be willing to do MY part.  How unimaginable is it that God would even allow us to participate in the building up of His Kingdom?  It is not that he needs us to somehow keep this world going, but rather he lovingly allows us to be vessels of His love to a world that so desperately needs it. How dare we take the gift that He has given us only to hide it because we are afraid or allow the opinions of others to keep us from doing the very thing that God has placed us here to do.  When we deny our God-given gift, the entire body suffers. God, help me not to fear men. God, help me not to fear the opinions of others, but rather help me to fear you. Help me to see myself as a vital part of your kingdom, not for the building up of myself, but for the building up of others FACE-TO-FACE, as I walk in the way you have called me to walk.

Finally, and quite possibly the one thing that has the most potential to impact the world around us, why don’t we become FACE-TO-FACE joints in God’s Kingdom that build up one another. The more we can begin to understand and believe that God’s body thrives when EVERYONE is doing their part, then the less we are tempted to hide behind a computer screen and tear it down.  The more I build you up in the gift God has given you and refuse to allow Satan to cause jealousies and divisions among us then we are both participating in this beautiful thing called love. And LOVE happens to be the very thing that draws people to JESUS.

So how do I want people to leave my presence, rather FACE-TO-FACE or Screen-to-Screen?  I want them to leave knowing more about GOD’S LOVE. I want to be honest, even if honesty is not comfortable because I know and believe that TRUTH is always the source of healing.  I want them to leave my presence feeling more loved than they did before and feeling more encouraged to use their God-given talent.  I want to reject any and all slander and always point others to seek healing because I believe we operate best when we operate like one.  I want always to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3)

I have yet to arrive.  I have yet to conquer every doubt and fear that plagues me, and I have yet to become the very person that I am encouraging us all to be today, but it is my greatest desire.  I believe God’s word to be true, and I believe He will grant me the desires of my heart.  I also believe he will do the same for you.  Together, let’s become Kingdom Builders, united together with the sole purpose of building up the kingdom in love. Rather FACE-TO-FACE or screen-to-screen let's share something that's worth sharing, love.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)



Wednesday, August 30, 2017

6:42 AM 0

What does it feel like to be uprooted from your home? What must be going through the minds of thousands of people as they are forced to watch their belongings drowned beneath the effects of a storm that is beyond their control? Helpless? Unsure? Afraid?

From the comforts of my dry front porch, hearing the birds singing nearby, it would seem that all is right with the world, but then again it isn’t. Although I am surrounded by peace on every side, I am deeply connected to the storm that is taking place only six short hours from our home. Why is that?

What would cause a concern within our hearts for something that does not directly affect us? What would cause men and woman all over the country to flock to an area riddled by floods and disasters merely to help someone who is in need? Do we not live in an “all about me society?” Is the anthem of our culture not “me, me, me?"

So we have been told. So it is that we have believed the marketing campaign that for decades now has been telling us that “WE” are the most important people on the face of the planet and that “SELF ABOVE ALL ELSE” is the key to happiness, but I am not buying it. Sure, our culture is riddled with self-promotion, broken people seeking to find fulfillment through self-glorification and selfishness. I am absolutely one of those people, but our struggles do not define who we are.

We were actually made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), and we were created to work and thrive together as we participate in this beautiful thing called Kingdom Building. It is Satan who distracts our hearts, turns us against each other, and convinces us to forget from where we came. In the same way he deceived Eve in the garden, he is deceiving us every day. He is using jealousy, insecurities, pain, and fear to keep us from tasting the true goodness of a unified body of believers. We were made for so much more. We were made to build because God is a builder, and in His unbelievable plan of redemption, He actually allows us to participate in the building, not because we are good, but because He is good.

“Rather speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4:15-16)

So often it takes a storm to remind us of who we were created to be and the great joy that is waiting when we live in unity. So often it takes a storm to set aside the distractions that Satan has plagued upon our hearts in an effort to divide God’s kingdom, because he is threatened when God’s people come together. To the extent in which we truly believe that God’s body works best when we are all working together will be the extent in which love can be experienced and deeply felt throughout this world. When we are loving one another and seeking to do our part, while encouraging others to do the same, it looks a whole lot like the images I have seen on my screen this week.

It looks like people carrying each other over the rough waters and through the dark nights. It looks like people being brought into a shelter and given a warm blanket and food to satisfy their hunger. It looks like ministries such as One Kingdom sending relief and aid to those in need and my friend, Nick Decorte, traveling 200 miles in his army SUV to transport stranded folks to safety. It looks like you and me praying in our homes, praying in our small groups, and praying in our churches for friends and family that are in harm’s way. It looks a whole lot like JESUS.

When God’s people come together, healing is found. When God’s people come together, cultures are changed. When God’s people come together, individuals can encounter storms and not be shaken, because in their helplessness they find help, in the uncertainty of what lies ahead, they are confident that God is there, and when their fear threatens to overtake them, JESUS calms the storm by sending them small pieces of himself living within the hearts of you and me. We are the Church. We are the Body of Christ. We need each other to thrive, and the world will recognize us by our love. It is that love that will introduce them to the Savior of the world, JESUS.


Friday, July 21, 2017

9:37 PM 3

I seriously do not know why I even bother, to clean my floors, that is. Perhaps it is simply for that euphoric feeling that lasts approximately 30 minutes following an elbow-deep kind of cleaning day. Within those 30 minutes I relish the smell of Pine-Sol, because I have yet to make the switch to the all-natural, no nasty chemicals, no artificial colors or smells, totally safe, Instagram savvy colored organic cleaning solution. I am not knocking it, I just like my Pine-Sol and may be slightly annoyed that I have to contemplate "am I killing my children," every time I use it. 

In that short window of time I manage to convince myself that this time will be different. This time the house will stay clean all week. I will implement new rules and charts and everyone will joyfully and gladly pitch in as we manage to keep an immaculate home. It is about that time that Bear comes running straight through the living room, screen door slamming behind him, to declare that he has caught another fish and Fred follows quickly behind with his own set of muddy, squishy, dirt-infested feet that I awake from my day dream and start yelling, in a loving tone, of course, "have you lost your mind??"

But this particular day, the day that I want to write about, was much different. I saw a side of myself that gave me confidence in knowing that God has in fact been working on me all these years.

The date was July 5th, 2017, and the scene a very tired and slow moving "me" sweeping every square inch of my outdated white tile floors. Piles of dirt were collected all over the house, because I had yet to locate my dustpan. With each pile of dirt I began to notice that I was smiling as I swept. Like when someone catches you in mid-thought and you didn't realize that you were smiling. I managed to catch myself in that sort of moment, but why in the midst of such a mess was I smiling?

It wasn't the mounds of dirt that brought me satisfaction, but rather the cause behind the dirt, food, blankets, & coffee cups scattered all throughout our home.

The dirt came from the shoes of people I love, people I had just recently met, as well as people that share my blood. The voices of these special folks filled my home the night before as we sang praises to God.

The food was prepared and shared by those same hands and my tables, floor, and porches were all occupied as we broke bread together.

The blankets usually stacked high in a large corner basket were draped over couches and chairs reminding me of the precious friends who spent the night in my home.

The coffee, oh the endless pots of coffee, that were made and consumed until the wee hours of the morning as we played games and held discussions.

As I glare at the mess before me I cannot help but be thankful.

Zach and I both come from a long line of hospitality flowing down from both of our Grandmothers, Mothers, and Aunts, which would include Zach’s famous Aunt Kay. These womenhave all taught us a great deal about the importance of hospitality.

It was as though it was bred in us both to have a love for hosting, but so often this thing we believed to be "good" caused lots of "frustration" between us. How could that be?

I believe it was due to my own misunderstanding of what true hospitality meant. In the same way I often struggled with looking as though I "had it all together." I also carried that same mentality within my home. Everything had to be perfect. House, dishes, floors, decor, everything must be perfect and when Zach did not carry my same drive to get everything into place this would often cause tension leading to a fight. Fighting with your spouse right before company arrives never leads to the best of evenings, surely you can relate.

I realized early on that although I may have been bred to show hospitality, I was blind to the reason behind it all.

I had made it about me--imagine that? It was more about my decorating abilities and cooking skills rather than the people. It was about "the presentation" more than the sharing of lives.

My home was not a blessing, it was a museum of everything I held dear. Ouch.

I wish that I had some super cool story to tell you of how God changed my heart, but actually that is the cool story, GOD CHANGED MY HEART and it was a simple decision to say, I believe you.

Please do not misunderstand me, I love making my home pretty and inviting. I love fancy dishes, fresh flowers, yard sales, and everything being in order, but if having everything perfect remained the prerequisite for having people in my home then we would miss out on a lot of fellowship, because it is rare for me to have it all together. It would also eliminate those last minute "can I come over and talk" conversations because I would need at least a days notice to make our home presentable. Zach and I would miss out on the great blessing of sharing our home and our children would miss out on the many lessons that come with viewing your blessings as a means to show love to others as oppose to keeping them to yourself.

What you should know about hospitality and my home today.
• You may manage to catch me on a good day and find it immaculate, but it is unlikely. Either way, you are welcome.
• The smells from a home-cooked Southern meal might possibly linger out the door as you enter through the porch or the fridge could be completely bare, but either way coffee and conversation will always be available.
• I love candles, they cover a multitude of dirty laundry which is almost always lurking.
• I love quilts. Those who come to my home regularly know just where to find them. They are not for looks, but meant to be used.
• The size of your home is irrelevant. "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much" Luke 16:10. One of my greatest memories took place in our single wide trailer packed wall to wall with young college kids thirsty for The Word.
• The dishes will be there tomorrow, typically your company will not, invest in them.
• Your things may in fact get broken or damaged, but those "things" will pale in comparison to the many hearts that will be changed by experiencing the love of Christ in your home.

P.S. Go ahead and bring in your dirt, because the Holy Spirit and Pine-sol will always be on hand to clean up your mess and mine.
This porch is waiting for ya! 
"Be hospitable to one another without complaint" 1 Pet 4:9

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