Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Before You Go, Simply Be


Most of us have been called to dinner.

"Dinner's ready! Come and get it!" 

We've also been called when it was time to go somewhere.

"Hurry up! Let's go! We're gonna be late!"

Some of us have even been called names. Some endearing, and some, not so much.




Christ called the first disciples using two simple words: 

Follow Me.

Jesus invited these ordinary men to walk with Him, sit with Him, live life with Him, and learn from Him.

And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. They immediately left their nets and followed Him (Matthew 4:18-20 NKJV).

In the Gospel According to Luke, there is more to the story. Large crowds are pressing in around Jesus to hear the word of God. There are so many people that He asked a fisherman named Simon, who was cleaning his nets, to take Him out in his boat a ways so He could speak to the multitudes easier. After He finished speaking, He performed a miracle by telling the fisherman to put down their nets. Stating that they hadn't caught any fish all day, Simon agreed to still comply with the Master's request. Alarmed at the large catch of fish in their nets, they shout for their fellow fishermen to come and help them. Simon Peter falls on his knees in the presence of Jesus, for he truly sees himself as he really is for the first time. After the boats had been brought into the shore, four exhausted, nasty, stinky fishermen drop everything, leaving all behind to be with Christ. (See Luke 5:1-11)

And today, Jesus is still calling us to the same.

To be in His presence - settling into the sacred place where we see Him for who He is and ourselves in the Light of His glory; where we renew our minds with His Word. There's no greater invitation in all the world than to be invited by the Creator of the Universe, the King of kings, to come and be with Him.

Being with Jesus is the safest, most secure place to bring our realness.

There's no pretending because He already knows our weaknesses.
There are no masks because He sees our hearts.
There's just being with the One who knows us best, loves us most, and will complete what He started.

I love the picture chosen for this blog because it speaks of the sweet intimacy Christ offers us. Can't you just hear Jesus saying, "Here. Have a seat. Come sit with Me a while." It gives me a sense of Ahhh and awe as I humbly and gratefully slide into my reserved seat. 

Being with Christ is the essence of a real disciple's life.  

It's in His Word and through the power of prayer that:
  • our ears hear His tender voice
  • our minds are washed with the Word
  • our souls are refreshed
  • we confess and converse with the Lover of our soul
You see, we can't go make disciples without being with the Master Discipler. The two go hand-in-hand. We've put so much emphasis on the nets (evangelism) - the how-to-get-saved part, that we've ignored the crucial and best part of discipleship  - The stop-drop-everything-and-be-with-Christ part. (And that includes our nets.)

Jesus is all about being with His followers and His followers being with Him. Seems to me that our nets would naturally catch more if we would be intentional about being with Christ.

Are you missing out on the part that will make you a much better fisher of people?
Then have a seat at the table. He's inviting you to simply be.

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Picture credit: Pixabay.com 













Thursday, August 4, 2016

An Unusual Summer of Unwrapping Gifts

Gifts.

Spectacular or simple.

Gift bags adorned with colorful tissue paper. Boxes carefully wrapped with crisp creases and fancy ribbon.

Anticipation fills the air as the giver waits and watches for the recipient to open the carefully selected treasure.


The Summer of 2016 has been full of unexpected gifts. Somebody knows me well and has carefully placed on my doorstep unsuspecting packages, reminding me of His deep love and affection for me.

Well, not literally on my doorstep, and nope. Not my husband.

These gifts have arrived in the form of long-time friendships wrapped up tighter than the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. As I've opened these precious treasures, each has put a smile on my face and filled my heart with that squeal-out-loud-skip-a-beat joy.

As I blogged earlier this season about the different levels of friendships we experience, I had no idea God was wrapping up some of my own friends I haven't connected with in years and would be placing them on my stoop all throughout the summer.

Gift #1: A friend of 30 plus years and her husband connected with me while they were in France learning about the refugee crisis and how to best meet the needs of those fleeing from their homes. These missionary friends were coming back to South Carolina for a sort-of sabbatical. God used my husband and me to meet their need by providing them with a home to stay in while they sought the Lord's direction for a new season of ministry. Inside this unsuspecting package were dinners out, morning coffee chats, lots of laughing, praying, and catching up. What an incredible gift!

Gift #2: Another friend and her husband are in the process of moving to South Carolina from Virginia. This friend and I sang together in ministry for a short time, but connected with a bond that has lasted through 20 years. Although we've had little contact except through Facebook, we've picked up right where we left off. God is so good.

Gift #3: My former hairdresser and long-time friend attended church with us. Before moving to go to seminary, she was my right hand during eight weeks of bed rest while pregnant with my daughter. At the end of June she literally shows up on my doorstep for #SummerBookClub2016. What a treat to have her back in my life and to reconnect after almost 20 years. She even brought me a gift - a wreath she made in Carolina colors with football ribbon. Oh, she knows me well.

Gift #4:  Just a couple of weeks ago, God sent another surprise package in the form of a precious friend whom I've stayed in contact with, but not like I would have liked to. She just moved from Georgia back to South Carolina and I couldn't be more ecstatic! We met for lunch, caught up, and it was like she never left. What a kindred spirit we share. Afterwards, I walked to my car thinking, God is absolutely amazing. I needed this encounter today and He arranged it all. I love how He loves.

This intimate Lover of our souls knows us inside out. He created us with certain likes and dislikes, and He brings people into our lives for us to choose from to connect with on this earth for friendship, encouragement, to love and be loved, to rejoice and weep with, and to build one another up in Christ. He knows we need each other. He knows we need friends.

Every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17, paraphrased).

How has God gifted you this summer? Look around. I'm sure He's watching with great anticipation for you discover, unwrap and enjoy the gifts He's picked just for you!

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Personality Matters

1. Sassy.
2. Simple. 
3. Serious.

There. I did it. In three words.

(And yes, fellow writers, I even used the forbidden alliteration.)

In a writer's workshop I attended recently, we were asked to identify our blog's personality.



Identifying our personality traits helps us in understanding how our message is being communicated.

Makes sense. Right?


Our personality flows through our communication.

Being aware of how people perceive us is key to how we craft and deliver our message. Although this workshop was specifically for Christian bloggers, the principle relates to anyone proclaiming a message. Whether through print, social media, or face to face...

 personality matters.

In examining my own blog's personality, I've concluded:

1. Sassy can be funny, but it can also be offensive.

We need to know our audiences and gauge the "sass-ometer." If our audience has a good sense of humor or knows us well, then this personality trait will not hinder, and may even help our message, drawing them in.

But, if our audience is more serious-minded, or simply lack-luster in the humor department, then Sass would be a pass.

2. Simply speaking, we can never go wrong with simplicity

The K.I.S.S. method, for instance, has been around for eons. Keep. It. Simple. Stupid. 
And, guess what. It still works.

I labor long and hard on my blog posts. Sometimes, too long. It could be days before I publish. My goal is not to lose your attention with too many words or cause you to have to reread a sentence that's difficult to follow. I want my carefully, selected words to flow so you will be moved to reflect or act or both. The quantity and quality of words is very important.

Simple can mean less, and less is usually best.

3. Seriously though, there's a time and place for serious discussion, and we mustn't be afraid to go there. 

Sometimes we're pressed for time, or we just sense an urgency to share a message of utmost importance. It's okay to get straight to the point, but with respectlove and grace.

Serious means our hearts are heavy and concerned.

What are your three top personality traits? How do they affect the way you communicate...

  • in your marriage?
  • with family?
  • with friends? 
  • in business?
  • through social media?

Christ has given us a mission, a purpose, and a voice. We must be aware of each as we proclaim His truth. And through whatever platform He gives us, we must consider our words and sparkle with our own, one-of-a-kind personalities.

Please, dear Jesus, as we seek Your face, 
Season our words with love and grace.

Bridle our tongues from speaking harm, 
And fill us with Your loving charm.

From today's beginning until the end, 
Stir our speech with a sacred blend. 

With respect and grace mixed just right, 
May we speak Your words both day and night.

My Pleasure,
Melanie



Monday, July 18, 2016

Got Storm? Stay Calm and Sail On




A few days ago I was reading in my new favorite devotional book, Dwelling Places by Lucinda Secrest McDowell. Her word selection for that day was Still.

Still.






This past week with all of the horrendous events around the globe and here at home, I'm reminded again to still; to not get caught up in the media frenzy as a depth of evil I've not witnessed before plays out right before my eyes - over and over again.

As fierce storms rage and breath-taking fear overwhelms, God's call to His people is to calm down.

Like the story of the boat filled with Jesus' disciples sailing straight into a mighty storm.

Read the whole account. Mark 6:45-52.

Jesus sent His disciples on ahead to the other side of the lake. He knew the storm was brewing, but He sent them anyway. It was time for them to experience a strong, dangerous storm to refine their vision. He needed for them to recognize Him in the storm, away from the multitudes.

This vision and recognition was specifically designed for those closest to Him.

And, as His disciples today, we need our storm vision refined too.

In every storm I've personally sailed into, God knew it was coming. He knew how the blistering, raining down of hard circumstances would bring me to grips with who He really is and challenge the roots of my faith. And I'm forever grateful. My faith has increased, my understanding of who  He is has deepened, and my level of fear has drastically diminished. 

We're inside of a terrible storm right now. But, while the thunderous world pounds in our ears, the strikes of hurt and pain gnaw at our souls, and the winds of senseless chatter cloud our minds, God is calling out to those who are closest to Him, His disciples, "Do not be afraid." 

To those of us who know His voice, He's calling us to still in the calm of His presence.

I am here. I know what's going on in and around this cruel world. And, I also know how it all ends. Remember, I've already won the victory over sin through my Son, Jesus. Justice will be served. Evil will perish. Righteousness will prevail. But to get there sweet one, we must go through the storms. I AM with you through them all. I love you more than you could ever know, My child. Stay calm. There is absolutely nothing to fear.

Every generation marches closer to the final prophecies of Scripture being fulfilled. The Father has already established the exact moment in time when the page will turn, signaling the final chapter of His Redeeming Love. But, in the meantime, He is full of patience, loves perfectly and does not desire that any should perish.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16, emphasis mine).

When we still in His presence, He reminds us of where our strength to endure comes from; the Root, Jesus Christ- from where all that is good and perfect and sacred flows.

Today, as I still, I wanted to share this bit of Good News with you. Christ is calling out to all of us who are listening to remember that He is God...

ahead of,

in the midst of,

and on the other side of.

Got storm?

Stay calm and sail on.

My Pleasure,
Melanie




Thursday, July 14, 2016

Above the Gray


What catches your eye when you look at this picture?

The red heart or the wall of gray?

If you're like most people, the color stands out above the gray.

This past spring we painted from our den, through the kitchen, into the breakfast room and out into the florida room shades of gray.


Gray is the modern, neutral color of choice. The number of color schemes that stand out above the gray is limitless. And, what really freshens and lightens up a gray room is the bright, white trim.

But gray is never a good choice when it comes to living out our purpose as followers of Christ.

We are called to be His Light in a dark world. We seek to know God, love God and obey His Word. All of which distinguishes us from the world.

We are never called to neutrality.

We are called to be holy.

We are never called to blend in.

We are called to stand out.

Gray living is what the Church has embraced - a life of comfort, complacency and mediocrity, where there's no clear defining of Truth and very little 'standing out' in the crowd.

From the stage to the pew to the bar, is there any difference?

How did we get to a place of blending in with the world?


  • By allowing the graying of Truth to justify our acceptance of destructive lifestyles.
  • By adopting the philosophy of a godless culture: There is no right or wrong
  • By compromising the Truth to the point where Truth is no longer recognizable.

The authority of God's Word has been painted over with shades of gray creating a culture of chaos and confusion. How can the world know what to say No to if the Church is saying Yes to everything?

Satan's favorite color is spiritual gray.

So what can we do?

In my last blog, I wrote my views on the state of the nation from a believer's perspective and stated that the reason for our lack of influence on the culture is:

The Church's unwillingness to repent.

If the Church is going to be the change the world needs to see, then She needs to strip herself of the gray of our culture and humbly walk back into the Light of His Kingdom. 


  • The Church cannot continue to compromise the Truth of God's Word. Just because someone may be offended is no reason to go gray. Jesus said, I did not come to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. (Matthew 10:34 NKJV). Jesus also says that if we love anyone more than Him, we are not not worthy of Him. (See Matt. 10:37-39)
  • The Church cannot claim we are living in Truth if we continue to live in disobedience.  Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15 ESV).
  • The Church cannot continue to defend those who consistently refuse to obey Truth.  If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31-32 NKJV).
The misconstrued Truth being spoken in many circles today is, "We just need to love everyone." Well, that's true, but the world interprets love as merely human kindness, the tolerance and acceptance of all beliefs and behaviors. That is not the cross-bearing type of love and truth Jesus lived and taught.

The Church has bought into the world's "politically correct" mindset. We have failed each other in the love department because we've ignored the truth of God's Word and therefore have confused those around us about what real love is. 

Speaking to the Church of Laodicea, Jesus says, "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent (Revelation 3:19 NIV). 

I believe the 21st Century Church is being rebuked and disciplined. Just because we've received and believed does not mean God gives His people a pass to sin more or to remain in a sinful, destructive pattern of worldly behavior. His love, mercy, forgiveness and grace saves us from eternal punishment for our sin and separation from the Father, but His holy character defines His loved-filled discipline when we stray. We are corrected so we can enjoy the abundant life He offers here on earth. 

Sin always results in consequences; saved or not.

If an entire Body of believers, or an individual continues to live in sin and refuses to adhere to the counsel of the Word, they will receive discipline from the Lord. Consequences are designed to change bad behavior. No consequences, no change. No change, no impact. No impact, more chaos.

Sincere repentance is key to reconciling and restoring relationships. First, with our Savior and then with the Body. We are doing our spiritual leaders and the Church as a whole an injustice if loving discipline and accountability aren't common practice. But sadly, this is an area where more churches than not are afraid to tread. Accountability helps us run our race well. Discipline helps us turn away from destructive living, getting us back on track. It's for our good and His glory.

If we are to stand out above the gray, we must look, act, and live differently from the world. Our lives must "pop" like this daisy, away from the gray wall, if we want the world to see Jesus in and through us. No more blending in, indulging in the things of the world thinking we can reach the world with worldly things. Gray is weak. Gray creates confusion. No more gray, Church! 


The world is looking for those who are willing to stand above the gray. Let's step into the bright Light of Christ so He can shine through us again for His glory! 

My Pleasure,
Melanie







Friday, July 8, 2016

From Celebrating to Grieving to Healing


 Just four days ago we were united in celebrating our independence as a nation.

Today, we are united again as we grieve as a nation.

From friendly fireworks and backyard BBQs to fearfully running from sniper bullets.

Oh, what a difference a few days make.




Watching the protests in New York City, and the pandemonium unfold last night in the streets of Dallas, my heart broke.

What are we doing? What are we becoming? There is no stability, moral fiber, or common decency anymore. Where are the REAL leaders? We have plenty of REAL agitators, but REAL leadership seems to have become extinct.

As I followed the camera man running through the streets to capture whatever he could to tell the story well of what was happening, all I could think was...

Where is the Church; the Body of Christ?

What is She doing? What has She become? Why has She lost Her vision, purpose, stability, moral foundation, and even Her common decency? Why does She not have influence like She once did?

Because, as someone put it so well today, the Church is fractured. Broken. She has lost her first love and is seeking to survive a broken heart without the healing power of Her Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

The bacteria of sin has been allowed to fester and to spread freely without any form of treatment or prevention. It's become dangerously infectious, and now, I believe has spiraled into a septic state.

Sepsis is a form of infection that is very heard to treat. My mother died from sepsis. Once the infection is in the blood stream, little hope is left for recovery. The only way we will heal from the sepsis running through America's veins is by the healing power of the Almighty.

Listening to the vile and crude things oozing from the mouths of those in the streets last evening protesting against the very institution that stands along side them in the streets to protect the screamers and agitators made my stomach curdle.

And you know what? It's our fault, Church.

We relinquished our responsibility to lead and we've compromised the Truth.

The serious problems that need to be addressed and fixed in our nation will only get worse if we, the Church, continue to ignore the root of the problem- our sin. 

Mine. Yours. Ours.

If the Church is to turn the ship around, we must bend the knee, cry out to God, and repent. We must turn away from the vile winds of destruction and begin sailing with the healing winds of the Holy Spirit.

A powerful movement of God's Spirit begins when one heart repents and turns toward the Savior's face. 

How much longer will the Lord linger and be patient with us to live out His Gospel, love on His people, and steer those who are lost in the direction of the Savior?

My fear? Not long. 

Now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2 NKJV).

Awaken my soul to the desires of Your heart, O Lord. Give me the strength to step forward to lead and re-route this ship. Hear my cries unto You. I repent of my sin, my straying, my shirking of my responsibility as a part of Your Church to be Your eyes, hands and feet in a world so distraught, and infected with spiritual sepsis. If it's Your will, Lord Jesus, heal our land. Search our hearts and fill them Your love, Your compassion, and Your truth. In Jesus' name and for His sake, Amen.

My Pleasure,
Melanie 









Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summertime Slowing to Live Small





Summer 2016 has definitely been a sweet slow-down for my soul. An extension of my retreat so-to-speak that began when 2015 disappeared from the calendar.

What does it mean to slow our souls?






For me, it means:
  • soaking up a little more sunshine
  • getting lost in the adventure of a good book
  • catching up with friends I haven't seen in a while
  • lingering a little longer in God's Word (with a cup of coffee, of course)
  • enjoying the summer breeze
  • playing games
  • savoring the flavor of a SC grown tomato sandwich
And oh, so much more!

Last evening in my home, girlfriends gathered, leaning in to laugh and relax while enjoying some great food, and the discussion of a really good book.

Simply Tuesday, by Emily P. Freeman is our Summer 2016 Book Club choice. As we go through the book, I'll be blogging about how she challenges us to slow, rest, and soak in the small of living.

Small is always considered extraordinary in Scripture, so why wouldn't we embrace the small in our lives and look for the Kingdom of God there. Emily points out the obvious that the Kingdom of God we are challenged to "seek first" in Matthew 6:33 is right here. Right now. Right where we are.

The author gracefully shows the value in bench dwelling. Through the gifting of a bench in her cul-de-sac, the neighbors begin to slow, sitting for long spells to engage in real conversations. Just like our grandmamas and grandaddies used to do on their front porches, swings and in lawn chairs around the back yard enjoying slow-churned, homemade ice cream.

Forgetting the hustle and bustle we're all addicted to and just embracing the glory of God in the small moments of living brings back into focus what is truly important - people.

Jesus became small to live among us. 
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger (Luke 2:7 NKJV). Jesus made Himself a small seed, conceived in the small womb of a young virgin by the Holy Spirit, all because God so loved people and would redeem them through Christ.

Jesus became small to bring significance to the insignificant. 
Then He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." Then He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace" (Luke 8:48, 50 NKJV). Jesus acknowledged the incredible faith of an insignificant sinful woman as she anointed her new-found Savior with her tears and very expensive oil in front of the religious zealots. What a tender moment.

Jesus chose the small to reveal the greatness of the Father.  
And they [the disciples] said to Him, "We have here only five loaves and two fish." And He [Jesus] said, "Bring them here to Me." (Matthew 14:17-18) Jesus blessed that small, insignificant offering and provided more than enough for the multitudes to be fed.

Time after time, Jesus acknowledges the small because He knows the great potential the small contains. 

The same is true with us today. We are small, but within us dwells greatness - God's glory, Jesus Christ. 

The insignificant becomes significant when we release our smallness to the Father, through faith in the Son.

Jesus is here, now. He dwells in the souls of His people, now. He lives within us, about us, all around us, now. We can easily miss the small in our striving to have it all. The "all" is not about us doing more to be enough or get enough. None of these will ever be enough.

Only in Christ can our deepest wants or desires be satisfied.

But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33 NKJV).

How about you? Are you tired of always striving for significance? Are you hurrying through life thinking you'll arrive if you can just get to the next bigger and better thing? Spoiler Alert: You'll never get there. Slow down. Even if you don't have your summers off like we did when we were kids, you can still sit a spell on the neighborhood bench, linger awhile, leaning in to the King and His Kingdom, right now, right where you are. He is enough.

My Pleasure,
Melanie