Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Refreshed





Doesn't it make your day when someone affirms you?  It's like a refreshing dip in the lake after a long, hot day, or an ice, cold Coke when you're really hot and thirsty. Ahhh! Maybe it's the way I'm wired, but affirmation spurs me on to stay the course.  How about you?






God affirms us in our obedience to Him many times through the words and actions of others.  By telling us that we're doing a good job or how we have impacted their life, others affirm who we are in Christ. 

Affirmation isn't designed to make our heads swell. It's designed to shrink our egos.  Who we are and what we do is not about us.  It's all about Him.  The idea that a great and mighty God is working out His purpose for His glory through His people should bring us to our knees.  When we submit to His authority in our lives and allow Him to work in and through us, we cannot take any credit.  Affirmation is confirmation that Christ is being glorified through our obedience. 

"He must become greater; I must become less." (John 3:30 NIV)

Rick and I had been asked to write a devotional each for a friend's son who is graduating from high school and leaving in a few weeks for the Naval Academy. He will be gone for quite a while without any family contact.  His mom is putting together a devotional book for him from friends, family, and mentors to encourage him on his new adventure.  As Rick read mine, he affirmed me in my writing ability by saying how good it was and telling me that I write well.  Words of affirmation especially from my sweet husband are words I treasure.  I even wrote them down in my gifts journal.

 
#757- Sweet words of affirmation from my husband about my writing ability.

You could be the one God uses to motivate someone else to press on, to stay the course, to keep the faith. With sincerity, our words should intentionally edify, encourage and build up others in the Body of Christ when we observe their obedience to Christ.  Whether our encouragement is given through a card, phone call, email, text, or face to face, we should acknowledge when someone has made a difference in our lives or in the lives of others for the glory of God.  Affirmation supplies sweet refreshment in the life of a weary warrior. Just as Paul was seeking refreshment from Philemon's  obedience, we can refresh others through our obedience by affirming and encouraging one another in the name of Jesus Christ.  This can cause a ripple effect.  One act of obedience leads to another act of obedience, which leads to another and another. 

Be obedient to Christ today by spilling out some encouragement onto someone else. You could be the one to start a ripple effect of refreshment right where you are. 

As Paul wrote to Philemon: "refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing you will do even more than I ask." (Philemon 20b-21 NIV)

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Monday, May 20, 2013

Especially In the Storms

I love a dark, dreary, rainy day. I'm one of those few who loves storms.  Give me a thunderstorm and I give much praise. 

I don't ever remember being afraid of storms. 

I remember one summer, when I was early elementary age, boat riding on Lake Murray.  We were traveling back to our lake house from visiting some friends across the lake when a huge thunderstorm came up. I wasn't afraid because my daddy was driving the boat, and he would make it all right.

The lake was wild with rough water and white caps. Lightening was flashing and the thunder was rolling. The adults in the boat were filling up and dumping out buckets of water as fast as they could, but the waves continued to pour in over the sides. As we plowed through the treacherous waters, I never thought we wouldn't make it back to shore.

I totally trusted my daddy.

We made it back, safe and sound. Events like this are why I have such a strong faith in God.  My daddy was an earthly picture of my heavenly Father. Although my daddy couldn't know and see all, he provided a sense of security, calmness and peace in my life.  My heavenly Father provides the same, but in a much deeper fashion.  He knows and sees all.  He knows what's best for me. He will provide what I need to learn to trust Him more, to strengthen my faith, and to bring Him more glory, even if what I need is a storm.  Some storms we can prepare for; some come and we don't even know what hit us.  In any case, God gives storms for one main purpose...to teach us trust and thankfulness.

As the sun peeks through the dark clouds at times today, I'm reminded of the Son who rises above our circumstances, shines light in the dark places, and provides the security, peace, and comfort we need in all storms of life.

We can give praise and thanks in all things...especially in the storms.

"give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thes. 5:18 NIV)

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Sunday, May 12, 2013

God Always Gives Good Gifts

Several weeks ago, I posted a blog called "Lifting Hearts High."  Both of my children have been tested and tried in their faith over the last several months, as well as their parents.  Tears have spilled, hearts have ached, dreams have shattered, and spirits have been crushed. 

All I could do for them was pray and lift their hearts high to the only One who could truly help.

But, what once seemed impossible became possible; an unexpected Mother's Day gift!

On Thursday, God did more than I ever could have asked for or imagined.  My son, Turner, and my daughter, Madison, were texting. Turner asked his sister if she had heard anything from USC yet concerning her acceptance. She said, "No..."

 
Rick and I met Turner for lunch that day. We discovered after lunch, that within a few minutes of Turner asking Madison if she had heard anything, she received a personal phone call from the admissions office at USC and was accepted for the 2013 fall semester.  We all had text messages from her! I wish I could have seen her face!



Gift #715- Shattered dream transformed into dream- come- true!

Wow!  I'm still bursting with joy!  My skin can hardly contain me!

What lessons are being learned?  The answer has to be total trust.  As Turner was texting Madison on Thursday, and when asked if she had heard anything, Madison said, "No..., but God has provided another plan and I'm ok with that."  As soon as she spoke those simple words of total trust and surrender, she got the call.  Coincidence?  I don't think so.  Providence? Yes, I know so!

My eyes well up with tears every time I think about how God is proving Himself faithful to my children; how He is showing them that He cares about every detail of their lives, and how they are responding to the hard eucharisteo (thanksgiving) they have been experiencing. 

Hard because others were receiving acceptances from their schools of choice, and tears had to be held back as congratulations were expressed.  Hard because we don't always understand when things don't go as we expected.  Hard because we live in the unknown and have to have complete faith in the One who does know.

This experience has stretched my faith, and our family's faith as well.  It's hard as parents to let your kids learn their own faith lessons and grow and mature through difficult situations.  But through all the prayers, tears and advice, I have no doubt that this will be a "Bethel" moment in our lives; an altar; a place of praise and thanksgiving; a reminder of the great God we serve and of the lessons we've learned, resulting in real spiritual growth.

"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:31 NIV

To have prayed fervently with such heartache, passion and plea, God has honored my prayers in ways I never dreamed.  My eyes are still glazed with amazement.  God is so good and knows what we need and when we need it.  He only gives good and perfect gifts, and I have received His good and perfect gifts this past week; our children who love Jesus are learning to trust Him with what's best for them. What more could a mother ask for?


My Pleasure,
Melanie


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Pen Leaking Gratitude

 
Over 700 now and still counting.  Counting gifts. A journal filling up with wonder from a pen leaking gratefulness all over the page. This counting, with pen in hand, changes a heart forever.

I'm reading through Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, for the third time in a year.  Yes, I said, "For the third time."  I can't seem to leave this incredible book alone.  Something about it keeps drawing me back over and over again. 


A Martin Luther quote which Ann uses struck me this time through in a very profound way.

"If you want to change the world, pick up your pen."  (Martin Luther)

Then God squeezed the quote a bit to speak directly to what I'm learning.

 
"If you want to change, pick up a pen."  (Melanie Shull)

It's true!  The penning of wonders and gifts has changed me forever.  The pure, simple act of seeing and then writing has stretched my tunnel vision to viewing more of life from God's perspective.  Pen leaking ink onto the journal pages has led me to trust Him more.  It has allowed my hands to open, and with eyes upward, to receive His gifts of grace with pleasure, even the hard ones that in the moment don't seem like gifts at all.

Penning gratitude is the open door to real joy!  That's why I cannot put this book on the shelf and leave it there; this book, grounded in and on the truth of God's Word. This book, Ann's heart, challenges me to go deeper into the layers of mystery in the Word of God; mysteries that He wants to reveal to all who are willing to see.  Seeing leads to penning, and penning spills over into living.  Isn't JOY what we all long for everyday?  Joy is a delectable taste of heaven. The incredible goodness of God satisfies every spiritual taste bud. Why would I give up something that satisfies my soul with exquisite flavor?

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good." (Psalm 38:4)  David knew once you took a bite of God's goodness, there's no going back.  It's like the old Lay's potato chip commercial that said, "No one can eat just one."  Well, no one can pen just one either.

Jesus' gratitude to His Father always displayed His joy-filled heart.  Ann begins her journey to joy at the Lord's table; Eucharisteo! 

The thankfulness Christ spoke out loud as He broke bread with His disciples hours before he would be sacrificed for you and for me, awakens my soul to the gift I'm most grateful for-Jesus, my joy and my salvation.  Ann discovers that thanksgiving precedes the miracle.  The miracle of the cross and what Jesus' sacrifice did to change the world forever was preceded by Christ giving thanks.

This is why I cannot put this book down, nor my gifts journal.  Pages filled with pen-spilled gratitude has changed my heart. Counting gifts has changed me. Gratitude precedes the miracle of a transformed life. 

Dear Jesus, keep me counting.

My Pleasure,
Melanie



Monday, May 6, 2013

"What's On Your Mind?"

"What's on your mind?"  is the question Facebook asks you every time you log on.  Many eagerly answer with exactly what they're thinking about.  Some post random thoughts and pictures. Others post reflective thoughts.  Still others post other people's thoughts.  Why do we rush to share everything we're thinking about?  Why are we so consumed with sharing what's on our minds?

What is on my mind?  Well, my pastor spoke about this at great length yesterday, so I'm still mulling over the truth I heard.  I'm also mindful of several other things today; a heavy heart for a friend who's son committed suicide yesterday morning, another friend who will be laying her mother to rest tomorrow, my daughter taking an AP exam this morning, graduation, my son waiting to hear from a job interview, washing clothes, piano recital arrangements, a computer that is not cooperating (thus no pictures with this post or the last one), etc. 

Our minds are processing so much information that it's incomprehensible what all we think about in a day, in an hour, in a minute.  We are constantly thinking; whether we want to or not.

The mind. What a creation. God has given us the capability of reasoning, solving complex problems, remembering masses of information, learning new things, speaking a language or multiple languages, creating, inventing, and so much more. The mind tells us when to cry or laugh and it alerts us to pain. The mind is also the battleground of good and evil.

As Christians, one of the most important gifts God has given us is the mind of Christ. We have the capacity to think as He would think.  This is a huge responsibility when you think about it. We can use our minds to dwell on His words which give life, or words of waste which breed emptiness. 

Here are some verses which speak directly to what our minds (hearts) should be thinking about:

"Constantly keep in mind Jesus Christ, the Messiah, risen from the dead..." (2 Timothy 2:8a AMP)

"Above all else, guard your heart [mind], for it is the wellspring of life." (Proverbs 4:23 NIV)

"Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things." (Colossians 3:2 NIV)

"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 NIV)

Could God's Word be anymore clear?  Jesus, the Word, should be on our minds at all times; when we rise, when we go to bed, throughout the day and night.  Every thought that soars into our minds should be sifted through the mind of Christ; taking captive those thoughts that don't edify, build up, or encourage, and tossing them away.  We should only speak what's on our minds if it is pleasing to God, edifying to the Body of Christ, and encouraging to others. These are words that give life and are worthy of expressing. 

What words have you spoken already today? Words of wisdom and life, or wasteful words of emptiness? Or some of both?

Let's seek to guard our minds, hearts, and speech. Ours may be the only words of LIFE someone hears or reads today. 

As you guard your Facebook comments, watch for changes in how and what you post. I would love to hear how Christ changes your mind in how you answer the question, "What's on your mind?"

Have a Jesus-filled day!

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Eternal Impressions

How many job interviews have you encountered?  How did you prepare?  Did you walk in with courage and confidence? Did you walk away knowing you did your best?

The other night I shared with a group of women about how we, as Christians, are walking into "interviews" all of the time; some known, some unknown. All scheduled appointments are written in God's day timer.  Interviews are taking place everywhere we go.  People are constantly watching our behavior, actions and reactions.  We are analyzed, scrutinzed, and sometimes ostracized because we carry the name of Christ.

These interviews, though, are not to attain a job for ourselves, but they are presentations on behalf of Jesus Christ.  We are interviewing for Him to land the position of authority of people's souls; the CEO of Surrendered Hearts, if you will. 

Preparing well for our interviews takes much prayer and thoughtful attention.  Let's use the analogy of a bath and bath products to explain how to best prepare:


1. Turn on the water of the Word.
Renew your mind; meditate on the Scriptures. (Romans 12:1-2)
2. Pour in a capful of the bubbles of grace.
Thank God for His grace and gift of salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
3. Exfoliate the dead sin with a sugar scrub.
 Confess your sins to God. (1 John 1:9) 
4. Soak in the suds of forgiveness.
 Thank God for His unfailing love and forgiveness of sins. (1 John 1:9)
5. After the bath, smooth on the oils of mercy.
His mercies are new every morning.  (Lamentations 3:22-23)
6. Pat dry with a soft, fresh towel.
Praise God for His cleansing power. (2 Corinthians 7:1)
7. Spray on a mist of the aroma of courage and confidence.
The sweet scent of Jesus should linger as you leave your interviews. (Philippians 4:18)

Now, as we dress for success, we can face the day without fear and meet it head on with a lot of faith.  Let's go make some eternal impressions as we present our Savior well today and everyday.

Happy interviewing!

My Pleasure,
Melanie