Thursday, February 27, 2014

Here In This House

Today I count, #1,024 on my list of gifts - our house; a place of brick, wood, and mortar; a place my husband and I have made a home for us and our children.  In this, our third house, we have done life together for almost 20 years.  Each house we've lived in has been a place where blessings have overflowed, and where grace and mercy have been given and received like presents on Christmas morning. 

Sunday, February 23, was our 29th wedding anniversary. Where have the years gone?  Although I received a very sweet gift, a beautiful card, two date nights, hugs and kisses, the greatest gift was revealed slowly through the weekend as God tenderly unveiled a deeper meaning to a song I have listened to many times before, Here In This House. (See words at the end of this post.)

Remember from an earlier post, Rick would be attending the SC School Board Conference and would not return until Sunday afternoon (our anniversary). Looking for things to get done in his absence, I cleaned out my vehicle.  As I cleaned, I came across the cd by the Liberty Singers from Liberty University. Capturing my full attention, I began to play the song, Here In This House, over and over and over. 

Every other time I've listened to the words of this song, I've only thought about the gathering place of believers - the Church house.  But this time was different.  The title took on a whole new meaning...


Literally, ours.

I was first reminded of the incredible blessing that my husband is to me and our children; how he has demonstrated the love of Christ to us in the most beautiful of ways; how he has freely given of himself, and how he has shown God's grace and mercy to all - here in this house.

Memories began to flow as to how our house has been a gathering place for family and friends from day one.  We've hosted youth fellowships, college and career fellowships, Men and women's Bible studies, wedding and baby showers, birthday parties, choir parties, pre-marital counseling, marriage and relationship counseling, Christmas parties, pajama parties, and the list goes on and on. Our house has served as a shelter, a place of refuge, a safety net, and at times, just a place to rest.

Our house... a gift... a blessing
Here in this house, we're an extension of the Church gathered in its house; a place of healing and grace, encouragement and refreshment, teaching and discipling, where blessings are counted and grateful hearts lift songs in praise.  Where Jesus is the center of our attention and the foundation of our home.

This gift of "house" brought me to my knees in thanksgiving during our anniversary weekend. As I expressed this thought with Rick, after he returned from his trip, I could hardly speak for the overwhelming floodgate of tears pouring down my face.  I wanted to share this "gift of house" with him as a huge "thank-you" to God for His provision and call on our family. I wanted to thank Rick, on our anniversary, for being an incredible spiritual leader, husband, father, and mentor to literally hundreds of people throughout our years together, and for allowing me the honor of being his wife.

I also wanted to share this gift with you because your house is a gift as well.  No matter the size, shape, style, wood or brick, whatever...we all can and should be families extending the gifts of Jesus Christ, His grace and mercy, with those inside and outside of our houses.  The love of Christ is to be expressed through our lives every day to all with whom we come in contact.  Then, as we come together corporately each week, with the larger family of God in our local Church houses, we worship, give thanks, learn, serve, and are filled so we can return to our own houses again to extend more grace to those who enter.

Thank You, Jesus, for our gift of "house".  Thank You for this special retreat with You while Rick was out of town. I am forever grateful for our house - a gathering place where Your blessings flow and Your grace and mercy abound. May we always honor and glorify You... here in this house.  Amen.

From our house to yours,

My Pleasure,

Here in this house, there is a blessing
Here in this house, He's given a song
Here in this house, refreshing anointing
Filling our hearts with perfect love
There's mercy and grace falling like rain,
Here in this house.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Earth is Broken, Creation Groans

The whole house shook! Our attention was jarred! We looked at each other and said, "What was that?"  Rick and I cautiously began looking around.  We even ventured outside to investigate.  Since we had just experienced a 3-day snow and ice event, we thought maybe large pieces of ice had fallen onto the roof from the treetops.

But, instead of ice falling on Valentine's night, 2014, in South Carolina, we experienced an earthquake. Centered in Edgefield, SC, it registered a 4.1 or 4.2 on the Richter Scale.  Whew! Thank goodness nothing cracked or crumbled.

Today, most of us just went back to "normal". 

Although strong earthquakes are not common around here, I do remember a couple of them growing up.  But, what has really amazed me is how the Bible study that I'm leading addressed the brokenness of the earth in last Monday's lesson.  God is alive and well, and He's speaking loudly to us, "Pay attention! Stay alert!"  He's pleading with us to recognize His power, His greatness, His majesty, and the signs of the times.   

Allow me to share a quote Angela Thomas shared in her "Stronger" study. (pg. 69).
     "Now yes, yes, creation sometimes screams a confusing message - fear, pain, grief.  Fires burn,   rivers flood, winds go hurricane, the earth shudders so hard it levels cities. But you must remember- this was not so in Eden.  Mankind fell, surrendering this earth to the evil one.  St. Paul says that creation groans for the day of its restoration (see Romans 8:18-22), making it clear that everything is not as it was meant to be....The earth is broken. Which only makes the beauty that does flow so generously that much more astounding. And reassuring." - John Eldridge

So, what crossed your mind as you read Eldridge's words?  My mind camped out on the cries of the earth, which seem to be happening more frequent, and how the Lord will completely satisfy those cries on that glorious day when heaven AND earth will be made new!

Ever since the day when Adam and Eve chose disobedience rather than obedience, the earth has been groaning.  That was the day God began preparing the world for the coming of the Messiah; His redemptive plan to set us free from sin was set into motion. He knew there would be a point in finite time when all would be broken, but He also knew He would not leave us without eternal HOPE-
the hope of being redeemed.

2000 years later, the Messiah came to earth to make us new!

Just this week God has taken me places in His Word I know I've been before, but it's only when our hearts are ready to receive deeper truth that He peels back the layers.  God has stopped me in my tracks this week to acknowledge His majesty and glory, and to praise Him for Jesus Christ, our Hope of eternal glory.  How has God stopped me in my tracks?

1. This week's snow and ice event.  Job 37:6-7
2. The SC, Valentine's Day earthquake. Romans 8:18-22

What a mighty, powerful God we love and serve.  Only a God of incredible love provides wake-up calls to alert us that the final portion of His redemptive plan is coming to a grand climax; when those of us who believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, will be completely redeemed from this broken world and this corrupt flesh we live in.  Yes, we were once dead, but we were made alive through Christ Jesus, our Lord, through His death, burial and resurrection. As His children, our bodies are groaning for redemption too!

When will the next wake-up event take place? I don't know and I don't know how many are left.  But I do know that God is preparing us for the grand finale when the trumpets will sound and the dead in Christ will rise first. Jesus is coming again to take His Bride home to live forever where there is a new heaven and a new, restored earth - never again to be broken.  HALLELUJAH!

"Listen to this, Job (insert your own name to personalize - "Listen to this, Melanie"); Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God." (Job 37:14 NKJV )

My Pleasure,

Friday, February 7, 2014

I Married a Servant

For the last 3 or 4 of our anniversary weekends, Rick has spent them at the State School Board Convention in Hilton Head, SC.  It's no different this year.  On Sunday, February 23, our anniversary, he will be returning home from the 2014 convention and I will be waiting to greet him with open arms. 

Wait! Before you go and lambast him for not taking me with him, you must understand some things very special about this incredible man that I love.  First, we never miss a celebration whether it's before he leaves or when he returns. And second, he is a servant.  He has a servant's heart, and he loves serving others.  Not only is he a great public servant, he's also an incredible private servant to his family.

Rick loves to serve us.  He'll make the beds, do laundry, clean, cook, etc...I've never had to ask him to help around the house.  I know ladies; he is a dream come true. My friends have even asked me to get him to do "Husband" conferences to teach their husbands how to serve them better. And, if I ever complain about anything having to do with his "helping", I am put in my place very quickly. I am truly blessed with the best!


Last year while he was gone, I spent Saturday, our anniversary, making a special surprise for him that speaks his love language - organization.  I cleaned out our pantry and alphabetized everything.  All items had an assigned space.  On the outside of the pantry doors, I placed 28 reasons why I love him on sticky notes (corresponding to the number of years of marriage).  He had no clue until he was coaxed to open the doors that his love language gift was waiting to greet him on the inside!  The look on his face was priceless! He loved it!

I haven't decided yet what I'll surprise him with this year, but I'll let you know.
Rick has been given a beautiful spiritual gift by God; the gift of serving, and he takes this gift very seriously. Whether it's serving his church family, his community, or his personal family, Rick serves wholeheartedly, with a gentle and humble spirit.

Anyone can serve, but what makes a great servant is their heart; their attitude about serving. When someone does for others just because they love them, with no expectations for anything in return, that's a true servant. 

A true servant strives to serve with a heart like Jesus.  Jesus served with humility, humbling Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross. Not only did Jesus serve like no other, He died like no other - for ALL of the sins of ALL people.

Jesus served when it wasn't "convenient".  He served the unlovely (according to the world's standards). He served out of His love of the Father and His love for His creation - people - you and me.  He served to point us to the Father.

We are all called to serve with a heart like Christ's; with nothing expected in return, with a love that is without conditions, and to point people to Jesus.  God gave me a great example of this in the man I married almost 29 years ago. I am so grateful to be his wife.  I love you, Rick Shull!

My Pleasure,

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

From Strength to Strength

Life requires great strength to live, to finish, and to finish well.

But we cannot live this life at all in our own strength.  Just when we think we are strong, we quickly discover how truly weak we are in and of ourselves. Jesus said, "...for without Me, you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

I've been camping out  in Psalm 84 as I've been preparing to lead the Bible study, "Stronger", by Angela Thomas.  Here's a portion of that Psalm.

"Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.  As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a spring; The rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; Each one appears before God in Zion." (Psalm 84:5-7 NKJV)

The verse that has won my heart's undivided attention is verse 7a. "They go from strength to strength;"

The writer of this Psalm is talking about how he cannot wait to get to the tabernacle where the manifested presence of the LORD dwells.  He is yearning and crying out for the courts of the LORD. He is desperate for a fresh touch from God.

"How lovely is Your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God." (Psalm 84:1-2)

As the Israelites travel together on this pilgrimage to the tabernacle, they go through the valley of weeping called the Valley of Baca.  They need the Lord's strength to make it from place to place on the long journey.  Only with His strength do they make it and finish the journey well.  There's  nothing that they would face that Jehovah God wasn't stronger than.

The purpose of the journey? To be in the presence of the LORD, God Almighty!

The Old Testament is a mere shadow of the New Testament.  Through the life of the Israelites, we can see the present day pilgrimage of the Christian so clearly.

Are we not on a journey as well to one day reside forever in the pure, holy presence of the LORD, God Almighty?   Our salvation experience through Jesus Christ begins our Christian pilgrimage, and His presence is with us all along the way through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.  We are His temple. We are now living in His presence every day. How strong the presence of God is in your life depends on how closely you dwell with Him.  Read James 4:8.

There is nothing that we will face that our God is not stronger than, either. As we move from place to place along our pilgrimage, through those valleys of weeping and the fields of joy, we draw strength from God and God alone.  The closer we are to Him, the stronger we become.

Each step forward requires us to receive another dose of His strength to get us to the next place of learning, growing, trusting, and maturing in Christ.  That's what "from strength to strength" is all about...getting us to our final destination of the new Zion; the new Jerusalem; the new heaven and the new earth, where the pure, holy presence of the LORD is manifested, and where "Each one appears before God in Zion." (Psalm 84:7b) We will see Him face to face!

As I was dwelling on these verses, this old hymn we used to sing in church when I was young kept playing over and over in my mind.  It's called "We're Marching to Zion."

(Verse 1)
Come we that love the Lord, And let our joys be known;
Join in a song with sweet accord, Join in a song with sweet accord,
And thus surround the throne, And thus surround the throne.

We're marching to Zion, Beautiful, beautiful Zion
We're marching upward to Zion, the beautiful city of God.

Words by Isaac Watts, Music by Robert Lowry

My Pleasure,