Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Does God Find Pleasure in Me?

As I prayed this morning for a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit and for influence in this world for God's glory, I came across a verse that describes what brings God pleasure.

"The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear Him, In those who hope in His mercy." Psalm 147:11 NKJV
                                                                                       
So I asked Him, "God, how are we doing? Are You taking pleasure in me? Am I focused on being in awe of You, living life to the full with a grateful heart, filled with the radiance of Your glory, Jesus Christ? Is our relationship hindered, causing You displeasure with me?"

God had obviously been preparing me for His answer all weekend through various means, but it wasn't until I read this verse this morning that His answer was right in front of me, staring me in the face. It was NOT pretty.

It was very humbling to hear answers I wasn't expecting. What bubbled to the surface has to be dealt with and removed.  I cannot please my Father when this stuff is clogging the channel of flow. It all has to come out and be cleansed so I can begin to flow freely with His presence, His character, and glow with His radiance again. Those dirty cracks in my heart have to be emptied and then filled with His Spirit.

It brought me to my knees with a repentant heart and I've stayed in a bowed position in my mind most of the day. I need to stay positioned here until this sin-clog is pushed through and released.

Psalm 146:8 says, "The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises those who are bowed down: The LORD loves the righteous."

Our relationship with the Lord is a righteous one because of the righteousness of Christ, but we need to be cleaned out to be filled up anew every morning with His Spirit who gives us the power to radiate Him in the world. So what's clogging up your flow today? Is your life bringing pleasure to the Lord?

Thank You, Lord, for shaking me up, stirring the stagnant, and bringing to the surface the sin within. You are my greatest Pleasure and I want You to find pleasure in me as well. Continue to call me out when You see me losing my radiance. Restore Your joy in me. May You flow out of me and onto others as I seek Your face.  Fill me up again as I spill You out.  Don't let my sin crowd You out. May Your presence be a constant rush of refreshing water flowing in and out of me.  It's in the sweetest, most powerful Name ever spoken, Jesus, that I pray... AMEN.

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Full of Surprises!

I opened the small door of my mailbox and look what was in there! Two books I ordered from Amazon.com and my August 2014 issue of Southern Living magazine. My mailbox was chocked full of surprises today, and not one bill!

I love books and magazines.  I can't wait to settle in this evening with my cup of joe and one of my sweet surprises.

Sure, I could've purchased any of these on a Kindle or Nook. But you know what? I wouldn't enjoy them near as much.

You see, I love to hold a book in my hands, turn real pages, and sneak a peek occasionally to see how many pages are left before my simple pleasure begins to wind down, all the while wishing it will never end, especially if it's a really good story.



Even a magazine is a prize held in hand, a work of art. The layout, the pictures, the articles, all crafted to speak swiftly and skillfully, edited with precision from cover to cover.

Flipping down corners of pages filled with ideas to ponder, charm to capture, resources to return to again and again, is truly exciting for me. It's not unusual to find me engulfed in pure bliss with several magazines at a time draped across my desk, kitchen countertop, or island, as I imagine what I would do with the endless colors, designs, cozy spaces with furniture suggestions, as well as a few new recipes to try.

As I'm reeling with glee over the treasures from my mailbox, I'm reminded of how exciting it is when God gives me something new to reflect on, ideas to ponder and put into action, as I hold His precious, timeless Word in my hand, read it, meditate on it, and bask in His glorious presence.

Nothing compares to the flood of colors, designs, ideas, principles and truth spilling into my mind from the most wonderful creative mind ever - God's. I can flip down pages, place book marks, highlight verses, write in the margins and experience God's Word up close and personal, while holding it in my hands and treasuring it in my heart.



"How sweet are Your words to my taste, Sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. (Psalm 119: 103-106 NKJV)

"Your testimonies are wonderful; Therefore my soul keeps them. The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. I opened my mouth and panted, For I longed for Your commandments. Look upon me and be merciful to me, As Your custom is toward those who love Your name. Direct my steps by Your word, And let no iniquity have dominion over me. "                                (Psalm 119:129-135 NKJV)

Digital books and magazines have hurt the sales of the real thing. But, as a friend and I were discussing the other day, digital will never replace the pure joy of holding a good book or THE Good Book in our hands.  I know it won't for me.

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sweet!

I just walked in the door from a fun, relaxing day with my best friend.  We began the day with breakfast and good conversation at Atlanta Bread, then headed off to do a little shopping.

We completed our day at Chicken Salad Chick. Mmm...love the Fruity Fran with the Fuji apples and seedless grapes.

On my kitchen counter I have a flip calendar with sayings for each day that I usually read before I leave the house, but today I forgot, so I flipped it to today's date after I got home.

Here's what it said.

 "The sweetest thing God adds to life is the gift of a trusted friend."

Woah! How appropriate for my BFF-day!

Today I'm thanking God for friends. No matter when our paths have crossed, God has used you to help shape me into the person I am today. You are all special to me and I cherish the gift each of you are in my life.

"A friend loves at all times." (Proverbs 17:17)

Lord, help me to love my friends with a heart like Yours at all times. Amen.

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Friday, July 18, 2014

Taking Time-Out For Some Time-In


As summer winds down and we beginning filling in calendars for a new school year, let's push the pause button for a few moments and think about the white space.

White space. How do we fill it well, yet guard against wasting it?

I look around me and I see people running here, there, and everywhere; rushing to meetings, trying to make deadlines, working all hours of the day and night, parental tag-teaming as children are taxied to a variety of lessons, activities, sports practices; some for good reason and others for no good reason at all.

Why do we feel the need to fill in all the white space with a barrage of activities? Is it because we think we might miss something, or we'll feel left out? Maybe we believe if our children aren't in an activity everyday we're depriving them of an opportunity to do something bigger and better?

This kind of thinking only offers exasperation and exhaustion, and leaves our souls spiritually empty.

White space filled with meaningless activities prevent us from spending time with the One who gives our lives meaning and fills us with joy.

We all need to take time-out for some time-in...His presence.

"What if all our running around is only our trying to run away from God -- the great I AM,  present in this present moment?" (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts Devotional, page 40)

In all of our running around what if we are teaching our children how to run from God instead of running to God?

So, as we sit down with the family to discuss the white space, the first thing we should do is pray together.  Seek His direction by asking God what His desire is for our family this year. How does He want us to spend His sacred gift to us - this gift called time? Involve the children in the discussion. Talk to and listen to them, being very aware of how much each child can handle, and what stresses them out. Evaluate the past year and discuss what changes need to be made to help things run smoother and to be more peaceful.

Here are a few things to think and pray about as we begin filling in the white space of our year:

- Choose biblically based, spiritual activities including worship, discipleship, opportunities to serve in Jesus' Name, and time for building healthy, Christian, life-time friendships.

- Select activities that will help develop talents and abilities (preferably no more than two at a time).

- Carve out space for family time, fun and games, godly teaching, building relationships and staying connected to each other, including dinner together as many times as possible during the week. 

- Husbands and wives plan dates to focus on your relationship. There's no greater gift you can give your children than a strong, healthy, godly marriage.

Finally, close with prayer by praying a hedge of protection around the family and the calendar. Guard both well.

Everything we do should be done with a grand awareness that God is present everywhere. And everywhere can be a sacred tabernacle - a time-out for time-in His presence. 

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11 NKJV)

Let's don't run from God this year, let's run to Him!




My Pleasure,
Melanie





Thursday, July 10, 2014

Happy Anniversary Living Real

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!

July 10, 2014 marks the 5th anniversary of Living Real Magazine. Wow! What an incredible ride this has been.

There are so many people who have been instrumental in helping with this God-size dream and adventure. Through using their God-given talents and expertise, their deep belief in the mission of the magazine, mixed with lots and lots of faith, God has honored our obedience and catapulted the magazine and the ministry it offers.


Writers, editors, graphic artists, printers, patrons, readers, businesses, etc... have all contributed in various ways to help make Living Real Magazine a very professional, high end publication.

And it's FREE!  

We publish twice a year (Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter). You can find us at various places around town, and on the web. http://www.livingrealmag.com

We couldn't exist without the real stories of South Carolinians who have let us tell their stories; personal stories of how they live out their real faith in Jesus Christ through the good, the bad, and the ugly of life.

Our pages are filled with the faithfulness of God to His children, no matter how difficult life becomes, to encourage others to stay the course, live every moment to the full, to give God the glory in all of life's circumstances, and most importantly, to point to the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Our prayer is that this magazine ministers to you personally. If you are not familiar with Living Real, please visit the website and let us know what you think. You can also keep up with Living Real through our Facebook page and Twitter @melanieshull.

Thank you all for a wonderful, exciting five years. May God bless you and us with many more years of living real.

To God be ALL the glory!

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Monday, July 7, 2014

Listen...and Listen Well

How well do we listen?  Are we always thinking of what we're going to say next as someone is pouring out their heart to us, or are we truly engaged with what the person is saying?

I believe we are all guilty at times of not listening well.

Someone called this past weekend and needed to share something very personal with me. When I answered the phone, I didn't realize I would be listening for 45 minutes, but listening to my friend pour out her heart was well worth my time.

I'm rereading "Twirl" by Patsy Clairmont as I lead a Summer Book Club. The chapter I had just finished before the phone rang had challenged me to be a better listener and friend. I was in awe of what I had just read and prayed about, God was giving me an opportunity to be obedient.  I became the "ears" for someone who needed me to listen...and listen well.

I've been told that I'm a good listener, and although I'm humbled at the compliment,  I have to be honest.  Listening takes effort and concentration.  (Just ask my family. I don't multitask, and if my eyes are not focused on you, then I'm not hearing you.)

Listening well is not an easy task, but a very rewarding one.

 The best listener ever is Jesus. While on earth, Jesus showed His disciples how to listen...and listen well. No one has ever been or ever will be more compassionate or concerned about you or me than Jesus. He knows our hearts before we pour them out before Him.  He understands our concerns before we voice them, and He invites us to bend His ear with whatever is on our minds. He loves us and does not put conditions on His love.

For many who didn't know He was the Messiah, He would engage them in conversation and ask questions which gently led them to their own discovery of His identity and their need for a Savior. First, they would feel remorse for their sins, which moved them to repentance;  believing in Him led them to a changed, and joy-filled life.

Before Jesus was born, His names were prophesied as Wonderful, Counselor... (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV). His wise counsel is incomparable. His wisdom is higher than any other. (Romans 11:33-34)

Jesus is our Shelter, our Refuge, a Strong Tower, a very present help in our time of need. He wants us to trust Him with our heartache, our secrets, our hurts, and He rejoices with us when we rejoice.

How often do people come to you because you proved to be a good listener? Are you someone who truly cares, full of compassion and concern, a safe place for people to spill out their hurts and cares, as well as, rejoice with them when they rejoice?

Even though we don't have all of the answers, we can be Jesus to someone by listening...and listening well. 

After hearing well, we should direct them to the greatest listener, Jesus. Pray with them, search the Scriptures with them, and, if needed, direct them to someone who can give them wise counsel beyond what we are equipped to give.

How well will you listen today?

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. 
                                                                                                                           (Psalm 34:17-18 NKJV)

My Pleasure,
Melanie