Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"To Be" in 2016


So many thoughts tumbling through my mind as 2015 comes to a close. Many difficult lessons have been learned and many decisions made. Loved ones have gone and new normals are slowly being adjusted to. Still, many lessons are yet to be learned and many more decisions have to be made, but as the door is closing on 2015, my prayer is that the next one is opening our hearts with a renewed, sincere, and fresh desire to be.

To be more like Christ in all we say and all we do. 
To decrease so He can increase in and through our lives. (John 3:30)

As each day, week, and month is planned, look for Christ in every moment and every detail. Seek to intentionally engage in things that allow for space to become more like Him.




Through using our gifts, we are pointing people to Jesus, leading them to love Him deeper, and to know Him more.



Tracing His faithfulness through our own personal stories, and the stories of others, helps us tell His story of redemption, love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.



Studying His Word more often and deeper helps us grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ and, applying His Scriptural principles in the crazy, daily stuff of life, helps others see Christ in us.


Won't you join me in 2016 with a deep and genuine desire to be more like Christ? Our world doesn't need anything more than more people being Christ to them.

Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:17 NKJV)

My Pleasure, and Happy New Year!
Melanie

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Spreading Christmas Cheer Throughout the Year


With Christmas Day 2015 a mere memory, and the New Year just around the corner, what is it we need to do to keep Christmas the whole year through?

In the days leading up to Christmas, we've tried hard to keep the reason for the season in perspective. I read with group of women a book learning more about the women of Christmas. My husband and I followed an Advent blog. I read the Christmas story in Luke 2 throughout the week, and early on, I hung the words, "Fear not," in my kitchen window to remind my family of the calm Christ brings into all the world.

Sitting here by the Christmas tree, I'm aware that Christ is definitely in it all!

He's in the gifts. His story is on the tree. The nativity is in the nook in the brick wall. He's in the lights. His radiant reflection sparkles in the glitter bows. He's in every moment and in every detail.


The Christ of Christmas filled in all the shadows prophesied of old and brought into focus the reality of the new.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)

With the new though, also came a shadow. The shadow of a cross. The Messiah in the manger would become our Savior on the cross.

Jesus was born to die.

Jesus was born to redeem.

Jesus was born to resurrect.

Jesus was born to save.

This is what we carry into the days ahead. This is what life is about - His birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection. The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for all people.

The message of Christmas is salvation through Jesus Christ.

Let's carry God's Gift, His Son, forward into 2016, spreading Christmas cheer all through the year!

My Pleasure,
Melanie




Monday, December 21, 2015

Sunday Scribbles: The Stars in the Sky...




The unknown author of two simple lines from the English carol, Away in a Manger, never knew how these words would come to life for me today.

The stars in the sky look down where he lay.
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The words of this Christmas lullaby have grasped my heart anew in a much deeper and powerful way. The stars in the sky didn't just twinkle, they were divinely aligned in a miraculous way as to create the brilliant Star of Bethlehem. Specifically designed to point the people to the Messiah, the King of kings, on the exact day and at the exact time on the Jewish calendar that any new earthly king would have been presented to the Jewish people during the festival of trumpets.



Christmas is the announcement of the birth and presentation of THE King of kings and Lord of lords born on that holy night under the Star of wonder.

Did you know that the billions and billions of stars in the sky tell God's Story of Redemption from beginning to end?

Did you know that God knows every one of them by name and holds them perfectly in place so we can see His glory and know His story?

Before the beginning of time, and before our Creator God put the stars in place, He already had a magnificent plan in His unfathomable mind. Before man was formed, the heavens were declaring the glory of God. After man was formed, the heavens have continued to declare the glory of God.

Why were the stars and planets created? Let's look at Genesis 1:14.

Then God said, "Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years;

So what are the stars in the heavens proclaiming? Psalm 19:1-4 says this:

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world.

What is the glory of God?

The Scriptures tell us, The Son is the radiance of God's glory. (Hebrews 1:3)

Jesus Christ is the glory of God!

The dwelling place of the stars and galaxies beyond have been proclaiming God's glory, His Son, for all eternity. God created the stars for a specific reason. His story told with their light has underscored the brilliance of Jesus being called the Bright Morning Star for me than ever before. Their light reaches to the ends of the earth for all to watch the story of redemption unfold. AMAZING!

Each of the 12 constellations tells a portion of this story of Christ. During specific seasons, certain constellations can be seen revealing their part of the story. Since the foundation of the world, the starry story unfolds every year in the night sky.

Seth (Abraham's son) was one of the first to study the stars, and every astronomer since, no matter the country or language of the star gazer, on earth or from space, the stars have always told the same incredible story, pointing all people to the radiance of God's glory, His Son, Jesus.

I cannot explain the entire story in the stars to you in a short blog, but the goal of my Sunday Scribbles is to encourage you to go deeper through something that took me deeper. The stars in the sky were what God used today to catapult my heart into places I've never been before.

To see and hear a portion of the story, go to https://storyinthestars.com and watch the trailer.

God's story is magnificent. It's miraculous. It's glorious. It's brilliant!

And He wrote it for you and me!

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Thursday, December 17, 2015

It's the Week Before Christmas and So Much to Do



How are you approaching Christmas? With anticipation? With dread? The shopping, gift and card lists, wrapping, baking, parties, church events, school plays, etc... can make the season quite overwhelming, crowding out the joy.

So how do we stay focused on the real Gift of Christmas?

I love it all, but I've also learned through the years to keep it all in perspective. Jesus' birthday can be an elaborate celebration with many people by your side, or a simple laid back day of rejoicing with one or two around the tree. As long as the focus is the birth of Christ, being overwhelmed with the stuff of Christmas will be trumped by the Savior of Christmas.

Here are a few ideas to help us stay focused:



Every gift wrapped represents God's Gift wrapped in swaddling clothes - His Son.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7)


Every song resounds the Heavenly host announcing the Savior's birth.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace good will toward men." (Luke 2: 13-14)


Every light represents heaven and earth celebrating the long-awaited Savior, 
the Light of the world.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12 NIV)


Every person in our path represents a soul who needs a Savior.

But the angel said to them, "Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, 
which shall be to all people." (Luke 2:10)


Every cake baked represents the goodness of our great God.

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8 NIV)

God gives us grace to experience His Gift in each and every moment all through the year.

Let's make the most of this sacred season by weaving His Story into everything we do, allowing Christmas to come alive with wonder, comfort and joy.

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Monday, December 7, 2015

Fear Not; Calm Down




Draped across my kitchen window this Christmas are what I believe to be the two most powerful words spoken after the seemingly empty 400 years of silence.  Fear not.

Each time the angel Gabriel appeared to announce the long-awaited birth of the Messiah, he spoke these words directly from the lips and presence of God Almighty.

Fear not.






Spoken directly to Zechariah, "Fear not, Zechariah." (Luke 1:13)
To Mary, "Fear not, Mary," (Luke 1:30) 
To Joseph. "Joseph, son of David, fear not." (Matthew 1:20)

And to us. "Fear not, ____________." (Insert your own name.)

Having a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus, brings those powerful words to life. We can truly fear not because of God's indescribable peace. We don't have to live in fear of literally anything, especially death and uncertain times. His peace goes beyond all human understanding and we cannot logically explain it. Until you receive it, by grace through faith, you'll never "get it."

What a Christmas gift! The gift of peace. A gift we are all offered and can receive.

To receive requires the simple act of believing, and then, by faith, saying, "Yes" to God and His gift of salvation.

The peace spoken about in the Scriptures is a peace that manifests in our spirit. It's God's gift of settling, of calming us down. It creates a new mind-set of complete trust. Peace comes from trusting the One who is in complete control. Peace is knowing without a doubt that God is working in the heavenly realms, hidden from the human eye, for our good and His glory.

The cover of the Daily News the day after the latest terror shootings in California said, "GOD IS NOT FIXING THIS", with references to several presidential candidate's Twitter messages who had called on all who will to pray for our nation.

This just furthers the fact that those without the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ many times respond to those who do with ridicule from hearts without hope, full of fear, and a lack of peace. Receiving God's greatest gift ever, salvation through His Son Jesus Christ, gives us the freedom to walk every day of this life in His presence.  And, in His presence, there is peace.

Sure, we may not see the whole picture as God does, circumstances can be grim and dangerous, but we can rest in the hope that He is coming again. He will reign with truth and grace, and perfect peace forever and ever. Amen.

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Prepare Him Room - Hope for His Coming Again!


I love these hand painted ornaments of the Nativity because my husband painted them when he was a child. I reserve a special place on our den tree every year to display the simple wooden nativity.

Childhood memories play such an important role in how we view and celebrate the birth of our Savior. I'm sure many of your ornaments have stories to go along with them as well.

 But this Advent season I want us not to just dwell in the past. I want us to also anticipate the future.

The first Advent was the anticipation of our Messiah's birth. A people of hope awaiting His first arrival.

Since before the beginning of time, God had a plan. A supreme, sovereign plan to redeem the world. He promised a Savior, the One who would save the people from their sins (Matt. 1:21) and restore their relationship to God, the Father.

After the last prophecy spoken and 400 years of silence, the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4) had come. The sacred swelling of history into the climatic moment of the delivery of the Divine. The holy, glorious birth of the Messiah was near and had been announced through God's messenger, the angel Gabriel - first to Zachariah, then to Mary, and then to Joseph.

Prepare Him room! 

The time has come!

The second Advent is for those who await with great anticipation the Messiah's return! The Hope of all who believe! Once Jesus came to earth and started His ministry, He began sharing about His return. He challenged us to be alert, prepared, always anticipating His next and last arrival. The final fullness of time.

I'm semi keeping up with an Advent blog in which a timeless Christmas carol was explained. I was so glad to know that someone else has also thought about the words to this widely known hymn because they don't make sense with the just the first Advent.
The hymn? Joy to the World, the Lord Is Come. It's more specifically about the second Advent. It proclaims the return of Christ when He will rule a new heaven and a new earth as King of kings and Lord of Lords.

Yes, Christmas is a celebration of Christ's birth, but let's don't forget we are hoping and waiting for His return. God has not been silent since Jesus came. Even after His ascension into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, God continues to speak through His Son, the Holy Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit to help us grow up in our faith and prepare for His long-awaited return. He has called all of us to proclaim Him among the nations - to preach the gospel and make His story of hope and redemption known.

How can we prepare Him room this season? How will we proclaim His story, His good news?

We first have to clear the room to make room by confessing of our sins and turning away from what hinders our relationship with Christ. Accept His forgiveness. Having the room (our heart) clean is the first step.

The next step is maintenance -keep the room clean - always ready. The key is asking the Spirit to keep us alert, and to search our hearts of any actions or attitudes that are out of character with being a new creation in Christ Jesus. Sin dims our light in the world. It hinders our ability to tell God's Story and live it well. Cleaning it out keeps the Light shining bright.

As we celebrate the birthday of the King this Christmas, why not prepare Him room with excitement and anticipation in our hearts for His return. Let's be ready, waiting for the next and final swelling of time as He comes again to redeem all of the earth, bringing with Him those who have gone before us, saved by the blood of the Lamb, to rule a new heaven and new earth with truth and grace!

Joy to the world! The Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the earth the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy, repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sin and sorrow grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found, far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love, and wonders of His love
And wonders, wonders of His love.

(George Friedrich Handel, adapted by Isaac Watts)

Come, Lord Jesus! Come!

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

In All Circumstances, With Thanksgiving, IN-Joy



More families than I can count are entering the holiday season inside of circumstances that are very difficult. Being thankful and joyful are the last things on their minds, and many don't even want to face the holidays because it's just too hard.

Our family has had an unprecedented year of grief. We've lost a "daughter" (best friend of our daughter's), another family friend (another of our daughter's best friend's dad), and our last parent/grandparent (Rick's mom), and the just this week, a very dear family friend.

Along with the grief, a close aunt has had a massive stroke, and recently, another has fallen and broken her hip.

Seems everywhere we look people are hurting.

Inside of difficult circumstances, it's hard to see what we deem as good because all we see is what we deem as bad. It's the natural human response to hardships. We give ourselves permission to determine what is good and what is bad. But with God, all things work together for our good and His glory.

All things. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

The ugly is the scene in Indiana where a 28 year old, pregnant pastor's wife is brutally raped and murdered while her 18 month old is upstairs asleep in his bed.

The ugly is the mass murders of innocent people in Paris, Mali, and worldwide by the evil black hearts of radical Islamic terrorists.

How do we give thanks and rejoice in the face of horrific times in the world and in our own personal worlds of heartache?

In a much used passage to encourage and challenge believers, Paul, who has endured more hardships than many of us will ever experience, shares the sacred ingredient of living a joy-full life.

I call it IN-Joy.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (I Thessalonians 5: 16-18 NIV, emphasis mine)

We are not asked to give thanks for all circumstances, just to give thanks in all circumstances. The suffering is a result of sin in a fallen world.  Since we live in a fallen world, to experience true joy and peace in Christ Jesus, we must give thanks in all things.

So as you move into the holiday season, prepare Him room to bring you the true joy of the season by being grateful in all that comes your way. A grateful heart is the sacred key to IN-joying life on earth!

My Pleasure,
Melanie




Monday, November 23, 2015

Sunday Scribbles - Sacrifice November 2015



During the month of November our pastor challenges us to "sacrifice" something that would be difficult to let go of. Some sacrifice coffee. Some sacrifice social media. Some sacrifice TV or going out to eat. Whatever is sacrificed is designed to help draw us closer to the Father and to focus on Him, His goodness, His greatness, and His ultimate sacrifice for the the souls of all people of which our sacrifices can never compare.

As I sat Sunday listening to testimonies of God's incredible goodness in the lives of people in our local body of believers, I thought about my lack of sacrifice during November. I felt a little guilty because I had not specifically given up anything.

Last year I gave up Facebook for a month and it was well worth it. The time I usually spent posting or scrolling was put to much better use of things like being in the Word more, writing more, praying more, etc...



But this year, what had I to show for November sacrifice? Nothing.

Then I realized that the sacrifice God had allowed me to make had not been scheduled or pre-planned. It just happened and much earlier than expected.

During September and October I had given up something very difficult to let go of, precious time with my husband, so he could care for his mom. I didn't realize what a sacrifice it truly was until it was all over and my precious mother-in-law was gone from us. Not only did I sacrifice, but Rick did even more.

Life as we knew it, the life we take for granted every day, was placed on hold while our focus turned to caring for our last living parent on earth. For 40 days and 40 nights my husband, his mother's only child, spent all of his time with her. Now I know there are many wives who would balk at this, and I had my moments, but God allowed me to watch something beautiful during those eight weeks that I already knew existed between this son and his mother. As I was totally engaged with my husband in assisting with her care, God pulled back the curtain so I could witness this scene of pure, selfless LOVE of a son giving back to the one who loves him like no one else can.

As each night approached, when possible, I would give Rick a break so he could go home and shower, eat a bite, and maybe spend a few quiet moments alone. Then I would return home to an empty house. Nights were the hardest.

Rick put his life on hold to love his mother with everything he had in him through those horrific eight weeks, including two very difficult weeks in the hospital. Her darkest hours of need were where he and I had to sacrifice the most. Tough? You bet.

But so worth it.

These brief moments of sacrifice have given me a renewed, grateful heart for my better half. It has reminded me of the priceless gift Rick is to me and our family, one I far too often take for granted. A beautiful gift of a godly husband, given to me through answered prayer, who has loved me purely and sacrificially, every single day of our 30 years of marriage. Blessed indeed!

After two months plus of watching our children's Mimi suffer, and sacrificing time away from one another, on the afternoon of October 31, 2015, God's ordained time for her on earth ended. With Rick by her side, she breathed her last breath. Peacefully, Jesus welcomed her home.

On the eve of our church family's challenge to sacrifice, God began honoring ours by bringing my husband back home, having answered our prayers for mercy on his mom. We've hugged a lot, whispered, "I love you" more often, and continue to reflect on the fact that we can never out sacrifice our amazing God.

God is faithful in all things. God is good in all things...

and all is grace!

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"You'll Go Down In HIStory"


Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

Ephesians 3:20-21 is a doxology, verses of praise, adoration and affirmation as to who Jesus is. It proves that our divine purpose, our immeasurably more, has absolutely nothing to do with who we are in our finite human flesh, but it's all about who He is in His glorious, infinite power which lives in us and works through us, through the Holy Spirit.

That's a mouth full, but it's true!

We have been intricately crafted by the Master Creator to be and do immeasurably more - to go down in HIStory.

Remember the last line from the popular children's Christmas song, Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer? Sing it with me. "You'll go down in hi-sto-ry."

This may sound crazy, but this song lyric got me thinking about how our stories are really brief chapters in the telling of God's grand story of redemption. So, I used this idea to kick-off the HABC Women's retreat weekend in Charleston, SC.  I used what I called The Red Nose Navigation Technique to help them grasp their immeasurably more in HIStory.

Here's how it worked:

I challenged each lady as we watched the famous children's animated movie to answer some questions specifically designed to navigate through the life of a fictional reindeer character with a very special gift. Through this fun-filled evening (and yes, we wore Christmas PJs for Friday evening's session) we learned how to navigate and discover Rudolph's ultimate purpose, his immeasurably more...

- to save Christmas using his gift, to meet the needs of the misfit toys by finding them homes, and modeling forgiveness and showing kindness to those who had mistreated him. Rudolph's difficult circumstances led him to discover his purpose. He went down in history because he unwrapped and used his special gifting for the ultimate good of others.

Saturday's session was getting down to business and digging into the Word of God, but using the same navigation technique from the night before. We asked the same probing questions to navigate through the life of Joseph in Genesis 37-45, unwrapping his special gift of dream interpretation which eventually, through difficult circumstances, helped him discover his ultimate purpose, his immeasurably more...

- to save the world, including his family, from starvation, forgiving those who had mistreated him, and using his gifts for the ultimate good of others. We saw how through his faith and obedience to God he was placed in positions of leadership. Joseph knew that the difficult circumstances he found himself in were how God worked out Joseph's immeasurably more in HIStory. The parallels were amazing and it was such a fun way to help the ladies uncover layers of Scripture. Lots of "Ah-ha" moments!

The final session on Sunday morning was the unwrapping of our own stories and sharing them with each other. Using the Red Nose Navigation Technique, we asked ourselves the same navigation questions and traced God's hand through our own personal journeys so far. Many shared their difficult circumstances and began to see how God is orchestrating them for their good and His glory.

Specifically designed by God (Psalm 139), each of us has been gifted with talents that only we can use in our sphere of influence in this time in HIStory. As we unwrap our talents and spiritual gifts, we begin to see how obedience and faith are the key ingredients to impacting our generation for God's glory now and into eternity.


  • Faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, is the qualifier that puts us in HIStory.


  • Obedience is action that proves our faith to the world. 


Jesus is the Author of our salvation and the Finisher of our faith. He knows our life stories from beginning to end. He compels us to move forward through our salvation journeys, trusting Him even when we can't see what's up ahead - in the difficult trials of life. It's like flying an airplane into complete darkness, or a thick fog. As Joeli Mulligan so beautifully described through her drama, our vision is hindered by circumstances out of our control. The only way to come through the dark places is to trust the voice in our ear from the tower - the one who sees the whole picture, and rely on the instruments to guide us to safety.

The voice in the believer's ear is the Holy Spirit and our instrument is His Word that gives us valuable information in directing our course. God sees the bigger picture and we must trust Him to bring us through.

As our faith grows stronger and we take more and more steps of obedience, we will overflow with His immeasurably more, radiating His glory to all around us.

Happy Navigating!

My Pleasure,
Melanie




Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sunday Scribbles: The Joy of Better


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, (2 Corinthians 1:3a NIV) 

Scribbling down thoughts on suffering Sunday led me to share some of them with you - why we suffer, and how to move through suffering with joy. Not joy like most people think of joy, but with a deep, inexpressible, divine joy of contentment, courage, and confidence.

It's really difficult to put into words how one can be filled with joy in the midst of suffering, but as believers in Jesus Christ mature, we learn to look at our suffering through the lens of Christ's sufferings, and how "for the joy set before Him," He endured the unimaginable suffering of the cross.

For the joy set before Him... (Hebrews 12:2)

The mindset of Christ is what we need to work towards as we pass through all kinds of suffering in this life. Our focus needs to be on the joy set before us and not merely on the circumstances we find ourselves in.

The indescribable joy I'm talking about comes only from the comfort we receive from the Savior of the world. The Savior who chose to put on flesh and walk among us. A Savior who left the glory of heaven for the gory of the cross. A Savior who took on our sin and who suffered on a level we will never fully comprehend. The wrath of God was satisfied through our Savior's suffering. This was the joy set before Him - healing our broken relationship with the Father which had been completely severed by sin.

His kind of joy produces patience to endure our sufferings, allows us to rest in Him knowing we're not alone, and increases our faith in knowing will be fine in the midst of and on the other side of our difficult circumstances. What our healing looks like is not for us to decide. It will look like whatever brings the most glory back to God Almighty.

The more trust we deposit into our relationship with Christ, the more joy we receive in return.

...Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (2 Corinthians 1:4, capitalization mine) 

The suffering we endure on earth is also used by God to spill comfort over into the lives of others as they suffer. Our suffering is never in vain. We also bring glory to God when we comfort people in their time of distress.

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. (2 Corinthians 1:5)

God doesn't cause suffering in our lives, but He uses it to refine us and mold us into more of a radiant image of His Son on earth.  Our suffering, and our response to suffering, can be used to point others to Christ and the comfort only He can bring.

Focusing on ourselves will make us bitter in our suffering, but when we're Christ-focused, our suffering will make us better. Better equipped, better in our Christ-like character, better in our attitudes, better at believing, better at trusting, better at loving others, just better... all the way around.

Watching someone suffer whom we love deeply can also make us bitter if we allow ourselves to lose focus. How we respond to their suffering can also make us better if we remain firm in the faith, and keep our eyes on Jesus. This is the suffering we are experiencing as a family right now. Our prayer is that God will make us better as we watch our loved one suffer, who will more than likely not get physically better, but will ultimately be healed in the presence of Jesus.

Suffering grows us up in our faith and strips us of our belief in self sufficiency. It helps us realize we are not in control of life. It causes us to examine what really matters, grows our prayer life as we learn to pray more intentionally and specifically. It also increases our understanding through godly wisdom, in our surrender, to be better equipped to walk alongside others as they suffer.

For those who are walking with us through our time of suffering, this is the Scripture we're praying over you...

And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:7 NIV)

This brings us joy!

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Spontaneous Date


A Saturday spent together is an absolute gift. Rick and I have been so exhausted by the end of each day lately that we barely have enough energy to carry on a conversation. But today, we had a much needed spontaneous date.

Spontaneous dates are not written on a calendar, planned in advance, nor do they come with any expectations. They just happen.

We started out our day surprised that we were able to head out to our usual Saturday morning breakfast spot. It's been six weeks since we last ate Saturday morning breakfast out. I thought Rick would head to the hospital early and he thought I wanted to sleep in since I wasn't feeling well. With no conversation about what our day would hold the night before, neither of us knew what the other had planned.

After breakfast we spent a few hours at the hospital, then did a little shopping at the mall, and ended up eating a late afternoon lunch downtown. Next, we grabbed a few groceries and headed home.

The fall day was absolutely beautiful and just being together made it even more special.

Simple gifts are the best gifts. As my mom used to quote quite often, "Today is a gift. That's why they call it the present."

Thank You, Lord, for our gift today. Your present to us of being together was just what we needed. Unwrapping our unexpected, unplanned moments were simply refreshing and satisfying. May we never take Your simple gifts for granted. 

My Pleasure,
Melanie






Friday, October 23, 2015

Diagnosis: A Broken Heart



After weeks witnessing a flood of tears like we've never seen before and caring for his mom 24/7, my husband was able to sleep in our bed again for the first time in 40 days and 40 nights. That's right. Just like Noah and the flood.

My mother-in-law is in a crisis and it's not over yet. We've watched tears continuously stream down the face of this very sad soul as she continues to grieve after more than a year. With box after box of tissues, we've tried to console her for weeks, but to no avail. Her sadness has pushed her into crisis mode.

Grief that is allowed to take up residence and settle into the deep crevices of a broken heart can become debilitating, and it's very hard to watch. It causes one to become completely hopeless, helpless, and lost without direction or purpose. It affects all aspects of life and the person literally begins to wither away.

My mother-in-law is lost without her husband of almost 63 years. Where you saw one you usually saw the other. They were inseparable. Watching him battle cancer for three years was very tough on her and, even up to the last moment, she seemed to never grasp the fact that he was going to die.

It has been a year and four and a half months since his passing. She has never really accepted his death. She has not moved forward though she has put up somewhat a good front.

These last weeks of taking care of her have revealed a deep level of distress and have opened our eyes to what has really been going on in her broken heart. Her behavior has confirmed our dreaded fear that she has never gotten past the grief. Some physical evidence sounded the alarm that something was very wrong. I've never observed anyone go down hill so fast.

After a week lying in a hospital bed, her doctors are still puzzled as to why she has declined at such a rapid pace. They have their opinions, but no test pinpoints anything physically wrong. There are signs of a rare form of rapid dementia and some mini strokes. And though her vitals continue to identify her as a strong little woman, all of her actions, including no desire to eat or drink, stem from something breaking down in the brain.

I'm no doctor, but I know a broken heart when I see one and hers is completely broken in two. Like a friend said, "The jelly doesn't know what to do without the peanut butter." They were so blended together that she is totally lost without him. Even with people all around her, she's just so sad and so lonely.

But even grief is not without purpose. Jesus promises that we will suffer, but in our suffering we can have joy. As James 1:2 NKJV says, " Count if all joy when you fall into various trials." Suffering and trials are the testing of our faith. Even watching someone suffer is a form of suffering. Our faith is being tested, tried and proven as well.

Suffering is part of the process of perfecting our faith, increasing our patience. There's work that needs to be accomplished to refine us into the image of Christ - the radiance of God's glory (Heb. 1:3). We must be patient in enduring the suffering.

Our understanding of suffering comes from different levels of maturity. James 1:5 says if we lack wisdom, then we should ask for it, but we should ask for it in faith without doubting. Suffering is the key to maturity in Christ. All suffering doesn't look the same, but all suffering is for the same purpose - to grow us up in the faith.

What lies before the believer is living in His eternal presence forever with no more pain, no more tears, no more heartache, no more disease, no more hurt, no more suffering. It's Heaven!

Broken hearts are what Christ died for - hearts broken by sin, but healed by a Savior.

No matter how God works it all out for this sweet woman we love and adore, we know her heart will be forever healed by the healing hand of God. But, in the meantime, we must pray for wisdom and be patient.

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Monday, October 5, 2015

Just Like Noah





As my State of South Carolina has been through one of the worst floods ever recorded in this area, its hard to wrap our minds around the devastation caused by water. Though my family is safe in their respective homes, all around us lives are forever changed.

We've only experienced three days of flooding. Noah experienced 40 days and 40 nights. The entire world was flooded, never to be the same again. The promise of God to never destroy the world by flood again has proven true, but the flooding in small portions of the world reminds us that we are not invincible. We are fragile. Life is but a breath, a vapor in terms of eternity.

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6:8 NKJV)

The Scriptures go on to say that Noah walked with God. (Genesis 6:9b)

Preceding the first rain ever in the history of time, Noah was faithful to God. Noah listened to God. Noah was obedient to God. Noah worshiped God.

In the midst of the sinful perversion in the world, God honored Noah's faithfulness by giving him instructions on building an Ark. Then God honored his obedience in building the ark by providing His protection inside the ark. God said to Noah, "Come into the ark and all your household because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation." (Gen. 7:1)

Noah brought his family and two of every kind of bird and animal, clean and unclean, into the ark as God told him.

For 40 days and 40 nights of torrential rains and wind, the ark, filled with Noah's family and animals, bumped, rocked and floated through massive waters and debris that we can only imagine. After the rain had ceased, God used the wind to dry out the forever changed landscape of the earth, receded the waters and set the ark on Mount Ararat. When it was safe to exit the ark, Noah worshiped the God he served by building an altar. He sacrificed from every clean bird and animal before the Lord and He was very pleased. God sent the first rainbow shaped in an arc to symbolize His historic covenant to all mankind and every living creature was to never flood the earth destroying every living thing in its entirety again. He still reminds us of His covenant today.



Why do natural disasters happen? I truly believe to turn our hearts toward the One, true God (Jehovah, Yahweh) and to remind us that Jesus Christ is Lord. To set our minds on what truly matters. To help us see the fragility of life, and that we are only on this earth for a short time to fulfill our purpose in our generation - to lead people to Jesus Christ, to love God and love others deeply. We are truly helpless and hopeless without a Savior. Life is temporal, but souls are eternal. All souls need the saving grace of a loving Savior. God's favor and grace descends on the righteous, those covered by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, and who are surrendered to His Lordship in their lives. We all have the choice to choose Him or to not choose Him. I choose Jesus!

Jesus is our Ark as we rock, bump and live through the hard, the hurt, and disasters on earth.

Is God finding us righteous and faithful in our generation amidst the perversion, sinfulness, the complete dismissal of God's Word ,and the refusal to acknowledge Jesus as Lord? Are we living obedient lives, listening, and following His voice through the instruction of His Word? Is God finding us faithful in the midst of ridicule, standing up for Truth, willing to die for what we believe?

Let's be focused on the building up of the Body of Christ so when the final destruction of this earth comes we will be clothed, covered and protected inside the ark of His righteousness...
just like Noah.

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sunday Scribbles : Bumfuzzled and Baffled


I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the people of First Baptist Elloree, SC. The conversation style sermon series the pastor had invited me to join was a very worthwhile experience and one I learned and grew from. I so appreciate all of you who prayed for me.

But, I was quite bumfuzzled when the pastor told me, and also his congregation, that I was way more prepared for my "Conversation" in his four week sermon series than any of the other guests that had preceded me. Really?

We're watching a society and world where Romans 1 is unfolding right before our eyes. We're living in an exciting time in history as we remain alert and await the return of Christ, but spiritual leaders must take spiritual matters seriously to help the Church prepare for His arrival.


It baffles me to think that possibly some in leadership positions would consider glossing over the hours needed for preparation so as to not misspeak or mishandle the truth of God's Word, begging God to help them speak His truth with grace and wisdom, seasoned with salt, or even asking others to pray for them.

The Church is facing some serious crossroads and we need to wrap all we do in love, bathe everything in prayer, be wise with our words, be knowledgeable of the Word, prepared and ready to stand on Truth alone as well as be ready to die for Truth alone.

We are not given spiritual and natural gifts just to let them lie dormant. Our days were ordained for us before we were even born. (Psalm 139) We are but a breath in the eternal existence of God Almighty. We don't have time to mess around and mishandle our responsibilities. Flippant attitudes hurt the heart of God.

As leaders, we are held to a higher standard because of the sphere of influence God has entrusted us with. Until we recognize the significance of our purpose in God's Grand Story of Redemption, we will continue to be lackadaisical in our efforts to fulfill our purposes, shrugging off our responsibilities, misleading those placed under our watch, and ineffective for the kingdom.

It's past time to step it up. It's past time for Church leadership to dig in and truly lead God's people in the path of righteousness. It's past time for us to be in the trenches battling for the hearts and souls of God's people so they are challenged to fulfill their purposes as well within the Body of Christ.

It's past time to let go of the insanity of what isn't working, and get back to the truth of God's Word, preaching it unapologetically, proclaiming Christ and Christ alone, and holding all leadership to a standard of Scriptural accountability that lines up with character, integrity and Christlikeness.

The hearts of people are crying out for real spiritual leaders to lead real spiritual lives. Every time we are given the opportunity to speak, teach, lead, evangelize, disciple, mentor, etc... it's a BIG deal in the eyes of Christ. No appointment should be taken lightly. No one plays a tiny role, and no role is valued less than another's in the Body of Believers.

If the Church is going to infect our godless society with the holiness of Christ, we have to be committed to walk by faith, to live by faith, and to grow up in our faith. Our job as spiritual leaders is to lead by example, and our Example is Jesus Christ.

My Pleasure,
Melanie








Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Humility, Honor, and a Servant Heart



My favorite season begins today! A hint of fall slips in with a little nip in the air, lower temps and much lower humidity. Love it! I breathe a little deeper as the breeze whispers, "Change is on the way."

Our family is experiencing a different kind of change these days as we take care of an aging parent, again. Fall 2015 marks a new season for us. A season that has blown in fast and furious; definitely not with a whisper.

It's our season of making some tough choices, caring for someone who has lived their life caring for us, and deciding how to best do that with honor and dignity.

I've watched the love of my life tend to his mother with the utmost care and concern over the last two weeks. It's hard because he's with her all of the time, and when I relieve him he just goes home for a few hours and is back again seeing that her needs are being met the best way he knows how.

He is a beautiful picture of Christlikeness serving his mom with humility, honor, a deep love, and a tender heart.

God continues to show me why He chose Rick for me to marry, and my love for him continues to grow deeper every single day. Through his love, tenderness, goodness, patience, kindness, and mercy, he leads our family well. It's an incredible honor to be his wife and the mother of our children. Watching my husband serve his mom has been exhausting but such a pleasure. He truly lives what he teaches, and God will honor his obedience.

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Cultural Controversies, Faith and Real Conversations

In just a week and a few days, I will be conversing with a SC pastor in front of his congregation for a September Sunday morning sermon series about some very controversial topics infiltrating our culture and the Church today. I'm still not sure what God is thinking about using me in this capacity, or what He's up to, but I will say, I'm very excited about this opportunity and pray fervently for the conversation to point all who hear it to Jesus and His Word.

Q. What makes a topic controversial?

A. Deeply seeded beliefs, whether based on truth or not, that force people to take sides.

In his September sermon series, Pastor Bryan Fields has chosen to discuss some tough issues with four leaders in today's Church, a different one each Sunday, all serving the Church in different capacities.

If you could choose the topics for me to tackle concerning our culture and the Church, what would they be? Well, I thought about this and let's just say, I knew I would get these:

1. Women and their role in church leadership, especially in the Southern Baptist Convention
2. Same-Sex Marriage
3. Abortion

You're probably thinking, "Boy, I'm glad that's not me!" But my heart is singing, "Thank You, Lord, for choosing me! I'm no expert on any of the above, but You are. I humbly accept the challenge, and will search what Your Word says, and then seek to explain Your Truth well, boldly and courageously, seasoned with wisdom and grace."

Over the next 11 days, please pray for me in your personal WAR ROOMS. Do battle with me and for me so the enemy has to flee. The desired result from each conversation is for our eyes and hearts to be open to God's truth, receive it, believe it, and live it.

Want to attend the conversation(s)? The series began last Sunday, 9/13 and run through 9/27. My conversation takes place Sunday, 9/27 @ 10:30 am at First Baptist Church in Elloree, SC. I would love to see you there.

My Pleasure,
Melanie






Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Desperate Need for War Rooms

If you haven't seen the Kendrick brothers' new movie, WAR ROOM, I beg you to go.
Powerful. Intentional. Holds nothing back. Watch the trailer at warroomthemovie.com.

This movie affirmed in my heavy heart that praying without ceasing in the in-between spaces of my daily grind is a great thing, but it also revealed an immediate need for a tangible, intentional space to do battle in. I need a WAR ROOM.

Today has especially been a battle day and I know why. Anytime I'm preparing to teach the Word of God, Satan comes at me hard. Today he came at me with church calendar planning. Satan isn't happy with all that is strategically planned to point people to Jesus, so he's trying to cause conflict, but he's not going to win!

Satan's also attacking my husband by wearing him down as he deals with his aging mom. Today of all days, as he is preparing to kick-off his men's Bible study fall group, he sat with her in doctors' offices all day long. But, the enemy can just go back to his crummy corner and leave. us. alone!

Satan has a well thought out strategy to defeat us. His goal is to steal, kill, and destroy anyone who may seek or is seeking after Jesus Christ. (John 10:10) He attacks where we are weak, where we seem most vulnerable. Why? Because He knows that people who seek Jesus, find Jesus. And those who find Him share His truth with others. Where Truth dwells, our ability to defeat sin excels!

Satan also knows that he can't have those of us who belong to Jesus Christ, but he still tries to defeat us through stealing our joy, destroying our families, and throwing his darts at us wherever and whenever we let our guard down.

So, people, there is a real need for real WAR ROOMS (tangible prayer closets) in every Christian home.

A spiritual WAR ROOM is an appointed place, free from distractions, where spiritual strategies are designed for defeating Satan's schemes, and where heart-wrenching, knee-bending battle takes place. Where prayers ascend, Scripture is searched, the Spirit whispers, truth is claimed and Jesus is proclaimed. It's where battles are won!

I'm heading to my newly cleaned out WAR ROOM now as I submit to the authority of Jesus Christ, open His Word and pray. I need a good strategy as my husband and I prepare to enter this season of teaching, equipping and discipling for God's glory. Jesus has already won the war. I just need Him to fight these hard, daily battles for me and defeat the relentless enemy seeking to steal my joy.

Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. (James 4:7-8 NIV)

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Encouragement: A Spiritual Pro-biotic


"Jesus is your strength! You can do this! Stay strong!
Be brave! God's got you!"

Has anyone ever spoken or written words of encouragement to help you push through something difficult? Words are strong. Words soothe. Words linger. Words heal.

Hebrews 3:13 tells us to encourage each other daily. But, the author of Hebrews doesn't stop there. He continues: as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. 

Encourage on purpose.

I have a treasure chest overflowing with cards filled with encouraging, lingering, healing words. These personal, hand-written notes have helped me over the years to stay in the race, to encourage others more, and to enjoy the journey.


Life is hard. The result of a fallen world existing under the consequences of sin. If allowed, the hard of life can harden our hearts toward the goodness of God. If our focus remains on our circumstances for too long, we will take our eyes off of the good, loving, grace of Jesus and turn our hearts toward bitterness, anger, and sin's deceitfulness.  A miserable existence.

Encouragement is powerful.

When our sisters and brothers in Christ give us encouragement, they are giving us a type of spiritual "pro-biotic" needed to fight off the contamination of sin, thwart the lies of the enemy, and improve our spiritual health. Receive it with grace and a grateful heart.

Because we are not here on this earth for long, we should embrace life, find joy in the moment, give thanks in all things, and live life to the fullest through loving Christ deeply and making Him known.

God offers encouragement to us every day through the power of His Word. When we bask in His presence, we can face anything this life throws at us. In His strength, yes, we can.

Today, in Hebrews 13:3, refers to the present. No one is promised tomorrow. As long as we have breath for Today, daily encouragement is needed, and should be given, to help us to live strong, be brave, full of joy and courage, resisting a bitter spirit, anger, or a sense of defeat.

I hope this has encouraged you to encourage another Today.

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (Hebrews 12:15 NIV)

My Pleasure,
Melanie







Monday, August 24, 2015

Sunday Scribbles - Crush 'Em! Part Two


You shall have no other gods before Me. Exodus 20:3 NKJV

Not much scribbling on paper yesterday because much is already being impressed on my mind by the whispers of the Holy Spirit and God's Holy Word.

Over the last several weeks I've accepted a challenge to take a serious inventory as to what is stealing my affection away from the only One who deserves my every numbered, purpose-filled heartbeat - Jesus Christ.

To investigate this theft, God has used some hard lyrics from a song playing over and over in my mind to help me identify the idols which have taken root in my heart. (From "Clear the Stage" sung by Jimmy Needham)

Anything I put before my God is an idol.
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol.
Anything I can't stop thinking of is an idol.
Anything that I give all my love is an idol.
                                                                      
The identifiable "anythings" have to be ripped out and uprooted to make space for the true Lover of my soul to do His holy transfiguring.
When the Spirit whispers, "That's an idol," Christ commands us to crush it! 
When the Spirit spotlights an "anything" cowering in a corner, we're called to crush it! 

On and on it goes until the investigative process is complete and all of our idols are lying in ruins at the feet of Jesus.

Societies crumble because of the invasion of idolatry - the perversion of true worship. The only way to take back our culture from the "anythings" pulling our affection away from God is to clear the stage, remove the noise, get on our knees, and tune our hearts to hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit, allowing Him access to investigate our own hearts first. And then, staying there until we have dealt with the "anythings".

It's time to crush 'em for Jesus' sake people, because He was crushed for ours.

My Pleasure,
Melanie






Thursday, August 20, 2015

Enough Already





My daughter, Madison, begins her college junior year today. She has quickly grown into more than just the little girl I love "to infinity and beyond!" She's becoming a strong, godly woman whom I deeply admire. Here are a few reasons why.

Her world has been rattled more times than I can count in her short 20 years of life. Her first experience watching someone she loves deeply suffer was in third grade. That school year was tough not knowing if her Grammpa would make it with each hospitalization. He moved to heaven when she was in fourth grade. Since then, she has grieved the loss of two more grandparents, as well as her best friend who died in a tragic car accident just six months ago.

Another in her circle of friends has already endured 21 brain surgeries in the last year and just returned home from the hospital after surgery #22.




Madison has had two ACL and meniscus surgeries (both on the same knee), the first in eighth grade, the second in tenth grade. Even though she continued cheering without too much difficulty throughout her high school career with a knee brace, it deterred her from trying out for the University of South Carolina cheer squad.

Just this summer, before a mission trip she worked so hard to be apart of, her passport disappeared and she was left behind. Although heartbroken, she was a trooper.

You would think that, through all of this, my baby girl would lose heart and say, "Enough already!"

There have been buckets of tears, questions, and searching for answers, but her heart has never wavered in believing that she will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. 
(Psalm 27:13-14)



Rick and I labored long and hard (pun intended) over what to name her. Now we have a glimpse into why God led us to the name Madison.

Madison means "strong fighter."
Deanne means "light at the end of the tunnel."

Even before she greeted this world with her infectious, sweet personality, she was already battling in the womb, wanting to make an early appearance at 28 weeks. Her persistence resulted in me being put on bed rest for eight weeks before she was delivered by C-section a whole month early.

I've watched this brave, strong, courageous young girl grow into a young woman filled with the love of Christ. I'm amazed at how she extends extravagant grace to those in her sphere of influence who have also experienced loss, or suffered great heartache, or who just need a friend. Even in the midst of her own grief healing, she continues to reach out to others who are hurting.




Madison is the best daughter, sister, niece, friend, cheer coach, and summer nanny anyone could ask for. With her photography business taking off, and as she moves toward a degree in Early Childhood Education, her dad and I couldn't be more proud.

 Though shaken to the core at times, she continues to push through in the power of Jesus Christ. God has uniquely designed her to be brave, courageous, full of grace, and faithful, and she is allowing Him to mold her into the woman of God He so desires for her to be.

Do ever feel like saying, "Enough already?" Has God shaken you to the core? Are you allowing the hard-pressed life lessons to be used by God to make you into who He has designed you to be?

God shakes our world to shake off the things of the world, removing from our hearts things that steal our affection away from Him because God knows...

Jesus is enough already.

We need nothing more and nothing less.

My Pleasure,
Melanie






Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sunday Scribbles







Scribbling in my sermon notebook, I started thinking...

The weekend has been a little hard for me. I've been a little blah. Though I'm full of the joy of Christ, my heart is a little sad today, and my eyes have leaked at times, just a few tears, knowing that my family's season is changing - again.

Then my mind slipped into questioning whether or not I have any regrets, because, as of this past Saturday, both kids are living out on their own.









Are there things I should have taught my son and daughter that I let slip by 
or was just too busy to take the time to teach them? 

Did I do a good job as a mom? 
Are they prepared to face this world on their own? 

Have I taught them how to think and what to think about?

Have I been a good example of a heart that loves Jesus to the hilt? 
Have I modeled the life of a disciple before them?

Have I taught them well how to live a life that is pleasing to God? 

Can I truly say with confidence these words of Paul?
"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me ~ put into practice. 
And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:9 NIV)

No mom or dad is perfect. I know that. But I also know God blessed me with the deepest desire of my heart almost 26 years ago when I became a mommy for the first time. Once that heart desire became a reality, my prayer and plea shifted because of my newfound responsibility. My desire now was for God to make me the best, godly mom I could possibly be.

Some of my most precious memories with my children are of our bedtime rituals involving books, Bible stories, and bedtime prayers. I loved the hugs, the snuggles, and the soothing, rocking rhythm while singing songs about Jesus and His Word. Laying down with them until they fell asleep (or until I woke up and realized I was still in their bed). Playtime, mealtime, school, worship, church, and just being together. All of life provides us with teachable moments as we're loving, playing, working, and raising our children to be responsible, God-honoring, faith-filled adults, and to understand that their relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important relationship they will ever have.

My Sunday Scribbles helped me to reflect on great memories and that even if I have regrets, I trust I did my best while God was doing and is doing the rest.

So, if I may, I would like to end this blog entry with a few thoughts for my grown up kiddos:

Read and meditate on the Word of God as much as you can throughout your day, 
thinking about the good stuff from our good God. 

Love and trust God with all of your heart, 
keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ through faith.

Honor the Spirit by letting His power be active in you, 
and free-flowing through you. 

Through prayer and consistent repentance, 
always from a heart of deep gratefulness,
 be full of love, joy and grace.

And, above all else, be who God created you to be. 
Use your God-given talents and gifts to better the world for Jesus' sake,
 by living well, and loving well,  for His glory.

I love you both, Turner and Madison, with all my heart, 
not just "to the moon and back", but 
"to infinity and beyond!"

My Pleasure,
Mom
(Melanie)















Wednesday, August 12, 2015

One Will Live, One Will Die

A father-to-be was pacing outside the hospital delivery room waiting anxiously for the cry of his first born child when the doctor appeared. Instead of a cry, he heard these words, "I can save one, but I can't save both. The baby is breech."

With those words still suspended in air, this father-to-be had to be thinking, "Not after nine years of trying to conceive! This is what happens? I get to take home either my wife or our baby? What does he know? Oh God, how can this be?"

The next words he heard were, "It's a boy!" On October 30, 1959, a baby boy was born amidst a very traumatic delivery. One arm was bent and paralyzed, and his tiny little body which should have greeted the world fresh and pink, was black and blue.

Amazingly, both mother and son lived. Both incredible fighters. The baby needed some physical therapy to get his little arm moving, and the mother needed much rest and time to recover.

This story is true. That baby grew up and became my husband. Thank God, no one suggested aborting him because the delivery would be too difficult.

Because ultrasounds weren't available to this generation of parents, a C-section was not an option. The doctor had no way of knowing the baby was breech until it was too late. The traumatic birth of delivering a breech baby naturally, led the doctor to warn this precious couple not to have any more children. And, they didn't.

In today's world, the abortion option is offered more times than we want to admit, and mostly for the sake of convenience.

"The mother may die. Abort the baby."
"If the pregnancy isn't convenient, then just abort."
"The fetus is not developing properly. You need to abort."
"The fetus will only live a few hours. Abortion is the best route."
"There will be birth defects. Why not go ahead and abort it. Save yourself the trouble."
"Can the pregnancy be aborted during the third trimester? Sure. No worries." 
"We also do partial birth abortions."
"You haven't told your parents? Don't worry. Your secret is safe with us."

Abortion is raw and invasive. It's intrusive and reeks havoc on the consciences of those who've had them and on many who've performed them. It's a sickening fact to even think about, much less talk about. But, in leu of recent videos of Planned Parenthood's Staff discussing over lunch the heinous acts of aborting healthy babies and extracting viable baby parts to sell, it has once again been brought to the table of conversation becoming even more raw and hard to swallow.

We've turned our heads away for far too long from the stark, harsh reality that our country, the United States of America, is legally performing a type of genocide - brutally murdering an innocent people group that cannot fight for their rights, deemed unworthy, or less important than the mother, to live or even have the chance to breathe outside the womb. Unborn, unwanted babies, the life literally sucked out of them for convenience sake. And, if they happen to survive the violent procedure, they are killed immediately outside the womb.

I know women who have had abortions. I've witnessed their breathtaking pain, heard their uncontrollable cries. Seeing how their heart aches with grief, guilt, shame, and the dark secrets they carry, crush my heart. For women to talk about it, even years after the fact, is still so hard.

It's still so raw.

One lived, one died.

Most abortions are done secretly. In many cases, no family member, except maybe the father of the baby, is even aware that their daughter, sister, or mother, is pregnant, much less that the decision to terminate the pregnancy has been made. The thought process seems to be that no one can know they are pregnant because of the judgement they will face, the public shame they may be put through. And, it may be, if no one knows, then I'll be okay.

But, passing harsh judgement on those who've gotten pregnant under less than honorable circumstances, and elected to end a pregnancy because of shame, is just as sinful as the horrific act of those who perform these atrocities on desperate women. There. I said it.

We, the Church, the Body of Christ, are guilty of sin when we pass judgement on the sins of others, especially on our sisters and brothers in Christ, thinking their sin is worse than our sin. We should know better. People of the cross should understand better than anyone else what true healing is about having experienced the Father's amazing grace, unending mercy, unconditional love and His forever forgiveness of sins through His Son, Jesus Christ. And, we are still experiencing all of that and more every single day, even though we don't deserve it. What makes us think we are above extending the same to others when they stumble and fall into sin, particularly since it's our judgmental attitudes that lead them to think they have no choice in the first place? This doesn't mean we condone sin, but we must help each other overcome sin and heal. We should be on our faces begging forgiveness from God for ignoring those who carry this weight around begging in silence to be released and redeemed.

(Note: The Church is not and will not be perfected until Jesus returns. In the meantime, we are Holy Spirit filled, heaven-bound-imperfect-living-in-the-flesh-people who desperately need a Savior every day we live. Our lives can be messy, but unlike the world, we have received God's gifts of grace - real joy, real hope, real love, real forgiveness, real peace, and real mercy healing at the cross. Through our belief and faith in Jesus Christ, we can trust Him with our messy lives, and by focusing on His perfect face, we are, everyday, being transfigured to look more like Him.) 

God has nurtured a tender place in my heart for women who have chosen abortion. Because of my own story of being adopted, I've had the incredible privilege to share with many audiences how grateful I am that my birth mom, even under difficult circumstances, chose life for me. My heart aches for those who carry the weight of abortion around. Many have packed their guilt and shame in a secret compartment buried deep in their hearts, forever hoping no one finds out, only to live exhausted, unfulfilled lives trying to keep the lid on the box of the past. These precious women who treat their abortion choice as if it never happened, never heal.

If we don't help them heal and get passed their hurt, shame, guilt, and deep grief that abortion brings, and continue turning away, sweeping it under the rug like it doesn't exist, then it's just as if we have handed them over to Satan to do with as he pleases - giving the enemy permission to steal, kill, and destroy their lives and the lives around them.

So, what can we do? Where do we begin? We have to start somewhere.

I ask you to pray with me about what steps to take in developing ideas as to how and where we can provide a place of healing for women who've had abortions, are contemplating abortion, and who desire healing, to have an honest, Christ- centered, loving and forgiving conversation. I also will be encouraging women who have been healed from the effects of abortion, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to join the conversation for the sake of helping others to heal and be redeemed to the glory of God.  

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have One who speaks to the Father in our defense ~ Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2 NIV)

Jesus knows our secrets. Jesus cares deeply. He heals our broken hearts and binds up our wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

Jesus loves you.

My Pleasure,
Melanie





Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sunday Scribbles : Crush 'Em


Heart in me, it's time to bow the knee.
It's where I need to be...
to be free.

Under the weight, not just for mistakes, 
my heart must break...
to be healed.

Living a lie to cover my pride, 
The door opens wide, 
and I go inside.

I lean in close, "Sin hurts the most, 
My heart, your soul,"
God whispers.

Heart in me, it's time to bow the knee. 
It's where I need to be...
to be free.

The cross was the place Christ cleared the space 
between me and you and...
the Father.

His heart aches, for what we've become
His Church, His stage...
is cluttered.

Heart in me, it's time to bow the knee.
It's how I want to be...
 free.
(Words by Melanie Shull)

A new Christian artist sparked a stirring in my heart at the Women's Reclaiming Hearts Experience. The YouTube video of Clear the Stage, by Jimmy Needham, was played on the big screen as the weekend began. I've listened to it over and over ever since. My scribbles above are an extension of his words and what I believe the Spirit is speaking to me about myself and His Church.

"You shall have no other gods before Me" is the first of the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God in Exodus chapter 20.  It is the essence from which all of the Commandments are based on. Even when Jesus was asked by the Pharisees what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38 NIV)

When we recognize that God is enough, our all in all, idols are not an issue. It's only when we begin to think we need more to make us complete that we start "idol-ing" before God. "Idol-ing" or idol worship can sneak up on us and take center stage before we know it.

As a result of this continued stirring over the last few weeks, God and I are in the process of identifying idols I've slipped up onto the stage of my heart. Idols I've put on His stage without even noticing. From a repentant posture, He's helping me clear the clutter so real worship for the only Person who is worthy of the stage can flow from my life, giving Him glory.

I believe Christ's heart hurts for where we are. His stage, the heart of His Bride, is cluttered with idols. For the Church to have any impact on a culture that is intentionally demolishing anything that resembles Truth, we must first get a grip on the idols we've made and crush 'em for Jesus' sake.

Turning the tide is possible, but it won't happen until we, the People of the Cross, stirred with great passion for the Person of the Cross - Jesus Christ - become so desperate for Him to take the stage once again that we'll not get off our knees until our idols are crushed before our holy God.

Anything I put before my God is an idol.
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol. (From Clear the Stage, by Jimmy Needham)

My Pleasure,
Melanie