Monday, January 26, 2015

The Perfect Fit


Today, my sister and I went to lunch to celebrate her 50th birthday. 50! I can hardly believe we are both in our fifth decade of life. A half of a century lived. Wow, that really puts life in perspective!

Michelle and I were born two years and a few months apart, and adopted into our perfectly God-designed family. She was born in Charleston, SC. I was born in Spartanburg, SC. But we both were placed smack dab in the middle of South Carolina, together, to complete our uniquely crafted family.

After being an only child for 2 and a half years, mom and dad took me with them to Charleston to meet our new baby. I remember sitting in a small, white, wicker rocking chair eagerly waiting to see our new baby. I was beyond excited. (Yes, I do remember it.)

Finally, they brought her into the room for my mom and dad to get acquainted with her. Then, they placed her in my tiny arms and let me hold her in my toddler-size rocker. Once I had her in my arms, I said with confidence, "OK. We can go home now! We have our baby."

I was so proud. I became a big sister that day - May 5, 1965.

Even though our parents aren't here on earth to celebrate with us anymore, we still get together and celebrate our birthdays and the best day of our lives - our adoption day! We were perfectly placed together, as sisters, by our perfectly loving Creator.

Sure we've had our share of fights like sisters have growing up (some were pretty ugly), but when you get right down to it, we have been a perfect fit.

I believe we have had the best of childhoods. Great memories to cherish, wonderful parents, blessed beyond measure in more ways than we can count, and loved oh so deeply.

But our greatest treasure is how we were taught and shown Jesus Christ every. single. day of our lives through our parents and through the support of family, church, and friends. Because of them, we know Him.

Happy birthday, Michelle! May our next five decades be even more awesome together! I love you!

"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV)

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Winning Side of the Ball

I love football, as I have mentioned numerous times before, and I love how it encompasses so many analogies about life. Stick with me here.

I'm sure you've heard about the recent controversy and NFL investigation into how some of the air was released from the Patriot's footballs during the AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts.

The looming question is,  "Were the Patriots aware of and responsible for the deflated footballs, hoping Tom Brady, the Patriot's quarterback, would be able to grip the ball better during the cold, wet weather?"

I don't know how this happened or who was responsible, but let me just say,"Come on man!" (Spoken like the ESPN announcers as they recap crazy, unbelievable highlights of the week.) I love that ESPN Sport's segment!

As a die-hard fan of the Dallas Cowboys' first, the Green Bay Packers' second, and the New England Patriots' third, I've been on the winning side of the ball a lot this season. Because my third choice made it to the big one, I'm really looking forward to Superbowl 49!

Did the Patriots cheat to get there? No one knows for sure what happened, so I will refrain from giving my opinion until the NFL investigation is concluded.

Followers of Jesus Christ are on the winning side of the ball every. single. day! No cheating necessary for Christians to come out as winners!

Sure, life is full of intense, strategic, offensive and defensive plays, and we may fumble occasionally, throw an interception, lose the momentum, and feel beat up or even deflated (pun intended), but at the end of the day, WE WIN!

What makes us winners? The better question would be, "Who makes us winners?"

Jesus Christ. The Victor!
  • He stepped out of heaven and into the ring where sin has its sting. 
  • He became one of us, lived among us and committed no sin. 
  • He paid the penalty the Father God required for the sins of all mankind because He was the perfect Lamb. 
  • He conquered sin, the sting of death and the grave. He arose!
  • He won the battle of good vs. evil. He's the Champion!
  • He bridged the gap between us and the Father. He is our Savior and so much more!
Because Christ has won the ultimate battle with His own blood, sweat, tears and extreme grief, we are equipped with the same resurrection power through the power of the Holy Spirit to wake up in the winner's circle every day we breathe. The battle we fight today to defeat sin in our lives, has already been won. Not allowing sin to control our lives is possible through Jesus Christ. We can defeat sin because sin has been defeated by the Victor. 

A winning attitude is what we should bring to the table every morning. Therefore, when we find ourselves in a knock-down, drag out fight with the enemy, we can shout with a righteous confidence, "I'm a winner in Jesus Christ!"

Which side of the ball are you on?

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:57 NKJV)

My Pleasure,
Melanie




Monday, January 19, 2015

Keeping the Christmas Spirit Alive All Year Long

On a Facebook post a few weeks ago, I shared that our family has started a Christmas jar for 2015. To keep the spirit of Christmas alive all year long, we put any leftover change into the jar at different times each week.

There are many variations of saving spare change and what the change is used for, but this idea came from a fiction book called The Christmas Jar, by Jason F. Wright. I read this book several years ago and thought the idea would be a great tradition for my family to begin.

The Christmas Jar idea originates with a small restaurant owner. The local hang-out is called Chuck's Chicken 'n' Biscuits. (It reminds me of our local hangout, Zesto's, in West Columbia, SC. The fried chicken is fabulous.)

After filling a glass jar throughout the year with spare change and bills, Chuck delivers the jar to someone anonymously on Christmas Eve. To add a bit of adventure and fun, the jar is delivered knowing the recipient is home. After ringing the doorbell, he leaves the jar and runs. Then he hides in the distance to watch the reaction of the one receiving the gift left on the doorstep. What fun! What a blessing!

Along with the jar, a note is attached with the instructions of how to pay it forward. The recipients don't just receive a gift, but are also encouraged to pay the kindness forward the next Christmas Eve.

A note may say something like this: This is a Christmas Jar. You are receiving it from someone who wants to help you in your time of need. But, don't let the jar stop here. You are encouraged to start your own Christmas Jar and pay it forward anonymously next Christmas Eve. Just fill a jar with spare change and bills throughout the year and let the Spirit of Christmas continue to flow through you. Merry Christmas!

As Christmas jars multiply, showing up every Christmas Eve on unsuspecting doorsteps, the act of kindness quickly catches on and becomes a celebrated Christmas tradition in this small, fictional town.

I can't wait to see how God uses our non-fiction Christmas Jar in 2015 to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And, since it's never too late to throw spare change in a Christmas Jar, why not start yours today?  For it truly is more of a blessing to give than it is to receive.

"Just remember," Marianne said with just the slightest hint of authority. "It's not about an army of jars. It's about one. One jar. One birth. One Savior."  (From Christmas Jars Reunion by Jason F. Wright, page 45.)

My Pleasure,
Melanie



       




Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Where Are You Going? I'm Still Speaking to You



Do not be in a hurry to leave the king's presence... Ecclesiastes 8:3 (NIV)

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and before you were finished speaking, they were moving towards the door? "Hey! Where are you going? I'm not finished with our conversation?" But obviously, they are.

How does that make you feel - to be walked out on when what you have to say is very important? I feel it's rude, number one, and I feel like my words don't really matter.

Think about what the Lord must feel when we walk away while He's still speaking to us.

Rushing through our alone time with the Lord, hurrying to the next item on our agenda for the day cheats us out of what we need to hear from the King to get us through the day.




The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding. To Him belongs eternal praise. (Psalm 111:10 NIV)

Can we not just sit respectfully still, in complete awe and wonder of Him until He's finished?

God speaks to our hearts in numerous ways, but we have to listen to His voice filtered through the Truth of His Word. If we're going to hear His voice clearly, we have to know His Word. If we remain in His Word, we'll be aware of His presence all the time. The more we acknowledge Him, the more we will want to hear His words carefully chosen for our ears to hear. Meditating on His Word is how He stimulates and renews our minds as we "chew on" His goodness throughout the day. He will satisfy our daily cravings for spiritual nourishment if we'll allow Him to. We just need to be still.

Thus, my word in the window for 2015...LISTEN.

Then, when the day is over, we can lay our heads peacefully on our pillow knowing we've heard His voice because we remained in His presence. Wherever we traveled, He was right there "talking" us through.

Not rushing the precious moments we invest with Him in solitude keeps us living in Him with a grateful attitude.

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Press in and Listen


A voice came from the cloud, saying, This is My Son, Whom I have chosen; listen to Him. (Luke 9:35 NIV, Capitalizations for God, mine)

I met my precious friend, Lara, for lunch yesterday. As she prayed over our food, she also prayed that we would "press in and listen" to the voice of Jesus. I love it when God affirms what you have been meditating on through another person.

I have debated on what word I would be focusing on this year and the word that has come up the most is Listen.

God is very clear in His Word that we are to listen to Him. On the Mount of Transfiguration, God told the disciples to listen to His Son.

When Martha was scurrying around tending to details that were good and important, and her sister, Mary, was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening, Jesus said, "Martha, Martha,... you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42)

The better was pressing in and listening to the words of Jesus.

I was asked to speak for a women's group this past Tuesday, and they wanted me to share the story behind Living Real Magazine. The word that launched the behind the scenes story was Listen.

I pressed into the One I trust and listened to His still small voice. That's how Living Real Magazine came to be.

I use to struggle with being a good listener when people would share their hearts with me. Instead of listening intently, I was thinking about what I was going to say next. Several years ago, God convicted me of not listening well. Since then I strive to lean in and listen well.

The same is true as we seek to hear from God's heart.

When I was searching for what God wanted me to do with the burning passion to write He had obviously created in me, I had to really press into Him and listen well. Writing was never on my radar screen, except for a poem or song here or there, and I had never cared about English, grammar, editing, etc.. I had only paid attention to the musical talent He had blessed me with.

Does that mean I messed up or missed out? I don't think so.

We all sin along our journeys and need to be disciplined and reigned back in, but as far as the adventure, I believe God, in my case, kept the burning desire to write suppressed until His appointed time for it to rise up within me. He has appointed times for all of us to do things He's created us to do.

Whoever obeys His command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a man's misery weighs heavily upon him. (Ecclesiastes 8:5-6 NIV, Capitalizing of "His" is mine)

Our spiritual journeys are a process of growing and maturing in our faith in Jesus Christ. Moving forward on the path He's designed for us includes many lessons in learning what His voice sounds like.

When choosing to obey, He never ceases to amaze us with His faithfulness and grace. He always equips us with what we need to obey His voice with all of our hearts. His love never fails!

So, will you Press in and Listen with me as we seek Him with a whole heart in 2015?

My Pleasure,
Melanie


Monday, January 5, 2015

What Is Your Soul Craving in 2015?


Like newborn babies, crave spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (I Peter 2:2-3 NIV)

I love to peruse the Christian bookstores for a new devotional book to help start my year off on the right foot. Although a devotional book does not take the place of the Bible, it does help drive me to the Word and gives me something to chew on all day long. It helps me to stop, be still, and know Him more. A daily devotional also helps me stay on track.

There are tons of books, blogs, and websites out there designed to help us grow in our relationship with Christ, but nothing satisfies our spiritual craving like the pure Word of God which reveals, in innumerable layers, God's character; His goodness, His faithfulness, His unconditional, indescribable love, etc...



Why does Peter tell us to crave pure spiritual milk like newborn babies? Newborns cry out when they're hungry for their milk. We should crave the milk of the Word so much that if necessary, we would let out a curdling cry for our souls to be satisfied.

Peter understood that we who have tasted that the Lord is good will crave more of Him and His goodness. Then, as we continue to drink in more and more milk of the Word, we will continue to grow up in our salvation. And isn't that the goal, to grow up in Christ?

We need nourishment every day to sustain our physical bodies, and we need spiritual nourishment every day to live our lives as God intended; filled to the brim, and even overflowing, with His hope, His joy, His peace, and His love.

I'm craving God's Word in 2015. How about you? It is the ONLY way I get filled up. I want to be filled to overflowing measures with my Jesus, so as I fill, I spill out Jesus onto those He places in my path every single day.

I know we'll never learn everything there is to know about God, but as He peels back the layers of His Word and we learn more and more about Him, we can't help but grow deeper in love with Him. Then, the more we taste of His goodness, the more we will desire the pure pleasure He provides our spiritual taste buds, ultimately, glorifying Him more with our lives.

Is your soul craving more today? Soothe it with the pure Word of God.

My Pleasure,
Melanie

Friday, January 2, 2015

Jumpstarting the Year... One Day at a Time


It's New Year's Day: The Christmas decorations are almost down, the fourth football bowl game is just underway, and the clean-up of the New Year's food spread is just ahead of me. It's been a fun day of family, friends, food, and football.

I have a list of things I hope to accomplish this year. Some items have to do with my writing and blogging. Other items are on the personal side. But no item on my list is more important than my desire to know God better than I knew Him in 2014. Like I referenced in my last post, every empty white box in my new, crisp, clean calendar is an opportunity to know and love Him more than the day before.

I began 2015 sipping a fresh brewed cup of Holiday Blend coffee from my new coffee mug I got for Christmas, and with my new devotional book called "Be Still...and Let Your Nail Polish Dry" by Andrea Boeshaar, Sandra D. Bricker, Loree Lough, and Debbie Mayne.

Don't you just love the title? What do we girls love to do after we paint our nails? We want to get a move on. But, if we start moving and grooving before they're dry, we're left frustrated with smudged, bumpy, painted nails, instead of being satisfied with smooth, flawless ones. Why can't we just be still for five minutes?

This devotional book, of course, isn't the end-all to my knowing God more this year, but it is a resource to jumpstart my day with Him - to "be still and know that He is God." (Psalm 46:10) - to be satisfied instead of frustrated as the crazies of the day begin.

Just like I jumpstart my body with a cup of coffee, I need to jumpstart my mind with God's Word to be ready for whatever adventures He has planned for us today.

Dear Jesus, I want to know and love You more in 2015. Help me to do that...one day at a time. 
Amen.

So how are you jumpstarting 2015?

My Pleasure,
Melanie