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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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...
(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,