Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Obsessed

I admit. I have some O.C.D. tendencies. They may not have been as evident to me before, but now they're seemingly magnified as I watch these idiosyncrasies of my life being lived out by my son. Oops. Parenting Fail. The reality is not all of my O.C.D'ness (yes, I made that up) is bad. Things like having a routine and a schedule can be good for a child.

There's one obsession I simply must instill in him. In the early morning when he's sound asleep, I sneak in and pray over this little life. "Lord, shape his mind with thoughts about You. Grab hold of his heart to be on fire for You. Use his hands to serve You. Send his feet to go in Your name. Make this life a life that pleases and glorifies You."

"Turn your obsessions to your Savior." - Beth Moore

There's a Steven Curtis Chapman song that describes this:

<em>You are everything I want
You are everything I need
I want You to be my one consuming passion
Everything my heart desires
Lord, I want it to be all to be for You, Jesus
Be my magnificent obsession</em>

Is He everything you want?

Is He everything you need?

Is He all your heart desires?

Is He everything to you?

Turn every obsession over to Him.

Every insecurity, every fear, every doubt, every worry, every concern, every thought, every failure, every success, every proud moment, every blessing, every compliment, every cutting word, every moment of your life...

I want to be obsessed about my Maker. Crazy about my Savior. Completely hidden in Him. Overcome by His presence. Simply mind-blown by His grace and goodness. Absolutely overtaken by Him being everything I need. 

Yes, I am willing to admit it. I may be certifiably admitable crazy obsessed! And this is one trait I'm willing to pass on from generation to generation!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Interruptions

I started writing this blog at 7 a.m. It's nearly 10 p.m. and I still haven't completed it. This isn't a typical case of writer's block. It's a bad case of interruptions!

Every time I got ready to type, the phone rang. Each time I started to look up scripture, I got a text message or email that required attention (or maybe just served as a distraction). As soon as I wanted to focus my mind in prayer and let the Holy Spirit speak to and through me, I found myself engaging in other conversations that prevented me from hearing from the Lord.

Admittedly, it's my own fault. I needed to get alone. Set time aside where I'd be by myself. Spend concentrated time and effort on hearing from the Lord. Designate a space that provided an environment of solitude yet fostered His presence. Prepare a heart and mind attitude ready to seek Him (and ready and alert to find Him, too!).

Priscilla Shirer changes the word "interruption" to "divine intervention." The equation goes:

           Insignificant Person + Insignificant Task = Interruption

                                              ~ OR ~
      
           Significant Person + Significant Task = Divine Intervention

Do I have time for these "interruptions"? Do I stop for them? Do I give my attention or do I turn the other cheek? Do I get annoyed? Do I get frustrated? Do I lash out? It's true that the things and people I place value on don't "bother" me, but dare it be something or someone I deem insignificant...well, that changes my response. What if...the point of even writing this blog was to be interrupted - over, and over, and over again - so that finally by the end of the day, I am left with nothing of significance to say except that the interruptions I faced were the whole lesson.

What I know is I don't always respond as if the person or problem or project is "my privilege." But I do know if I start to place significance on whatever it is that feels or appears like an "interruption," I believe my perspective will start to change to see these opportunities as God's divine intervention in my life. What's more is if I realize these are appointments from God, I will have a better understanding of His active presence at work in my life. Praise God for these "interruptions!"

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Contagious Joy

"It's bubbling, it's bubbling...
It's bubbling in my soul.
There's singing and laughing,
Since Jesus made me whole.
Since Jesus Christ came in,
And cleansed my heart from sin...
It's bubbling, bubbling, bubbling, bubbling, bubbling in my soul!"

It's a little chorus I used to sing as a kid. I am so thankful to my godly parents and a wonderful church to have these kinds of things ingrained into my my memory - and etched upon my heart. It's a fun little ditty that just makes you happy to sing it.

The truth is music makes me happy. And the truth about this song is the joy that is to be so deeply flowing in my soul that it bubbles up to the surface to the point of overflowing.

"...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances..." Phil. 4:10

I know enough to know it's not about circumstances. It's about the depth of your soul being filled with the joy and peace and presence of the Lord. In the midst of your very present trouble, that can almost seem impossible. But I've titled this post "Contagious Joy" for a reason. It's not just about your own personal joy dwelling within you - it's your joy overflowing out of you...

This should be an epidemic. Something that spreads like rampant wild fire. A plague that so overtakes the population that no one is left immune. Contagious. So that even when the bitter Naomi's of this world believe that God hand has gone out against them, they can "catch" your joy.

Are you singing? Are you dancing? Are you rejoicing? Are you demonstrating what God has done for you? Maybe you don't feel you've experienced abundant blessings. Maybe it's hard for you to see the good in the midst of your trouble. Maybe you're not feeling anything other than the pain that has been so heavily inflicted upon you. Then you, sister, brother, are the one who needs to "catch" the contagious joy!

Maybe you have experienced blessings. Maybe you are enjoying a time of green pastures. Maybe you are feeling at peace. Then you, sister, brother, have a responsibility to let that be seen - bubbling out of your soul - to the point of overflowing so that those around you can "catch" what you're experiencing.

May your joy be abundant and contagious! May all those you come in contact with "catch" what the Lord has done in your life!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

God Moments

I told you how much I love sunsets. I can remember in college when I needed to get alone with the Lord and I would park my little red honda civic at the Wingate Hotel overlooking Candler's Mountain and watch as the sun set on my hometown. Sometimes I'd listen to music as loud as my wimpy car stereo would blast it. Sometimes I'd pray out loud and pour out my heart to the Lord as if He was sitting right next to me in my passenger seat. Sometimes I'd cry uncontrollable sobs. Sometimes I'd just sit quietly. Speechless.

Songs like FFH's "Lord Move" bring back memories of those "God moments": "Lord, move in a way that I've never seen before, cuz' there's a mountain in the way, and a lock on the door. I'm drifting away, Waves are crashing on the shore. Lord, move...or move me."

I remember having a breakthrough during that song with my bible opened to Psalm 61, claiming the Lord as my Rock, the immovable Rock, asking Him to lead me to a place higher than myself - leading me to HIM. It was a point where I was deciding on my job and career options and praying for God's perfect will, begging for Him to just write it in the sky. He did not, clearly, but He gave me peace that where He was leading me was to a place beyond myself.

I remember a pitch black sky in the middle of who-knows-where New Mexico. I was traveling with the full time ministry team, Exodus, and we were the counselors at a youth camp. We'd taken all of the students to a wide open field and laid in the grass staring up the wide expanse as if it went on for eternity. We were told to be quiet - absolutely still - and just listen. Listen beyond the sounds of the night. Listen beyond the thoughts in your head. Listen for the voice of God...

...and I heard it. It was there, under the blackest of black skies, speckled with bursts of starlight as far as the eye could see, where I heard Him. It wasn't an audible voice but He was speaking directly to my heart. As a 19 year old sophomore in college, desperate to declare a major and searching for my "place in the world," I knew the Lord was placing a call of ministry upon my life. I was paralyzed - not by fear but by the presence of my Sovereign God meeting with me in that wide upon field underneath the expanse of the universe that He had created. And there He was, calling me.

After three years of traveling almost every weekend and ministering in churches all over the country, it was my last traveling opportunity on one of the ministry teams. We arrived at the church in South Carolina much later than anticipated but the pastor graciously greeted us. I'm not going to lie - he looked a little like Jesus. Long dark brown hair, a full but neat beard, he had kind and loving eyes and he spoke directly at you. He paid careful attention to go down the line of team, greeting each person with a firm handshake as he cared to know each one's name. He got to me, about halfway down the line, and shook my hand. Just as he went to move on to my teammate next to me, he stopped and came back, grabbing my hands - taking both this time - and looking intently into my eyes.

"Carrie," he said. "I don't know what you're going through or what you're facing, but the Lord has a message that I need to share with you..."

I held my breath. Who is this man? How could he know I'm in the middle of a crisis? What is he talking about?

He continued, "God needs you to know you're going to be okay. Everything's going to be okay. You're in His hands and His will."

Oh. My. Word. I couldn't hold back the tears that were now bursting from my eyes. The depths of my soul were crying out because of the anguish I'd been facing in a certain situation. In that moment, the Word became flesh to me - my word from the Lord in the truest form. I don't remember his name or the church, I just remember in that moment, I heard from God.

I've shared some deeply personal encounters; my "God Moments" as I like to call them. Maybe it's too personal for some but I need you to hear something: this is the very true and personal God we serve. He is real and He is sovereign and He is omniscient and omnipresent and He cares for YOU!


I feel certain you've had these moments too, but if you haven't experienced Him this way, I implore you to seek Him. Just as He promises: "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13) He WILL meet you where you are.


I'd love to hear your own God moments...Share with me, please.









Monday, August 22, 2011

First Day of School

All around, it's the first day of school. I heard the bus outside before 7 a.m. I saw a mom snap a photo just before her son boarded the big yellowish-orange school bus. I was too far away to see if she was tearing up as she waved. You may think he was a kindergarten, but I'm almost certain this is his first day of 8th grade. I guess the point is, you're always "mama's baby."

I love buying school supplies. My sister and I used to help dad at the Liberty bookstore with bookrush (when students bought textbooks) and we'd get "paid" by picking out a brand new Jansport backpack. You got a list from the school of the things you needed and everything was new. Pencils - get the mechanical that don't need to be sharpened. Pens - I had to have at least one purple one. Paper and 3-ring binder - purple was preferable, but it also needed a clear sleeve on the front for personalizing with pictures and stickers. I admit - I can still be seen visiting the school supplies aisle at Walmart and I have no need for any of it.

I hated cafeteria food and blessed to have a mom who packed my lunch everyday. I would proudly pick out a square plastic lunchbox - usually a Disney-related theme. Each day my napkin would boast a handwritten love note or message of encouragement, usually with some kind of a smiley or silly face, from my mom. My friends didn't make fun of me - it was a tradition. And sometimes she even wrote notes to them, too. Oh, I should also add that the lunchbox carrying and notes from home were all during my high school years. Believe me, I did set a new trend! :)

Of course the all-important outfit was the biggest decision of them all. As kids we would go to "Hills" department store and pick out clothes in spring that we'd put on layaway and those were our new outfits we could anticipate for fall. By the time I reached middle school and high school, I had enough babysitting income to be able to purchase my own duds. A love for clothes and fashion has always been in me. It needed to be casual and cute, not overdone, but something to stand out. Heaven forbid you end up matching someone else on the first day of school!

I was the kid who cried on the last day of school. I enjoyed summer break, but I loved school much more. I was a good student but I really wasn't that cool so I'm not sure why I enjoyed it so much. Regardless, I looked forward to the first day of school - just like January 1 - a new beginning, a new year, a new opportunity.

I love new beginnings for the hope that they bring. I'm not trying to over-spiritualize this. I just love what a new year brings.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A New Day

There's something supernatural about watching the sun rise; taking its majestic place in the sky, revealing brilliant hues across the horizon as it assumes position. It declares a new day as it rises. And the world that once rested peacefully in the night is alerted to the possibility of this new day.

A new day. What does it hold? New opportunities. New challenges. New fears. New accomplishments. Each day, a new day, not like the one before. We count our days in weeks and months and years but by itself, this day - today - stands alone. There will never be another day like it.

"My faithful God, help me to call this to mind and therefore always have hope; Because of Your great love, I am not consumed, for Your compassions never fail. They are new toward me every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I will say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him." (Praying God's Word from Lamentations 3:22-24)

Just as surely as the sun rises, it also sets. Each night it goes down, declaring the end of another day. Taking the opportunity to 'rest' until resuming its rightful place tomorrow. The sky once again becomes God's canvas, displaying brilliant strokes of color and reflections of light. Majestic all over again.

While I enjoy the first signs of sunlight in each new sunrise, I've always been partial to sunsets. At the end of the day - no matter what has happened, no matter how I've failed, no matter what mistakes I've made, no matter what accomplishments I've seen, no matter how my feelings got the best of me - the sunset reminds me that God never left. He is still sovereign. He is still present. Even at the end of what may have been one of (my) life's most disastrous days, it is His reminder to me that He's still there, still watching over me, still displaying His love for me. And even at the end of this day I am reminded that tomorrow will be a new day all over again.

I have no idea where this quote came from but I've lived by it since high school: "The fact that I am alive today is proof positive that God has something for me to do." Amen to that! And amen to a new day!

Enjoy this Francis Chan video and may today be a new day for you, too!



Make it Count

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Shhh!

I have to admit. It can be a complete challenge having a wide-open 3 year old boy. There are moments when I simply want to scream. And there are other times when I can't get over the joy that this little life brings me. I love that he is curious - despite the incessant "Why's?" and "What's?" I love that he can turn a 4 foot high dirt pile into a new adventure - everyday. I love the silly things he says that simply crack me up.

What I also love are those moments when he first wakes up and wants to cuddle. I can hold him in my arms and be reminded of the days I rocked him to sleep each night. I comb my fingers through his blonde hair and whisper in his ear.

 "I have a secret."
"What mommy?" he asks.
"I love you soooooo big!" I say.

The smile on his face reveals the dimple in his right cheek and it's enough to melt my heart.

And recently he's returning the favor. "Mommy."

"Yes, E?"
"Um...I got a seee-kwet!"
"What is it?" I ask, as I lend my ear to him.
"I yuv you!"

Now my smile cannot be hidden.

I read a quote that reminds me it's okay to have secrets.

“Pray like no one’s listening; serve like no one’s watching; and give like no one’s counting. Be God’s best kept secret.”

Are you keeping a secret life? Not something you're ashamed of, but a life that you protect and hide in Him. You sacredly guard this time with your Savior, relishing His presence and His word.

You give without expecting gratitude. You serve without seeking praise. You go without looking for excuses. You pray without hesitation. You are His without regard for yourself.

In this secret place He reveals His secret to you.

"I love you. I cherish you. You're mine."

Be still my heart, Lord! Thank You for letting me be Your daughter! I love You, too!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sunday Morning

I know it's Monday (don't remind me). And I should have posted this yesterday. But I have some thoughts about Sunday that I'd like to share.

I look around the church and see people whom I know are hurting. I see a mother's tender touch on the back of her paraplegic son who has just suffered a seizure. This is her normal. I see the smile on the face of a young woman as she "sings praise" knowing she's mourning the loss of the life she miscarried. I see new life - a baby peacefully sleeping in her father's arms, blissfully unaware of the service going on around her. I see hollow eyes in the face of a widow who walks in and finds a single seat. I see the confusion on the faces of a few visitors who don't know where to go and aren't sure if anyone will speak to them, or if they want anyone to. My heart is overcome. Grief. Compassion. Pain. Joy. Rejoicing.

This is church. This is His body. This is the place He manifests Himself to me - to us. Do I understand the omnipresence of God? He sees. He knows. He meets. He is presently happening all around and in the life of each and every one of His saints. He knows the need. He knows the desire. He is here - among us - and He is meeting with each of us.

There are some who don't smile. There are other who can't seem to stop. Eyes that are bright with joy. Eyes that are filled with sorrow. We reach out and shake some hands during the few minutes we call fellowship time. We smile and greet one another as we hurriedly pass to claim our seats. The most common phrase uttered on Sunday mornings must be, "Good to see you." The most common question has to be "How are you?" The most common answer simply must be "Fine, how are you?" Do we really want to know the answer? Do we wait for the truth?

We sponsor mission trips, donate backpacks, serve in the food pantry and give our tithes. But what am I doing to serve the needs of those sitting in the seats around me? Am I loving the broken? Am I finding the lost? Am I sharing with those in need? Do they see my need? Do they see my broken heart? Do they care about me? I have a desire for fellowship, accountability, truth, love, and compassion...and I have a desire to give it too.

Hidden behind our Sunday best, can we take off our masks? Can I be real? Can you be yourself? Can we be who God created us to be? It's not about talents and abilities - but weakness and inability. Failures and hurts. When I let go of my pain - when I put down the mask - He can work. Replacing my purpose for His. When I'm broken - truly broken - He can make me His. He moves. He sends. He is glorified. This is the church. People who need Him. His touch. And how do they get that? His people. We reach. We go. We serve. We hug. We ask how you are and we wait for an answer. We remove the mask and don't just say "fine." We speak the truth in love. It's more than handshakes during fellowship. It's the person who asks "How can I help you? What can I pray about?" This is the church. The one who sends a message on Monday to say you're praying. The one who emails on Tuesday to share a devotional. The one who texts on Friday to hang out. Not just Sunday morning. His bride in human flesh.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Used Up

"As long as you think you are of value to God He cannot choose you, because you have purposes of your own to serve." - Oswald Chambers

Are you of use to God? How can you be when you're filled up with yourself. You can't accomplish His purposes when you're so busy fulfilling your own.

"But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus..." Acts 20:24

I remember in high school when someone asked what my spiritual gifts were. I could sing, I was a people person, I could make friends with anyone and I loved to write. "No, no. Not talents. Spiritual gifts," he asked. I was puzzled. Weren't these the things God had gifted me with to use for Him? He gave me a voice to sing, a talent to write, a heart for people...

Hear what Oswald says: "We tend to say that because a person has natural ability, he will make a good Christian. It is not a matter of our equipment, but a matter of our poverty; not what we bring with us, but what God puts into us..."

Oh. I get it. My life - my talents - my abilities - my skills - my knowledge - my giftings - this is not what I offer Him. Instead this is what He offered me. The things He gave me in order that I might serve and bless Him. But to be USED by Him, I must empty myself of ME and receive the fullness of HIM.

I can honestly say that as I've had a few months to "sit back" and not sing and not serve, but rather be fed and to study and to learn and to draw closer to the heart of my Savior, I've felt more useful than I have in a long time. If you're in constant ministry you have certainly experienced being tired. But I had no idea that I needed to be filled, to the point of overflowing, so that I could be restored to serve in ministry again. I didn't know I was drained. I didn't know that my offering was falling short. I was giving all I could - but because it was all and only me, it was purely my natural ability.

What I've learned is it must be His supernatural ability through me. I don't want to bring the things I possess but I want to come empty-handed. What? How can you present an offering empty handed? I want to give out of my poverty, not out of my "riches." My poverty has allowed me to see what I truly am - worthless, useless, empty, broken, selfish, nothing without Him. Instead of being "used up," being useful because of His purposes being accomplished in and through me. The greatest of these purposes is the oneness and fellowship with Him, which replaces any talent or treasure I could ever have or attain.

"The most important aspect of Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the surrounding influence and qualities produced by that relationship." - Chambers

While I look forward to serving and singing and giving and going again, I also know I don't want to serve or sing or give or go without knowing fully He's accomplishing His purposes through my ministry.