Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Your Grace is Enough

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I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18

There was pain and suffering all around me. The woman at the end of the pew brushed away a tear. She grieved a lost relationship. In front of me a mother had lost the ability to speak. Now she signed every word. To the far end of the worship center, a couple held a severely handicapped child; her medical bills alone stressful, not to mention the day-to-day care.

The congregation sang an awesome song called “Your Grace is Enough.” The song proclaims God is bigger than my circumstances and His grace is enough to see me though them. As we sang, my heart was heavy for the people around me. “Your grace is enough,” we proclaimed as we sang. It was an amazing moment in worship when broken hearts cried out to God that their present suffering could not even compare with the greatness of Him or the grace He bestows upon us.

Everyone experiences struggles and suffering. This is as much a part of life as the sun rising each morning. It is in our trials we grow and here we learn to understand that His grace is sufficient. However, this life is but a vapor and eternity is unfathomable. When we reach eternity with Christ, there will not be one moment of suffering ever again. In light of this fact, “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Therefore, I want to suffer with faithfulness. Whatever I am going through, I want to be faithful to God — even when I don’t feel like it. Join me as I express those feelings to God today. He is big enough to handle them. And His grace is enough… for me and for you.

Friday, February 24, 2012

God Uses Cracked Pots

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“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7
CRASH! My favorite piece of pottery had just hit the floor by way of my rambunctious 2 year old. It was cracked in several places. The cracks were obvious no matter what direction I turned it. Would it ever be of any use again?
I love all the scripture passages referring to God as the “Potter” and humanity as the “clay”. I find such comfort in seeing myself in His Sovereign hands, knowing nothing comes into my life that hasn’t first passed through His mercy.
In this passage, Paul calls Christians “jars of clay” and says we are filled with treasure. But, how are others to see this treasure if it is in an opaque jar of clay? Clay pots are not transparent like glass. How is the world to see the Treasure of Christ inside? The only way the world can see the treasure of Christ is when we are cracked or even broken in places and we allow the glory of Christ to shine out. God uses suffering in our lives to bring glory to Himself and to encourage others. Suffering is never without purpose.
When we are suffering, God doesn’t call us to be a martyr or to be stoic. He calls us to show others our “cracks”. We honor Christ through our suffering when we invite others in to share in our struggles so they will also share in His glory.
God still uses “cracked pots”! Will you use your suffering for His glory? Or will you turn your pot around, hoping no one will see the cracks? When we hide our cracks, we hide His glory. Let Christ’s glory shine through you today.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Prosperity is Fleeting

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You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 26:3 NIV

I have heard it said history tends to repeat itself. Amazingly, our nation and our lives are very similar to the people Isaiah wrote these words to. They are written to the house of Judah in a time when the nation was very wealthy and had a form of godliness, but lacked a true relationship with the Lord. In short, they were self-reliant.

Even in the midst of a recession, our nation is prosperous. But, what does prosperity lead to? Does it lead to thankfulness toward God and sacrificial giving to others? Sometimes it does, but many times it leads to self-reliance and an abandonment of faith in God. The cycle can look like this: Prosperity – self-reliance – moral decay – judgment.

If I have learned anything during this time of economic downfall, it is that prosperity is fleeting, but God is eternal. When I put my trust in anything other than the Lord my God, it will fail. When I trust in my wallet, the 401K, or even the value of my home, it can and many times will fail. But God will never fail.

The person who has a steadfast mind is one that has a single focus on God Himself. Their focus is moved from themselves to God alone. Only then will they be able to focus on what is truly important in this life because they understand it has been taken care of.

Let us have “perfect peace” in the area of finance and every other area of our lives by fixing our minds on God. When we ask God to make His Word true for us, He always says yes. Ask Him to keep your mind fixed on Him today as you trust in Him completely.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Year in Review

As 2011 comes to a close, B.J. and I started to review our year after dinner tonight. We discussed our year for awhile and then decided we should write it down to help us remember our successes, failures, the overwhelming joy and sadness, and most importantly what the Lord has been so gracious to teach us this year through His Word and the experiences He used in our lives to bring us closer to Him. So, this may take some perseverance on the part of the reader (and the writer), but here goes…

January brought snow and ice! After several days of sledding, snowboarding, hot chocolate, and all the cookies we should have ever eaten in our entire lives, I was over it. My lack of patience “urged” B.J. to clear the driveway. Unfortunately, he slipped on the ice and broke his ankle. Clayton Speed and Bobby Erwin had to carry us (literally) to an Urgent Care where B.J. was fitted for the boot he would wear the next six weeks. “No weight bearing” for six weeks will teach one a great deal about patience! I knew I had a wonderful husband who helped with everything, but when I had to do everything alone and help B.J. – whew, now that was a test! Lance Pate came and cleared our driveway later that week which was very much appreciated because I had to go to work on Friday. Not just because I was supposed to, but because I had to get out of the house for goodness sakes! The accident did open the door for B.J. to enjoy our garden tub and take more baths than he says he ever wanted to! But, the time in the bath gave him the opportunity to memorize most of the Book of Phillipians.

February 5th was Joel’s 7th physical birthday and the 20th was his first spiritual birthday!! He made his decision public in the Venue at FBC Trussville on February 27th. We are so thankful God has called Joel to Himself and saw much spiritual growth in Joel throughout the year. Joel also raised over $500 for the Margaret Elementary Fun Run, running an amazing 37 laps!

In March, we celebrated our first Spring Break “Stay-cation”. We went bowling, to the park, and to the carnival. We finished off the week with what should have been our best camping trip ever, but on the last night I got the stomach virus. I had to abandon the boys on the camp site and drive to the Jameson Inn in Alex City! It was a nightmare, but turned out to be a very funny story to my wonderful girl-friends! This was David’s first camping trip and he had a wonderful time. Maybe we will get take him again and stay the whole time!

On April 17th, B.J. had the honor of baptizing our oldest son Joel. It was a wonderful day filled with the joy of the Lord. Joel requested that we have our entire family come to our house and eat lunch after the service. This was such a compliment to me and I hope that he will always feel like our home is a wonderful place to be. I will always enjoy and count it a privilege to open any home the Lord gives us to family and friends. The same evening, Caleb and Joel performed in the Children’s musical CAMP ABC at FBC Trussville. 10 days later on April 27th, our state experienced one of the saddest days that I can remember. Tornadoes wreaked havoc on much of our state, but it was as if they totally missed our lives. We had no damage to our home or our church, but the pain and suffering was all around us. These storms changed us forever. We had the opportunity to give in real, tangible ways to our own community and B.J. had the opportunity to help with the clean-up efforts. The boys and I had the opportunity to pray for our neighbors like we never have before. Caleb prayed for the people hurt in the tornadoes for months and even now, he often remembers them and asks God to help them and keep them safe.

May was filled with excitement! Caleb graduated from 4K, and Joel finished 1st grade. I finished my 30 week study on the Book of Isaiah through BSF. I could never articulate in words all that the Lord taught me through this study. His Word is true and it is the only source of truth. Everything we think, feel, and experience must be compared to His Word. One of the things He taught us was on discipline – how He disciplines and how we were disciplining. He is the perfect parent and His motives are never prideful or selfish, yet many of ours were. We read a great book called 1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents at the suggestion of Terry Mashburn. It was a wonderful book and God used it to bring full-circle what He was teaching us about parenting and discipline through Isaiah. We finished off May with our family vacation to the beach. While we had a fabulous time, we learned that we are too big of a family to stay in a 1 bedroom condo for a week! However, we probably had the best time ever on the beach because we carried a large canopy, zero-gravity chairs, and tons of beach toys. Even though B.J. did not want to cart all that stuff 100s of miles, we were able to spend hours on the beach and truly enjoy God creation and each other. So he had to admit that I was right… again! J

June was filled with VBS, Fine Arts Camp, “Click, Clack, Moo” ACTA Drama Camp, and lots of fun on our new water slide! Cars 2 was also a hit with the James’ Family who are our favorite friends to go to the movies with! David moved into a “big-boy bed” because he decided it was time to climb out of his crib and onto his changing table during nap time. Half of the year is over and amazingly, I am caught up with my photobooking!! Who-hoo!

July brought home my brother and his new wife Cara. They were married in Africa and we had a family reception for them on July 4th at my Aunt Vallie’s house. God changed my life that day in a way that I certainly was not expecting. My Daddy gave me a book that day. Although it was probably not expensive and I think he found it at a used book store, it is priceless to me. It is priceless because by giving it to me I know that he “hears” me. He knows what I believe in and the causes that I am passionate about. I will never spend another second wanting him to be someone he is not, but will spend every possible moment enjoying him for who he is.

Caleb turned 5 on July 10th and David turned 2 on July 30th. They had a double party at Trussville Play Place on the 20th and our sweet David had to wear a little boot similar to the one B.J. wore when he broke his ankle. He had a soft-tissue injury and had to wear it for 2 weeks. He was so cute in it! Unfortunately, he hurt it the day I was scheduled to have my painful varicose veins fixed. I went ahead with the procedure, so B.J. had 2 crippled people to wait on for several days!

August ushered in the beginning of many, many changes in our lives. We had prayed that God would provide a buyer for our home in Margaret and provide a home for us in Trussville so we could be closer to our church and so Joel could attend Paine Primary with his friends from church. On August 15th when Joel started school at Margaret, it appeared that Jehovah-Jirah (God Our Provider) had said “NO” to this prayer – and He is big enough to do that! We recommitted ourselves to ministering to the school, teachers, and neighbors God had given us in Margaret. At peace with God’s decision, we moved on. Our entire family started Bible Study Fellowship and we were able to study God’s Word together during our Family Worship Time each day. This has been a tremendous blessing to our family as God’s Word will never return void and the Book of Acts has been right on time.

The Contemporary Service moved into the Sanctuary at FBC Trussville in August. This was a huge milestone, an exciting transition, and an amazing opportunity. We will never cease to be humbled and amazed by the fact that the Living God who created the universe has chosen to use us for His purposes.

August 29th, God brought a buyer for our home. And, not just a buyer – He answered our specific prayer for our home to be a blessing to the next people who would live there. We prayed He would bring someone who would love and enjoy it as much as we had. The sweet couple who bought our home in Margaret told us it was “absolutely perfect” – everything they wanted and in the exact place they wanted to live. God is SO ABLE!

September was a whirlwind of trying to find a house in Trussville and make it to Disney World by the 17th. After looking at almost every house in Trussville and driving our agent Shay Shellnutt crazy, we put an offer on our new house in Sherman Oaks on September 11th. It was accepted and we planned to close on September 28th. We went to Disney as planned and had an amazing time! So magical for the boys and such a wonderful memory as a family. My amazing mother-in-law packed up most of our house while we were gone. My mom came over and helped us pack up the rest when we returned home. But, then we hit a road-block. Our closing had been delayed. First a couple of days and then almost a week. I definitely identified with the Israelites living in tents for 40 years! We didn’t know whether we should unpack or not and we really didn’t know if possibly the whole thing might fall through! It was a very stressful time and I was seriously almost to go through the roof. I was praying, I was trusting, but my anxiety level was really high! My BSF group leader, Deanna, made the comment that I was really demonstrating the “peace of God”. I said, “Thanks Deanna, but I did take a Xanax!” God really does use medicine sometimes!!

We closed on our new home and Joel started Paine Primary School on October 5th. God used His Word in an amazing way that day. We had been studying about Stephen and how God comforted him as he was being stoned. Joel’s first day of school at Paine Primary, he was nervous. But, at 7 he trusted in Christ enough to know that if God was strong enough to comfort Stephen, He was big enough to comfort him if he was afraid at his new school. When I picked Joel up from school he said it was the “best day ever!” Glory to God!

After weeks of praying, we finally knew Joel’s teacher’s name – Sabrina Johnson. He did not know anyone in his class, but made fast friends. We believed that God was Sovereign over Joel’s new class, but throughout the rest of the year, He has made that even clearer. Joel’s speech continues to be an issue and we had fought for him to have speech services at the previous schools he attended. He was denied 3 times and we continued to do private therapy at intervals. We trust that we will continue to see God’s Hand at work in this area over the next few months. For now, we know that Joel is exactly where he is supposed to be and we are thankful.

Our life took on many new changes as we moved into Trussville. We cut our gas in half, had a laundry room, a fenced in back yard, threw away tons of “stuff” when we moved, made over $1000 at Kids Market/Craigslist , got a new playground from our awesome neighbors – The Stovall’s, and last but not least – we finally get to recycle!! We made some wonderful new friends – Brian and Laura Stanley who live next door and Tyler and Jennifer Eiland (missionaries living in the mission house). So thankful that God continues to bring new friends into our lives!

In November, we hosted Thanksgiving for our families and dedicated our new home to the Lord. This was my first opportunity to fix the “big food”. Thank goodness for Honey Baked Ham!! Our families had a wonderful time and we were thankful to be able to open our home to give thanks to God for all His blessings and this great nation. Since my family is used to celebrating in the wide open space of North Alabama, I obligated B.J. to take everyone on a hike to the Mighty Cahaba River. I think they should have carried some bottled water! Last but not least, B.J. and I endured the crowds at Wal-mart on Thanksgiving Night and got a new Television. So now my Daddy can stop making fun of my “fat –T.V”!

December is always extremely busy, but it is also the season of Advent. A little book called Looking Forward to the Nativity is what God used to spark our passion for family worship several years ago. We went through this devotional again this year and saw our children learn more about Christ’s incarnation. Joel read the devotion several days, Caleb memorized almost the entire second chapter of Luke, and David learned Isaiah 9:6 and all the Christmas songs. B.J had the privilege of leading one of the most worshipful services we have ever been a part of on December 18th. Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God is an amazing contemporary Christmas musical the Contemporary Worship Team led at FBC Trussville. I also had the opportunity to write and arrange the narration. This year I have been published in The Alabama Baptist, Christian, and The Christian Literary Journal, but when B.J. asked me to write narration for this anointed music – it was an honor beyond words.

Christmas was wonderful! The boys wanted to give Jesus a lamb because as Caleb said “Jesus is the Lamb of God”. We were so thankful to be able to give gifts to Christ on His birthday.

It is difficult to wrap this year up. God has taught us so much. We have learned what it means to be opposed and rejected for the Gospel of Christ and even though it brought us sorrow, we rejoice in joining with Christ in His sufferings. We have learned the importance on encouraging one another in the faith. We have had the privilege of growing new and old friendships. God has allowed us to encourage and counsel other believers with His Word which is the highest honor we could ever attain. His Word is our life and our hope. As we close 2011, we hope that in 2012 we will speak more of His Words than of our own. It is a privilege to be His child and His servant. Two verses surround this year that I want to close with:

“Here I am, send me!” Isaiah 6:8

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed , but of those who believe and are saved.” Hebrews 10:39

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

No Money for Milk

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…a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 (ESV)

I knew I’d failed. I had failed my husband, my children, and my God. It was one day till pay day. My two young boys had no milk to drink and the van was on empty. Unless I used a credit card, we’d have to wait and I wasn’t even sure if I could make it home. Conviction started to flood my soul over what I’d spent money on for the past two weeks. I hadn’t meant to waste it, but God reminded me of things I’d bought that I certainly didn’t need.

I stopped right there and prayed. God, I am so sorry I have not been a good steward of what You have provided. If you will help us, we will change. I realized in that moment, just like every other area of our lives, finances were too big for us to handle alone. They were also too big for us to handle as a couple. We must have a “threefold cord.”

When we look to God for help in this area of our lives, He doesn’t turn His head away. He swoops in and starts to change this area, beginning with our hearts. I went home that night and told my husband what happened. We began right then making changes by using some Christian budgeting tools. As we sought God’s help and turned this area over to Him, things started to change.

Over the next 18 months we paid off over $26,000 in debt and built our savings. He truly worked miracles in this area when we submitted to Him and sought His wisdom.

In this tough economy, money is on everyone’s mind. Join me in allowing God to guide in this area so the world can see how followers of Christ deal with money. Will you submit your finances to Him? Regardless of whether you make $20,000 a year or $200,000 a year, He stands ready to help. Include Him in your financial planning team today.

Friday, May 13, 2011

My BSF Testimony

For those of you who do not know, I attend a weekly Bible Study called Bible Study Fellowship. I have just completed a 30 week study on Isaiah! It was so AWESOME and God taught me so many things. The following is what I shared with my class on Tuesday.

Note to the reader: Isaiah went around completely naked for several years of his ministry as a symbol of Israel's shame. This will make sense as you keep reading! And Juanita is my BSF teaching leader.

Hope you enjoy hearing what God has done in my life lately!

Last week before our last class, I asked my family if they thought God had changed anything in me during this study. My husband, without missing a beat, said absolutely! He went on to say that I had definitely become a “more radical extremist” about the end of the world, but that I hadn’t started running around naked yet! Thanks for that!

Seriously, God has taught me so much this year. It has just been an amazing study, but there is one particular circumstance that I want to share with you this morning.

My husband and I have 3 boys – 7, 4, and 1. Our oldest son’s name is Joel and he has a speech disorder – he stutters. We have been in and out of therapy for years and the general consensus of all the therapists now is that he will most likely not grow out of it, but with therapy will be able to control it. This journey has had its ups and downs. There are times he does great and other times where he literally cannot communicate with us. I know that stuttering is not life threatening, but anytime there is something wrong with your child – it is hard. God has taught me so much thru the years that we have been going through this. But, this year He came through for me in a way like never before.

Joel was really struggling right before Christmas. Nothing we had learned in therapy was working or helping him. His frustration level and ours was through the roof. He was to the point where he really couldn’t even get out an entire sentence. It was terrible. I was sinking deeper and deeper into despair over it. God has taught me in the past through His word that my feelings are not always reality. Even though I felt hopeless, I did know that I had hope in Him. I had been studying Isaiah 25-27 all week and praying for a breakthrough, but my feelings had not changed.

I came to BSF literally a wreck on the inside. Peace and hope definitely did not describe me that day. On top of all that, I felt so weak. God has brought me through so much and I know that other women look to me as a leader in my church and here I was in a pit of despair over my fears for my child’s life. I felt like such a failure to Him and to all the people He had placed in my life.

But, during the lecture, Juanita said that “If we belong to Christ, we have perfect salvation, through a perfect Savior. We can have perfect peace and we do have perfect hope.” She went on to tell the story of when her house burned down and how she had lived with a lady for a few weeks while she tried to put her life back together. Only later did Juanita find out that during that time the lady she was staying with had lost almost everything herself in the oil crisis. That strong Christian woman was truly living out Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast because he trusts in you.”

While Juanita was telling that story, tears started running down my face. I want to share with you what I wrote in my notes: “This is a person who has a single focus on God himself – freedom from self. We can focus on others because we know that God has us taken care of. This is not me! God help me!”

I began praying that God would make that verse true in my life, confessing to Him that I knew it wasn’t true of me now. I asked Him to turn my focus away from myself and my child’s problems and to HIM!

Juanita closed the lecture that day by quoting the words to Because He Lives. I don’t know any other way to describe my experience other than to say that while she was quoting that hymn, the Lord Jesus Christ literally came and got me out of that pit I was in. Life is worth the living just because He lives. He picked me up and I am so thankful. This was literally a turning point for me in my relationship with Him. I am convinced that when we ask Him to make His word true about our lives – He will.

I left BSF different than I came in. When I got home, Joel's speech had not changed, but God had changed me! My outlook was totally different. Even if Joel stutters the rest of his life, I know that God holds him in the palm of His hand.

I want to give God all glory and honor for everything He has done in my life this year. He truly is a perfect Savior and a perfect friend.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Has God Forgotten Me?

“But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” Isaiah 49:15-16.

There have definitely been times in my life where I have felt forgotten by God. Times where I felt He had abandoned me. But, my feelings are not always reality. However, His word is always reality. And it says that He will not forget me because my name is engraved on His hand.

In this passage, the writer asks us if a mother can forget her own child. Even though we would like to say ‘no’, we can look around our society and know that they do. Mothers and fathers walk away from their children every day. Even though that seems unthinkable, it is happening more and more.

Even so, God will never walk away from His child. If you have accepted Him through faith in His Son Jesus, you can have the assurance that no matter what happens in life, God is with you. He has vowed not to forget you and your name is written on the palm of His hand. What an amazing fact this is! How close He holds me to heart!

That’s one big hand! I’m glad He holds me in it. Will you choose to believe His Word today and know that God is with you no matter how you feel?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Why Israel?

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6

I have known people who have stumbled over the fact that Israel is God’s chosen people. Why them? God chose Israel to be the people that He revealed Himself through the same way that He chose Italy to reveal art and America to reveal democracy. These are His choices to make.

Thankfully and wonderfully, however, His salvation is too great to be kept to one people group! In this prophetic passage in Isaiah, God is talking to His Son. He is telling Jesus it will be “too small a thing” for His salvation to only be for the Israelites. He will make His salvation available to all nations in order to bring glory to Himself.

Let us thank God for the nation of Israel. From them we received the Bible and our Savior! Let us continue to pray for them to come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ – as God has not forgotten them. And let us never forget that He has made salvation available to all through His Son. Will you share that with someone today?