Wednesday, October 31, 2012

He is the Vine, We are the Branches

Earlier this summer I mentioned that I had been traveling on church business quite a bit.  What I didn't say was that I have accepted a new role in our Florida United Methodist Conference.  I am the Associate Lay Leader for Reaching Next Generations.  When I said I would do this, I wasn't sure what exactly it involved, and I didn't feel equipped, but I prayed about it and felt God had led me to this place and was asking for me to serve.  I still don't necessarily feel equipped, but I do know that if God calls you to something, He will equip you for it so I depend on Him for words, plans, ideas and guidance. 

Monday morning I attended a meeting with pastors from a district in our Conference.  Our new Bishop is meeting with each district and I have been invited to attend as I can.  Our Lay Leader spoke, I said a few words and then our Bishop told about his life, preached, and answered questions.  At the end our our time together, I was asked to help the Bishop serve communion to this group of pastors.  Among them were two pastors that were once at my home church.  What an honor it was to serve communion alongside our Bishop to those who serve their congregations. 

Bishop Carter preached from John 15, which has been on my mind for a couple of weeks now.  It's amazing how God can bring a passage to your mind, you meditate on it, and then a while later, you hear someone speak to it.  These are the pieces I've been thinking about:

John 15:5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." 

Apart from me you can do nothing.  How many times do I try to rely on my own strength, my own capabilities.  God tells me right here that without Him, I can't do it. 

Then v. 16-17  "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.  This is my command: Love each other."

What a thought that God would choose me...that He would appoint me to anything, let alone to Kingdom work.  To work that really matters.  That's exactly what He did.  He appointed me so that I might go and bear fruit that will last.  This isn't some little menial task He is appointing me to, this is important work to bear good fruit that will last.  I'm not qualified for this.  I don't know what to say or how to say it.  I don't know what to do or how to do it.  This is where the Apart from me you can do nothing comes in.  If God is the power and brains behind all of it, and I am an empty vessel, waiting and willing for Him to use me, it can be done. 

Then that command to Love each other.  Some people are easy to love.  I have a feeling that isn't who God is talking about.  If it were, He wouldn't have to say it 'cause I already love them.  It's those people who get under my skin, those people who rub me the wrong way, those are the people God was talking about.  Ouch!  Do I really have to?  See v. 16 "You did not choose me, but I chose you..."  That's not the easy answer, but God says that with Him all things are possible.  So I'm praying that God will help me to see others through His eyes, help me to love those that are hard to love and that I will remain in Him, because apart from Him I can't do anything. 

I don't know what is in store for me, but I do know that because God has led me to this place in this time, I will trust in Him to equip me to do His work.  My prayer is that together God and I will bear fruit that will last. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Grace: More Than We Deserve Greater Than We Imagine

What is grace?  We sing about it in the hymn Amazing Grace.  We talk about it in our churches, but do we understand it?  Describing Grace in a way only Lucado can, "This book asks a deeper question: Have you been changed by grace?  Shaped by grace?  Strengthened by grace?  Emboldened by grace?  Softened by grace?  Snatched by the nape of your neck and shaken to your senses by grace?  God's grace has a drenching about it.  A wildness about it.  A white-water, riptide, turn-you-upside-downess about it.  Grace comes after you.  It rewires you.  From insecure to God secure.  From regret-riddles to better-because-of-it.  From afraid-to-do to ready-to-fly.  Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off.  When grace happens, we receive not a nice compliment from God but a new heart...You might call it a spiritual heart transplant."

I always come away from Max Lucado's books wanting more.  Grace was no different.  I sat down to read this book and didn't want to put it down.  Lucado gives example after example of ways God has showered His grace upon people from the harlot who would be stoned to modern day ordinary people just like you and me.  He uses examples from his own life, brave confessions of his weaknesses, and his need for grace.  We all need God's grace.  If we didn't, Jesus wouldn't have borne our sin and taken our place on the cross.  Ephesians 2:8 "You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God."

"This is a gift that God gives.  A grace that grants us first the power to receive love and then the power to give it.  A grace that changes us, shapes us, and leads us to a life that is eternally altered." (Lucado page 150)

This book was a blessing to me and I highly recommend it as I know it will bless your life as well.  We all stand in need of God's life changing, life saving grace.  May we be open to accept that grace and ask for God to use us as an instrument to show others grace as well.

I received a complimentary copy of this book, courtesy of BookSneeze and Thomas Nelson, for the purpose of review on this blog. All opinions expressed are my own, and I have not been compensated in any other manner

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Today began as an ordinary day.  It was a hectic day.  It was also a wonderful day.  Today a man approached me after preschool chapel and told me that he is on a spiritual journey.  He told me he felt empty inside and that he needed to find his way back to Jesus.  Today I was able to share Jesus.  I told him all about what Jesus has done in my life and how I wished the same for him.  Today I opened myself up and allowed God to use me as His instrument.  In those precious moments, it wasn't about me or anything I could have done or said.  Today it was about Jesus and what He has done in my life.  Today I saw a hunger for Jesus.  Today I prayed that Jesus would do the same for this man and his family.  Today was about Jesus softening and preparing the heart of one of his children and I was privileged to be a part of it.  Today was a special day.  It was an amazing day.  I pray that God will give me more days like today.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Twelve Unlikely Heroes ~ A Review

Twelve Unlikely Heroes, How God Commissioned Unexpected People in the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You, by John MacArthur is well-written and deeply researched study.  MacArthur has a way of bringing these people to life for the reader and showing how God used ordinary people for His extraordinary purpose.  He illustrates how God equips those He calls and that He can use anyone to serve Him.  In this book, MacArthur highlights the lives of Enoch, Joseph, Miriam, Gideon, Samson, Jonathan, Jonah, Esther, John the Baptist, James, Mark and Onesimus. 

I learned a lot while reading this book.  I haven't read MacArthur's other books in this series, but now I want to get those as well.   The word "hero" has become over-used to describe pop culture icons instead of people who change the course of history.  THe men and women in this book were broken, ordinary people, who changed the world by giving up their lives and wants for obedience to God.  While reading about these men and women, I thought about how God can use anyone to further His kingdom and how He calls each of us in different ways.  We must be open to serve Him and get out of the way so that God can work through us.  I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about God's plans for ordinary men and women, including how He can use each of us and equip each of us for Kingdom work.  

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

What Veruca Salt and I Have In Common

Look at me on a blogging roll!  God has really been stirring things up in my heart and I feel the need to share.  Do you ever have times in your life when you ask God for something, knowing you probably won't get it, but you ask anyway?  That one thing can consume you if you aren't careful.  I have been through peaks and valleys with this, asking God and handing it over to Him, but then taking it back and worrying over it.  I'm not really trusting in His perfect plan in this one area of my life. 

As I was reading from "Jesus Calling," here was His answer to me once again:
"Though I have brought many pleasures into your life, not one of them is essential.  Receive My blessings with open hands.  Enjoy My good gifts, but do not cling to them.  Turn your attention to the Giver of all good things, and rest in the knowledge that you are complete in Me.  The one thing you absolutely need is the one thing you can never lose: My Presence with you."

It can be easy for me to lose sight of how incredibly blessed I am.  I am not entitled to those blessings.  God could take them away at any time.  Sometimes I realize that I am acting like a spoiled brat, pouting when I don't get my way. "But I want an Oompa Loompa Now!" (in my whiniest Veruca Salt voice). If you aren't familiar with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:

Doesn't God tell us "Ask and ye shall receive?"  I'm so glad God isn't like Veruca's indulgent father, giving in to her every ridiculous whim.  I want what I want, but I also want for things to fall in line with His plan so here I am caught in what I want vs. what God knows is best for me.  The control freak in me just wants to handle things all on my own.  The growing Christian part of me wants for God to align my heart with His. 
That's when I have to step back and pray. "God, please help me to love you more each day.  Help me to have a heart for You and Your people and to love what You love.  Help me to want only what you want for my life and to walk in obedience to Your will."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Let Your Light Shine

The other morning as I walked into Prince's room I found his Lego Man Lantern still on in his bed.  It had apparently been on all night and the batteries were running low.  He was lit, but the light was dim.  I immediately started thinking about Bible verses with the word "light" in them.  There are a lot of them.  According to Google, the word "light" appears 272 times in the King James Bible.  These are the verses I've been pondering though:

Psalm 4:6 "Many are asking, 'Who can show us any good?'  Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord."
Psalm 27:1 "The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear?"
Psalm 119:105 "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."
John 1:4 "In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it."
John 8:12 "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.'"

My thought has been that sometimes my light seems to go dim.  I'm tired, I've got a lot going on, sometimes I just feel blah.  How do I get out of that rut?  I turn to the source of the light ~ Jesus.  There have been times in my life when I felt like I couldn't fit one more thing in my day.  I'd fall asleep reading my Bible or praying and I didn't know how else to "fit God in."  My priorities were backward.  It isn't about fitting God into my day, it's about making time for Him so that I can make it through the rest of my day.  If I will start with devotions or meditating on Scripture and prayer I am energized to start the day.  Some days this is harder than others, but I'm not talking about a long time commitment.  There are days when I am up and dressed earlier and I can sit for 30 minutes or more and that's great.  However, most days I begin with a devotion for busy moms or just opening my Bible to find a morsel for meditation ~ something from God that I can think about as I get dressed and put my face on.  I pray over my children as I make their lunches, pray for Hubby as he travels an hour up the road to work, pray over those pictures of special friends on my fridge, pray for those I know have needs.  Sometimes I write Bible verses on sticky notes and post them on my mirror or somewhere I am going to see them as a help for memorizing Scripture. 

When I began to do this, I noticed something.  This little bit of time felt so good, that it made me hunger for more.  I carry a Bible in my car so that if I am waiting somewhere and I have a few minutes, I can open it up and read more.  I have Bibles by my desk at work and several devotional books so when I need encouragement I can open them right up.  When I am in the car by myself, sometimes I listen to praise and worship music, but sometimes I feel God nudging me to just be still and quiet and enjoy time with Him.  It took a while for me to get out of the habit of immediately turning on the radio, but it's a nice quiet to my otherwise noisy day. 

I am by no means an expert, nor am I perfect.  I just know how busy and crazy my life can get, and I feel like there might be other moms who get as overwhelmed as me.  Know that you aren't alone and that it is possible to keep your light shining brightly if you spend time with the source of that light.  The more you do it, the more time you will find to spend in His presence and others will see the light of Christ radiate through you.

I want to leave you with one last verse about light.  Matthew 5:14 "You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My Cute Kids

Things have been a bit busy lately.  I have been traveling a lot with church responsibilities which, when added to my other responsibilities has been a little busier than I like to be.  I've met a lot of wonderful people and learned so much ~ that part of it has been good.  What I haven't done though is get any rest on the weekends due to the travel.

God knows my heart and He knows I'm a little weary this week.  I think He also knows I need to laugh a little more.  This is why he gave me two adorable children who say funny things.  So please indulge me while I share a little about the kiddos...

Saturday morning, while I was away at a training, Hubby got up and decided to order bagels for breakfast.  He asked Prince what he wanted and he said a sausage, egg and cheese bagel.  Upon asking Princess what she wanted, she said the same thing.  So Hubby, knowing that Prince is a big eater asked Prince, "Can you share half of the bagel with your sister?"  Prince says yes that will be fine.  Hubby thought "Wow, that was easier than I thought it would be." Prince then says, "Dad, I'll eat half of a bagel but I want 2 halves."  Hubby says, "So you want a whole bagel."  Prince says, "Yes, 2 halves please.  I don't mind sharing with my sister, but I want 2 halves." 

Prince is on the countdown.  He's counting the number of days until Halloween, the number of days until Angry Birds Star Wars comes out, the number of days until fall is over and winter begins, the number of days until our trip to the mountains.  He is keeping track and reminds me each day.  I wish those were the biggest things on my mind.  I love that they are the big things on his mind. 

Princess is sweet and funny and wants to grow up too quickly.  She is taking on more responsibility in trying to help me with chores around the house and I so appreciate her willingness to help.  She wants to spend time with me and I love laying in her bed and listening to her read Little House in the Big Woods to me.  We are almost finished with this book and I am enjoying re-living my favorite childhood stories through her eyes. 

This morning on the way to school Prince and Princess were talking about our extended family, more specifically we were talking about how my Mema and their Great-Granny are the matriarchs of each side of the family.  Prince was trying to figure out how it all fit together and Princess asked me what her Papa's middle name is. (Papa is Hubby's dad)  So I told Princess that Papa's middle name is Rutland.  I explained that this was Great-Granny's last name before she got married.  Princess then says, "Mommy, can you believe I have been in this family for 8 years and I never knew that?!  Daddy didn't tell me that."  I couldn't help but laugh.  I said, "No Princess, I can't believe you never knew that."  In all of her 8 years of life she feels like she should just know everything. 

I love these sweet kids and they are just growing up too fast! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Be-Tween You and God Review

The One Year Be-Tween You & God Devotions for Girls   -     
        By: Sandra Byrd

It isn't often that I am as excited to write a review as I am about this one.  Be-Tween You & God, Devotions for Girls has a cheerful teal cover with embossed words and flowers.  My Princess was super excited that I got this book for the two of us to read together.  Sandra Byrd did a fantastic job putting together devotions that are relevant for tween girls. 

The book is designed to do one devotion a day for a year.  Each devotion has a date, so Princess and I just dove right in on the current date and will continue to follow for the year.  Each day begins with a note to God from a tween's perspective.  Below that, the bulk of the devotional is done in a section called "Consider this."  This is the meat of the message and further explains the answer to the note.  At the bottom of the page is a scripture related to the topic and a question to help girls discuss how they feel about the topic. 

Questions in the book include:
Dear God, I worry that something bad might happen to me...
Dear God, I'd really like to trust you more.  How can I do that?
Dear God, How do I know you exist?  I mean, I can't see you.
Dear God, If angels are here to guide and protect us, does this mean I have a guardian angel?

I am looking forward to spending this special time with Princess each night as we go through this book and discover together what God wants her to learn about Himself and about her relationship with Him.  While many of the topics are geared for girls, Prince was involved in tonight's devotional and shared from his heart as well. 

I received Be-Tween You & God compliments of Tyndale Publishing in exchange for an honest review.  I am in no way obligated to give a high rating, but I give it 5 out of 5 stars.  I highly recommend you get this book for the special tween girl in your life.