Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Spiritual Underwear

"You'de better pray. You're in a battle. Let the Lord arm you. You can't face the enemy in spiritual underwear."
-Francine Rivers, And the Shofar Blew

That is a pretty great quote huh?  I have read pretty much every book that Francine Rivers has ever put out, and though many have intriguing stories and most have valuable lessons, this book gave me that incredible quote to carry around as a souvenir. Though I don't remember much else about the book (don't tell Francine that), this 4 sentence phrase has stuck with me for years. A statement that brings prayer, battle, the Lord arming you and underwear together has to be a great one, right?!

The thought of entering a battle with nothing but underwear makes a pretty vivid  point to me.  If I were to march on a field and battle the enemy, I would want a sword, a gun and anything else I could get my hands on!  But come to think of it, I do that very thing each and every day.  The only catch is, it's up to me as to how much I am armed.  It's up to me to equip myself for the battle.  Do I show up to the fight in nothing but my unmentionables or am I decked out and ready?

So, "you'de (we'de/I'de) better pray." Prayer is GREAT STUFF and one major avenue that connects us to God and keeps us from only having underwear to protect us when the World is sending it's best armies against us. He will arm us (luckily we don't have to find our ammo on our own) and we get to decide how much of that ammo we want in our pockets for the sneak attack.

 I had a friend come to my office a few days ago to pray and she said "there is no urgent matter on my mind this morning, sometimes I just need to pray."  Indeed!  Sometimes, all the time, I/we/us just need to pray. Let's not wait until life is falling apart to reach out to the Alpha and Omega. 

So I'm sure you can already see where I'm going with today's challenge for us all.  Pray people.  Lets grab the swords and guns and leave our days of nakedness behind.  God is ready to hear our prayers and ready to give us His answers for the battles, but it's up to us to make the connection. 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Love all around the World

If you are someone how keeps up with my blog, you know about my sister-in-law, Genae, and her current adventures around the World and how she quickly fell into the footsteps of my dear friend Halley who spent much of last year on the same journey called The World Race. And, if you have kept up with my blog, you have heard how they both inspire me and often leave me longing to join on that grand adventure with them.  I have found myself wrapped DEEP in that longing the last few days. Since being able to Skype with Genae (after more than a month with no communication), I have found my mind wandering to thoughts about how she was simply glowing with joy because of the work she is doing.  I could explode with my desire to hug her and share in that joy!

Genae is over half way done with The World Race and she still talks about how much she loves serving those who need Christ (often amongst the disadvantages of no plumbing and no electricity).  So far she has served in Thailand, Australia, India, Cambodia, Nepal and Malaysia.  This week she heads to South Africa and then will hit 4 other countries before heading home for Christmas.  Even after having friends and family take on that year long journey of service, I can't imagine the roller coaster of emotions and surprising realizations of grace that comes from that capacity of service.

This week Genae isn't the only one leaving me with day dreams of hugging people in far away lands.  My sister, Julie, and my grandmother are both in Ecuador this week on a yearly trip in service to a place that holds a special place in their hearts.  In Ecuador they are laying foundations of love for children and families as well as physical foundations for needed buildings in poverty stricken areas.  It never fails that Julie can't shut her mouth about the Ecuadorian people for months after she returns home (and by the time she stops talking about it, she is packing for the next trip).

In addition, I have another dear friend, Nicole, that will travel this weekend to serve children in Haiti.  You can see her heart for the country and it's children written all over her face.  I have only known her for 2 short months but all it took was me asking her about a previous trip to Haiti for her face to light up and for her passion to start flowing freely.  What a difference she will continue to make there!

And there is yet another great family that I have had the pleasure of getting to know lately that left just this morning in pursuit of China to pick up their newest addition to their family.  A little boy named Caleb will join them in a few short days and will round out their family along side their sweet blond headed littler girl who is anxiously awaiting their return home.

I am blown away by the amount of people whom I love that are touching lives ALL AROUND THE WORLD.  AWESOME!  I often wonder if there are foreign places where I will serve someday or if God has only called those close to me for that type of service.  But, in God's usual fashion, He tends to interrupt my day dreams of "what if" and directs them to the "what are's."  These "what are's" were brought my my attention this time through the book my nose has been stuck in the last few days.

"Same Kind of Different as Me," by Denver Moore and Ron Hall, was a great memory jogger for the things I know God has placed in my heart but needed to be brought back to the surface this week.   This story of Denver Moore, a dangerous homeless man from the cotton fields of Louisiana and Ron Hall, an incredibly wealthy international art dealer, has left me babbling all day about differences that can be made in the World directly around you.  Denver Moore's life has been forever changed by a hometown family who chose not to see a hard man on the streets but a life in need of the love of Christ instead.

I am in awe of the people in the pages of my books and in the real pages of my life who truly care selflessly for others and choose to find kindred spirits both down the street and around the World.  Thanks to Genae, Nicole, Julie, The Fanning Family and Mema, I've had a big dose of the reality towards the reminder of where He has called me to serve in this moment.  This season of life doesn't call me to serve and love those over seas, it calls me to those in Panama City Beach.  He has called me to love those in my new community and support those leaving their community to serve beyond this country's walls.  I am called to show the people of Woodlawn UMC the same type of unconditional love that my friends give to those they meet as they travel deep and wide for the cause of Christ.

So many people think you have to leave the country to make a difference and in many cases that is true. But it doesn't always take a trip around the World to make a difference.  In the case of Ron Hall, his wife Debbie and their friend Denver, they concentrated on what was right in front of them and continue to make a difference today because of it.  God calls those who travel to love as they enter new countries as well as when they are in their home land and God is calling me now to love those in my home and not to get lost in the dreams of other Worlds.

What a HUGE and wonderful God we serve that allows us to be His spokespersons to all the nations.  I am blown away by the work he is doing and the compassion he puts in our hearts to give on His behalf.  Praise be to God for those who make an impact in my life and I pray daily I can be that impact in the lives of others.  Please keep in your prayers all those who are traveling and for them to plant seeds and change lives in BIG WAYS. And as well, for all those who are receiving the love of Jesus to embrace the peace and grace that only He can give.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Beach Life

After living in the town so lovingly called "PCB" for 7 weeks now, I have learned a lot about beach life: 
In beach life, it is apparently OK to walk around mostly naked anywhere you want to. 
In beach life, your town goes from being one of those in which you know everyone at Wal-Mart Monday through Thursday to a place where you don't even think about gracing Wal-Mart Friday through Sunday.
In beach life, you get to visit with a lot of old friends during the summer.
In beach life, you make sure you have new friends secured by winter!
In beach life, it's normal to wait 8 weeks on your kitchen to be demolished and redone from a water leak but the handy-men work with a smile!
In beach life, there are wonderful people waiting to make you feel like family.
In beach life, there are a lot of hurting people looking for Jesus and they don't even know it. 
In beach life, there are incredible ways to reach out to those who are hurting. 
In beach life, you have to be me missing ALL 5 of your senses to miss God's beauty!

All of these realizations have given us many new stories and several come with plenty of laughs.  Come visit us and we will tell them all!

Evan and I continue to be blown away by how much we feel at home in our new surroundings and how many missional opportunities we have at Woodlawn to reach individual lives.  We can officially say that we have made it through Vacation Bible School and are attempting to master the Sunday morning circus.  We have said goodbye to one senior pastor and are saying hello to another this week.  The beach life is a world of constant change that keeps us on our toes and just far enough out of our comfort zones to keep us continually looking for Christ and telling Satan to get out of the way!

Here are some photos of a few of the beloved friends and family that have come to see us so far and a few awesome experiences we have taken part in since April 29th:

A sunset Catamaran Cruise could possibly be the most relaxing and breathtaking experience on Earth.

Halley and Justin were here within days of our move.  There are always fun adventures when they are involved!

We had a great long weekend with Mom and Dad.  I could spend my hours with my toes in the water like this.

The pups are officially spoiled and expect beach time too.

What is better than a day in the sun?  A day in the sun followed by a random visit from a sweet friend named Rachel!

If you recall, in my last blog I mentioned the Baptisms on the Beach. It was every bit as incredible as I had anticipated. A few dolphins even joined the party and added to the majesty of it all. These pictures are just a glimpse of heaven as those go into the water for Baptism and has the church stands behind them in their journey.

Peace and love people.  Keep those prayers going for those in recovery from tornadoes, missionaries in the field and those in Panama City that are so close to finding peace in Jesus!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Change in a BIG way!

A lot has happened since my last blog with was, ironically, about change. Just after challenging all of us to step out onto the wings of faith through change, I was given that exact opportunity.

This week is actually my first week as the new Children's Director of Woodlawn UMC in Panama City Beach, Florida.  In the last few weeks, Evan and I have turned our lives upside down and are in the midst of landing them right side up again.  We relocated last Friday and are getting accustomed to our new world (we actually live in a town now and probably resemble The Beverly Hillbillies as we get excited over fast food and grocery stores).  It was very bitter-sweet to leave Sumatanga.  Neither of us wanted to leave the wonderful people and beauty of Sumatanga but we felt a strong tugging for us to take on this new adventure in ministry.  There was A LOT of back and forth on our part in the beginning on if we were making the right decision but we have do doubt now that we have.  God has continually shown us the way and has taken care of things in a way that only He can!  We have been ushered in by the people of Woodlawn and made to feel more than welcome and we can already see some of the fruit produced by the church.  We have been amazed at how quickly we have felt at home and how fast things have fallen into place.  As we begin to serve and be ministered to ourselves, I will update as to what God is doing in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

The first on the list of awesome God moments found here in Panama City Beach will be tonight:
Tonight I have the incredible privilege to join with my new church family at the county pier and take part of a service where 42 (yes! 42!) people will be baptized in the ocean.  I will be there to pray and encourage the people and I already feel more than humbled to be able to take part in such an experience. I woke up this morning jumping out of my skin with excitement for the people bold enough to say yes to Christ and His spirit and acknowledge an inner change through such a powerful outward sign.  God is doing BIG THINGS in this city and I am so glad he has called Evan and myself to be a part on it.  I have chills just thinking about it!

And, while we are on the subject of change and all the mighty things God can do, please take to prayer all those who were effected by the tornadoes and storms across the southeast last week.  These people have experienced change like they never could have imaged.  It has been incredible to see the outpouring of help and prayer but those efforts cannot stop now.  It will take much more time than any one person or church has to rebuild all the communities and to help such a large amount of people get back on their feet.

Today I ask for everyone out there in media land to pray.  Pray for me and Evan as begin our new lives in PCB, pray for the people of Woodlawn UMC that they would truly feel the spirit of the Lord and His guidance and pray for all those recovering from the tornadoes that they would find comfort and peace in this hard time.

And just for fun: yes, I finally changed the picture at the top of the page.  Wow, we look different!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Seasons of Change

Do you ever wake up with a topic that you can't get off your mind? Today's all consuming thought for me has been on change.

Change is all around us; how can we not notice it!  It was just a few weeks ago that Alabama was experiencing the longest and most snow filled winter I have ever seen. And now, I look out the windows of my home and see green trees and sunshine everywhere!  I can literally watch the changes happen in the landscape day to day.  The pollen in the air today is also proof of change.  This ugly substance that creeps up on us from who knows where will soon, and all of a sudden, bring incredible flowers of vibrant colors right before our eyes (but not before it swells up my face and gives us all a few weeks of sinus disturbance). 

I even notice change as I look around this blog page.  Take my picture at the top for instance; Evan and I look nothing like we did on our wedding day.  In our two years of marriage we have managed to make complete changes to our looks to the point that we have been asked if we are in a witness protection plan (and don't ask. If I told you, I'de have to kill you).  Neither of us were necessarily dissatisfied with our looks but we longed for something different from our norm. You would have thought I had severed a leg the way some people acted when I went from blonde to cherry coke but it was exciting for me. 

So, why is change such a big deal?  Why is everyone so afraid to take a new step, do something different or make a transformation? I happen to love change but frequently find folks who do not come along with me in that line of thinking. I see where change can be scary but it can be so rewarding to take the leap and see what the next season holds. 

As I look around and witness the animals return from hiding, the trees starting their bloom and as my hair gets dyed more often, I still can't help but think that changing isn't so bad.  It was God who created change after all.  It is He who gives us the 4 seasons.  It is God who makes it warm after it has been so cold and cold after it has been so warm.  It is our creator who gives us both the snow of winter and the sun of summer.  If God is in the change, then why be afraid to change ourselves? I don't mean just our hair color but our outlook on life, the place we are, our take on a situation, and dare I say, our attitude for the uncontrollable changes around us as well.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come!"
I am in Christ and he has made me new! Exciting right?
The trees are of Christ and they are budding to life before my eyes!
You can be in Christ and become something new and more beautiful than ever imagined! 

Also, Matthew 6:26 says, "Look at the birds of the sky; they don't sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you worth more than they?"
If God will take care of the birds in the air, who are out singing their praises as I type this by the way, will He not surely take care of us as we go through change?  I think He will!

So go ahead, see what changes God has in store for you. See what attitudes can be transformed and what appreciation needs to be given.  Enjoy the spring as it blooms around you and be a new creation yourself! I think I'll give it a shot too!

Denali experiencing the change of season for the first time.

Before and After