Thursday, November 17, 2011

He's a Marine!!!!

Around 7:40am yesterday, Nov 16th 2011, my son Recruit David Cunningham having finished The Crucible and 13 weeeks of Boot Camp on Parris Island SC became a United States Marine. Ooh Rah!
As he entered back onto the base after 54 grueling straight hours of being tested to his physical and mental limits with little food and sleep, exhausted, drained, blistered and hungry with an ear infection, he and Alpha Company and his own Platoon 1090 gathered around a replica of the Iwo Jima Marine Memorial. Then my son was handed his Eagle Globe and Anchor pin from his DI, able to finally sing the Marine Corp Hymn and proudly claim the title of United States Marine!

I so wish I could have seen it - but I am also glad for him that he had that private moment with the platoon he has grown to love and work with as one, and with his DI's who have pushed him, stretched him, and taught him. What a special experience and incredible memories they must all have together.

Now after counting months and weeks that he has been gone I count days and hours until I see his face, hug him hard, and kiss his cheeks on Family Day and Graduation Day for the first time since August 29th - that day he hugged me one last time and climbed into a van that would take him away to a sand flea infested place that would change forever who he was.

Proud? I cant even begin to say how proud I am of him. I really thought the tears had run dry but each time I think of him marching back onto that Parade Deck of Parris Island Marine Corp Recruit Depot and how he must have felt to realize at last that the 13 week test was over, the tears began to flow again. And as I think of the relief and fulfillment, pride and thankfulness he must have felt as that EGA pin was placed in his hand, the tears flow even faster.
Yesterday the blonde headed little boy who used to bring me dandelions in a dixie cup became Pvt David Cunningham - a United States Marine... Semper Fi!

God thank you for showing my son a clear path, for calling him to it, for setting him on it, for his heart of service you have given him, for watching over him, keeping him, equipping him, bringing him through this test of honor and character - I once again hand my son, Marine Pvt David Cunningham over to you for your plans for his life, thank you for the gift and priviledge of having him in mine, and for the unique blessing of becoming a very proud Marine Mom... Amen!

Joyful on the Journey

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Crucible

It has begun.
At 2am this morning my son Rct David Cunningham stepped off with Platoon 1090, "The Nasty 90", on The Crucible, to become food deprived, sleep deprived, and to be put through a battery of mental and physical challenges for 54 straight hours to determine at the end whether or not he becomes a United States Marine.

I can't imagine the unique combination of excitement and nerves he must be feeling. I still can't believe the little pudgy blong headed child I remember with the infectious laugh is the same young man that stood before me on August 29th 2011 at the Knoxville Military Entrance Processing Center pledging to serve and fight for his country, then climbed in a van to leave for 13 grueling weeks of boot camp.

The time has come for the last thing that stands betwen my son and that Eagle Globe and Anchor pin.

I have my porch light on, a candle in the window, and am praying for him to finish strong. Will you join me?

Pray that when he becomes so tired that his muscles shake with exhaustion that he will seek and receive a supernatural strength to go on.
Pray that when he is so hungry his hands tremble and his stomach aches that the Word of God will come to him, steady him, and feed his soul.
Pray that when he is losing focus from lack of sleep that a sharpness of mind will flood in as he thinks about how many brave men and women have gone before him and endured.
Pray that as his feet and back become so soar he feels he can't stand or walk that he will remember his God carries Him and has called and equipped him for this task.
And pray that if feelings of possible defeat creep in that God will bring to David's mind all of us who love him, that he will feel our prayers and thoughts for him, and that he will be renewed and refreshed to reach the end with pride and become A United States Marine.

Thank you for loving me and my family!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Can God Speak Through Angry Birds?

Yes, Angry Birds.
It’s been around for some time now but I admit to still playing it when I need either mindless distraction or to think very specifically on something. It really is amazing how one thing can offer both. But lots of things are like that for me. It’s all about my intention. Walking is another example. I can just zone out. I can sing and worship God. I can analyze something to death with each step. I can create my shopping list. Or I can carry on a conversation about deep and meaningful things.

And in ALL things God can decide if he wants to speak, right? He is God after all.
Well, the other day He used a quick game of Angry Birds to speak volumes to me.
Well, it was supposed to have been a quick game :)
But there I was though after about 20 minutes (instead of the intended 5) still flinging cannonball birds and penguin bombs at those dang fancy caged Rio Birds, breathing heavy, a small drop of sweat actually forming between my shoulder blades as I sat hunched over my Droid X, when God tapped me on the shoulder and asked me this question...
"What if you purposefully aimed Me at things that were being held captive?"
Of course I Scooby Doo'd God with a "hhuurrhh???"
I clearly heard Him then ask me "How many more bars would be broken on the cages that imprison the captive if you so carefully aimed My Word, My Compassion, My Love, My Patience, My Wisdom, and My Son at them? If you my child worked half as hard contemplating my Word, considering MY timing, MY path, how to approach the one in need with what I teaching you and want to teach you, if you did that with the same consideration as you do this game, then just think what could be happening for my Glory all around you!"

Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Angry Birds - I for one am all for a little release - and when those pigs grunt and laugh and taunt me, I'm taking as many out as possible, laughing maniacally while doing it too!
It was just a reminder for me that there is a lesson in everything, and also that there is a chance that anything could become an obsession (now don’t confuse this with healthy obsessions, such as my healthy obsession for Mac Powell of Third Day), and that seemingly harmless things can sometimes pull us and distract us unnecessarily.
What I began noticing though with newly opened eyes though was the precision, the intense concentration, the planning, the time, and the emotion with which I played this Angry Birds Game... I mean I am IN THIS THING, aware of the affect it can have on my heart beat, my breathing, how hard I am concentrating, how my heart leaps when I clear a scene with all pigs dead and three stars earned!
So I begin to imagine if I put that much effort forth how much more satisfying it would be to see freedom in Christ occur more often!

This past Sunday Scott told a story of a baby circus elephant that grew up since birth chained to a wooden 6 inch stake driven into the ground. And how as he got older and bigger he never quite realized he could simply pull away from what held him captive and be free - all because he was trained to think he was a captive.

Satan does that to us. We do that to ourselves. Satan does that to our friends.
What if I put all the same Angry Birds effort into digging into Gods Word, learning who Christ really is, what the Holy Spirit truly can do, and believe that I do truly have a God who is "able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" Ephesians 3:20

But did you catch "according to his power that is at work within us"?

The power that I have because of Christ shed blood and sacrifice, and His Holy Spirit living in me is beyond my comprehension, beyond my understanding, and if I'm being honest - sometimes beyond my belief.
We decide how much of that power works in us - He doesn’t. It’s already there when you become a child of God... when you become a co-heir of Christ to the reward of Heaven its given to us. How much is at work depends on how much of ourselves we are willing to give up, give over. And that means trusting Him enough to give Him anything that holds you back, holds you down, and holds you captive

So as we get closer to the new year, when the holidays get us thinking about what changes we want to make in our lives, how we want to impact our world more, how we would like to be able to grab more of that "abundant life" that Jesus came to give us, I think it’s time we consider making a choice to be all in, to be intentional with our time, our energy, and that we become purposeful and intentional with passion. Be purposeful with how much of Him we want, how much of Him we share, how much more we should aim to go deeper and invest in the lives of others, to finally pull up our own 6 inch stake, and help someone else dislodge theirs.

Its time we fling the biggest weapon we have - and let Him truly set us all free!

Joyfully on the Journey,

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Church By Any Other Name...

I know I can be a bit naive occasionally, I realize that sometimes I can have a pie in the sky way of looking at things, that I can see the world through so called rose colored glasses, but sometimes I am honestly perplexed by a those of us who categorize ourselves as Christ followers, born again believers, and Christians. Yes, that means I am sometimes disappointed in myself too.

Most recently my confusion has been over some comments being directed towards "Church at the Joe" (Monday night services beginning Nov 7th at the Cotton Eyed Joe).
What began as a vision by one man quickly caught fire. Feeling it was God led, the churches leadership and Pastor that are hosting it moved forward with God opening doors only He could.
"Church at the Joe" is an offering designed for the unchurched and dechurched, for people who may not feel comfortable trying a traditional church first but who are in need. It's for those seeking and needing more from this life that it can ever offer without Christ. It's for some even already purposefully seeking God and a relationship with Christ, for some who may have had a bad experience with 'the church', and for those who have a deep personal relationship with Christ but maybe don't feel like they fit in where they have visited before.

So, with so much need I'm somewhat baffled right now about a few recent comments shared by some folks that are a part of the very category mentioned in the first paragraph of this post...

*You can't have church in a bar - Jesus wouldn't dare go in a bar if He was here"
Really? What Jesus did they read about in their bible? I read about the one that went wherever He could minister to those that needed Him. And Church at the Joe is held on a night that is normally closed where no alcohol is being served. I don't get the problem.
Maybe then the issue is that 'sinners' are there normally. Why is it that we so easily forget that Christ met, had fellowship, and shared His Fathers Love in the homes and places of business of sinners. Or in other words - those despised by the Pharisees.
And don't we all sit next to sinners each day that we gather together in our comfortable chairs and pews each week, including the seat in which my own rear end resides? Maybe its just me, just my seat.

*"It's a disgrace to have a church in a building that houses a bar"
I was under the impression that the church is alive, made up of people led by those who love and follow Christ and what He is about, people willing to meet folks in need where they are. I think of the church as those who don't stand back in a comfort and wait on 'them' to come to 'us' to find 'Him'... that the church reaches out, serves, and goes, just like Christ did when He put on flesh and walked this very earth.

*The only people that go to Cotten Eyed Joe for anything just want to get drunk and hook up"
Some people just go to dance and have a good time with friends, they don't drink at all. Some of them need Jesus. And the ones that find life so difficult that they constantly turn to a substance to numb the pain or forget the day, shouldn't they have every chance to be set free with the love of Christ?
And by the way, here's a real humdinger - some people like to dance that actually know Jesus very well :)

*That's not a real church"
Oh, so a church can only be in a building with a sign out front that designates it as such. And here I was thinking that anywhere people gathered where Gods love and the Gospel of Christ is shared, and people are loved on, becomes Holy Ground.

*The Ten Commandments clearly tells us 'Sunday' is the day we worship"
Hmmm... I've yet to find a version of the bible that says that myself.
I won't even mention that most of us at least occasionally eat, gas up, shop, and get other needs met at places on Sundays that require others to work. And because of that very reason some may get to come to Church at the Joe. Oh wait, I guess I did mention it :)

Please understand that I am not trying to start a debate, a fight, in fact I am sooooo not even looking for comments. I'm simply having a hard time today with how narrow the focus, how trapped and captive by tradition, and how uncomfortable at change that we "christians" can still sometimes be.

And believe me when I say I sometimes have to battle my own hang ups as I step outside my self created box of service - I do.

And please hear me when I say that I don't think that 'anything goes' in the name of the Gospel, not at all. But what I am saying is I really had hoped that we were closer than we had been to not being our own worst enemy when it comes to sharing the message of unconditional love of Christ and fulfilling the last words He gave us while He walked among us...

Matthew 28:18-20 "Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

They have no idea how long this offering will exist - it could be very short lived, or it could grow to see thousands enter through the doors. But you see, it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things if its God's design and desire. All that is required is faithfulness on their part to follow where He leads to reach those who desparately need Him.

So, I guess finally I have to wonder why it's okay, radically commendable, and even 'Holy' to follow God to reach into the harshest places of degradation in a third world country in the name of offering Eternal Salvation, but we have issues finding the worthiness of reaching out with love to those in our own community and inviting them to meet a Savior, just because the 4 walls within which we do it doesn't look like where most of us spend time worshipping each week?

And if we feel that way what does that say about our heart as we stand inside our comfortable traditional churches, lifting up songs of praise all the while asking God to give us His heart, to use us, and to show us His Glory?

Which Candy Am I?

Halloween is over and the race for some to get those candy mark downs are on!
And just a few days ago I saw the familiar media stories surface that do each year - what our favorite candy we buy this time of year says about our personality. Kinda fun, but supposedly because Snickers and Reeses Cups are a couple of mine, I am some strange enigma of both being a "crowd-pleaser who makes friends in every situation" and "someone who tends to be creative, private and sometimes misunderstood".
I already sometimes have enough trouble figuring out who I am on any given day without some scientist or marketing intern telling me what my sweet tooth means when it rears its ugly head!

But God did use the news story to remind me of two things.

#1 That it's all of us thrown in the big bag of life together with all our differences that makes Life sweet:
1 Cor. 12: 4-6 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
That when the bag is opened each type of candy that is contained within will sweeten the life of someone different. And without the differences in us think of how one dimensional our effect would be on one another for His Glory - each of us has a specific purpose!

#2 That I myself am a assorted bag of candy:
James 1:17-20 All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change. By his sovereign plan he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we would be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
All that He has equipped me with at any given time, the different aspects of me, all the sides of my personality, the changes as I grow older, the sides of me that different people bring out - its all a part of how He wants me to serve. Every day I am someone slightly different than the day before so I can relate to someone new, or at least someone familiar in a whole new way!

Psalm 139:14 "I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works, and my soul knows very well."

I am to revel in my differences, in who He has made me to be!

2 Corinthians 9:8, "And God is able to make all (not just some) grace abound toward you; that you always having all sufficiency in all things may abound to every good work."

Whoever I am to wake up each day and be, He has equipped me for it. All I need to do is be faithful to arise and ask Him to help me unwrap who that is and celebrate the sweetness and wonder of it all!


Thursday, October 27, 2011

I'm Weak!

I am weak and I love it! There's so much joy to be found in the truth that I CAN'T will or make things happen. I need help. I need others. I need Jesus.

I find myself in the middle of several journeys right now. During the last few weeks one of my journeys has increased and become very very intense as I try to find and do the right things for my 82 year old Mom and her health and her well being. It's a long fought battle that really has been years in the making. But over the past 5 years it has increasingly intensified into a daily prayer for guidance, timing, wisdom, and really for a miracle. Maybe you know the kind of journey I'm talking about... the kind that's stressful, worrisome, that leaves you fearful, and that can seem to suck the wind from your sails. The kind that can wreck you, and that if goes emotionally unchecked rules your life. The kind that until you finally get the break you've needed, you didn't even fully understand just how never ending the underlying tension of it all was. When just a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel is enough for you to realize that a little further down the road you will learn more about yourself and what the journey has done in your life than you can ever imagine.

BUT there are common threads in the hard journeys if you look for them with expectation that will offer you peace, comfort, and are actually beyond beautiful.
Remember the simple song most of us first learned as a child...
"Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong."

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

The thread of my weakness, the thread of my need, and oh the power of the strongest thread of all - the scarlet thread of Jesus! The scarlet thread that wraps around me, is interlaced in and through every fiber of my being, that is laid out sacrifically before me to follow as I walk every journey. It's woven into all the threads that make up the tapestry of my life.

"Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong."

I am His child. I am His little one. My weakness IS the perfect platform for Him to work miracles in my life and reveal Himself to the world around me... Oh yes, He loves me.

So I'll shout from the rooftops, on the mountain tops and in the valleys... 'I AM WEAK AND IN NEED OF A SAVIOR LIKE JESUS'!

Joyful on the Journey,

Friday, October 21, 2011

Taken Captive

I don't know about you but sometimes I notice occasionally I can slip into a pattern as I begin my weekend. I can tend to let my guard down so to speak. It's time to unload the weight of the week after all, right? To forget the aggravations I may have had, to relax, have fun, unwind. But what I find is when I do without the conscious acknowledgement that my guard is down, by the time I get to church on Sunday the voices that I have allowed to defeat me in the past began trying to pull up a chair.

They can begin to woo me in a sense, telling me that I deserve a break, to forget about who or what needs my attention. Sometimes they try to create doubt, suggesting that I really didn't accomplish anything of value this week because I didn't get everything checked off my list, that I didn't measure up. Maybe because I lost my temper several times the voice may begin to wage war telling me that I really haven't gained as much ground as I thought on that, that I took two steps back instead. Oh, and this one definitely, that here I am at the end of another week without the answers I so desperately want, so maybe God is through with me in this area of my life.

And yes, sometimes a weekday here and there can be completely filled with those thoughts if I'm not careful too.

But God's Word in 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us that as His "we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

This tells me that everything that goes against what my God really thinks of me should be taken captive and locked away in the pit with the enemy where it belongs.

Because “The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it to the fullest.” John 10:10

What the enemy says about me is not truth. I choose today God's voice of truth!

Psalm 139:14 says that “I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
Psalm 17 says that "I am the apple of His eye."
Deuteronomy 7:6 says that I am "His treasured possession."
Ephesians 2:10 even says that "I am Gods masterpiece".

And what He thinks of me, and sees in me is this: I am what His plan for me is, I am what He created me to be even if I haven't attained it... "He who began the good work within us, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. " Philippians 1:6

If I take those thoughts that are untrue captive here's what really happens... I more importantly allow GOD to take me captive, I let HIM take my heart captive. And I do so want to be taken captive and swept away in love by my King every day!

"Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Phillippians 4:8


Monday, October 17, 2011

Missing You

I miss my son. And I miss my Dad
I am stuck in the house this week, sick with a bad upper respiratory infection, and I'm missing my son, Recruit David Cunningham who has about 5 weeks to go in Marine Bootcamp in Parris Island SC.
And I miss my Daddy, who passed away on April 1 2005.
It's so funny. I'm sick, and there is so much going on in my world right now, and next to my husband Todd, these are the two people I most want to talk with.
But not just about my "stuff", I so want to know what new things my son is discovering about Himself, what God is doing within him right now, and to hug him to me and hold him. I wish I could ask my Dad what I should do about some of the decisions about my mom, about what he would do if it was him in this season of waiting I am in, to get his Godly advice, and oh how I miss his great hugs.

What I have discovered the past few days? I've learned all over again I can talk to them, in my heart, and through my Heavenly Father. I can tell HIM how I feel about them both. I can ask him to continue to do a great work in my sons life, and to show me how to be a better mom to David. And I can ask God to bring to my mind the good advice my Dad gave me in years past, and to remember decisions I saw my Dad make in my lifetime, both good and bad, and to help me learn from them.

O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8

The past few days may have brought fever, congestion, nausea, lots of snot (TMI?), a sore chest and throat from coughing and more... but its also brought me some sweet quiet time to pray, talk with God and about the ones I love and miss so much, and to remember :)


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Is This Thing on?

Yesterday I had the pleasure of being back live on the radio. I have been blessed to be able to do this with a few different people since what was my fulltime gig ended back on Dec 31st. And each and everytime I realize what a precious opportunity God has provided me once again, even if it's only temporary.
To experience connecting so intimately in such a public way is an incredible mystery to me. I always wonder about whoever He has led to be listening at just that time... what are they going through, what do they need, what one thing may ring true for them, or least make them begin to consider thinking differently about either their situation or that of someone they love? This amazes me.
I remember wondering at times in the past while sharing something in my life, when immediate feedback didn't come, "is this thing on"?

I suppose God feels that way with me quite a bit.

My friend Jenny and I talked yesterday about how sometimes a dream isn't seen fulfilled as we hoped, and how sometimes the waiting seems to bring an answer of 'no' to the prayer you have spent so much time on your knees for. We talked about how we should respond to that. Leaninging in, resting not stressing, positioning ourselves to be ready to receive the next thing He gives us, being all in wherever He has us at the moment, and worshipping Him while we wait.

As I drove home I begin to imagine sometimes God is surely behind His own microphone at times, tapping it with His finger, and looking at me saying "Is this thing even on? Child, do you not hear what I'm desperately trying to tell you? Why can't you be quiet long enough to hear the answer I am offering you in this moment? I have a direction, a path, why won't you pay attention?

"You have seen many things, but have paid no attention; your ears are open, but you hear nothing." Isaiah 42:20

In my car on Magnolia Avenue I began sensing Him speaking deep things to my heart. "How often while I'm trying to do something in your life are you so fixated on what you feel you need most from me that you miss much more important miracles I am trying to work through you? While your heart only see's the muck and mire of your deep fears, I may be offering you more vision than you can imagine. Daughter, you are sometimes so focused on YOUR biggest question that you totally miss MY timeliest answer for what I think is more important".

"My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures." Prov. 2:1-4

It demands action from me - listen, tune my ears, concentrate, ask, search, seek.

If I am tuned in to His spirit, really listening (talking with Him, not at Him), seeking Him in everything around me, then I wont miss anything He is doing or requiring of me to reach HIS next step.

I constantly need to check to make sure I'm not selfishly placing those blinders on again. The ones that cause my vision to become so tunnel shaped I miss HIS bigger vision for my life right now.
And that there is no such thing as 'too frequent' when it comes to getting my hearing checked :)

Hello? Is this thing on?


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Beth Moore Comes to Knoxville in 2012!

Beth Moore Live in Knoxville!

Aug 10-11, 2012

Group pricing for 50 or more

800-254-2022 or for details

A weekend of Bible teaching an worship
with Beth Moore & Travis Cottrell

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Really, More Change?

Well, one could think that my life got away from me there for a bit, its been awhile since I have blogged. But God told me to be a little quieter for awhile.
As He does from time to time God stills my hand and I know its for a very specific reason. It usually tells me I need to get ready. Prepare. He is about His business and I must remain alert. Sometimes I listen, sometimes I don't - like all of us. This time I listened.

I find myself in a very very different place right now for sure.
We are preparing to move from our home (we are still trying to get all sub contractors on the same schedule and ourselves too) to get those $40,000+ repairs done to our house.
My 25 year old son, David, is now a Recruit currently in Marine bootcamp at Parris Island SC, soon to become a part of the Ammunition and Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit. Ok, really?This is my baby!
And my mom has just transitioned out of time in the hospital into a nursing home for therapy and rehab. I arrived home from a work trip with Todd to a phone call from the ER saying she was there and being admitted with a collapsed lung and more and that I needed to come quickly.
The other day I had to resign from this weekends Esther Experience as the facilitator - after much prayer I realized I just must be where He would have me be and made the very painful decision to not go where my heart had been ready to go.
I may have to also pack up my moms apartment if they say she cant go home again. There are difficult decisions ahead. The kind that can break hearts. Break relationships sometimes.

I really have to laugh here - HA! Had I really gotten to a point where "change" had sort of become an exciting thing in my life? Once I had gotten a little of the 2011 calendar behind me regarding all the changes that came my way at the first of this year, I didn't dread it as much as I had in the past. But exciting? Well, yes. I had.

But now this? When so many of the previous changes haven't been resolved? Now is when even more gets added on?

I do know from past experience that as I have prepared for the things I knew were coming I could sense and see myself letting Him make me stronger. Its easier then right? But it's always the ones that blindside me that cause me to try and circle my own wagons, and make me want to just crawl in bed and deny there is anything even going on. I tend to react that way, at least at first. I want to be left in the darkness alone. Just let me sleep how about it?

But I really don't wan't to be left alone. I don't want that. So after many tears, many cries that feel as if they are being shouted out of the wilderness, I pray. I cling to close friends. And I cling even closer to a God who was not surprised at all by the year I have had so far. He is fighting for me. For my son. For my mom. For my life. And all that encompasses.

He is my protection - "But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard." Isaiah 52:12

He is my Hero and He fights for me - "Let them give glory to the LORD and proclaim his praise in the islands. The LORD will march out like a hero, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies. Isaiah 42:12-13

He leads me along this path I am on - "Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:4-5

I am His Princess whom He loves - "You have been set apart as holy to the LORD your God, and he has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be his own special treasure." Deut. 14:2

I do not know what wonderous and mysterious things He is up to in my life right now. But I do know this - He has been about it since before the foundations of time. And I also believe it is not about me.
He will finish the work He has begun and it will reveal my Christ, my life and those whom it touches will be His Glory - because it's all about Him :)


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Girl Meets World

When my kids were younger and they were out in the yard with their 'bug-houses' catching fireflies or when I caught my own fireflies in a mason jar with holes punched out of the lid. The day my Dad married Todd and me. Those magical warm summer evenings when I was a kid as the street lights were first flickering on in Sunnyview Subdivision. Seeing my kids see the ocean for the first time.
I'm feeling a tad nostalgic this morning.
And as I drank my coffee I flipped on the TV and the series finale of 'Boy Meets World' was on. They were using a lot of clips and snippets from the 7 years the series ran on the air to make a point of how much things have changed over that time for the characters. How they had grown.
They of course in the very last scene made their way back to the school classroom where we met them for the first time to say their last goodbye.
The last few weeks I've been having these flashes of memories - more so than usual - of points in time of days gone by. And I found myself this morning sitting and crying into my coffee I watched Cory, Shawn, Eric and Topanga reliving theirs. But it was a good cry, you know?
Not that there weren't extremely bad times I have encountered. There were many. And not that the stressful hurtful times in my adult life haven't ever had me longing to return to a 'simpler place in time' - wishing I could run barefoot again with my dog Socks to the neighbors where a game of kickball would be getting ready to begin, and just play and forget what I dont want to deal with.
But today the memories are confirmations. Confirmations that tell me as things change that more good times are to come - they'll just look different.
I am thankful for such poignant points in the timeline of my life. Good and bad.
Girl must meet world after all - now where did I put that mason jar... :)

Joyful on the Journey

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Are You a But Nazi?

Their immediate response to any thing presented before them or anyone else within earshot is a "but". No matter what there is a perfection never achieved (in THEIR mind) of the given situation whether it involves them or not. And in fact, they seem incapable of not imparting their opinion in these instances. Its like they have diarrhea of the mouth. Yeah, that pun was intended :)

For some reason the But Nazi feels the need to point out what is lacking, what needs to be different, that if we think this is good they know how it could be better - the way it should be. They may think they can argue that hey, they're simply pointing out the 'reality' of the situation. Pointing out the 'facts'. They're 'just sayin'?'

Don't be fooled. If this is you, you are a But Nazi.

I can be honest with you here, right? Ok then. I really dislike dealing with the ongoing, ever present negativity of a persistent pessimist.
Because they can bring me down if I'm not careful.

We each have so much influence over one another. And the fact that someone wastes my time consistently pointing out whats not ideal about their situation or mine really burns my toast to be honest.
Don't get me wrong, we can share our concerns, our burdens if you will with one another. We should. We're here to hold one another up. But in holding one another up and sharing what we feel we are also to glorify the Father and what He is doing!
And when its constantly the opposite of that, when there is never a conversation that isn't perpetually peppered with them poo-pooing everything in some way, that is a person I really begin to dread seeing. I want to turn and head the other direction.
Yep, I just typed that. Because its true. You know what I'm talking about even if you are the But Nazi in question - because no matter how negative you may be you cant stand to hear someone else be that negative!

They say that misery loves company.

I totally understand the need to commiserate - heck, I need to as well from time to time. But Proverbs 27:17 says that "As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend."

I get exhausted by anything else. By the "Buts", the "what ifs", the "if onlys". To be honest, the But Nazi is offering a disservice to drain their friends emotionally all the time with the need to look at the down side of everything.
And the But Nazi never sharpens anyone - they dull the blade, pour water on the fire of passion, and honestly they are admitting that they don't listen. That what wisdom or encouragement their friend tries to offer them doesn't matter. That what the But Nazi thinks is more important than what their friend thinks.

That kind of gives me an icky feeling in my stomach, you?

There is a verse in that same chapter of Proverbs that you don't hear commented on near as much... Proverbs 27:11 says "Be wise, my child, and make my heart glad. Then I will be able to answer my critics."

Fill those up around you with joy, with the silver linings, with the reminders of the good that is, the brighter side of life, with the blessings that are there each day in each thing. Because when the disasters come, when the tough things that really truly do matter in the grand scheme happen, when the critics are shouting - wouldn't it be much more glorifying to your Creator to have your words be the ones that ring true in the hearts and minds of others that point directly to a God who is sovereign and is truly "working all things together for the good of those that love the Lord'?
They simply don't ring true if in your daily life you don't walk out the fact that you believe that.
Before you get upset with me, I say this because I have had times in my life when I was the But Nazi. I never want to become that person again. I didn't like me then. And I know that I can tend to take on the temperament of those around me. I want to protect myself and others around me.

Let's choose to "Make their hearts glad each day". Let's be one that our friends will run to when times are hard, because they know after we listen with sympathy and understanding, that they can count on us to sharpen them and lift them up. Because they know we will point out what they have to live for, we will remind them that the unexpected rain of the day just helped cool things off, that God is using the trial to strengthen them, that the day may not have ended the way they thought it would but because it didn't they encountered someone God intended for them to. And they will believe it because we walk out what we talk.
Our motto?

Be Joyful on the Journey

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I keep hearing that line from the
David Bowie song in my head that says
"Turn and face the strain, ch-ch-changes...
Just gonna have to be a different man,
Time may change me, But I can't trace time"

They still use it in tons of tv commercials,
so even if you're a bit younger than me
you've probably heard a little of it.

In 15 days my son leaves for Marine Bootcamp, hopefully the $40,000 worth of damage repairs begin finally on our home that have created a bit of unbalance lately, one door I had been wondering about regarding my future has finally closed completely it seems, another door will either swing open or slam shut very shortly I feel, and a personal relationship will either become better than its been in years or deteriorate even more all within the span of one conversation to come soon.
And of course there in the unknown of what tomorrow in itself brings :)

But at the same time I feel the excitement in times like these.

In the pit of my stomach where my flesh battles with uneasiness, where I want to quiet the churning by reciting and singing the familiar songs whose words I know by heart, I also feel the huge wispy wings of the butterflies fluttering against one another that I get when I'm expecting something new, and good, and different, and a sudden peaked interest rises to learn songs with words I don't yet know.

Zephaniah 3:17
The Lord your God is with you,
He is might to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

I think I'm gonna choose to let Him teach me the lyrics of those new songs He wrote for me before the beginning of time, and that He's singing over me at this very moment. In fact I wanna learn them so I can sing them with Him - at the top of my lungs!

Joyful on the Journey

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Am I a "Christian"?

We throw the word around pretty freely. As a noun, an adjective, a way of life. But what I continually see is "Christian" and "Christianity" both ridiculed, misused, laughed at, wielded, toted, put on a pedestal, and also become weapons.

My pastor is working his way through the letters to the 7 churches in Revelation as he prepares to lead us into the book of Acts.
I am more than a bit anxious.

See I know we are currently not the church of Christ we are called to be. Because I am not the daughter of God I a called to be.
I soooo get that I am a work in progress, I get that more than you know.
What makes me anxious is the willingness I have or wont have when really put to the test in life - of truly saying I am willing to give myself completely over to the Spirit. Do I truly want to see what He may or may not call me to do, and who He may be asking me to be?
I know that this time will be a huge catalyst for some challenging things to consider as a body of believers and as individuals.
I hope we "Christians" are ready. Ready to see how much we have to change. Ready to experience either so much more of the Holy Spirit we will feel overcome by the weight of it, or ready to see it move on because we aren't willing to see our failure at being the bride we are.
Acts 20:30-31
Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!

I love my church and God's hand is on it without a doubt. But as my pastor has said many times, God can remove His hand of blessing too. And He will if we aren't willing to ditch the American label we have created of "Christianity" and become the church of Acts we are called to be - living and loving completely by and in the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:44-47 All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
What if it was our unity in love and life as believers of Christ that set us apart and not a label we have created?

What if we were so in tune to His Spirit, and loved and served one another so well that we needed no label of "Christianity"?
What if people weren't drawn to a "Christian" and our version of the drop in and drop out mission trip, our old school VBS mode of operation, our recipe for conversion that rarely includes the follow up of then actually doing life together, by our "Christian lingo", or the recited evangelism scriptures we have rehearsed time and time again that come with no previous real conversations, by the track handed out as we canvas neighborhoods only to retreat to our own where we never talk to our neighbors on either side - but they were drawn to being welcomed onto our front porches for friendship, that they were shown compassion through us just being real about our own lives, our own struggles, our own experience of being loved well by God because we decided that there was something to the freedom of living with and for a God willing to go to such lengths for us, by our true concern for human life around us, by our lack of judgement of them, by the fact we actually find reasons to respect them and their differences from us instead of "pitying" them - what if they were drawn to God by being loved by us because we honestly decide we are gonna love and see as He loves and sees?
What would happen if we approached a relationship without even using the word Christian, Christianity, redemption, repentance, judgement, or eternity - and instead we earned the right to eventually go there by loving them so well that they couldn't help but ask us out of an overwhelming curiosity to tell them what makes us different?
What if they didn't call us "Christians"?
What if they just called us "friends"?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Make War!

"Then Esther sent this message to Mordecai: 'Go and gather together all the Jews of Shushan and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day; and I and my maids will do the same; and then, though it is strictly forbidden, I will go in to see the king; and if I perish, I perish.'"
Esther 4:15-16 (TLB)

Maybe it sounds cliche, but its never been truer "Love and Life IS a Battlefield"... and today the spiritual warfare that surrounds us has never been more powerful.
In the face of fear, a possible or a looming and certain battle, one that could even mean our own life, how will we react? Do we become paralyzed by panic? Or do we meet it head on with confidence?
What if it requires more than anything before ever has? Do we truly understand who not only has our back, but goes before us and covers us on all sides?

The Esther Experience Oct 7th - 9th is a weekend designed by God to get us battle ready, to meet every obstacle understanding who we are as women, and what unique things our Creator has given us to fight with honor and power over what seeks to destroy us and those we love... Engage, and wage war each and every day under the banner of Jehovah Nissi!

Space is very limited - get registered today at

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I Want Whats Mine

As I drove home from Paducah KY I was contemplating some of the changes in my life recently. I was pondering on the things that at one point brought me feelings of anxiousness, concern, even panic at moments - and to be totally honest still sometimes try to grab at my heart for a few split seconds sometimes when I awake at 2am in the dark of night.
But what I am learning over and over in such grand and small ways is that if those changes had not come to my life, then the new things I am experiencing now would never have touched my life either.
For instance I would not have been able to take time away to join my husband for the last few days on his work related jaunt. A couple of what on the surface could be seen as regular old weekdays by many standards, but that upon closer examination are shown to reveal so much more.

Like an unexpected sweet time of silly road talk, lots of laughter, precious romantic moments with the man I love, finding a beautiful new vacation spot we would love to return to soon because we took a spontaneous side trip along the way, getting to meet singer Jeff Jenkins from The Voice in the middle of the Pancake Pantry in Nashville on the way, seeing a wall of creative artwork along the river in Paducah that uniquely paints the history of a town I mistakenly saw as unassuming before, and seeing many beautiful examples of God's creation all along the way.
Oh, if we could just forget what we think we need or want, and let Him give us what He wants us to have, there is nothing in our wildest dreams that could match the ongoing blessings of receiving what is good and perfectly designed by God for us each... "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9

I want what is mine - from Him - in all its perfection :)

Joyful on the Journey

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Start of a Great Week!

Make it a week of purpose... Psalm 37:3-4 Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Decide that whatever comes you will give it to Him immediately, look for the divine appointments that have been set in motion, live in each moment and dont worry bout the next - He is Faithful, seek Him with intensity and ask Him to place in your heart a burning passion for what is His best for you!


Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Refinement by Any Other Name

In the refining we are cleansed, we are polished, and we are changed...
Zechariah 13:9 I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’

I am always so thankful and encouraged by how in every season God has placed a few people in my life that are consistantly on a parallel path with me. Yesterday I was chatting with one of them, catching up on life, ministry, a lot of things. And we ended up talking about some similar refinement going on right now and about why we so often only think of a 'refining' as a time of suffering, of pain, a trial, of great change that we in the flesh will see as a dark time. Those are things God does use to grow us and stretch us for sure and how we relate to His suffering.
James1:2-4 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

But I know that my own refinement also comes from seeking with purpose to fully experience God's Holy Spirit. I DON'T want to wait on the trials or valleys to bring me closer to Him. I know those are a part of what will come when its the perfect time for deep profound life altering truth and change. But I want to run after Him before those come and offer more up of me for DAILY refinement, all the while looking for the lead of love His Holy Spirit offers to draw me closer to who He is and what He wants to do. There is soooo much to be said for the sweeping romance of Him speaking through every relationship, every twist and turn my feet and car take me along, at every store I frequent, every conversation I have, and in every moment He has created :)

I loved the fact that recently my pastor posed the following question when he did: He said "I have asked the question 'How can I get more of the Holy Spirit?' I now believe that the real question should be 'How much of me does the Holy Spirit have?' "
What I sense from God in my life right now is that I MUST seek to give more of myself over in every way DAILY because He has something special in store for me DAILY and I need to be able to see, hear, feel, sense Him at every turn to receive it!

Psalm 32:8 "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.."
Fearless living - that is abundance!

But the biggest thing I am understanding about this? Is that the refining that leads to that life of abundance, the guidance, the wisdom, the right choices, and the change in me He desires, truly does hinge on how in tune I am to His Holy Spirit so I can receive what HE DEEMS as the abundance uniquely planned for me inside of each day.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I'm Out of Control!

As I settled onto the Little Pigeon River with 22 other ladies recently I quickly learned that I had never been as aware of how short my arms and legs are and how completely and utterly out of control I was in a lime green tube much too small for my big behind. I was not in control of my surroundings.

You know, There are times in my life where I immediately understand and hear what God is saying, and times where lessons build on top of one another until He is ready to show me something and my memory is pricked as if by a small electrical shock. Its then He chooses to remind me suddenly of all the seemingly random conversations that have taken place and are tied together, the items I have taken time to read that are now revealed to hold a common theme I didnt recognize before, and the circumstances that have happened that are finally set before me in a timeline that uncovers the lesson like a sweet piece of chocolate I have craved.

As we began our tubing journey on this Saturday morning and I watched the faces of my friends old and new go from fear and excitement to uncertainty and back to immediate fear for some, I realized that I was witnessing another perfect picture and analogy of our journey with Him and with one another in this life. We were quickly coming to understand we could not control this adventure.

Oh what a lesson this day revealed!

When I have realized I am out of control I have reacted in many different ways.
Sometimes I've raced backwards over a sharp drop in the current, backwards even with no sense of what was ahead, and I have panicked at first. I remember what it felt like as I was I was losing my Dad to Alzheimers, as I was losing my job, as I have faced losing relationships that required me to choose to not enable their bad decisions and what that could mean, the way my heart lurched the first time my son told me he was praying about enlisting in the marines a few months back, and the night the recent April storms hit and water began pouriong in every room as the hail rained down and I heard the wind pulling at my home. I felt swept away as I did at times in the river the other day. I flailed about trying to simulate control and trying to determine on my own what to do first instead of listening intently and purposefully for Him. But I had to trust, and when I finally chose to let go and let Him be God He fulfilled a promise given
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 NIV

When I have drifted off path and found myself becoming entangled in shallow water and rocks in my way, He has shown me He knows when I need a quick rescue in my tender state. It's then He sends someone by in their own lime green tube to grab my hand and puls me along back to His current. Like when a friend has gently showed me I am being selfish, or lovingly brought to my attention that I need to turn back before stumbling over something I was placing before God in my life.
Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD. Jeremiah 1:8 NIV

Then there are times He required I step off the ledge in faith and depend on Him to provide and do as He asked. To get up out of the swirling eddy I was caught up in - a strong, but wrong current for me - and literally walk out of it in His strength and to meet head on what He had already equipped me for. I have met impactful people I wouldn't have otherwise, been placed in ministry I never dreamd possible, and experienced Him like I never had before all beause I said Yes and let go of my fear!
The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isaiah 58:11 NIV

Sometimes I have find myself having to be patient in a calm pool of almost no obvious current at all - waiting on Him to move me and coax me when its His perfect timing, even as I watch others joy riding past me with their arms in the air - thats their journey at that given moment and at some point they will watch me fly by in abandonment! As I wait on my next path, career, ministry today I am reminded that...
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9 NIV

I understood as I watched us all bob and race along on this day that we are all on the same jouney, just at different places, and we switch roles and our paths intermingle in many different ways and at many different points.
I have never been in control. Hard to swallow sometimes. When I try to do anything in myself I find eventually a treacherous place of panic. If I let Him do what He is trying to do and just hang on to the big green tube in trust, then the peril turns into a thrill ride that we're on together that He manuvers me through safely in His hand
This is what the LORD says — your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go" Isaiah 48:17

If I trust Him for my salvation and eternity, then can't I can surely trust Him in my every day?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5 NIV

What blessed me so much that day on the river as as we exited for the day was the faces now reflected excitement, release, and even an afinity for the war wounds some endured along the way as they learned to relax and let go :)

I was utterly and totally out of control and I loved it - the true freedom of a real adventure!

Joyful on the Journey,

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Rewards Card

I had a sweet surprise yesterday. I had lunch scheduled with a new friend at Panera and as I was getting ready I remembered I had a "My Panera" rewards card I had gotten some time back and never registered. I had a few extra minutes before I left home so I pulled out the old laptop and went to their web site and quickly did so.

On my last few previous visits to Panera the nice person ringing my order up would ask me for the card but I would have to tell them each time "I haven't registered it yet". They would proceed to tell me "that's your card, go online, claim it and you can get the great random surprise rewards that come with it".

So what I noticed was when I was online registering the card was that the information told me that I would want to check back from time to time to keep up with what surprises might randomly be loaded onto my card at any time. Well to my delight, by the time I left home and got to Panera I already had one on there! When I placed my order, the nice person ringing me up asked me as usual for my 'My Panera' card. I presented it, he swiped it, and said "You have a reward to claim Mrs Lykins - you can have a free pastry or cookie of your choice".

Wow!!! Something I didn't do anything for it really, no grand task on my behalf, no specific dollar amount tied to it. No great effort of my part. I just acknowledge I wanted the card and BAM - I got a surprise, a reward, a gift.

It's sort of like Jesus. I just acknowledge Him and my need for Him and BAM - I receive the instant gift of Salvation. No task to perform, no works, no money, no real effort on my part aside from acceptance, saying I wanted it. Its like I have a "My Jesus" card. When I feel weak, afraid, lonely, worried, consumed with anything I am trying to do or get through in my own strength I can go to Him, pray (swipe the "My Jesus" card so to speak), and just allow Him to reload that card with His strength, wisdom, love, and courage.

But then I also thought about those around us, walking beside us in church, at work, in school, in the local grocery store, some complete strangers... they have a card too. They need it reloaded. And Jesus can use me to help do that. He can use them to help refill mine. A kind word, spontaneous service, a hug, an anonymous surprise gift.

What if the older gentlemen in the aisle next to me who looks a little lost is discovering what it feels like to shop for the first time since losing the love of his life? He could probably really use a sweet word from a stranger - a surprise loaded on his card that leaves him feeling less alone as he makes his way home.
Maybe at church that young woman walks in that I see every week, but this time there's a different look on her face. A look of strain, stress, maybe desperation. What if I take just a moment and reload her card with a hug and a whispered prayer? Now she can enter in more open to finding the peace and rest waiting on her.

John 14:12 "I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father."

Proverbs 16:24 "Kind words are like honey--sweet to the soul and healthy for the body."

Look for a way to reload someones card every day. Give that random sweet surprise, that reward, just because... because they are each one whom God loves.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Bad Attitude and All

Well, I showed my rear end several times over these last few days friends. I just can't put it more simply than that...
have you ever been there?
You know, when as the very words leave your mouth, as the actions of your body language and movements occur, and as that look sets itself up way too easily on your face, you realize that yes, you are in fact showing your hind-end and you just don't seem to be able to stop yourself.
Yep. Hmmm-mmm.
In the middle of these last few days I had a chance to chat with a friend who is struggling with this same issue in a way. Not every day mind you, but more frequently than she cares to, more often than she ever has before in her life. I can relate. Its not every day for me by any means. But I hate it when it happens.
I despise that feeling, even as it happens. Maybe you know what I'm talking about? My face feels flushed. My heart speeds up. My throat seems to want to all of the sudden swallow way more than normal. My ears feel hot. My mouth gets dry. I seem to need to clear my throat, even cough.

Gee - you'd think with all that going on there would be no way I could still manage to sputter out the stupid or mean or hurtful words, the harsh tones, set my hands on my hips, or give THE look... But noooo, I'm a real trooper! I can hang right in there with the best and get the job done!

So, I have some apologies to make. To those in the line of fire, most of all to my God, but not the least of which is to myself. See I've let Satan get a hold of me afterwards even more strongly than he did when it happened. Because for several days I've let him use it against me to make me feel worthless and unlovable. Laying in the dark thinking things like they might never forget my attitude or words or tone, that they might love me less, but most of all that I was less in the eyes of My Jesus.
So tonight I stand on several things my Gods Word tells me, and I am reminded:

We are already God's children, though what we will be hasn't yet been seen. But we do know that when Christ returns, we will be like him, because we will see him as he truly is. 1 John 3:2

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

And when I feel weary from the heaviness of what I may do:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us Ephesians 3:20

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:15-17

Friends, we are more than a conquerors - we are His! We are being made Holy as He is Holy! He is not through with us yet!

Be blessed,

Summer Things and Places to Go

East TN is blessed with the mountains and lakes we love, but aso with a lot of smaller parks and places to hang out. Here's a link to the Knoxville Parks and Rec site to find splash pads, disc golf parks, and places to play volleyball.

Grab your blankets, lawn chairs, and picnic basket and head to The Cove at Concord Park for this season's Second Saturday Concerts. Knox County Parks and Recreation has announced the line up for the free concert series presented the second Saturday of June, July, August and September, from 6 until 8 p.m

But it's also a great place to poke around and find other cool TN State Parks and activities you may not know about... like the Rhododendron Gardens Festival at Roane Mountain in Northeast TN this weekend!

Find somewhere to explore and get out there and gave some fun!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Living in a Cocoon

Most of us would hear that statement 'living in a cocoon' and get a very negative or constricting feeling. And to be honest I think in some cases those would be a pretty accurate and correct feeling. In the church we sometimes tend to shelter ourselves from the world around us to a point of not even being able to be a light in it.
But I was reading an entry in Jesus Calling by Sarah Young this morning that really paralleled a comment only moments earlier on my Facebook post. I mentioned I hadn't slept well and was tired. Someone mentioned they had awoke several mornings around 3am and had heard that's the time God wanted to talk with us and wondered what He wanted to say. I responded that if we will just still our spirits we can always hear what he's already saying. Then I opened the devotion and saw these words in the first two lines on the days entry...
"I Am All Around You, like a cocoon of Light. My Presence with you is a promise, independent of your awareness of Me."
He is indeed talking today :)
The entry focuses on how worry can block our pipeline to His presence. I agree. But as I came back to those first few lines my mind focused on just the simplicity of those words themselves.
HE IS. No matter what. Independent of my awareness. He doesn't need me. No need for my response to Him for His presence to be. No need for a reaction or movement from me to exist in any moment of time. God has no dependence on man to work, to create, to speak, or to be. As I sat on my couch thinking on this I realized I was literally humming the song "You are God Alone" where the first verse says this:
You are not a God created by human hands
You are not a God dependant on any mortal man
You are not a God in need of anything we can give
By Your plan, that's just the way it is

How many times do I feel I have to totally set my self a part to hear from Him? Don't get me wrong, I do think that is absolutely necessary. Time to only hear His voice. Time to be so removed from all distractions so I can know the deep life changing direction I need from Him to make decisions, and to learn the intimate things that He wants to use to move profoundly in my life and relationships - this requires that I achieve a level of communion with Him that is beyond the every day.

But to live in a cocoon of His presence daily, so that at any moment I can just turn and listen to what He is already speaking and asking of me? That's not restricting - that's freeing!

I remember the comfort as a child knowing my Dad was watching me from the porch as I played, and the security that it gave me that he was right there near by.
I would be playing games, kick ball, or riding my bike. But do you know that I remember the one thing that made me feel especially secure was when I could hear His voice? I'd be laughing, running, and jumping, but when I heard him in the background talking with my mom or his friends that made me brave.

John 10:14 says - I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me

Isaiah 30:21 tells us - Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

I mentioned above He doesn't need me. That's true. BUT HE WANTS ME!!
He is always closer than the very skin that covers my bones and tissue, His presence is in me, around me and through me. And He is always talking. It's up to me to learn Him so well that I can at any given moment tap in to what He is saying, doing, and giving me the chance to be a part of.
I want to walk, run, sit, lay, and live wrapped up in the cocoon of His light and presence that frees me to truly live. His cocoon is one that allows me to evolve, grow, and become safely what He wants me to be - knowing I am on His path, speaking His words, seeing with His eyes, and touching with His hands!


Chick Chat with Marisa

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Don't Build a Nest in a Tote Bag

Yesterday morning I washed one of my huge canvas totes that I use when we spend time on the boat, go to the beach or travel anywhere that I need bulky space taking items like large fluffy towels or such to go with us.
In fact that's what I packed in them this time - large fluffy beach towels for the lake over Memorial Day weekend. But when those came back home in our dirty clothes bag I used it to put our unused food items in and something leaked. Something very stinky that I suspect was was the container of onions and peppers for the fajitas we didn't make. So I placed the bag in our washer. But it being the large bulky item it is, I decided to dry it by hanging it outside.
Last night before bed I checked it but even the intense heat of yesterday hadn't dried it thoroughly enough so I decided to leave it hanging for a few more hours over night on our side entry stoop.
This morning after I had a couple cups of coffee I remembered it was still out there and decided to go check it again. Imagine my surprise to find strands of moss, grass, a few small twigs and two of those things that fall from certain trees each spring that we always referred to as 'helicopters' when I was a kid.
I stood there peering down in the bag for a few moments honestly perplexed. I mean it was hanging on the storm door handle. How did the stuff get in there? Why? It's a very thick heavy canvas material. What in the world?
Then it dawned on me. Birds!
And I stood there on my stoop in the morning sun imagining how some small bird, or pair of birds, worked so extremely diligently to attempt to get enough materials in this canvas bag hanging on our door to build a nest.
With the canvas handles both looped close together on the door knob it couldn't have been easy even if the bird(s) didn't enter the bag themselves. It was still quite a job either way. How strong was the desire to be secure and have place to feel at home and at peace that they would risk being at our kitchen door so many times where we come and go? Did they work at it even in the cloak of darkness? How did they go about deciding what materials to gather? But most of all in my heart I was questioning with bewilderment - why rush to nest in the bag instead of in the huge strong provided silver maple tree just a few feet away, up high where it would be safe?
Then a piece if scripture came to my mind... something about a sparrow choosing to nest on the altar of God. What was that? It was in the old testament for sure. Somewhere in Proverbs or maybe Psalm?
So I got to digging and sure enough there it was - Psalm 84:3 "Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar"
What a wise choice - no more a secure location could be found!
I had lunch with a friend yesterday and part of our conversation immediately sprang back to mind as well in that moment. We were talking after lunch about trusting God with our inadequacies, with our secrets revealed, and with our children - with everything. And how when we do that its just the most blessed feeling of security and provision that there is!
We had been talking about some of the times in our lives that we each realized just how trustworthy He truly is.
As I sat with my bible open to His Word I began praising Him and thanking Him for this full circle moment for me! As I face more uncertainties, I am grateful He used that lunch time conversation yesterday to encourage me that He is STILL THERE. That we can do ALL things with a supernatural strength when we place our security and trust in Him!
And here He was confirming for me with this small unfinished nest in a canvas tote bag what happens if I don't think through living in a safe place, when my home and heart are depending on perilous things. I must always make my safe place in Him. I must place my heart, my life, my family, and my all in His care. I must live as near to His altar as possible at all times, where the ultimate sacrifice was made. Because that is the only true place of rest, joy, peace, life, protection for me, for my family, the only place of blessings, strength, and of provision

Read the song with me that David wrote so long ago in Psalm 84...

1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
2 I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.
3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God!
4 What joy for those who can live in your house, always singing your praises.
5 What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord, who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
6 When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs. The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
7 They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.
8 O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, hear my prayer. Listen, O God of Jacob.
9 O God, look with favor upon the king, our shield! Show favor to the one you have anointed.
10 A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
11 For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.
12 O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, what joy for those who trust in you.

As I pulled the pieces of the unfinished nest from the bag and prayed for the birds to find a safer choice, I then prayed for myself, my family, my friends, my church, for you - that we all would truly seek to nest around HIS altar, where the protection of the blood of Christ, the power of our sovereign Heavenly Father, and the wisdom of the ages can house us and keep us!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I'm drinking my coffee on the couch this morning still thanking God for a relaxing, much needed long holiday weekend with my husband where we could just be quiet and do nothing. I remember over the last few years many times praying for days like that because they always seemed to be rushing by so very quickly. I loved it and am missing it greatly of course, but am also expressly aware I need to relish this specific gift of right now - the blessing of some lunches and coffee with friends, reading, thinking, relaxing, getting some house cleaning done, being present in the moment, and getting through the storm damage/coming changes with our home with my sanity intact!
Isaiah 65:24 - I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!
I am simply reminded today that answered prayers dont look familiar, but they are answered none the less by a familiar friend and Savior who knows us better than we know ourselves :)


Chick Chat with Marisa

Monday, May 23, 2011

Seeking What Isn't Hidden

In listening to two different people speak in two days I heard a common phrase and thought by both... "seek the face of God, not just His hand".
Now when I have things like this happen, I try my best to really pay attention. What are the similarities if any in the people? In the context or situations? Was there a common third party around both times? You know, any questions I can ask that will reveal the lesson, the message, or the heeding whether intended for me or for someone else. To see what exactly God might be saying.
Earlier tonight I looked up a couple of verses God seemed to be leading me to.
Psalm 105:4 says Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.
'Paniym' is the Hebrew word in this verse for face. That word means "face, or faces", the "person", or "presence". (I love the plural use of faces here, as in the Holy Trinity, the three complete persons of the God Head!)
And 1 Chronicles 16:11 which is Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.
This verse also uses, in the original Hebrew, the word 'Paniym'. Further research revealed this word also means "before and behind", and "from beforetime"
WOW! What a magnificent and humble reminder as I ran my finger along the lines on the page - His person, His presence, has been since before time.... always His presence has been. That's a lot of person, a lot of presence.
And as long as He has been and will be, ever before and for ever more, to seek THAT Holy presence and person of God... WOW!!!! That's huge. That's an ever evolving, never ending journey. Thats a story with unlimited chapters and words and phrases to drink in. It's to become more familiar with who God is. What His eyes are delighted by. What they see. To understand what makes the laugh lines appear at the corners. What His ears are tickled by. What they long to hear. What God's very lips delivers in so many ways. Where His kisses of blessings are. What His word says. How He speaks in ever thing that exists. The very features and facets of His face if you will :)
I am overwhelmed!!!
Two definitions for the Hebrew word 'Darash' (Seek) are "to frequent", and "look for with care"... there's an urgency in that to me!
This is what I feel Him whispering to my very soul to remind me tonight - to earnestly seek His very face and presence, to want and allow Him to be both truly before me and behind me - my provision and my Jehovah Jireh, to know Him even more intimately, to allow His very presence to be so deeply embedded in my every moment, to remember that when I allow the ultimate romance that is ours and ours alone blossom it's then that I will see His hand truly moving in my life the way He desires it to and wants to show me!
Oh Father, I do want more of you, to not be distracted by what are very good things so that I miss the very great things you have for me... there is so much to love about you - I want to know it all! Help me focus, and seek your face both in my waking moments, and even as I dream and am at rest in the night. Continually reveal more of your self to me - it can never be enough!


Chick Chat with Marisa

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Farmers Markets Return!

If you're like me and LOVE getting the freshest veggies, fruit, pastries, cheeses, and more that are made right here in East TN and stimulate our own local economy then here is a list of East TN Farmers Markets now open!
They are great places to discover local artists too offering crafts, jewelry, clothes, purses and more.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My First Love?

I was reading today's devotional page from "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young as I sipped my coffee and it hit home in a powerful way as it always does.
It reflected my immediate thoughts and reaction in the first moments after the storms that ruined my roof, my attic, my ceilings, my things. Hmmmmm... see a pattern emerging here? When our power and daylight returned and as I looked around my first thoughts were so anxiety ridden and focused on ME and what I lost... how would I replace this and that, what will I do, how will MY things be salvaged?
REALLY??? Sheesh. I'm still breathing when so many aren't, when so many lost everything, some even lost loved ones. What I see around me are things. But first and foremost EVERYTHING has come from HIM - EVERYTHING is HIS. If HE allows them to go then so be it. A choice to praise His name, right?

Psalm 16:11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
What if the eternal pleasure His hand desires means we lose some things to acomplish it? Is our path in life not placing our hope and trust in Him?

Today's page for May 3 says this... "You cannot serve two masters. If I am truly your Master, you will desire to please Me above all others. If pleasing people is your goal, you will be enslaved to them. People can be harsh taskmasters when you give them this power over you.
If I am the Master of your life, I will also be your First Love. Your serving is rooted and grounded in My vast, unconditional Love for you. The lower you bow down before Me, the higher I lift you up into intimate relationship with Me. The Joy of living in My Presence outshines all other pleasures. I want you to reflect My joyous Light by living in increasing intimacy with Me."

Here's the thing - I can be a harsh task master to myself - the harshest even - because what I consider a priority can enslave me more easily than anything else.

This may be cliche to some, but oh friends - may we all lean in to an intimacy with Jesus so overwhelming that in any situation, in every aspect of our day, and at every crossroad whatever HE is looking for from us becomes our first choice, that He is our next thought, and that desiring His presence is what overides all else. Praise His Name this day that He loves us with an unfailing love and is the only one who gives and takes away!


Chick Chat with Marisa

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Artistry Waiting To Happen

Going with my friends Amanda and Erin to a local painting class called Sips and Strokes here in Knoxville during my two week Birthday Extravaganza was something I had looked forward to for several weeks but actually started with an unexpected profound moment for me.
We met up at S&S eager to have a new experience together and were very excited. We each had picked out a different picture we wanted to replicate, and as the instructor handed us each our own blank canvas I was reminded of a statement I had heard for so many years that says basically "our lives are the canvas God paints His pictures on".
He does paint the stories of our lives on a canvas I think - blank material stretched and ready to receive, awaiting brushes strokes that create the chapters in HIS big story.
But what struck me this day was the blank card I was also handed. The rectangle that was blank and white. A sturdy piece of stock material intended to hold the colors we would use. Our instructor, Will, took us over to the colors in large pump bottles where he would apply to the card whatever colors we were to use, depending on what picture we wanted to create.
I then started thinking that maybe the canvas isn't us. That it actually encompasses so much more. That it mirrors us, those around us, the people and things that impact us, the ones we impact, even nature itself and how we impact it - everything! It all becomes the picture on the canvas. Its the world around us that we touch in some way.
So what I was now suddenly considering was this: that we're actually the colors that make up that picture.
The colors that get stroked, poured, flicked, rolled, and sponged on the canvas. Material that absorbs me. Colors I provide God to dip His brush in.
Because I have free choice maybe I choose the color on even given day, in any given moment by my intent, my actions, my reactions, and my motive of heart.
I can be a vibrant exciting red and orange, soothing green, calming blue, cheery yellow - or I can be a big old blob of dreary gray, an envious or jealous shade of green, a dirty brown, or icky black that gets applied.
We are all vessels that are being used, so now the question creeps in my mind: at any given time who am I allowing to help me be what color?
Its not hard to imagine that my choice and action could mirror itself in color - but am I allowing God to influence me or am I allowing the enemy to "color my decision"?

This weekend at the Extraordinary Women's Conference in Johnson City, speaker Lysa Terkhurst said that the first four letters of the name "Messiah" reminded her that God takes our "mess" and touches it with healing and uses it to make us beautiful.
I am a walking breathing testimony that that is indeed truth :)

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

I'm praying today that I allow myself to be a lovely color for God's brush to rest on as He paints, but thanking Him that He uses all the colors I can be, irregardless, to accomplish His masterpiece and that He loves me anyway


Chick Chat with Marisa