Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lessons I've learned from my parents & grand-parents (2007)

Treasure people because you don't know how long they'll be in your lives.
  • Live life to your fullest; give your best with everything you do. You only have one life to live.

  • Give every person a chance. Don't judge people by how they initially appear to look or sound. Let their words and actions be their own judge.

  • While doing a jigsaw puzzle with my grandma: establish the boundaries first and keep referencing the "big picture"

  • Give people the benefit of the doubt; treat them with kindness even when they may not deserve it.

  • My grandfather: give people second chances even when they've fallen on hard times.

  • While washing dishes with my grandma: i always thought water was really hot, yet she was used to it and it didn’t bother her. I learned everyone is at different levels. Some people can't take the heat, like others can.

  • The small things matter: sitting at the table playing a card game, sitting eating popcorn over a movie, hugs and simple signs of love

  • Education is important: always keep learning; the minute you stop is the minute you stop growing as a person.

  • Prayers make a difference when nothing else does.

  • Science fiction is the greatest of all fictional genres =)

  • Proper preparation always beats blind ambitions. As a carpenter, my grandfather would say, Measure it twice, BEFORE you cut.

  • Don't seek revenge on people whom have done you wrong. Revenge is the Lords; it will always come full circle. Either God will restore back unto you or His revenge will be greater than you could have ever done.

  • Give those older than you respect; God would do the same and someday you'll be there too.

  • Music soothes both the mind and soul. It can speak the language of the heart.

  • Sacrifice of yourself for both God and man. God is pleased and will always provide for your needs.

  • My Dad: Defer to others. Some things may have been done better another way, but you will find unity. Unity is to be treasured.

  • Pray about it. If you already know the answer, pray about it. If you don't, pray about it. (I need to do that more)

  • Give God your best; He gave you His. It is your reasonable service.

  • Seek to make your enemies friends. Go out of your way to find a point that you can agree on.

  • Stay in the Word. It has all the answers that we'll ever need. Love it and know it.

  • Time spent with family is more important than working for more money for the family.

  • Watch people, listen to people, learn from people. Everyone can teach you something. Some things good, some bad.

  • Dinner time sitting around the table is important, perhaps the most important time of the day. Everyone gets a chance to share what happened that day.

  • Be the kind of friend to others that you'd want for yourself. There are times when you give in a friendship more than you receive.

  • Watch how people handle themselves around children, it can tell alot about their internal character.

  • Surprise another by taking out the trash without being asked or putting dishes in the dishwasher. Little helps are appreciated, especially during long weeks.

  • Be willing to give to someone in need, whether it be food, a place to stay or an encouraging word. Christ said, When you've done it unto the least of these, you've done it unto me.

  • Building people's lives is more important than building material wealth. Invest in people; someone invested in you.

  • Learn to enjoy reading. It can take you to places that you may never be able to go to in real-life. It also builds and strengthens the mind.

  • Be willing to listen to people share their life experiences. You get the opportunity to share in their hurts/pains and rejoice in their victories. You can also learn from their mistakes, as to avoid them yourself. Listening to someone shows you care.

  • Be willing to apologize if you were wrong and be willing to thank people when they're deserving of thanks. Good etiquette never goes out of style.

  • Be sure to do things together as a family. There will eventually come a time when you will no longer be able to do so. Go out driving on Saturdays (if you can afford the high gas prices), stop by Dairy Queen for small ice cream cones on a hot day, take a vacation together (even if but just camping)

  • Take the time to carefully roast marshmallows over a campfire and give them to a family member you love. Or if you're a child, burn a marshmallow and give it to a family member you love. Everyone loves smores.

  • Love God, your family and those around you. They're all you got.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ramblings about Discouragement

Sitting here at my desk with my work currently caught up, I decided to scribble down a few thoughts and observations. I got some music playing in one ear and phone agents yapping in the background. I have just given a nickname to another coworker and I am only two days away from my Christmas vacation. Hopefully I can share some insight that’s remotely valuable. But definitely no guarantees. Haha

1) Messed up stuff can happen to anyone

Don’t think just because you’re a Christian (either new, experienced or somewhere between) that you are immune from crazy stuff happening. The wide spectrum of good through bad can happen to any one of us, though only God has the authority to remove the hedge of protection away from a Christian faithfully serving the Lord (Job 1:6-12). Think of God’s hedge of protection like an umbrella. If its raining outside as long as I submit myself to staying under the cover of the umbrella, the rain is diverted away from me. If I willfully sin, it’s the equivalent of setting the umbrella down and standing in a downpour. The umbrella was still capable of keeping me dry, but I’ve made a conscience choice to forfeit its safety and shelter.

So what if I’m that faithful Christian who’s standing under the umbrella of protection? The rain can still sometimes get you wet. Having lived in Mississippi and Alabama, I’ve seen some crazy downpours. I’ve seen rain pour down, come down in sheets, even seemingly move sideways with strong winds. The point being, if God allows the rain to pour down sideways with strong winds, you’re going to get soaked whether you’re under that umbrella or not. The primary difference between the Christian and lost, is not whether you get wet or not (Matthew 5:45), but that the Christian can always lean on God to help them through the trial. We are assured that trial will not be more than what you can bear (2 Corinthians 10:13). (side note: It might also be worth reading my blogs on weathering the storms too)

2) Leaning on God

“Leaning on God” – its not a phrase we hear very often but certainly anyone who has gone through a trial could eloquently describe what the term means to them. Unfortunately, since they’re not here to talk it over with you, you’ll have to tolerate my two cents on the topic. It seems to me that leaning on God is composed of several things. Leaning on the structural strength of a God that’s unchanging, is using His strength as a method of upholding your step (Psalms 17:5, 18:36, 73:2). Perhaps you’ve seen a frail person reach out for the hand of another person while going down steps or getting out of vehicle. They are relying on the strength of another to support and stabilize them as they move. Similarly, we can lean on the strength of God.

If you’ve ever seen me racing through the surrounding areas of my town on guest visitation, you might have spotted me glancing at a map or at my GPS screen. One of the most significant realizations a person can arrive at when travelling through an unfamiliar area is that I can’t “wing it” with any hope of actually reaching my destination. I need to rely on the confirmed directions that only an accurate map can provide. Relying solely on the documented experience of another traveler really comes down a pride issue. If you’re too proud to admit you need help getting through an unfamiliar route, you’ll never consult a map. When travelling through a new, unfamiliar area of crisis or trial, I’m not too proud to acknowledge the need for direction (Psalms 37:23, 119:133, Prov 3:5-6). Whether it be through prayer or the Word of God, truly we can lean on the guidance of God.

In my opinion, one of the kindest gestures a person can show to me in times of personal discouragement or sickness other than pray for me, is bring me a bowl of good potato soup. I am convinced that tasty potato soup is good for the soul. Someone should write a book about that. hehe All joking aside, why would I be goofy enough to make a statement like that? For two reasons. Firstly, I really like potato soup. Secondly, it’s a true, ground-level action of showing care for my well-being. Especially since I can’t cook. I don’t think that the prophet Elijah could cook either because God sent ravens to daily bring bread and meat to him at the brook Cherith. After that, God sent him to the home of a widow who cooked for him as well.

So let me get serious for a moment and talk about God’s provision. In I Kings 17, we see numerous examples of God’s provision. After Elijah declared to King Ahab that there would be a drought in the land, God instructed Elijah to go to a precise place to receive provision, brook Cherith. Then when the brook dried up and that provision ended, God immediately sent him to the next provision, the widow of Zarephath. Then God instructed Elijah that the very day that the widow’s meal and oil failed, would be the same day that God would provide the next provision (by breaking the drought with rain). Folks, God doesn’t starve His people out! He takes care of His people’s needs (Psalms 37:25, 84:4-7, Matthew 6:25-34, Luke 12:22-31). As His children, we need to learn to lean on the provision of God.

Earlier, I mentioned the example of Job, which spoke of God’s hedge of protection. Partner that with the many examples of deliverance throughout the scriptures and we learn we can lean on the protection of God.

3) Encouraging yourself in the Lord

I Samuel 30:6 and its surrounding verses describe a profound concept that we as Christians need to understand. David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. When everything around him went haywire and there was no home crowd to cheer him on, David cried his guts out until there were no more tears to cry. His city was burned, laying in ruins. All women and children had been carried off captive. His world had come crumbling down and scriptures said that, “David was greatly distressed”. I can’t imagine all the things what went through his mind that day, but I do know what I would have done.

Firstly, I’d remember the promises of the Lord (2 Corinthians 1:20, 2 Peter 3:9). People may let you down, disappoint you or even betray you, but God is unchanging in His character and integrity (Hebrews 6:13, 13:8). If God declares a promise, it is ultimately backed by the integrity of his character and the strength of His power (Deuteronomy 32:4, Matthew 28:18). If God says He will do something, He will not allow His promise to fail as it would violate the perfection of His character and make Him a liar. Will He provide us with a cookie-cutter solution? Probably not, but He will always ensure the fulfillment of His promises.

Secondly, I would remember what God has done in my life. Take a few minutes and scribble down all of the God interventions that you can think of, big and small alike (Psalms 77:11, 105:5). These memories might bring a smile to your face, tears to your eyes, or any range of emotions but by remembering all the times when God has intervened, you are acknowledging God in your life. Then when the pen stops and all the memories are out of the table, call out to God and remind Him of His interventions. God, do you remember when you healed my body when I was a child? I need your healing touch in my life again today. I know without a doubt that you healed me back then, so I know you can heal me today! I remember when you walked with me through that trial last year; I need you to walk with me through my trial today. What God did yesterday, He can do again today!

Ultimately, these simple steps (among which there may be more) address a core Biblical concept: faith! By remembering His promises and recalling His interventions you are confirming to your mind and spirit that God is still capable of intervening in your trial. When you don’t have enough power to change the situation, God’s promises can release the power of the heavenlies. God’s promises are quite simply a method of action by which God has established to interact with humanity. God’s promises are the blueprints to future miracles. The promise, when joined with God’s power, builds a supernatural event in a person’s life – a God moment. By remembering what God has already done in your life, you are acknowledging that God has already created precedence for a future intervention. These recollections are the proof that God is already willing to intervene in your life, family, need, etc and they build your faith that God can, and will, intervene in your life again (Romans 10:17).

Wellllllll, I probably should get back to “corporate America” land. Not the land of promise or the land of milk and honey, but of the land of emails and paperwork. The land of computers and secured networks.

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

Be strong. Be encouraged. Be victorious!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Overcoming a spiritual siege

I was racing through my day and this particular topic came to my mind. I hadn’t previously been researching this topic, nor thinking of it. Take it for what it is, a spontaneous consideration of a spiritual matter. You might not be under a spiritual siege right now, but sometime someplace you will have to face this potential obstacle. I initially had chosen the phrase “potential reality” but reality could be described by some as merely a matter of perspective by our physical senses. You don’t have to physically see a spiritual siege to feels it’s presence or effects though – so perhaps “obstacle” is a more accurate description for the purpose of my ramblings.

A siege is described as... a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for "to sit".

Historically, when overcoming a city through a brute-force assault wasn’t a possibility, sieges were often looked to as a viable military option. Usually a siege afflicted the enemy through any combination of three actions: a) restriction of food provisions resulting in death by starvation, b) restriction of water resulting in death by dehydration or c) restriction of communication / transportation between neighboring cities and their fresh troops. Sieges, though a much longer and more painful method of victory, could be brutally effective. Just cut off all entrances going in and all exits going out of the city. Cut off water supplies and access to outside food-sources. Aggressively patrol all routes that could provide replenishment of supplies or troops. Cut off all resources; overcome through isolating the enemy.

Sound familiar? It might, if you have ever experienced a spiritual siege.

To properly set the backdrop for discussion, let me reference a few Biblical symbols (though certainly not an all-encompassed list in regards to examples): We, the people, are compared to walled cities (Proverbs 18:19). Bread, our provision for hunger, is compared to the Word of God, also to Jesus Himself (John 6:33-35,48-51, Matthew 4:4, Luke 4:4, Amos 8:11). Living water, our provision for thirst, is compared to the Spirit (John 4:13-14, John 7:38-39).

I have said it many times through the years that one of the most effective tactics of the enemy is isolating people from the things of God and from the people of God. If Satan can isolate you, it’s just one-on-one combat with him, a battle he will always eventually win. No isolated Christian can overcome and conquer the enemy. With many Christians, the siege rages on.

Let me give you a few observations regarding a spiritual siege.

Satan will attempt to cut you off from the bread of provision. He will do everything to distract you from receiving the Word of God. Bible reading and study? That takes way too much time and concentration, he would say. Listen to the preaching of the Word of God? Surely not! The preacher preaches too loud, or too soft. He wears ugly ties, he has annoying preaching habits. You’ve already heard that sermon text before. Sometimes the enemy will even present you with new excuses to keep you from the Word of God. Different times, different places, different people, different excuses but always the same tactic. To cut you off from the Word of God, a spiritual provision needed to help satisfy a spiritual hunger.

Satan will attempt to cut you off from the living water of provision, from workings of the Spirit. Find time to pray and purposely submit the carnal flesh to the Spirit of God? Most certainly not! You’ve put in long working hours and you could use that time elsewhere. Wake up early to pray? That’s a near impossible task with kids that need to get to school or a work-schedule that just won’t relent. And besides, prayer can be so stodgy and old-school. What could you talk to God about that He doesn’t already know? Besides, the last time you prayed you didn’t feel any goose-bumps or chills; was God even there that day? I can’t believe the preacher is pushing you to go further in worship again. You can do your “usual” worship thing and still be perfectly fine. Besides, this week has been crazy and you deserve to coast a little. To charge the batteries a little. Unfortunately, if the enemy can cut off your access to prayer and worship, your spiritual man will begin to quickly wither from dehydration.

Satan will attempt to cut you off from the people of God. Murphy’s Law, in it’s purest form, may very well be an occasional, physical manifestation of a spiritual opposition. Crazy things that never happen, will happen when you’re about ready to go to the house of the Lord. A flat tire. A phone call from a long-lost friend. A longer-than-usual work-day. A killer headache that just won’t give up. Running out of lunch-meat for the kid’s lunches tomorrow. Plus a million other possibilities that might do the trick.

Ohhh, and fellowshipping with so-n-so. Forget that! The last time you fellowshipped with them they rambled on and on about the troubles of their life. He’s an Tennesee Vols fan. Acccccck. She always wears last years’ styles. How drab. 9:45am Sunday School morning class?!? Tuesday night church prayer meeting? Thursday morning ladies prayer meeting? Friday night youth? You could be at church every day of the week if pastor had his way. Just because God doesn’t have to sleep, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to. God certainly doesn’t get any glory from you always being worn out, you deserve the right to sit down and catch your breath. Wouldn’t it be so much better to just pick a church service or two, show your face for an hour or so then get back to your normal everyday routine? Suggestions all whispered with a devious smile on his face.

Perhaps some of my devil’s advocate commentary hit home. Maybe not. But regardless, it gives us a possible example of how the enemy tries to lay siege to our lives as Christians. He’s subtle. He’s clever. If tempting you with committing big-time sins like robbery, murder, adultery, etc won’t work, then he might tempt you just to “not do” what you know would be excellent, Godly things. If he gets you to stop getting in the Word, the siege wins. If he gets you to stop listening to the preaching / teaching of the Word, the siege wins. If he gets you to stop praying, the siege wins. If he gets you to stop worshipping, the siege wins. If he drives a wedge of division between you and your brethren, the siege wins. Stop participating in the things of the Kingdom, the siege wins. The list goes on and on. The finer details of what the siege specifically attacks isn’t as important as what the siege seeks to accomplish: isolation.

The enemy never has to worry about ten thousand being put to flight (Duet 32:30, Eccl 4:9-12) if he’s always successful at isolating you in one-on-one battles. Isolation always results in the diminishment of spiritual strength. Victory through attrition can only be accomplished by your continued weakness. Can you rely on the strength of the Lord if you are always isolated from prayer, the Word and worship? Can you benefit from the spiritual strength and encouragement of your brethren if you have become isolated from regular corporate worship and fellowship? The only strength a spiritual siege has, comes from isolating you. Notice the Latin origin means “to sit” The siege’s effectiveness lies in breaking your will to act, essentially causing you to “sit down” because of discouragement / depression / bitterness / etc. The spiritual siege holds no power within itself once the isolation is broken.

So want to know how to overcome a spiritual siege? Quite simple. Break the barricades. Break the isolation. Be reunited with prayer. Be reunited with the Word. Be reunited with worship. Be reunited with God. Be reunited with the people of God.

Break the isolation. Break the siege. Break the enemy.

Gain victory. Through Christ. Today. Now.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Stop And Look At The Road

Several years ago the Lord was dealing with me and I prayed a prayer that I have added to my daily prayer. "God show me where I'm at, so I will know where I am going." Some times we wander through life and make decisions with no thought of where it is taking you. We get so caught up in the external motions of living for God we ignore the internal movements away from God. I don't want to substitute movement for motions. In case you have forgotten there is a difference in taking a jog on a treadmill and a jog through the country. You can go through the motions of running on the treadmill and when it's over, your sweaty and tired, then you get off in the same room you started in. You have gone no where, with the feeling you did. 
Sometimes we let the feeling make us forget to check where we are. So, STOP! LOOK DOWN! And make sure the road your on is taking you where you want to go. 

Jeremiah 6:16 Prov. 16:25 Prov. 21:2 Psalms 119:104

What a Difference a Year Makes

For those who know me, know I have lived the same place my entire life. That is, until, last year in August. August 15, 2008 I moved away from everyone I loved to come to Gateway College of Evangelism to pursue the ministry. It was the scariest thing I have ever done, but it has changed my life. While I am still the same ridiculously loud, crazy, emotional, "scatter brained" person I always was, there has definitely been a change in my life.
I came to bible school with the intentions of changing the world. Wow! I had some crazy ideas. I definitely tried jumping in over my head and definitely fell on my face. I also found myself and what I believe to be part of God's purpose for my life. Finding His purpose forced me to get out of my comfort zone. It forced me to think about someone other than myself. I was talking to someone the other day and I thought to myself, if the world is depending on me, am I worth being depended on? Am I doing my job, my duty, my purpose? Or am I pretending like I am? Somehow I don't think sitting in my perfect bubble without reaching out to anyone is doing any of those things. I don't recall Jesus sitting on the ground hoping people would just come sit by Him. No! He went out to where the people were and showed them who He was. Am I doing that? That's why I came to bible school. I was tired of sitting on the ground hoping people would come to me.
So I came, I moved, I relocated, and I cried because I was alone! LOL!! I got over it though, really fast! I came and made friends who are a little too much like me and started a life here. I also have seen so many things happen. Our school does weekend outreaches and I have been a part of a few of those and they change me every single time! I love going to small churches who hope we can change them in 3 days. We try and they usually end up changing us. Funny how that works.
I have been privileged to be a part of Chorale and Choir and they are fun for me because I love singing, but Chorale tour '09 changed my life forever. I prayed for random strangers I didn't know and saw them find what they need. Wow it was amazing! This year I get the opportunity to audition for United which is our ensemble, and only the best get asked to try out, and then there's me. LOL! We shall see what happens this weekend.
Oh and also since being here, remember now I am a music major, my little music major bubble has been bursted!! I have found that while music is a love for me and I would looooovvvveee to be a music director I believe God is calling me somewhere else (along with music directing I believe I can do both) I hate to rain on someones parade, and this is so just a personal belief so don't get mad! I believe being a music director is a ministry to edify the church and while it helps the spirit to come in and help people worship I don't believe it is something I should devote my all to. So while that's my fun thing I can do or my passion, I feel called to young people and troubled young adults, so I want to be go into counseling. I have felt it a long time and just kind of ignored it, but I am working on taking it seriously. So this spring I am changing my major to either Pastoral or Biblical studies with a minor in Music. Right now I am taking more bible than music anyways so it doesn't matter. Pray for me that I make the right decision.
I have said all this to bring encouragement to anyone who wants to go to bible school or if you just wanted to see what I am up to. I will try to keep everyone posted but I have lots of work this year and am trying to carry my financial burden on top of my academic. Pray for that too! I know God wants me here and I want to stay until He says otherwise.
I probably won't be back this summer for different reasons. Home isn't home anymore, and I'm not the same as I once was. I pray I make the right decisions in all I do. I love you all and pray revival comes your way!
I'll try to keep you posted on my life...