Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Saying Goodbye to Gracie

It's not often in life that we get to experience unconditional love. I think that's what leads to a special bond between a dog and her owner. And, when you find a dog who really knows what it is to love and be a loyal companion, you are doubly blessed. So has been the last 10 years of my life. When I was in college, on a night that was no different from any other, I went to a friend's house and came home with someone new to love. I didn't go there with the intention of bringing Gracie home, but when I saw her, I fell in love with her. She chose me that night. I knew it was irresponsible to bring her home when I lived in an apartment, but she just sat right in front of me and looked up at me with this face that just said, "Take me home and love me...I think you're my mom". And, so I did. I took her home and, as much as I loved her, I think I was more the blessed for having done it.

For 10 years, she brought me joy, companionship, comfort and loyalty. She was one of those dogs who loved no matter what. And, although she was a big dog, she was more gentle than most. She had a beautiful temperament that made her an easy companion for children or other animals. She seemed almost human in her personality. And, since she came home with me before she probably should have left her mother, she seemed to genuinely believe she was my child. And, I was ok with that. Because, she had a sixth sense when it came to what I needed from her. Through joy and fun times, stress and craziness, heart breaks and tears, she was there - Always by my side, like a shadow. I'm not sure any person has ever been loved more by their dog. I am blessed.

Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my life. As we were unable to get in to see the vet before I left town on Sunday, my Mom and Dad took Gracie in to see Dr. Mike on Monday. We thought she had a tumor in her stomach and had hoped that it wasn't a huge problem. At worst, I thought any decision could wait until I returned in a week. But, when Dr. Mike examined her, he discovered that her spleen had ruptured and she was bleeding internally. There was nothing that could be done and she probably wouldn't make it through the week. So, the Tuesday morning, I boarded a flight from Fort Lauderdale and headed home for the last moments of the dog I loved so dearly.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Mike Younkers has been our family vet. He's walked us through a number of these days. When it comes to the final decision for the life of our canine family members, we trust no one but him. So, when Dr. Mike told me that nothing could be done, I believed him and steeled myself for what was next. My parents had made all of the arrangements. My brother, Eddie, picked me up from the airport and took me to Dr. Mike's office. My Nana and Papa were waiting there for me since my parents had to fly out that morning and couldn't be there. I was taken to an exam room and they brought Gracie to me. I am so thankful that I was able to spend those last moments with her. We played on the floor and I just took time to say goodbye to my friend. My family graciously allowed me a few minutes alone with her to say my goodbyes in private. Then, the time came to call Dr. Mike back to the room.

I had struggled over whether I should stay in the room with her as he put her to sleep. Friends and family had made their arguments for which way they thought would be best. But, I knew I couldn't walk out on her in those last final moments. You see, Gracie gets really anxious at the vet. When I arrived that morning, she thought it was time to go home. I didn't want my last memory of her to be her expressive, questioning face watching me walk away and not knowing why she didn't get to go too. Eddie stayed with me to help me through those last moments. So, as we got her up on the table, I wrapped her up in my arms, spoke sweetly to her, and stroked her head as Dr. Mike gave her the injection. After a few seconds, she relaxed in my arms and went to sleep. I'm so thankful that I chose to stay there in that moment and let her leave this earth knowing how much she was loved.

I stayed a few more moments with her as Dr. Mike again explained how bad things would have gotten in the next few days if we hadn't made this choice. And, although I wouldn't want to ever be faced with this choice for a human family member, I'm so thankful that the end of Gracie's life could come quickly and with dignity in the arms of the one who loved her most on this earth.

As I left the room, I saw my friend, Katie Gridley, and ran to her and again burst into tears. I feel like a piece of my heart is permanently broken. But, once it was all over, I found peace in knowing that I had made the right decision, the last moments couldn't have been any sweeter, and Gracie wouldn't die in pain.

Those who have never known the love of a pet like Gracie may find my reaction ridiculous and over the top. Some may ask if it is wise or worth it to become so attached to an animal with such a brief life span (Gracie was approximately 86 in human years, yet she lived only nearly 11). And, my answer would be a thousand times yes. My life was enriched because of Gracie's presence. When my heart was broken, she quietly came up beside me and assured me of her presence and her love. When it was time to play, she threw herself into it 100%. And, maybe that's why she chose me. We both do things and love people with all that we have or nothing at all. She gave me all that she was and she loved me unconditionally. And, although it hurts to let her go, I know that my life is better because she was part of it.

Gracie, my friend, my baby, thank you for loving me. I thank God that He brought you into my life and I will never forget you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Racism - it's not just black and white anymore

I've heard alot of talk lately about race. Many of the pundits are saying that this election wasn't about race, but I don't believe that to be true. In the weeks leading up to the election, my support for John McCain was sometimes sneered at as if it was a vote for racism. I heard black people say how it was time for a black president, listened to the Howard Stern interview of black people in Harlem who swore allegiance to Obama without knowing what he stood for, and even had some of my white friends say that it was time to "stick it to" the white people by electing a black man. Now, people are pointing to this election and saying that we've come so far in race relations in this country. I hope it's true, but I don't see it. I feel like we're more polarized than ever.

Let me make it clear from the beginning - racism is WRONG. Hating or discriminating against someone for the color of their skin is ignorant and has no place in our country. Unfortunately, it is alive and well and maybe especially here in the South. And, it is so sad. I've been wrestling with my response to all I see and hear around me. I stand in a complex place as a white girl raised here in the South. By my writing this blog, I in no way mean to condone racism because it is a very ugly part of our culture here and across the country.

I grew up in a home where racism was NOT ok. But, I must say that my parents are the first generation (that I can see) in their families who think this way. Some older members of my family have expressed racist views, although often in sugar-coated "Southern-Speak". Others have not been so cautious but have spoken horrible things that spring from deep-seated hatred. I am also a 7th generation descendant of Robert E. Lee and the conflict of conscious he wrestled with has worked it's way through to my generation.

In some cases, the anger on the part of my family members is understandable. My Grandmother worked hard for many years and had worked her way to a coveted position. But, as she sat poised to take the next step in her career path, her job was given to a black woman in order to fill a quota. So, the reward of her hard work was taken from her, not by someone with more experience or who was better qualified, but by someone who's skin color was different. I understand that something had to be done to help equalize our society. But, I wonder if things like Affirmative Action haven't divided us even farther.

In the South, the issue of race runs deep. It's been a part of our culture for so long. There is a certain Southern Pride that is misunderstood by the rest of the country. We are labeled as racists, rednecks, Bible-beaters, and hillbillies because we take pride in being from the South. Racism is alive and well, but it's not only felt by those of African American descent.

Just because white Americans are currently the majority, doesn't mean they don't experience discrimination. Many would argue that it doesn't compare to what is faced by other races, but that is becoming a less valid argument with each passing year. No one would argue that anyone of color (Hispanic, Asian, Black, etc) faces certain discrimination. But, what about women? I find the treatment of Sarah Palin to be appalling. For the life of me, I can not understand how it was ok for someone to hang an effigy of her from a tree in California and not face censure. But, that is our first amendment right, isn't it? But, what if it had been an effigy of Barack Obama swinging from that tree? Would the reaction have been the same? Of course not. The nation would have been up in arms over it and someone would have likely paid with their liberty. Is that ok? Of course not. And, what of the white male? He has become a hunted species. The next time you sit down to watch TV, take notice of how the white male is portrayed. Often in commercials, he is ignorant and unaware. Often in sitcoms, he is weak, stupid, and made a fool. And, we laugh at it. We have slowly let it creep into our consciousness.

The problem of racism comes from all directions. Perhaps we shouldn't say "racism" - but, call a spade a spade and just talk about hate. Because, all across the country people are hated, now more than ever it seems, for a variety of things. There's hate among the races. There's hate between political parties. There's hate between denominations. It's become an oxymoron in many circles to say you are Pro-Woman and Pro-Life. There's more than enough hate to go around.

So, what do we do about it? What is the church's role in all of this? It should be different in the church. Sadly, it's not. And, that's where "The Change We Need" needs to the hearts of God's people. As we see things going on around us that don't reflect the love of Christ, it's our job to gently correct - not judge - our neighbor. When we see someone lash out, we need to ask for grace to see the reason. That hate comes from somewhere. For some, it is what they were taught and they just need to be re-education. For others, it comes from wounds that have been inflicted, sometimes over and over, by representatives of another race. And for others, they are tired of not having a voice for fear that they will be seen as racist when all they really want is true equality and they see the balance of power shifting. (And, by balance of power, I mean the "pass" that is given to black, etc, organizations. Could we ever have the White Music Awards, White Miss America, or any number of equivalent groups without being called racist or even possibly have our rights or liberty taken from us?).

I would encourage you to sift through the comments, many of which are truly ignorant and offensive, and look to the heart of the person and address the root. This is how we are to love, challenge, and sharpen each other as the Body of Christ. We need to set an example for those around us. Because, in Christ, there is no seperation of race or gender, only unity as children of God. Let's come together and get up and start making a difference in our communities by loving one another no matter our differences. The change we need is within our grasp if we only put others first and love like Jesus loved us.

Post-Election Action Plan

I've had a lot of things swirling around in my head and in my heart for the last few weeks. It's been an intense time for me, and as writing is therapeutic, I want to share some of what I'm thinking. So, it's time to start blogging again!

A week ago, today, we elected a new President. The opinions could not be more divided on what this means for the future of our country. There is no doubt that it is an historic moment in America that we would elect a black man as President of the United States. For the millions of African-Americans in this country, it means a new door of opportunity and a brighter hope for their children's future. Now, when they tell their sons that they can be anything - even President of the United States - they can say so with confidence and point to a role model. (Perhaps the daughters will one day have such a role model as well).

I wish that I could believe that this election means what so many think it means - that we've come so far in race relations in our country. But, I feel like we are more polarized than ever. It seems like so many looked past President-Elect Obama's far left agenda and looked only at his skin color on election day. It seems like many in this country believed it was time for a black president and didn't care how his values and policies would steer this country. I even had white friends tell me that they thought it was time to "stick it to white people" and put a black man in office. I've seen a number of my friends labeled as "racists" because they chose to vote for Senator McCain. Maybe it's because I live in the South. But, things like Howard Stern's Interviews in Harlem seem to say it's not a regional issue.

Yesterday, a friend said to me, "I don't see why everyone thinks it will be so bad having Obama as President". And, my answer was, "maybe it won't". Maybe he'll get into office, get more information and realize that there are limited options in some cases. In a White House Press Briefing on November 6th, Press Secretary Dana Perino said in a response to the value of daily intelligence briefings:

"So the value of an intelligence briefing is immeasurable, and it's nothing that any of us who are not President of the United States, or aren't going to be President of the United States, can understand. I think that that is something that a very small group of people in our country, those who have been President, and the current President and the one to be, understand the gravity and the seriousness of the threats that we face. And so those briefings will hopefully prove very helpful to him. Not only will he get the intelligence briefing, but he will also, as Director Hayden said, be able to understand the full range of capabilities that we have in order to help continue to protect the country."

The office and responsibility of The President is one that none of us who do not bear it can understand. The decisions made by a President are made with information that none of us has at our disposal. It's frustrating to hear so much disrespect and arm chair quarterbacking of the President when none of us has all the information. It can be assumed that President-Elect Obama will have to adjust some of his plans once he has all of the information. It is also worth pointing out that, in the same press briefing it was noted that President Bush's plan was ALREADY to start bringing the troops home and out of Iraq in 2009.

For me, there are areas I will be watching as President-Elect Obama takes office.

The Freedom of Choice Act - On the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President-Elect Obama released a statement saying that he would sign the Freedom of Choice Act as President. In fact, before his supporters in Planned Parenthood, he said it would be the first thing he did. Since 1973 more than 50 million U.S. Citizens have been aborted under the protection of Roe v. Wade. On November 5, 2003, President Bush signed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban of 2003. This law banned a procedure in which a baby is partially delivered and then killed before the delivery is completed. The Freedom of Choice Act would, according to Nancy Keenan of NARAL Pro-Choice America, "would effectively repeal the Bush-backed Federal Abortion Ban and other federal restrictions." (Please note that she refers to the Partial Birth Abortion Ban as only the Federal Abortion Ban. She refers to a safe abortion procedure, but does not call it partial birth abortion.) Nearly 50 million babies have been aborted since 1973. 50 million American Citizens were denied their right to life. The Freedom of Choice Act will reverse any headway states have made in limiting abortions. I will be paying attention to this issue and respectfully use my voice in dissent.

The Socializing of America - In a much publicized conversation with private citizen, Joe Wurzelbacher, President-Elect Obama said, "I think when you spread the wealth around it's good for everybody". Yesterday, I heard that congress is in talks to turn private retirement accounts into Guaranteed Retirement Accounts managed by the government. The ideas for these type of accounts has been presented by Professor Teresa Ghilarducci of the New School of Social Research in New York. "In a radio interview with Kirby Wilbur in Seattle on Oct. 27, 2008, Ghilarducci explained that her proposal doesn’t eliminate the tax breaks, rather, “I’m just rearranging the tax breaks that are available now for 401(k)s and spreading — spreading the wealth.” In addition to his comments on economic redistribution, President-Elect Obama would also like to see universal nationalized health care. While universal health care seems like a panacea for what ails us, it also carries many burdens. Check out this article in the LA Times about how there is a big difference between health coverage and actual access to health care.

First Amendment Rights - Although Barack Obama currently does not support a return of the Fairness Doctrine, Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi,does. This legislation would require radio and television statements to give equal time to opposing views. First of all, this goes against our free market system. Air America (liberal talk radio), tried and failed to gain an audience. The Fairness Doctrine, if reinstated, would require time given to programs that may, in fact, lose money for station owners. Secondly, it could also mean that Christian radio stations would have to give equal time to opposing world views. Taking all of this in context with President-Elect Obama's decision to remove unsympathetic reporters from his plane and Joe Biden's run-in and subsequent snubbing of an Orlando News station because he didn't like her questions, it is not unreasonable for Americans to be concerned about the Freedom of the Press becoming a thing of the past.

Second Amendment Rights - The day following the election, there was a run on guns in the United States with a strong response by the NRA-ILA to President-Elect Obama's stated agenda on gun control. There are many nuances to this argument, but I do not want to see us get to a point where we are no longer allowed the right to bear arms of any kind.

War and National Security - It remains to be seen what President-Elect Obama will do in regards to the war and national security. As I stated earlier, things may change as he begins to get his daily intelligence briefing, and President Bush already has a plan to start bringing troops home from Iraq in 2009. But, some interesting things are cropping up in the discussion of "what ifs" concerning President Obama - like a possible National Security Force that reports to him. I hope that the men and women of our military do not suffer under an Obama presidency. I remember, under President Clinton, the weakening of our military and the closing of several bases. I can't help but wonder if this reducing of funds for our military and national security isn't, in part, responsible for the terrorists attacks on U.S. soil. I pray that we will not reverse the strides we've made in making our country safer and our military stronger.

Global Society - Britian's Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, is urging world leaders to take the opportunity of this global financial crisis to build a truly global society. What will that mean for America?

Reversing of Executive Orders - It appears that some of his first acts once in office will be the reversal of some of President Bush's executive orders including restrictions on stem cell research, ban on foreign aid of abortions, and a reversal of offshore drilling. Before even taking office, President-Elect Obama has made his liberal agenda clear.

However, even taking all of these factors into account, I will be careful not to disrespect President-Elect Obama. I have been appalled and angered over the last 8 years at how President Bush has been treated by so many in this country. I will not do the same to President-Elect Obama. For the next four years, he will be my President, and that office deserves respect. That does not, however, mean that I will remain silent. I will use my voice to respectfully disagree and stand in opposition of legislation that I fear takes us too far to the left. Politicians move to the center during political campaigns in order to appeal to the largest number of Americans. Perhaps they should also govern from the center and find a way for the right and left to come together for what is best for America. President-Elect Obama said that he would work to earn the support of those whose votes he did not earn. I hope that will be true. I will be praying for President-Elect Obama as he takes office and begins to lead our country. That is the job of the church - to use our voice and to pray.

I pray that this election will truly be a step towards reconciliation between the races in the United States. But, I hope the dialog is about more than just black and white. I'm tired of hearing about how white people hate black people. If we look at the situation with open eyes, we see that there's more than enough hate to go around. Do some white people still hate black people because of their race? Sadly, yes. But, the reverse is also true. And, there's discrimination against Hispanics, women, men, Christians, non-Christians, Democrats, Republicans, and on and on. We have a lot of work to do in America and "The Change We Need" actually must start in the hearts of God's people. It's our job as the church to learn to love each other as Christ loved us and show that through our lives. One way we can do that is by showing respect to President-Elect Obama even if we didn't vote for him.

So, here's my plan for the next four years:

1. Pray for the country and the President
2. Pay attention to the political process
3. Use my voice in respectful opposition
4. Keep learning how to love like Jesus and show that in my actions

I pray that this is a wake up call for the church and that we get up, stretch our legs, and get out into our communities and truly make a difference for the Kingdom.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

10 Questions for Spiritual Spring Cleaning

Spiritual House Cleaning

Lately, I've been doing a lot of reading on Spiritual Spring Cleaning. As one chapter in my life closes and another begins, I feel the need to have a time of reconsecration and rededication to the things of the Lord. Today, I ran across a great article about King Hezekiah and how he cleaned and reconsecrated the Temple to the Lord's purposes. Here's the link to that article:

In a side bar, there was a list of 10 Questions for Spiritual Spring Cleaning. I want to share that here. You can also access it by going to:

10 Questions for Spiritual Spring Cleaning

1. What am I grumbling about?
"Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding; those who complain will accept instruction". (Isaiah 29:24)

"Do everything without complaining or arguing" (Philippians 2:14)

2. Do I have habits that irritate others?
"Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom" (Song of Solomon 2:15)

"We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves" (Romans 15:1)

3. Do I justify certain indulgences?
"The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries,riches and pleasures, and they do not mature" (Luke 8:14)

"Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love" (Revelations 2:4)

4. Am I too busy to read God's Word daily?
"I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the nights, that I may meditate on your promises"(Psalm 119:147-148)

"For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes"(Acts 28:27)

5. Have I wrongly offended someone?
"But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment....First go and be reconciled to your brother" (Matthew 5:22-24)

"I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord"(Philippians 4:2)

6. What am I selfish about?
"Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others" (I Corinthians 10:24)

"[Love] is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs" (I Corinthians 13:5)

7. Does my conversation always honor God?
"The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just" (Psalm 37:30)

"Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in Him mouth" (I Peter 2:21-22)

8. Do my media choices always honor God?
"I will walk in my house with blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile things"(Psalm 101:2-3)

"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" (Philippians 4:8)

9. Do I procrastinate?
"Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you"(I Chronicles 28:20)

"The sluggard says, 'There is a lion outside!' or, 'I will be murdered in the streets!'" (Proverbs 22:13)

10. In what area am I most undisciplined?
"Every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful" (John 15:2)

"No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize" (I Corinthians 9:27)

After typing all of these, I'm feeling the sting of the questions and the scriptures. These are good questions to ask periodically. Good standards of measure to see where I am in my walk with the Lord. There were definitely a few "Ouches" as I read through these. May the Lord continue to work on my heart and make me more like Him.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Sunday Service - August 31st

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to speak at my church. Below are my notes for that message. (Some people have asked for a recording, but it didn't actually get recorded due to sound difficulties. And, since I didn't really deviate from my notes, I decided to post them here). The notes are kind of long because I wrote out the passages of scripture I used. I encourage all of you to spend some time in Ephesians and the rest of Paul's epistles. They are chock full of pearls of wisdom.

I showed these three videos before the service. Feel free to check them out.

God of this city (Paris) -

Disneyland Paris -

Friends in France -

France 2008

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Christy Solly, and I am honored to have the opportunity to share with you today. On August 10th, I had the privilege of traveling to France with Alan and Heidi Winter of Frontline Missions. Some of you may remember that I went to Honduras in April with these same missionaries and I’m hoping to do more work with them in the future. For me, however, this trip was 12 years in the making.

When I was 17 years old, I fell in love with France. I actually had a little crush on that country and her language before that time. I was a senior in high school and had taken 2 years of French to fulfill my language requirement. I loved every second of it. My friends, who also took French, and I would pass notes to each other in French so they couldn’t be deciphered by the Spanish speakers. And, I think I drove my parents crazy with speaking it all the time. So, because of this unexplainable fascination with France, my grandparents offered to take me there as a graduation gift. I could hardly believe it. I was going to Paris!

So, in the spring of 1997, I made my first trip to France. I must have walked around like a star struck teenager. I soaked in everything I could. My grandparents were quite the troopers as we crammed as much as possible into those 5 days. We saw the Eiffel Tower (of course), climbed to the top of Sacre-Coeur and the Arc de Triomphe. We ate fresh croissants for breakfast and had lunch on the patios of French caf├ęs and even travelled out to Versailles. It felt like a once in a life time experience. Little did I know what God had in mind.

Of all the beautiful, historic, and interesting places we visited, the place that means the most to me in Paris is the Cathedral of Notre Dame. The thing about this cathedral is that the story of Jesus is on display in every corner. The face of the building itself holds the likenesses of saints and apostles and disciples of Jesus. The intricate stained glass tells the stories of the Bible in pictures. They still hold services there. And the life of Jesus is depicted in beautiful carved wood panels that line the walls. You can’t miss it! I wonder how you could walk through there and not at least have some questions about it all. The story of Jesus is everywhere. Yet, thousands of people walk through there every year (maybe millions), and they don’t know the Savior who’s story the building tells. It was there, standing before one of the wood panels, that God crushed my heart for France. I can remember it as if it were yesterday. I felt His pain for His children in France who were walking in darkness. One of my favorite lines lately in a worship song is when Christy Nockles sings “break my heart for what breaks Yours, everything I am for Your kingdom’s call, as I walk from earth into eternity”. The Lord did that for me that day. He broke my heart for the people of France.

But, I was 17. What was I going to do about it? Not only was I 17, but I didn’t see myself going far from home. In fact, when I went to college, I pretty much only considered schools within a 2 hour radius of home. Surely, I wouldn’t be going to France. So, I put the thought away for a long while. I still loved France, but I didn’t see that it was part of God’s plan for me. In the years that have followed, God has worked on my heart and worked on my gifts and helped me grow as a person and as a minister of the Gospel. He’s had to break some things in me. For one thing, I tend to like to know where I’m going and the plan for getting there. However, mission work doesn’t usually follow any kind of plan. It’s really important to be flexible and be able to handle changes with grace. I’ve had to learn that (and, I’m still not completely there). But, I continued to develop the gifts and talents He gave me and waited for some direction.

Last October, it all started to come together. I had been praying about going into ministry and really feeling the Lord’s call on my life and that it was time to move that direction. I’ve been slow and careful and have prayed about what that would actually look like. Last October, I met with Heidi Winter and shared that desire with her. She immediately asked me to pray about joining Frontline Missions. It caught me off guard, because I never really saw myself as a missionary. A music minister….maybe. A Sunday school or youth teacher…sure. But, a missionary? Definitely something to pray about. A week or so later, I met with her in a more official setting and talked about what it would look like if I did choose to join Frontline. Now, they concentrate mostly in Central and South America – Latin countries. They wanted me to learn Spanish and Portuguese and join them on trips to Honduras and Brazil. But, at the end of the meeting, almost as a side note, Heidi mentioned that she believed God was going to expand them into Europe – starting with France.

I was nearly speechless. You see, Heidi had no idea that I love France. So, I quickly shared my story with her and told her I would definitely pray about it. In April, I travelled with them and the Landmark students to Honduras for a mission trip. It was there that God truly began to confirm this new direction in my life. More and more, I felt like I was supposed to minister to the people of France.

Then comes August. The trip is finally planned and Heidi, Alan and I left for France. We were going to visit with several families whose children had been exchange students in the Winter’s home. There were 5 French families altogether with whom we spent time while in France. Now, my understanding was a little foggy before we left. I thought we were going to see what it would look like to take teams to France on missions. That didn’t really happen. Perhaps it will happen in later trips. This trip was just about spending time with these families. It wasn’t so much a mission trip in the sense of going with the intent to convert souls. But, we lived life with these wonderful people for 10 days and loved on them and shared our faith in very personal ways. In reality, it was not much different than how we should be living here as the church. That’s what I want to talk to you about today. Lifestyle evangelism. Living the life God called you to live. Whether in France or in Fayetteville, the way that we live and how we represent Christ makes a difference to those with whom we are in relationship. Just as we heard last week that real change and growth happens in community, so does real change come within the context of loving relationships. When people look at how you live, how you love, how you treat each other, do they see Jesus? Sadly, the church has developed a bad reputation in the world. When you ask people to tell you what they think of when they hear the word “Christian”, often, the response is “Hypocrite”, “Judgmental”, “Self-Righteous”. How sad. That’s not at all what the Lord has asked His church to be. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. People should know we are followers of Christ because they see Him in us.

In the last several weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time in Paul’s letters, especially his letter to the Church at Ephesus. I’d like to share some of his instruction to that church with you today.

1. What was God’s plan for us? Ephesians 1:3-10 (The Message)

"How blessed is God! And what a blessing He is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in Him. Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, HE had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love. Long, long ago He decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of His beloved Son. Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, His blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people – free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans He took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in Him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth."

Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love. Can you imagine that? You are the focus of God’s love and He wants that love to make You whole and holy.

And, we’re a free people – free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. ABUNDANTLY free! Do we live like this? Do we live like we believe it? We’re children of God who have been set free from the penalties of our sins through the poured out love of God. We are FREE! But, how often do we live like we’re still in chains? Verse 11 goes on to tell us that it’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. God’s working things out for His people. He has a plan for us, a good, perfect, wonderful plan. Are we listening? Are we following?

2. What were we before Christ? Ephesians 2:1-4

"It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose His temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, He embraced us."

I love the way this version phrases this: “You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience”. How often do we think the world’s way is better? How often do we think we’ll have more fun or life will be more fulfilling if we do it the world’s way? But, how many of you remember your mother telling you “garbage in – garbage out”? Well, here is an example of that in scripture. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. Unbelief breeds disobedience. If you trust the person who is instructing you – if you truly believe they have your best interest at heart, aren’t you more likely to be obedient? If you respect someone, aren’t you more likely to listen? Polluted unbelief leads to disobedience. But, yet, somehow…God still loved us and adopted us as Sons and Daughters. We certainly haven’t earned that. Thank God for His gift.

3. What are we now? Ephesians 2:19-22

"That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all – irrespective of how we got here – in what He is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now He’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day – a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home."

We are the body of Christ. We are the temple of God. We are His children and we belong in Him. We’re part of something that goes back to the foundations of the earth and will continue forever. A building where God is quite at home. I’m a very visual person and I love it when Scripture gives us pictures like that. He told Peter, “on this rock I will build my church” and Paul has carried that picture through here. We each play our part in the structure of the building. We each have a responsibility to those before who’ve laid the foundation and those ahead who will build on what we leave behind. What’s your role in the church? What do you look like as part of this infinite structure He’s building?

4. What’s ahead for us? Ephesians 3:14-21

"My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask Him to strengthen you by His Spirit – not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength – that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite Him in. And I ask Him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know – fare more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, His Spirit deeply and gently within us."

I don’t know about you, but that passage is really exciting to me. “Extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”. Doesn’t that sound like a great adventure? That doesn’t sound like a religion bound up in rules and regulations, does it? It sounds like something worth chasing after and pouring your life into.

And, take heart in the last part of this passage, church: “God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!”. Greater things are yet to come for this church and for the church as a whole. God’s not done with us yet. He can do more than we could ever imagine. He has a plan for us that is beyond our wildest dreams.

5. So, now that we know that, now what? Ephesians 4:1-3; 14-24

"In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk – better yet, run! – on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline – not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences…."

Where would we be if we were pouring ourselves out for each other in acts of love, sensitive to our difference and quick at mending fences? That’s how mature believers should behave. God doesn’t want us to stay babies in the faith forever.

"No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love – like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. And, so I insist – and God backs me up on this – that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion. But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to Him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything – and I do mean everything – connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life – a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces His character in you."

6. What does a God-fashions conduct look like? Ephesians 5:1-17

"Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with Him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of Himself to us. Love like that. Don’t allow love to turn into lust, setting off a downhill slide into sexual promiscuity, filthy practices, or bullying greed. Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, Christians have better uses for language than that. Don’t talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn’t fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect. You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them – the usual variations on idolatry – will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God. Don’t let yourselves get taken in by religious smooth talk. God gets furious with people who are full of religious sales talk but want nothing to do with Him. Don’t even hang around people like that. You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true – these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ and then do it. Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ. Wake up from your sleep, climb out of your coffins; Christ will show you the light! So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. There are desperate times! Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants."

This may seem like a long list of do’s and don’ts, but it really is just what the fruit of a holy life looks like. Pursue Christ. Pursue holiness. Pursue love. We’re not going to get there in this lifetime, but it’s the bar that’s been set for us. We should reach for it – run after it – pour ourselves out in loving acts for each other.

7. Paul’s final word to the church at Ephesus – Ephesians 6:10-18

"And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and He wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against fare more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them through your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out."

There's a lot going on in our church right now. It's important hat we pray for each other and keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. It's imperative, during this time of transition that we love like Jesus, pour ourselves out in acts of love, be sensitive to each other's differences and mend our fences quickly. This is what the world wants to see when they look at the church. This is what they SHOULD see when they look at the church. What do they see when they look at our lives? Do they see Jesus? I hope so.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bon Voyage! - Paris + Prayer Requests

Dear Family and Friends,

In a couple of hours, I'll be headed to the airport and then to Paris, France! For those of you who don't know, I'm traveling with Alan and Heidi Winter of Frontline Missions. (I also traveled with them in April to Honduras). I'm hoping to get to work more and more with Alan and Heidi. This trip to France is a step in that direction. God put France in my heart when I was 17 years old and now, His plans for me are coming together and becoming very real. I'm very excited about the possibilities ahead and I can't wait to see what God is doing in France and what He will work in my heart for the next 10 days. I'll be gone from August 10th - August 20th. We'll be staying with some friends of the Winters and will be traveling around with them for the time we are there.

Please pray for the following things (as well as whatever else God may put on your heart for this trip)

- Pray that we will be sensitive to God's leading and obedient to do what He asks
- Pray that we will see His vision for France and how we and Frontline Missions fit into that vision
- Pray for open doors in France and for us to see the best way to bring the Gospel to the French
- Pray for my language skills. This is a great opportunity for me to practice French with fluent speakers. Pray that I won't be afraid to just go for it. I want this to be a learning experience!
- Pray for my health. I've been struggling with extreme fatigue for a few months now. I have identified some possible causes and have begun treating them. I'm feeling MUCH better, but pray that I continue to get well and I stay healthy and have the energy for this trip.

Thank you in advance for your prayers. I'm very excited about this new chapter in my life and I can't wait to see what God's going to do. I'll keep you posted if I can (not sure what kind of time or opportunity I will have to email).

Much Love,

P.S. My cousin and her husband, Abby and Chris Ireland, are currently on a short term medical mission trip in Trinidad. Please keep them in your prayers as well. And, if you want to see some of the things God has done through Frontline Missions and their work in Latin America, please check out Peachtree Christian Fellowship's website. It's exciting to see what God did through them in Honduras last month!!

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me". - Erma Bombeck

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Modern Day Miracle Workers

This week, God gave me my own little miracle and I wanted to share the story. For many years, I have had chronic pain in my back, legs, and arms. I’ve had it for so long, it’s really become quite normal for me. In an effort to manage the pain, I’ve seen a number of chiropractors over the years. In the last couple of years, I’ve been introduced to a wonderful Christian chirpractor in Tyrone, Dr. Peggy Murray. Dr. Peggy has been more than a chiropractor for me. She has openly shared her heart and her faith. She told me on my first visit that she is a Christian chiropractor, not just a chiropractor who is a Christian. She prays over me as she adjusts me and uses her gift of healing as she works on my back.

Last week, she told me (for about the millionth time) that I really needed a massage. My muscles were in such knots that she wasn’t having much luck adjusting me. She also told me she would pray for the person I went to see to be someone with the gift of healing…someone with a healing touch.

Yesterday, I was not feeling well and really hurting quite a bit. I left work and called the Zen Massage center near my house. I took the next appointment they had with a female therapist. For the first hour, she worked on just my arms. (I have an injury in my right shoulder that’s caused a lot of trouble in the last few months). I wasn’t exactly sure what to think of her as her method was a bit unconventional. (She was talking to my muscles, ligmaments, tendons, nerves, veins, etc. as she massaged me and asked them to release…it seemed a little crazy at first). But, as she worked, I could tell that she was making progress with my muscles, so I worked with her to relax my muscles and focus on releasing the tension. As she was working on my shoulders, she began to ask me questions. She asked me about the people I feel responsible for in my life. She could tell that I have a lot of responsibility. It was then that she told me what the Bible says about carrying burdens. She said, “I don’t know if you are a Bible believer, but Jesus tells us to put our burdens on Him…”. She went on to address some other things she identified by the tension in my body and gave me a gentle reminder of what the Bible says.

It was at that point that I recalled Dr. Peggy’s prayer. I could hardly believe it as my encounter with Denise seemed like so much chance. But, I am again reminded that the Lord is intimately involved in the details of my life and this was no chance encounter. Dr. Peggy had prayed that I would see a therapist who had the gift of healing. When I told Denise that my chiropractor had prayed for her, she, nearly in tears, told me that she had prayed for miracles that morning. She said, “I prayed for miracles here today, for my coworkers and my employers. I wasn’t even thinking about it happening to me”.

So, that’s my story of modern day miracle workers. No, I’m not completely cured of my pain, but I have less than I did the day before. And, I have a very real story of how God uses the gifts of His people to show His love in the lives of His children. I’m very thankful for two women who are unashamed of their Savior and the gifts He’s given them. They healed more than just my body this week, they helped heal my heart. So, thank you, ladies, for your obedience and you willingness to share your faith and your gifts.

If you’re looking for a great chiropractor, call Dr. Peggy Murray of Tyrone Chirpractic. And, if you need a great massage, call Denise at Zen Massage!

What Do You See in Your Clouds?

For the last several weeks, I have been very aware of the clouds. I have seen some of the most BEAUTIFUL skies I’ve seen in my lifetime. I’ve seen amazing sunsets as I’ve been driving down the interstate. I’ve seen full and beautiful cloud formations in the most unlikely of places and unremarkable of days. It’s as though the Lord has been drawing my eye to the sky and towards Him in a time when I’ve needed more and more to rest in His presence. I’m not sure what exactly He’s trying to teach me or speak to my heart, but this came across my email today and gave me something to chew on. I wanted to share it here. Today’s My Utmost for His Highest Entry:


Behold, He cometh with clouds.

Revelation 1:7

In the Bible clouds are always connected with God. Clouds are those sorrows or sufferings or providences, within or without our personal lives, which seem to dispute the rule of God. It is by those very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith. If there were no clouds, we should have no faith. "The clouds are but the dust of our Father's feet." The clouds are a sign that He is there. What a revelation it is to know that sorrow and bereavement and suffering are the clouds that come along with God! God cannot come near without clouds, He does not come in clear shining.

It is not true to say that God wants to teach us something in our trials: through every cloud He brings, He wants us to unlearn something. His purpose in the cloud is to simplify our belief until our relationship to Him is exactly that of a child - God and my own soul, other people are shadows. Until other people become shadows, clouds and darkness will be mine every now and again. Is the relationship between myself and God getting simpler than ever it has been?

There is a connection between the strange providences of God and what we know of Him, and we have to learn to interpret the mysteries of life in the light of our knowledge of God. Unless we can look the
darkest, blackest fact full in the face without damaging God's character, we do not yet know Him.

"They feared as they entered the cloud . . ." - Is there anyone "save Jesus only" in your cloud? If so, it will get darker; you must get to the place where there is "no one any more save Jesus only."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Pain of Losing

I just found out today, in the Sunday service, that our youth pastor has taken a job at another church. He and his family will be leaving us August 1st. I feel like my heart is breaking in my chest. Since coming to us last year, Tom and Jen have planted themselves in our hearts and it is sad to let them go.

In some ways, it’s truly a blessing that the Lord has called them to another church. Tom and Jen came here a year ago with a strong conviction that the Lord was calling them to FCC. However, we’ve struggled financially for some time now and can no longer support 2 pastors. I believe it is God’s blessing on the faithfulness of Tom and Jen that has opened another position for them nearby. I pray that it will be a good thing for them and their family.

I am sad, for many reasons, at the loss of this family.

Tom has done an amazing job with our youth. In the time that he’s been here, we seen a number of students come to know the Lord and be baptized. He’s taken the staff under his wings and encouraged them to step up and lead as God would have them. He’s done an excellent job with all the programs under his care. He’s a great teacher and I’ve enjoyed the moments when I’ve been able to see him teach. He truly has a gift and heart for teaching students. He will be sorely missed.

Jen has truly become my friend. She has done a great job in the band and in the women’s ministry. She has selflessly served each week as vocalist and guitarist and always been willing to share what he Lord has on her heart. Our Saturday morning Bible study has been lead by her and has become something I look forward to each week. And, as much as I am going to miss her as a ministry asset at FCC, I am going to miss my friend. Jen is one of the few people in my life who are bold enough, or close enough, to speak the truth in love to me. She has corrected me when I really thought I was in the right. She has gently shown me a different perspective and given me the space to work through what she said. All the while, I knew she didn’t love me any less for my weakness and failings. We’ve prayed together and encouraged one another as we’ve both sought God’s plan for our futures and for the future of FCC. She’s been a precious gem to me in the last year and I am going to miss her fiercely.

Now, I know they aren’t moving far away (an hour and a half) and the miracle of modern technology will keep us somewhat connected. But, it will be different. And, it makes me sad to know that they will be closing this chapter of their life and beginning another. But, at the same time, I’m excited for the opportunities before them.

The ironic thing is, two of the songs we sang today seem to speak directly to how my heart is feeling right now (Blessed be Your name and Trading my Sorrows). I didn’t know until after the service that they would be leaving. But, I will cling to the truth in those songs and praise the Lord for what’s ahead of Jen, Tom, and their family.

Blessed be Your name in the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow, Blessed be Your name
Blessed be Your name when I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness, Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord, still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name when sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s all as it should be, Blessed be Your name
Blessed be Your name on the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering, Blessed be Your name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Jacobs family – you are loved and you will be sorely missed! May God bless the next chapter in your journey and may you continue to show others what it is to live lives of surrender to the Lord.

S.O.A.P. - Ephesians 5


“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” Ephesians 5:1-2

“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” – Ephesians 5:3-5

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light” – Ephesians 5:6-8

“Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light” – Ephesians 5:11-13

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” – Ephesians 5:15-17

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” – Ephesians 5:18-21


Ephesians 5 is so full of wisdom! I was going to include chapter 6, but it’s too much. (There’s much more in chapter 5 than I’m going to discuss here).

“Be imitators of God as beloved children”. I am a very visual person and often Scripture will present itself as a picture in my mind. The picture I saw in this verse was that of a father working in his woodshop, holding a hammer. Near his feet, with his own set of tools, sits his son, mimicking the motions of his father. He wants nothing more than to be just like him. And, the father, takes time with the son. He sits with him. He allows him to be part of what’s he’s doing. He shows love in a number of ways. So, we are to be imitators of God in the same way…as beloved children. We can only imitate Him if we take time to sit at his feet and to walk in His footsteps and learn who He is. A beloved child craves the attention of her Father and drinks deeply of His presence and love. And, how do we imitate Him? We “walk in love, just as Christ also loved [us] and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma”.

Walking in love and living like Christ is not easy. It’s a life of constantly choosing what is right and putting away the things of this world. I know I fail often. But, the scriptures always give us practical ways to live as we should. “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among the saints; and there must be no filthiness or silly talk, or course jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks”. Just as beloved children are a reflection of their parents, so are we a reflection of God. How many times have you see the parent reflected in the child? Maybe it’s with a mannerism or a facial expression. Maybe it’s with a certain phrase or way of saying something. In the same way, when we wear the name Christian, we give people reason to look for the Father in us. Will they see Him there? Or, will He be lost in the dirty joke? Will they see us and long to know Him? I pray that it be so.

We are to expose the deeds of the darkness for “all things become visible when they are exposed by the light”. Secrets are dangerous when it comes to the deeds of darkness. How often do we look the other way when a friend is flirting with sin? Loving someone means exposing the darkness in their hearts. I know that I have people in my life who are willing to expose my blind spots and call me out when I’m failing to walk in the Light. These people are dearer to me than I can even say. Accountability is one of the most important functions of Christian community. I often thing twice and even change course when I know a friend might ask me about what choices I’m making. When I know I am going to be weak or in a situation where temptation is strong, I make sure to tell a friend my fears so I know she’ll be checking in with me. This helps me choose the right path. Secrets and darkness go hand in hand. I keep secrets when I don’t want accountability. But, I am a child of the light, and cannot expect that my darkness will stay so. It’s best to choose the light in the first place and build relationships of accountability to keep me honest.

When we were talking about this chapter yesterday at Bible study, verse 18 put a smile on my face. “…but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things…”. It felt a little like a musical might break out! What a joyful setting! Loving on each other, speaking encouragement, even singing together and making melodies in our hearts to the Lord! Wouldn’t it be amazing if the assembling of the saints was like that?!? Ok, so maybe it’s a little cheesy of a picture, but the sentiment is great. Christian community should be encouraging and full of joy!


I need to spend more time at the feet of Jesus so that I may learn what it is to imitate Him. I must continually choose to put away the things of this world and walk in the light. I need friends who are willing to speak truth to me, in love, and shine light on the dark places of my heart. Secrets are not healthy. I need to live openly and honestly. If I’m walking in the light, secrets shouldn’t be necessary. I need to encourage and build up those around me with the words of Scripture, the wisdom of those who came before, and the joy of the Lord.


Lord, teach me to imitate You. I need to spend more time at Your feet and in Your Word. Thank You for pouring Your heart for me into the Word You have given. I need to spend more time there, drinking in Your wisdom and soaking in Your presence. I ask that You teach me to be like Jesus. I pray that You continually shine Your light into the dark places of my heart and expose the areas that must change in order to be more like You. I want to be a beautiful reflection of You and a light to those around me.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

S.O.A.P. - Ephesians 3 and 4


“ This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him” – Eph. 3:11-12

“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you , being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” – Eph. 3:17-21

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance or one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” – Eph. 4:1-3

“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” – Eph. 4:25-27

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” Eph. 4:29

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” – Eph. 4:31-32


There is much to be said in these two chapters about how we are to behave as Christians and how we are to treat each other. I liked the phrases, “in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him” and “being rooted and grounded in love”. To me, it gave a picture of someone who was more than confident in the love of God. It makes me think of being a little girl standing on the edge of the pool, afraid to jump in the deep end. But, if I was jumping to my Dad’s arms, the fear disappeared. I had confidence that he would catch me, and that gave me boldness. I was rooted, grounded and secure in His love and knew that he wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me. I wish I really behaved that way when it comes to trusting the Lord. In my head, I say I trust Him, but do I really act like it? Do I have that boldness that comes from the confidence of being rooted in His love? If I can trust my earthly father not to put me in harm’s way, how much more then should I trust my perfect heavenly Father who is able to do exceeding abundantly more than I could think or ask?

The other part that struck me was the instruction on conduct for the believer. “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called”. Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Tolerance. Love. Unity. What would the world look like if the church behaved this way? What difference would it make I believers walked in a manner worthy of their calling? I know I fail all too often to walk in that way.

“Let no unwholesome word…but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear”. That’s a tall order. How much less would I say if I removed all speech that did not meet the standard of this verse. It sounds like the old saying, “If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all”. The words we speak should build up those around us, give solace when it’s needed, and pour out grace on the hearer. My speech too often does not meet those qualifications.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you”. Paul asks a lot of the church in this letter. It’s a daily process, a lifelong process. It’s by embracing these qualities and uprooting weeds, like bitterness and anger, that we become more like Jesus. I have a long way to go.


I need to be more aware of how I am walking the walk. Am I walking in a manner that pleases God? I need to check myself regularly against the wisdom of these verses. I should speak less and love more, judge less and forgive more. It is in these ways that I become more like Jesus, which is the ultimate goal.


Lord, teach me to be more like You. Open my eyes to times when I am not walking in a manner worthy of the name Christian. Help me to show kindness and gentleness to those around me. Help me to hold my tongue when the words will not edify the hearer. Teach me, Lord, to guard my heart against bitterness, anger, and unworthy speech. Let no unwholesome thing reside in my heart. Prune me and shape me until all that is left is You.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

What's the big deal with pornography?

A few weeks ago, I sent an email to some ladies with whom I am connected. It's prompted a number of conversations and has reaffirmed my belief that this topic is one that needs godly discussion. I'd like to post that email here now for a wider audience. I realize that some may see my views and unyielding, old fashioned, and too black and white. I'm ok with that. I realize that it may be one of those issues where we may need to "agree to disagree", but I welcome any comments and discussion.

Here's the original email:

Hello Ladies!

I wanted to share with you something that's heavy on my heart right now. I've chosen to email each of you because you are a young person, have a young person in your home, or you may have an opportunity to minister to someone who has been touched by the following topic.

I'd like to talk about pornography. This is a hot button issue for me and I have some strong opinions, but, today, I'd like to share with you the story of Clay and Renee Crosse. You might recognize Clay as a popular Christian recording artist in the late '90's. He rose quickly to the top of his profession with powerful songs about the cross and surrendering all to Jesus. However, even during his time of ministry at such a prominent level, he struggled with a secret addiction to pornography. No one knew he had a problem - not even him.

In 1998, while in Savannah, Clay came down with a sinus infection that affected his voice. He assumed the problem would go away once the infection had cleared. It didn't. After several months of doctor's visits and tests, the doctors told Clay that there was nothing physically wrong with his voice. In an effort to recover some of his range, he went to visit a prominent vocal coach in Nashville. This godly man looked Clay in the face and asked him if he was a man of God. He asked him if he had a daily prayer life and if he spent time daily in the Word. He also asked him about his marriage and his relationship with his wife. It was then that Clay broke down under the weight of his secret sin.

The Lord had tried to get his attention in a number of ways and finally got through to him by taking away his voice. Yes, that's right, he believes God took away his voice - what he was known for, his source of income, his source of personal success - in order to get his attention and get the sin out of his life.

In reading their story, I was amazed at the honesty of both Clay and Renee. And, they both made a point to say that Pornography wasn't the real problem, it was just a horrible symptom. The real problem was that neither of them were seeking the Lord or pursuing a real relationship with Him. They had allowed things into their life (R-rated movies with intimate loves scenes, inappropriate comedy entertainment, certain women's magazines, etc) that had put them on a slippery slope into deeper sin. The problem was a heart problem and it manifested in a number of ways in their lives, their marriage, and their home.

I don't think we talk about holiness enough in our churches. In a conversation today I was reminded that holiness isn't exactly black and white and can have different meanings in different cultures and different homes. (Is it unholy for a woman to wear pants? In some cultures it is. There are definitely grey areas). In our society, it's difficult to live a set apart life. Too short shorts and spaghetti strap tops are the uniform of summer. Women and men display their bodies in magazines, television, movies, and any number of other forms of advertisement. Sex is all around us. How do we live holy lives in the midst of the world that is pulling us deep into her web?

Clay and Renee Crosse have created a ministry called Holy Homes in response to these questions. They offer frank discussion on how we make our homes holy and get rid of the things that lead us to sin. To read their story in more detail, I recommend that you visit and click on the "We need to talk" link. I also recommend their book I Surrender All that details their journey through this dark valley. The Lord restored their marriage and their ministries (although, not Clay's voice entirely) and they are living proof of what God can do when we turn to Him.

Now for my thoughts on this topic. It's one about which I have strong feelings and opinions. I see no room for any of this in the life of someone who is trying to seek after God. I know that not everyone holds that view. (I also allow room for grace and understanding when we fall short. Goodness knows we all fall short in some way or another.) But, below are my reasons why I believe porn to be so damaging.

How do we live holy lives amid all of the craziness around us? I think we need to be soaking in as much scripture as we can. We need to be filling our minds with good things (Phil 4:8). We need to talk to each other more and hold one another accountable. We should applaud holiness where we see it and encourage those who are seeking to honor God with their lives.

And, we need to remember there are consequences when we choose unholy things.

For the unmarried man, viewing pornography is not harmless. It may seem like a "victimless crime" because it can be done in secret and with women who are putting themselves out there to be seen and enjoyed. But, it forever puts sexual images in the mind of a young man - images that can return unbidden even in the most intimate of times with his future wife. It teaches him to disrespect and degrade women - to treat them as objects for his own pleasure. It encourages habits that may be harmful to the intimacy and trust in his future relationships. It is sexual sin because the Lord says "Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). Sadly, there are many young men who are saving themselves for marriage, holding on to their purity in order to give that gift to their bride, but are viewing pornography and fantasizing about women who are not theirs. (Just because these women put themselves out there does not make it right). They are destroying the intimacy of their marriage before they even find their bride. It breaks my heart.

For the unmarried woman, it can also have the same problems as for the unmarried man if she views pornography (which many young women do). However, it also has repercussions for the single girl that she may not even realize. Some of you may already know the heartache of discovering a significant other has cheated or betrayed a trust. In essence, this is what happens to a young woman (married or single) when her significant other chooses to watch pornography and fantasize about other women. It causes problems with self esteem and body image and, it causes something in her heart to break (who can live up to the "perfection" men see in these photos and movies? Note to the men: Would you want to be compared to the men in those photos and movies and wonder if you measure up?!) I would challenge single woman to seek after a life of holiness and choose a man who is doing the same. And, before you make a lifelong commitment, you need to have "the talk". Don't walk into your marriage blind to a man's flaws in this area. Don't pretend it's not there or believe that it's ok or that it will stop once you're married. Talk to him about it and get help, as a couple, if you need it.

For married couples, the effects of pornography can be completely devastating. To find out that your husband or wife is engaging in a fantasy life outside of your bedroom can be heart breaking for all the reasons mentioned above. I'm sure that each of us knows of a marriage that has been touched by this. But, there is hope! The story of Clay and Renee Crosse proves that. If the couple is willing to seek God together, help one another through the bad days and the temptations, and stick it out, God can restore the intimacy, trust, and deep love to the marriage.

I am so thankful that my home, growing up, was a PG household and one where I heard Philippians 4:8 nearly every day. It was difficult, as a teenager, to tell my friends I couldn't go with them to see those PG-13 or R-rated movies, but I’m so thankful that I did not allow that garbage into my mind. I see friends who are completely desensitized to sex and violence in movies because they've been soaking it in since grade school. I’m so thankful that my parents were wise enough to guard my heart, mind, and eyes from things that would harm me. I still try to make those same choices for myself when it comes to entertainment. I don't always choose as I should, but, I hope to be challenged to continue seeking holiness in my own life. I also do what I can to surround myself with people who hold me accountable in my choices.

Thanks for "listening" to my rant for the day. I pray that it will help equip you for future conversations with people who might be struggling with this issue. If you'd like to order Clay and Renee's book, you can click on this link and order it from NavPress: (I've already promised my copy to someone else, but you're welcome to get in line if you'd like to borrow it!).

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

I'm Going To France!!!!

Dear Friends,

I just found out this afternoon that I am going to France August 10th - 20th with Alan and Heidi Winter of Frontline Missions! (I went with them and the Landmark Team to Honduras in April). For those of you who haven't heard my stories lately, here's a brief recap of what's been going on:

A little history...

When I was 12, the Lord called me to full-time ministry. He didn't give me any real direction, and I just assumed it would be music ministry, so I began working in that direction. When I was 17, the Lord put France in my heart. (I remember, like it was yesterday, standing in Notre Dame and having my heart crushed for the people of France). A few weeks later, I went on my first mission trip with Frontline Missions to Belize. Since then, I've been learning to listen to the Lord and seek His direction for my life. I've had the opportunity to be stretched as a musician and as a worship leader. The Lord has shown me pieces of the future ministry He has for me, and has blessed me by giving me present areas of ministry, but until recently, I've felt no strong direction as to which way I should go.

In October of last year, I started talking with Heidi Winter of Frontline Missions about working with them on a more permanent basis. I'm trying to be very patient and listen to the Lord, but I’m very excited about the prospect of working with Frontline. Alan and Heidi are the parents of one of my dearest friends and two of the most amazing people I know. The Lord has often poured out His favor on their ministry in amazing ways because they are willing to pour their lives out for Him. The trip to Honduras in April was the first trip I've taken with them since my own high school trip. I wasn't sure what to expect and I nearly backed out! The Lord had other plans though! While in Honduras, the flame for ministry and missions was fanned and began burning brighter within me.

Once home, I had a hard time sitting still and not diving completely into missions. I wasn't sure about missions to Latin America, but I have a deep love for France. At our meeting in October, Heidi mentioned France as a possible next step for Frontline. My heart about jumped through my chest when she said that. While in Honduras, God was stirring up my heart in fresh ways. I was wrestling with Him over two particular questions: 1. Really, God? Missions? Is that what You have for me? and 2. Will I continue in this journey alone? (I'm ok being alone if that's what God has for me, but I have deep seated desires for family and marriage...I just wanted to know if that was still in His plan for me somewhere). The week after I came home from Honduras, I visited a church that's a bit more charismatic than I'm generally used to. That morning, as I was getting ready, I told God that it'd be ok if He sent someone with the gift of prophecy across my path to speak a word regarding those questions. I was half joking in asking that because I had no real expectation that it could happen in a place where I knew no one. Lesson Learned - be careful what you ask from the Lord! That morning, the guest speaker was the president of World Indigenous Missions. He shared about his experience as a missionary and with the Lord and during the course of his sermon, the Lord confirmed France in my heart. I knew, in whatever capacity He allowed, I would one day help share His good news to the people of France. However, the big surprise came at the end of the service. A man stood up and shared that he had a word from the Lord. He said that there were 5 people in the congregation the Lord was specifically calling to International Missions....Two Couples and 1 Single, NOT YET MARRIED, person (emphasis mine). You could have knocked me over with a feather. I couldn't breathe! I believe that was God's way of answering both of those questions for me in an unexpected way!

After that church service, I came home and called Heidi. I told her what happened and that if they were really going to France, I was all in! Today, the beginning of that dream has come true....I'm going to France! I'm so excited, I can barely contain myself! I can't wait to see what the Lord's going to do.

I have very few details right now, so I'm a little unsure how to ask you to pray. But, there are some things I know you can pray for:

1. Pray that I will focus on continuing to learn the language. I took French in high school, but haven't really spoken it since then. I've been studying since April, but I need to ramp up my efforts and practice more.
2. Pray that God will go before us and prepare the hearts of the people. This is the first trip for Frontline and may be the beginning of teams going to France. It's all new, and I don't really know what to expect.
3. Pray that God will prepare us for the work He has for us there and that we will be open to hear and obedient to do what He says.
4. Pray for my health. I will be having some more tests done this week as I have been extremely tired for the last several months. Pray that we can get that straightened out.

Thank you so much for your prayer support! As I know more, I'll let you know. I'm excited about what God's going to do!


When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, "I used everything you gave me". - Erma Bombeck

Saturday, June 28, 2008

S.O.A.P. - Ephesians 1 and 2

Scripture (The Message Version):

Ephesians 1:4-6: Long before He laid down earth’s foundations, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love, to be made whole and holy by His love. Long, long ago He decided to adopt us into His family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure He took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of His lavish gift-giving by the hand of His beloved Son.

Ephesians 1:11-12: It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, He had His eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose He is working out in everything and everyone.

Ephesians 1:17-19: But I do more than thank. I ask – ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory – to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers, oh, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him – endless energy, boundless strength!

Ephesians 1:1-6: It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose His temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, He embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on His own, with no help from us! Then He picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Ephesians 1:19-22; That’s plain enough, isn’t it? You’re no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You’re no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He’s using us all – irrespective of how we got here – in what He is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now He’s using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day – a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home.


Long before the foundations of the earth, God had a plan for His children. It’s in Christ that we discover these plans. It’s in Him that we find out who we are and what we are living for. We have to be discerning and seek to know God so that we can see exactly what it is He is calling us to do. If we follow and trust Him, He gives us endless energy and boundless strength to do what He has purposed for us.

I let the world, “which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell [me] how to live. [I] filled my longs with polluted unbelief and then exhaled disobedience”. Any time I’ve chosen to sin, it’s because the way of the world seemed easier or more enticing than God’s way. But God, through Christ has mercy on me. I am no longer a stranger or an outsider, but I am at home in Christ. It is in Him that I find a place where I belong. I am being used as a brick in the building of His church that will stand forever, the place He calls home.

I need to know Christ in order to know God’s plan for me. I need to be seeking Him daily…continually. I am a child of God and I have been bought with a price. I ought to live like it. Once I have been given eyes to see His purpose for me, I must believe that He will carry me through it. I must lean on His grace to get me through. I need to remember that this world has nothing for me and nothing it can offer is worth putting distance between me and God.


Father, help me to be more like Jesus. Open my eyes to the purpose You have for my life and give me the strength and courage to fulfill that purpose. Thank You for being the place where I belong. Thank You that I did not have to earn my place in Your family and I don’t have to work for my salvation. Teach me to not take Your blessings for granted and give me the strength to continue running this race until I am truly at home with You.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Martyrs and Thieves

A dear friend emailed me the lyrics to a song today in relation to something we were discussing. I’ve read it several times today and listened to it as well. I’ve found myself within these words. I can see so much of me in the following lyrics.

Martyrs and Theives
By: Jennifer Knapp

There's a place in the darkness that I used to cling to
It presses harsh hope against time
In the absence of martyrs there's a presence of thieves
Who only want to rob you blind
They steal away any sense of peace
Though I'm a king I'm a king on my knees
And I know they are wrong when they say I am strong
As the darkness covers me

There are ghosts from my past who've owned more of my soul
Than I thought I had given away
They linger in closets and under my bed
And in pictures less proudly displayed
A great fool in my life I have been
Have squandered till pallid and thin
Hung my head in shame and refused to take blame
For the darkness I know I've let win

Can you hear me?

Well I've never been much for the baring of soul
In the presence of any man
I'd rather keep to myself all safe and secure
In the arms of a sinner I am
Could it be that my worth should depend
By the crimson stained grace on a hand
And like a lamp on a hill Lord I pray in Your will
To reveal all of You that I can

So turn on the light and reveal all the glory
I am not afraid
To bare all my weakness, knowing in meekness
I have a kingdom to gain
Where there is peace and love in the light, in the light
Oh I am not afraid
To let Your light shine bright in my life, in my life
Oh I am not afraid

There's a place in the darkness that I used to cling to
It presses harsh hope against time...

This has been much of my journey. I’m not ok with being a sinner. I don’t like to admit that I am. But, I AM a sinner…we all are. None of us is perfect. None of us deserves grace…no, not one. But, somehow, be it my personality, my conditioning, something I learned, whatever it is, I have believed that it wasn’t ok to be imperfect. So, I pretended I wasn’t. I would hide away my faults and failings and not speak of them as if they didn’t exist. In the third verse of this song Jennifer Knapp says, “Well, I’ve never been much for the baring of soul in the presence of any man. I’d rather keep to myself all safe and secure in the arms of a sinner I am”. I was that way, and I still act that way at times. I’d rather let someone’s impression of me as a “good girl” stand than bare my soul and truthfully say that I struggle, I fail, and I fall.

“In the absence of martyrs there’s a presence of thieves who only want to rob you blind. They steal away any sense of peace though I’m a king, I’m a king on my knees. And I know they are wrong when they say I am strong as the darkness covers me”.

I’ve allowed my arrogance and pride to steal time from me. I’ve allowed it to keep me from asking questions for fear that someone would think I didn’t have all the answers. “A great fool in my life I have been, have squandared ‘til palid and thin. Hung my head in shame and refused to take blame for the darkness I know I’ve let win”. I’ve wandered in the wilderness for years because I was unwilling to say, “Lord, I have sinned. I’ve been disobedient and I’ve wandered from Your path. Please, forgive me and draw me back into the plan You have for me”. I’ve foolishly let the world in and let it steal my innocence and my joy in the Lord. I still do that…we all do…we’re human, it’s what we do.

But, we can’t stay there. We can’t accept it as if it’s enough. We must let the light in to expose the darkness in our lives. We must continually pull the weeds of the world from the garden of our hearts. In the glaring light of scripture and God’s presence, darkness is revealed. It’s our job to allow that light to shine into the darkest corners of our hearts. It’s our job to bare our weakness before the Lord and those who would hold us accountable and work towards being a better reflection of Him.

“So turn on the light and reveal all the glory. I am not afraid to bare all my weakness, knowing in meeknessI have a kingdom to gain. Where there is peace and love in the light, in the light. Oh I am not afraid to let Your light shine bright in my life, in my life. Oh I am not afraid.”
Lord, let that be my prayer today. Let me not be afraid to let Your light into the darkest parts of me. May I not be afraid to face those weaknesses in my life and pull the sin out by its root. May I learn to be humble and unafraid to share my weaknesses and be held accountable by those who love me.