Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Luke's Lullaby

One of the greatest joys in my life right now is being Aunt Christy to some precious little ones. The song below was written for my dear friend Holly's son, Luke. I love getting to sing him to sleep. It's such a precious time for me.

Last week, Luke's dad, Michael, and I took to the studio to record this song. I hope you enjoy it!

If the video doesn't load below, you can view it on YouTube by clicking: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_BfInd4BwY

Monday, December 20, 2010

Grief at Christmas

I've been thinking alot about grief lately. I think that's common during the holidays. It's been hard not to think about it. Several people I know have lost someone close to them recently. And, it's that time of year when we all become nostalgic for years gone by and remember those who are no longer here.

One of my closest friends lost a friend and mentor. I've cried over the loss he and his wife feel. The tragic circumstances of his death have given me great pause. Life is so fragile. We forget that sometimes.

My sister-in-law lost her Uncle J last week. He was like a Grandfather to her. As I joined her and her family in their grief, there was peace in knowing he was in a better place. And, extra joy in knowing that he was joining his beloved sister, Olga, and getting to tell her all about the great-granddaughter she had prayed for and loved before she was even conceived.

My pastor's wife is saying goodbye to her mother right now. I can't even imagine a moment like that. I've always dreaded the day that I would have to say my last goodbyes to my parents. My heart is breaking for Jeanne and the rest of her family as they face that reality.

And, there are so many others who are grieving fresh losses or remembering and grieving the loss of so many who've gone before us. Sometimes the grief catches me off-guard. Yesterday, during Ansley's first birthday party, she was given a little white rocking chair. When Daniel put her in it, she kicked her right leg up over the arm rest and started rocking. He looked at me, almost in disbelief, and said "She's rocking just how Great-Nana used to rock!". And, it was true. And, it made me remember and miss her. It's funny what things can kick off a memory.

And, sadly, grief isn't always because of physical death. There is grief over broken relationships, grief over sin, grief over missed opportunities. There are so many things that grieve our spirits and make us long for a better time and place.

As I pray for those who are grieving, and indeed grieve with them, I am reminded that there is hope.

Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be more more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." - Revelation 21:1-4

I'm looking forward to that day.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

As Iron Sharpens Iron

I have amazing friends. That's pretty much the story of my life. Over the years, I've been humbled and awed by the calibre of people I've been honored to call friend. They have been such blessings in my life and I'm sure I don't tell them so often enough.

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another" - Proverbs 27:17

I've been blessed to always have those kinds of friends in my life; the kinds of friends who sharpen, challenge, and encourage me. I spent some time catching up with one of those friends this week. True to form, she began asking me questions meant to stir up my spirit and get me thinking. As we talked, as so often happens, I began to process things out loud for the first time. I realized that I feel stuck right now.


Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever looked around and wondered why you're not miles farther down the road? Or, have you felt like you just keep spinning your wheels but not making any progress? Stuck in neutral, revving your engine, and it's making alot of noise, but not getting you to your destination?

I feel that way right now. It's not for lack of talent, options or opportunities; it's because I've let the current turmoil in my life zap my energy and motivation. Well, that's going to stop.

I had another friend remind me not to sell my joy for something cheap and that's exactly what I've been doing. That's not to say that the conflict in my life is not important. I want more than anything to find resolution and harmony in those situations. But, it does mean that it shouldn't be allowed to steal my joy and I have certainly allowed that for far too long.

So, I'm kicking it into gear. I'm picking up where I left off on projects that I've neglected for far too long. I'm continuing to pray for peace, but there's only so much that is within my control. And, whether I let this keep me down is certainly one of those things within my control.

So, thank you, my dear friend for caring enough to ask probing questions and help me sift through my thoughts. Thank you to all of you who do that for me. I'm so blessed to have friends who truly love me and want to see me reach my potential and use the gifts I've been given.

So, today, I'm a little sharper and a lot more thankful.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

You know what they say about assumptions...

Those of you who know me well know that my life has been filled with turmoil this year. There has been significant strife in several of my personal relationships and in relationships that are interconnected with mine. And, again, if you know me well, you know that this is the thing I hate most: Broken Relationships.

I'm exhausted.

I'm confused.

I'm hurt.

I barely feel like this is real life.

And, sometimes I'm really angry. In the last 2 months, I've become increasingly frustrated with the number of people who presume to tell me what I think. Yes, you read that right. I have had a number of people decide what it is I think and have taken action based on that assumption. It's maddening.

I've had someone latch onto the last half of something I said, completely disregard the qualifier in the sentence, and decide I have a particular view that I can do nothing to change in his mind.

I've had someone view my facebook posts and decide that I was being disrespectful, or intentionally hurtful, when I was just going about my life amidst an impossible and painful situation.

I've even been informed that I'm angry with someone and can barely recover from something she said, when the truth is, she never said it and I'm not angry.

It's all too much sometimes. It reminds me of being a child and having my mom accuse me of purposely disobeying her or disrespecting her by not doing the dishes when the truth was, I lost track of time caught up in a book.

As I began processing all of this frustration, I ran across a quote by Henry Winkler saying, "Assumptions are the termites of relationships". As someone who loves a visual image of an idea, that quote struck a chord with me. I believe it's absolutely true. I believe that is why the first step given in Matthew 18 in how to deal with a brother who has sinned against you is to go to him first; go to him alone. So many situations could be cleared up or "nipped in the bud" if we dealt in honest communication with one another. Instead, we assume what the other person meant instead of just asking them. Maybe our assumption was correct, or just maybe, we got it all wrong.

Tonight, as I was looking for some evening reading, I stumbled upon the book by Stephen Covey, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". In the first chapter of a book that's been on my "to read" list forever, I found a perfect illustration of this problem of assumption. He begins by talking about paradigms and explains them in this way:

For our purposes, a simple way to understand paradigms is to see them as maps. We all know that "The map is not the territory". A map is simply an explanation of certain aspects of the territory. That's exactly what a paradigm is. It is a theory, an explanation, or model of something else.

Suppose you wanted to arrive at a specific location in central Chicago. A street map of the city would be a great help to you in reaching your destination. But suppose you were given the wrong map. Through a printing error, the map labeled "Chicago" was actually a map of Detroit. Can you imagine the frustration, the ineffectiveness of trying to reach your destination?

You might work on your behavior - you could try harder, be more diligent, double your speed. But your efforts would only succeed in getting you to the wrong place faster.

You might work on your attitude - you could think more positively. You still wouldn't get to the right place, but perhaps you wouldn't care. Your attitude would be so positive, you'd be happy wherever you were.

The point is, you'd still be lost. The fundamental problem has nothing to do with your behavior or your attitude. It has everything to do wih having a wrong map.

If you have the right map of Chicago, then diligence becomes important, and when you encounter frustratig obstacles along the way, then attitude can make a real difference. But the first and most important requirement is the accuracy of the map.

Each of us has many, many maps in our head, which can be divided into two main categories: maps of the way things are, or realities and maps of the way things should be, or values. We interpret everything we experience through these mental maps. We seldom question their accuracy; we're usually even unaware that we have them. We simply assume that the way we see things is the way they really are or the way they should be.

And our attitudes and beaviors grow out of those assumptions. The way we see things is the source of the way we think and the way we act.

I first formally studied this phenomenon in Education Psychology. We talked of schemas or filters that are part of the way a child processes information. The things we experience and the things we learn tend to alter our perception and add another filter to the information we receive.

In my personal situation, I believe assumption and perception has played a large role in the turmoil. There are many mislabeled maps floating around that are causing chaos and confusion. I just keep praying that we get it all straightened out soon.

But, until then, here are some truths about me.

1. I'm not perfect. Shocking, I know. Sadly, it took me years to realize that was ok and even longer to say it out loud. I'm not perfect. No one is. I am human and, even though I won't mean to, at some point I will hurt you, disappoint you, or fail you.

2. I'm forgiven. I don't deserve grace but I'm so thankful for it. Because of grace, I don't have to be perfect. I can stand back up when I fall. There is hope. There is healing.

3. I like things to be linear and logical. I like structure and rules. Things have to make sense to me or they bounce around in my brain like flubber until I find a suitable storage container.

4. I'm a terrible liar. If you think I've lied to you, I can pretty much guarantee that I didn't. There have been a few times in my life where I have tried to get away with something or deliberately lied, and I've told on myself everytime. If I don't straight away confess, I usually give myself away through my behavior. If you want to know what I think, just ask me.

5. I want amazing things for the people that I love. I am a person who really enjoys relationships and connecting with people on a deep level. (Little known fact: I'm actually quite shy when I first meet people). I LOVE to celebrate with the people I love and I grieve deeply for their pain.

6. I want desperately to love like Jesus. A lofty goal. I have a long way to go.

7. If I'm wrong, I'll say so, take responsibility and apologize. But, if I believe I am right, I generally won't back down.

8. I'm very black and white. There's little room for grey in my thinking. This part of my personality can be very frustrating, but it's how I was made. I like black and white, but it's tough living in a grey world.

9. I hate broken relationships. Nothing frustrates me more than when relationships fall apart.

10. I'm very forgiving. Some of my friends think I'm too forgiving, but I see no point in holding on to so much hurt and anger. I'd rather see the relationship be restored than see someone punished for a wrong, or perceived wrong.

So, that's a pretty good map to start. As for me, I'm taking a step back and checking the labels on my maps. What things have I assumed? How am I seeing things incorrectly? There's nothing I can do to change other's perceptions; but, I can certainly re-evaluate my own.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving - Part II

In my last post, I spent a moment expressing thanks for an amazing God who overwhelms me with His grace. But, I have so much for which to be thankful, that I felt like posting a second Thanksgiving blog.

I'm thankful for being raised in a godly home. My parents protected me from so much of the world and, although it annoyed me as a teenager, I find it priceless as an adult. They've helped me preserve my options in so many ways.

I'm thankful for growing up in a home where I was the only girl with two awesome brothers. It taught me many things and gave me a sense of love and protection.

I'm thankful for my sister who loves me as if there is no such thing as "in-law" and for the one I will call sister in the future.

I'm thankful for the miracle of life that I see everytime I see my beautiful niece. I'm thankful for her inquisitive nature. I'm thankful for her innocence. I'm thankful for her laughter and the fact that she recognizes mine. I'm looking forward to the many years we will share with the aunt/niece bond that is so unique.

I'm thankful for friends who are truly more than I deserve and more like family than I could have ever dreamed possible. For the ones who speak Truth in love, I am eternally grateful. Because of you, I have avoided pitfalls and potholes that would have derailed my walk and destroyed my plans. For the ones who love me, no matter what, you are my strength and my joy. For those who fight for me, I am always amazed at the fierceness of your love and I am humbled by it. For those who sharpen me, I am eternally grateful as you make me more like my Savior. For those who laugh with me, you make me happy and bring joy to my daily exisistence. For those who trust me, your faith honors me and is held in highest regard. Friends are truly the family you choose, and I am overwhelmed by the friends with whom I have been blessed. Truly overwhelmed.

I'm thankful for a church body that wants to grow and is resilient. I'm thankful that we are part of the greater Bride of Christ, as she stretches out across all of history and humanity. May we see Rapid Kingdom Expansion in our day.

I'm thankful for music.

I'm thankful for laughter.

I'm thankful for second chances and redemption.

I'm thankful. Period.


Psalm 100

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to HIm and praise His name. FOr the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.

It's the end of Thanksgiving week and I'm sitting on a balcony, overlooking the ocean, with my mom and her best friend. It's at the ocean that I feel the Lord's power and presence the strongest. Maybe it's because I was born near the water, or maybe it's just because this is one of the ways He chooses to speak to me. For the song set this morning, I wound up with an "ocean" theme. It wasn't intentional, but the thread was definitely there.

"God of infinite worth, with hands that carved out the ocean".

"The wind is strong and the water's deep, but I'm not alone here on these open seas".

"If grace is an ocean, we're all sinking".

The ocean represents power to me. It's overwhelming. It could swallow us up and wash away everything in its path. Yes, it can easily be held in the hand of the Father. "Who told the ocean, 'you can only come so far'?". My God did.

He's with us in the storms that seem to overtake us. "Sometimes He calms the storm, with a whisper, 'Peace be still'; He can calm any sea, but it doesn't mean He will. Sometimes He holds us close while the wind and waves blow by. Sometimes He calms the storm, but other times, He calms His child".

Overwhelming grace. We're all sinking. How He loves us, that He would allow all that is wicked, selfish, terrible, sinful, and filthy about us be swallowed up in His grace. Buried. Forgotten. Washed away. Forgiven.

So, with the thousands of things I'm thankful for, I think I'm most thankful for that unmerited favor that means I'm a stranger here with a hope for a home that's is beyond my wildest imagination. I'm thankful for a Creator who carved out the oceans, but took time with the tiniest detail. I'm thankful for a Savior who walks on water and has the power to calm any storm in my life. And, I'm thankful for a Father who removes my sins as far as the East is from the west and buries them at the bottom of the sea where I have no hope of retrieving them.

Give thanks to the Lord, our God and King, His love endures forever.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Put on the FULL armor of God

I received an email from a friend today and he was sharing some things going on in his life. Right after I read his email, I opened to the passage for Chad's upcoming message on November 14th. I don't believe it was a coincidence or random happenstance. Here's what I wrote to my friend (and needed to hear myself).

Ephesians 6:10-20

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

I'm not sure which part of that was meant to encourage you, but there is much to be taken from this passage. It's good to be reminded of what's available to us as soldiers of the cross. It's good to stop and see where our armor has slipped and needs to be adjusted.

Belt of Truth - It's in the center, around your waist. What Truth is at the center of your life right now? What lies need to be uprooted and replaced?

Breastplate of Righteousness - Are you in right standing with God? If yes, know that it's protecting your heart. If no, do a little inventory, confess, and get right with God so that your heart is protected.

Feet covered in the Gospel of Peace - Are you resting in Him? Are you covered by the peace He gives? What are you holding onto that isn't yours to hold? If you're not at peace, you can't share that peace with others. Don't hold onto what's not yours. Lay it at the feet of the cross and find rest.

Shield of Faith - Has it been damaged by recent arrows? Have you grown weary of holding it before you? Check to see where repairs should be made and address it quickly. Remember Isaiah 40:30-31 "Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint". Secure your shield before you in order that the enemies arrows might not touch you.

Helmet of Salvation - What is guarding your mind and your thoughts? Have you left it exposed to the world? The grace that covers you should also act like a filter for your heart and your mind. Have you let your helmet slip and letting worldy or anxious thoughts creep in? Take a look and see and make the appropriate adjustments.

Sword of the Spirit - The Word of God. Are you searching out His Truth in His Word? Are you hiding it in your heart? Are you finding the answers in Him...in His Word? It's your weapon. Everything else is defensive. His Truth is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. Use it to cut through the mess and the lies and the attacks of the enemy.

And pray in the Spirit - Don't forget to pray. Don't forget to check in with your Commander. Don't forget to communicate with Him. Make your requests known. Pour your heart out. Let Him pour His words of love over you.

It's good to do a little armor check every now and then. If you're feeling weary or battle-worn, maybe there's a reason. Maybe your armor needs repair. This has been a good check for me as well. Definitely something to check more often.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Faulty Premises

I've been thinking alot about how I think and how I approach questions and conversations. I am very black and white and use strict logic, in most cases, when evaluating things. I like rules; they tell you what to do and show you the boundaries. I like structure; it makes me feel safe. I like logic. But, there was a time when my default reaction was one of emotion. There was a time when I would exagerate the situation because I was angry and just wanted someone to be hurt. I've been thinking of how I made the change from that girl to one who tries to react first with logic and remove emotion from the equation. (Unfortunately, that is not always how I react, but it is my current default setting). Tonight, I realized one of the turning points for me in this journey.

When I was a freshman in college, I took an upper level seminar class called "Church and State". I don't know where my advisor was when I was choosing my courses, because I was definitely in over my head. The professor of that class had a Ph.D in Philosophy and one in Theology. That's right, he held a double doctorate. And, he was an ordained Baptist minister. His credentials were nothing short of impressive.

And, not only was my professor academically and professionally intimidating, but I was in a class full of Junior and Senior Religion and pre-law majors. And, there I was dipping my toe into post-high school work. I'm pretty sure the only reason I didn't drop the class was because I wasn't much for quitting. It probably also had something to do with how interesting the subject matter was to me.

Whatever the case, that class turned out to be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my college career. There were few classes that pushed and stretched me in the way that one did.

Although I learned a great deal that semester about landmark court cases and the intricacies of the church and state argument, what I really learned was a valuable lesson about debate. Our final paper was open to a topic of our choosing based on the cases we had studied. I won't get into specifics here, but I chose a few court cases surrounding a topic about which I was extremely passionate. In truth, it was a very emotional subject matter for me and for many people. But, I dove in, defined my thesis and began building my argument.

And, then I presented my pre-work to my professor.

Things didn't go quite the way I'd hoped. When I shared with him my thesis, he rejected my premise. He told me that the basis of my argument could not be proven in the scientific community to any certainty, so it was not a solid premise for debate. He told me to begin again.

I was at a loss. I had expected this paper to be a breeze because it was a topic about which I cared deeply and about which I had strong feelings. I also believed (and still do) that, even based on my supposedly faulty premise, I was right. But, if I wanted an "A" (which I desperately did) then I had to begin again.

The weeks that lead up to the end of that semester changed me in significant ways. It changed the way I process information and how I approach a discussion or debate. I fought hard to seperate my emotions from the question at hand and find a way to achieve the same goal with a logical and supportable premise. It was one of the hardest things I'd ever done.

I will be forever grateful to that experience as it taught me to remove myself, emotionally, from a situation and see from multiple perspectives. That's become my default position when approaching discussions or answering questions. I try to think of how the other person might view my argument, I test it for validity and substance, and I try to cover it with grace.

This new, and now ingrained, thought process of mine also causes me trouble from time to time. It's made it difficult for me to have discussions with people who don't operate in the same manner. I remember being so frustrated with my professor when I would say, "Well, suppose this was the situation...(insert lofty idealized worldview here)" and he would say, "That is not a feasable situation for this conversation, I reject your premise and will not take this line of conversation any further. Bring me a premise with merit and we will discuss it". But, now I know exactly what he meant.

Sometimes people think that I'm not listening to them or that I'm not understanding what they are trying to say, when the truth often is that I've rejected their premise. In conversations filled with emotion where superlatives are thrown about, I try to bring things back to a place of balance as I believe that things are rarely "all" or "never" in any given circumstance. It usually gets me into trouble, but I'm ok with that. I prefer this line of thinking to the 16 year old girl who would be overcome with emotion and say things she didn't mean and then have to crawl back, days later, to eat her words in shame. I eat my words less these days. I'm hoping it becomes less and less as I embrace truth, grow as a person and learn to love like Christ. I'm not there yet, but I'm a pilgrim on the way.

So, as a black and white thinker in a world of grey, I struggle and get frustrated from time to time. I'm thankful for my "black and white" friends who think the same way and help me feel less alone. And, I'm thankful for my "grey" friends who sharpen me as iron sharpens iron and help me smooth out the rough edges. It's definitely a journey.

Oh, what ever happened with the paper and the class? Hardest won "A" of my life. And, it's one I'll never forget.

Monday, November 01, 2010

My Sister

So, if you've ever stopped by this blog or maybe caught it in a facebook note, you know that I pretty much write about whatever's on my mind at any given time. Today will be no different.

I've had the opportunity lately to think about the kind of person my sister, Katie, is. What's that? You didn't know I had a sister? Well, I do. Now, she's not a biological sister; the Lord didn't give me one of those. I think He knew best on that one, actually. I loved being the only girl with 2 brothers. But, when my brother Daniel (you can read my recent post about him by going here: http://christysolly.blogspot.com/2010/09/my-brother.html) got married, I gained a sister.

And, I couldn't ask for a better wife for my brother.

She loves him and it's absolutely clear when you see them together. That's all a sister every really wants anyway - someone who loves her brother more than she does. And Katie is fierce about the people she loves. She fights for and defends them. She does her best to protect them. I've watched and seen how much and how well she loves my brother and it makes me happy.

Katie is beautiful, classy and successful. She has a Master's of Education from the University of Georgia and I believe she'd make a great teacher if she chose to step back into that field. Currently, she works with us through the travel agency and she does a great job with her clients.

But, her main job right now, is being a great mom to Ansley Katherine - my niece. I absolutely love to watch Katie with Ansley. Even their photographer commented the other day that you can see the love in their home through Ansley. And, it's absolutely true. That little girl is as precious as can be and as happy. She loves to laugh and you can tell that she is surrounded by love and laughter. She is already the product of a happy home. It's beautiful.

Katie and Daniel have dated since High School, so I have had the privilege of watching her grow from a teenager, into a young woman, a wife and a mother. She's grown so much and is continually learning and growing. I love getting to be part of that process.

So, Katie, I want you to know that I love you and I'm proud of you. I love that you love my brother and that you are raising a beautiful little girl. I'm thankful that I now have a sister and that sister is you.

You are not your own...

At Bible study last week, Chad said something that I've heard a thousand times, but for some reason, it struck me anew and has continued to echo in my thoughts.

"You were bought with a price."

It's true. I am not my own. I was bought with a price. A price I could never hope to repay. Today's "My Utmost for His Highest" is also along that theme and I wanted to share it with you as I continue to chew on that simple statement: "You were bought with a price".

\ / MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST -- http://www.heartlight.org/

November 1, 2010


Know ye not that . . ye are not your own?

1 Corinthians 6:19

There is no such things as a private life - "a world within the
world" - for a man or woman who is brought into fellowship with Jesus
Christ's sufferings. God breaks up the private life of His saints,
and makes it a thoroughfare for the world on the one hand and for
Himself on the other. No human being can stand that unless he is
identified with Jesus Christ. We are not sanctified for our selves,
we are called into the fellowship of the Gospel, and things happen
which have nothing to do with us, God is getting us into fellowship
with Himself. Let Him have His way, if you do not, instead of being
of the slightest use to God in His Redemptive work in the world, you
will be a hindrance and a clog.

The first thing God does with us is to get us based on rugged Reality
until we do not care what becomes of us individually as long as He
gets His way for the purpose of His Redemption. Why shouldn't we go
through heartbreaks? Through those doorways God is opening up ways of
fellow ship with His Son. Most of us fall and collapse at the first
grip of pain; we sit down on the threshold of God's purpose and die
away of self-pity, and all so called Christian sympathy will aid us
to our death bed. But God will not. He comes with the grip of the
pierced hand of His Son, and says - "Enter into fellowship with Me;
arise and shine." If through a broken heart God can bring His
purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lord...Help me love like You

I spend alot of time thinking about what it means to love like Christ. It's such a small statement, but so difficult to truly live. I wrestle with my flesh all of the time when it comes to dying to myself and truly loving others as I've been called to love them.

Jesus said, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." - John 13:34-35

It's a command. Love one another as I have loved you. If we claim the name of Jesus, we don't have a choice about this one.

As I was thinking about it this morning, I came across a really familiar verse that struck me afresh.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." - I Corinthians 13:4-8a

This is a tough list. I've always known that. But, somehow it challenged me anew this morning.

Love is patient.

How often do I lose my temper? How often am I short with someone? How many times have I felt like the Lord was slow in bringing about His promises? Every time I failed to love.

Love is kind.

Sarcastic? Yes, sometimes I am. Sharp? Unfortunately, yes. Oblivious to the needs of those around me? Too often. And, every time I failed to love.

Love does not envy.

Ouch. Green-eyed monster. "I wish I had what she has". "I wish I could go to this place or do that thing". And, every time I failed to love.

Love does not boast; it is not proud.

How many times have I needed a pat on the back, so I boasted of my accomplishments? How many times have I felt the need to be recognized, so I made sure people knew what I had done? Every time I failed to love.

Love is not rude or self-seeking.

Too often I have put my own needs before the needs of the ones I was called to love. Too often I have thought of my own best interest and not the best interest of the Kingdom. Too many times I have let my tongue rule me instead of the other way around. And, every time I failed to love.

Love is not easily angered and it keeps no records of wrong.

Whoa. Keeps no records of wrongs? Forgives AND forgets? Difficult to anger and quick to forgive? Lord, teach me to live that way because every time I get angry and hold a grudge, I fail to love.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the Truth.

Have I ever taken pleasure in someone else's pain? Have I ever been secretly glad that they "got what was coming to them"? Do I rejoice in truths that convict me and correct me? How many times have I failed to love in this?

Love always protects. Love always trusts. Love always hopes. Love always perserveres. Love never fails.

Do I fail to protect the ones I love? Do I fail to stand up for them? Do I withhold my trust? Do I lose hope? Do I fail to perservere? Do I give up to easily? Every time I do, I fail to love.

Some of that hit me harder than other parts. Love keeps no record of wrong. That's hard for us humans. It's natural for our flesh to hold onto things, not to trust again, and maybe even rejoice when someone "gets their due".

I have been really angry today. I've been deeply wounded. People that I love are in pain. The reasons seem foolish and weak to me. It exhausts me. It makes me weep. It breaks my heart.

But, love always hopes. Love always perserveres. Love never fails.

What if Christ had given up on me? What if He had decided that we weren't worth the pain? What if He held our past wrongs against us?

I shudder at the thought.

And, so I set my mind on the thing that are before me. Lord, help me to forgive as I struggle in my flesh. Lord, give me wisdom. Thank you for loving me enough to correct me and show me Your light. Make me more like You. Shine through me so that others may come to know You and the hope, life, and light that You bring.

Verses about Anger

I found this collection of verses warning about anger this morning. I'm wrestling with some and needed to go to the scriptures. I thought I'd share them here.

Verses warning us about anger
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret-it leads only to evil (Psalm 37:8).

A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult (Proverbs 12:16).

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing (Proverbs 12:18).

A wise man fears the Lord and shuns evil, but a fool is hotheaded and reckless (Proverbs 14:16

A quick-tempered man does foolish things, and a crafty man is hated (Proverbs 14:17).

A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays folly (Proverbs 14:29).

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger (Proverbs 15:1).

A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel (Proverbs 15:18).

Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city (Proverbs 16:32).

A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered (Proverbs 17:27).

It is to a man's honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel (Proverbs 20:3).

Do not say, "I'll pay you back for this wrong!" Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you (Proverbs 20:22).

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control (Proverbs 25:28).

Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger (Proverbs 29:8).

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control (Proverbs 29:11).

An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins (Proverbs 29:22).

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment." 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; then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:21-24).

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions (Galatians 5:19-20).

"In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:26-7).

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:29-32).

Let your gentleness be evident to all (Philippians 4:5).

But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips (Colossians 3:8).

And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful (2 Timothy 2:24).

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires (James 1:19-20).

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Peter 3:9).

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Unmerciful Servant

I've been thinking alot about resentment, bitterness, and hatred today. Writing often helps me sort through my thoughts. I welcome any commentary on this subject.

Last year, about this time, I was really wrestling with forgiving someone. It was a new struggle for me. For whatever reason, in my life, I've not had trouble letting things go or forgiving people (for the most part). Maybe it's because I have a tendency to forget why I'm supposed to be angry, or maybe I've just been fortunate to not have too many situations where forgiveness has been difficult. But, whatever the case, I found myself in a new arena for me - wrestling to forgive.

As a believer in Christ and one who believes the Bible is the ultimate authority on how I should live my life, I knew that hating someone and choosing not to forgive was wrong. But, truthfully, I didn't want to let go and forgive. And, so I wrestled.

I made my way to the scriptures (after some wise counsel from friends) and started to see what the Lord had to say about forgiveness. Here's a link to the verses I read: http://christysolly.blogspot.com/2009/09/verses-on-forgiveness-msg.html

As much as Matthew 6:14-15 shook me, ("In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can't get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God's part"), it was the story of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:21-35 that truly broke my heart.

I can't get past it. I can't ignore it. The Truth is painted so clearly there for me.

After all I've been forgiven, who am I to hold a grudge against someone else? After all the grace that has been shown to me, who am I to withhold grace from another? Who am I? Or, more rightly said, who do I think I am?

In talking about this with a friend a couple of weeks ago, a scene from the movie "Fireproof" came to my mind. I jumped over to YouTube to see if I could find it. And, there it was. Please take the time to watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUNGW-KyKFk

It never fails to bring tears to my eyes. The picture painted there is so clear. How can I keep loving someone who rejects me over and over? Christ does it for me. I fail Him all of the time. I can't possibly live up to His standards on my own power. I break His heart all of the time and yet He forgives me, He loves me, He extends grace to me, and He welcomes me back into His arms.

The father in that scene says to his son, "I love you too much not to tell you the truth". I wish we loved each other that well all of the time. I wish we received loved that well all of the time. The truth is that loving someone means being honest with them even when it's tough and when they don't want to hear it. Loving someone means forgiving and erasing the debt as if it were never there. Loving someone means letting go of past offenses.

I am reminded of a story told by Corrie Ten Boom regarding forgiveness. Ten Boom and her family were instrumental in helping Jews escape Holland during World War II. She shares her story in the book, "The Hiding Place". After her release from a German concentration camp, she began sharing her story and the love of Jesus. After preaching one night on how God forgives and we should as well, she stood face to face with one of the soldiers who had tortured her. She had to put into practice what she had been preaching. I can't imagine what I would do if faced with such a situation. I pray that I would have the power to forgive. I pray, that as Corrie Ten Boom realized, I would see that the Lord has forgiven me, He has forgiven the one with whom I'm angry, and it is my responsibility to forgive as well.

And, I'm also reminded of some quotes by Amy Carmichael in her book, "If". Powerful and convicting words.

"If in dealing with one who does not respond, I weary of the strain, and slip from under the burden, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying "Peace, peace," where is no peace; if I forget the poignant word, "Let love be without dissimulation" and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I do not give a friend "the benefit of the doubt," but put the worst construction instead of the best on what is said or done, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I take offense easily; if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I say, "Yes, I forgive, but I cannot forget," as though the God, who twice a day washes all the sands on all the shores of all the world, could not wash such memories from my mind, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

That's alot to chew on today. I'm sure this will be in "processing" mode for me for the next few days. I welcome any commentary, input or responses.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Something you should know...

So, there's something pretty important that you should know. It's life changing, really. It's actually already something many of you do know, but it's easy to forget and always worth hearing again. So, since it's been on my heart and mind all day, I'm gonna tell you now.

You are so loved.

It's true. And, even though many of you know that you are loved by your parents, or friends, or whoever, it doesn't always feel that way, does it? That's what happens when you are loved by imperfect people. Sometimes we forget to tell people that we love them. Sometimes we fail to show it. Other times, we let it die because of something silly or something we think we should hold onto forever. But, there's a truth that gives me hope even when I feel completely unseen, unloved, and unappreciated by those around me. You ready? Here it is:

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


Take a second. Read it again. Let it sink in.


I'd like to paint a little picture of what that verse brings to mind for me. In December of last year, I became an aunt to a precious little baby girl. (Now, I've been "Aunt Christy" to some other babies, but haven't had the privilege of getting to see them that much as they were growing.) One of the joys of my life is when I get to hold her, rock her, and sing her to sleep at naptime. It's just indescribable. She knows me when she sees me and that gives me great delight every time it happens. She trusts me enough to lay her head on my shoulder, curl up in my arms, and fall asleep while I sing to her. It's beautiful. And, it's a tangible picture of God's love.

For those of you who are parents, your joy in a moment like this must only be multiplied. I am not yet a mom, so I can't imagine what that must be like. So, I relate it to the relationship I have with my niece. It's overwhelming.

And, it's true.

God is with us and He is mighty to save. Nothing overwhelms Him. Nothing is too much for Him. Nothing is too difficult.

He takes great delight in us. Can you picture it? Have you ever seen someone overcome with delight? A new mother or father as they look at their newborn child. A child at Christmas who just unwrapped the present for which they've longed. The groom whose face lights up as his bride enters the church on their wedding day. God delights in us like that. But, to a level we can not even imagine.

He quiets us with His love. Peace like a river. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. The Balm of Gilead. Jehovah Rapha. Healer. Emmanual.

He rejoices over us with singing. The King of the Universe rejoices over you. Words fail me.

No matter what we've done, He loves us.

No matter how flawed we are, He loves us.

No matter how little we love ourselves, He loves us.

Isn't it beautiful?

So, I just thought you should know. I thought you should know that the One who created you, who knows you better than you could ever know yourself, the One who sees you as you will one day be when you see Him face to face, loves you with a love that is overwhelming, perfect, unimaginable, unfailing, and complete.

Take a minute and drink it in. Let it wash over you.

You are loved.

You are loved.

You are loved.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

My Brother

I've been a big sister since just before I turned 4. When my parents brought Daniel home from the hospital, I was a little disappointed that his blanket was blue - not pink. But, that disappointment was short lived and I stepped into my role as big sister.

It's a fun job. I had the opportunity to witness a milestone in the life of my brother last weekend - a milestone that highlighted the role of siblings in each other's lives. On Sunday, we had a baby dedication for Ansley Katherine in which we had the opportunity to commit to help them raise her in the ways of the Lord. It was a precious, precious time.

As I stood and watched my brother sit there with his wife and little girl, I couldn't help but think of the other milestones I've witnessed in his life.

I remembered when he really came to understand the power of God in his life. I was in awe of a middle school boy who boldly presented the Gospel to his friends. I remember being challenged by the way he held to his convictions and spoke boldly to friends who were making poor choices. The stance he took cost him much over the years. But, he was laying up treasures in heaven.

I remembered the night he bodyslammed someone who was harrassing me. When my guy friends thought it was funny, my brother stood up for me.

I remembered the night he worked out his plan to ask Katie (now his wife) to the prom. I happened to be home from college that weekend and helped him spell out his question in roses as he practiced in the living room.

I remembered how hard he worked to make the baseball team at Georgia Tech as a walk on. And, I remembered how proud I was when he succeeded.

I remembered waiting anxiously for him and Katie to return from their engagement trip so we could celebrate the coming expansion of our family.

I remembered standing in a church and watching him commit to love, honor, and protect his bride. I remember the joy on his face as he joined his life with hers.

I remembered the first time I really saw him as a husband and protector. We were travelling overseas and I simply observed the way he interacted with Katie. I was so pleased by the man he had become. He was so protective, intuitive and loving towards her. It warmed my heart.

And, I remembered rushing to the hospital last Christmas Eve to be one of the first to hold his first little girl, Ansley Katherine.

All of these things came to mind as I stood there while the minister challenged all of us to help show Ansley the ways of the Lord. There was a moment when Hugh asked for all of the siblings to come forward and lay hands on our brother and sister and pray for them. It was beautiful.

I am so proud of my brother, Daniel, and his beautiful wife, Katie. Since they began dating in high school, I've had the opportunity to watch them both grow up, go to college, get married and now become parents. Being "Aunt T" to their little girl is one of the greatest joys of my life already. I love that she recognizes me and gets excited when I enter a room. I love when I get to sing her to sleep at nap time. I can't wait to teach her all about Disney princesses and about being a daughter of the King herself. I know that my aunts and uncles have played an enormous role in my life. I hope to do the same for Ansley.

Having brothers is something special. I know those of you with sisters would say it's special too. But, I didn't grow up with a sister. (Although, I now have one in Katie and soon Eddie will also give me a sister). I grew up with brothers who picked on me and who were rough with me, but who would destroy anyone who tried to hurt me.

Daniel, I am so proud of the man you are and you continue to become. I am so honored to be part of Ansley's life and I take the responsibility very seriously. I'm proud of you and Katie as you step into the roles of Father and Mother. It's been amazing to watch the milestones of your life and see my little brother become a godly man. I love you!

Monday, August 23, 2010

When it's full grown...

Last night, I was thinking about relationships and how they sometimes fall apart before you even realize there is a problem. Have you ever had a friend suddenly get angry with you and then you realize it's been building for a long time and you didn't see it coming? Or, have you ever said something that you didn't know was received in the wrong way until months or years later? I've been thinking alot about that lately and last night, a passage of scripture came to mind that I had never before thought about in this context.

When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. - James 1:13-15

Here's where I think this applies in our relationships. I think, sometimes, we get an idea planted in our head about how someone views us. Maybe something they say hurts us. Maybe they forget us on an important day or fail to make time for us. Whether intended or not, sometimes people hurt us and we have a choice what to do with it.

We could choose to address it right away.

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. - Matthew 18:15

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. - Ephesians 4:25-27

Or, we could choose to nurse it. And, that's where I think that passage from James comes in. We are tempted when we are dragged away and enticed by our own evil desires. We think we can trust our heart and our emotions, but we forget that the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9). We let a seed of discontent, hurt, betrayal or whatever else take root in our heart.

"Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin". Once we allow the negative thought or hurt feeling to take root in our heart, it gives birth to sin.

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. - Proverbs 18:21

But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. - James 3:8-9

"And sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death". I realize that in context, James is talking about spiritual death and how we make the progression from temptation to sin to payment for that sin (death). But, I do believe this principle applies to the progression of a relationship. If that initial slight (intended or not) is allowed to settle into the soil of our heart, if we nurse it and allow it to grow into sin (gossip, anger, bitterness), then it will, when it is full grown, lead to the death of the relationship.

Sadly, this happens all too often. There are definitely situations when relationships should end, but too often they end when there is no need. I have experienced this pattern of thinking in my own life at times. I have allowed an incorrect thought or assumption take root in my heart. I have fed it and talked to others who agreed with me and helped me feed it. I've worked myself up into such a state that I thought people who truly love me are actually out to get me. It takes someone with wisdom and compassion speaking the truth in love to me, sometimes, before I realize I've created a wall in a relationship out of absolutely nothing.

The death of a relationship is something I absolutely hate. It always grieves my heart.

So, again, I find myself back at a place of needing accountability and someone who will "sharpen" me (Proverbs 27:17). I need it in my life. I need someone who is willing to correct my focus or perspective when it's off. I need someone who will tell me that truth, even if the truth is that I'm being ridiculous. Fortunately for me, I have a few people who do that well in my life. I'm more grateful than I can even say for those women of God!

The devil is good at his job. He is the father of lies and the master deceiver. He revels in discord among the body of Christ. He rejoices when we are at odds with one another. So, let's "take every thought captive" (II Corinthians 10:5) before they take root in our heart. And, we will have less strife and discontent, and more energy to expend on the things that really matter.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Judge not. But, what about accountability?

It seems I've heard alot of talk lately about how Christians aren't to judge. We are all familiar with passages like Matthew 7:1-5:

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

But, is it possible there is a difference between judging someone and holding someone accountable? I believe that there is, even if that line may sometimes be quite fine. As this question was presented to me recently, I've begun looking for answers in the Scriptures.

It seemed appropriate to start where the statement is found; Matthew 7. I find it interesting that it doesn't stop at verse 4. In verse 5, it talks about removing the plank from your own eye (the sin from your own life) and THEN you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Never really noticed that before. It doesn't leave off with you dealing with your own sin, but asks that you deal with your own sin first and then you are in the clear to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

I do not believe it's our place to judge each other. In fact, it wasn't even why Christ came to the world (John 3:17). But, the Scriptures seem to be pretty clear that we should hold one another accountable to the high calling set before us. We are called to be imitators of Christ. If you claim the name of Christ, you are part of His body (the church) and have joined yourself to a community in which truth and accountability is expected.

Of course, there are always good and bad ways to go about things. The Apostle Paul addresses the subject of accountability in Galatians 6:1

1Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

I've had this experience. I believe it's important to establish accountability in my life before something happens where it's needed. So, I have a few, close friends who have unfettered access to my life and my heart. These are the people I call when I'm struggling, who know all of my secrets, and who have the unquestioned right to call me on the carpet when something's not right in my life. On more than one occasion, these people have saved me from continuing in a destructive path. I know they come to me in love and because they carry God's word in their hearts. I don't always respond positively right away, but the Spirit always works their words deep into my heart until they breed repentance.

Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. - Proverbs 24:11

These are the sayings of the wise: to show partiality in judging is not good: Whoever says to the guilty, "You are innocent" - people will curse him and nations denounce him. But it will go well with those who convict the guilty, and rich blessing will come upon them. An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. - Proverbs 24:23-26

Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. - Proverbs 27:5-6

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. - Proverbs 27:17

"An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips". "Wounds from a friend can be trusted".

Too often I am guilty of holding back from saying what is right because I fear how I may be perceived. I, too often, don't speak the truth because I am afraid of hurting someone's feelings. How much better would it be, though, to hurt their feelings if it meant saving them the consequences of a sinful road? There is a book by Amy Carmichael that talks about "Calvary Love"; the kind of love that is worthy of the cross of Christ. There are a few quotes from this book that have been chewing on my heart in the area of accountability and speaking the truth.

"If I am afraid to speak the truth, lets I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, 'You do not understand,' or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other's highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying 'Peace, peace,' where is no peace; if I forget the poignant word 'Let love be without dissimulation' and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

"If I fear to hold another to the highest goal because it is so much easier to avoid doing so, then I know nothing of Calvary love."

In truth, aren't many of Paul's letters dedicated to admonishing the Body of Christ and telling us how we should live? In fact, he insists that we live a certain way.

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. - Ephesians 4:17-32

Ephesians is rich with how we are to live as Christians. When we claim that name, we also choose a lifestyle that is of a higher standard. When we choose Christ, we become part of His body, part of the church universal, and no longer are we independent. We are told not to forsake meeting together (Hebrews 10:25) and to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16). We are to be interdependent upon one another.

My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. - James 5:19-20

So, it seems to me that the answer is clear, if not easy. We are not to judge each other, that is for God alone. But, we are called to hold one another to the high standards to which we are called. We are to speak the truth to one another. We are to love each other enough to have the tough conversations that lead us back to life. We are to work towards restoration to the Lord and within the body so that none of us becomes like the one spoken of in I Corinthians 5 who was cut off from the assembly.

The most important ingredient is love. We are to do all of this because we love God and we love one another. We are to do it with a heart full of compassion and reconciliation. We are to be like Christ in how we approach one another.

Calvary love is tough stuff to be sure. But, what promise awaits us when this life is over and we shall behold Him face to face. We partake in His suffering that we may also partake in His joy.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Putting Philippians 4:8 into practice

As I was growing up, my mom’s favorite verse was Philippians 4:8

“Finally, brothers, 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.”

I can remember growing to cringe everytime she responded to our questions with that verse.

“Mom, can we go see this movie?”

“Is it pure and lovely?”

“Well, it’s PG-13, so probably not”

“Then, no”.

AUGH! How frustrating for a teenager! Nothing in the world is pure and lovely! Wait. Maybe that was her point. As I’ve grown up and had the opportunity to look back at my upbringing some, I realize that my mom was teaching us to be discerning about what we let into our minds and hearts. If we couldn’t apply that litmus test to the upcoming activity and come away clean, then it’s something we probably didn’t need to do.

Today, as I was thinking about conflict in relationships and how sometimes we get so far down a road before we realize that it was misunderstandings or assumptions that got us there. Sometimes it’s hiding the truth, not telling the truth, or being afraid to confront with the truth. I then ran across this verse again (which, by the way, has now become one of my favorite verses). And, I wondered what it would be like if I started applying this to my dealings with people.

“Whatever is true…”

“Is it true that she said or meant that? Hmmm….maybe I shouldn’t “think on it” until I know it’s true. Let me ask”

“Whatever is noble…”

“Noble? What does that mean?”

“Having or showing qualities of high moral character, such as courage, generosity, or honor”

“hmmm…If I choose to react this way, will it show qualities of high moral character? When I think of this, will I see it as noble?”

“Whatever is right…”

“Am I in the right? What is right? What would be the godly response?”

“Is there sin involved? In my heart? In the situation?”

“Whatever is pure…”

“Are my intentions pure?”

“Is this action pure?”

“Is this beyond reproach and worthy of the high calling of Christ?”

“Whatever is lovely…”

“Hmmm….when is the last time I’ve heard gossip described as ‘lovely’?”

“Will the words of my mouth be ‘lovely’ to the Lord if I choose to utter what I’m thinking?”

“Are my thoughts ‘lovely’?

“Whatever is admirable…”

“What is to be admired in this situation?”

“In what ways will I be worthy of admiration in the way I handle this person or situation?”

“Excellent or Praiseworthy…”

“Seriously…how will God’s name be lifted up in this?”

We’re all guilty of missteps in relationship. It’s a product of living in a fallen world and allowing ourselves to be tempted. I know I’m guilty of saying things out of spite or with the hope that someone will be hurt. There’s nothing pure or lovely about that. I know I’m guilty of covering the truth or shying away from it because I’m afraid I may lose favor with the other person if I really speak what’s on my heart (or in the Scriptures). There’s nothing right about that. I’ve also been guilty of not giving someone the benefit of the doubt before obsessing over what I heard they said or think they mean. I didn’t focus on the truth at those moments. I have handled things in ways that are certainly less than admirable. And, I’ve grieved over the times when I, not only failed to lift the Savior up, but also managed to do damage to the reputation of His Bride.

So, maybe I’ll take my mom’s words a step farther than I have in the past and let the wisdom of this verse stretch over all areas of my life. What a beautiful thing it would be if this was the filter that was applied to my thoughts and words. I’ve a long way to go, but a promise awaits. (Philippians 4:9)

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Please help...I need your input

Hello all!

I'm researching some things for a project I've been writing. I'd love it if I could get some outside input for my research. I'm studying and writing about the lies we believe about ourselves, our families, our relationships, God, our situations and circumstances, etc.

For instance, some of the lies I have believed in the past are:

"I am an unfinished mess."

"I am broken. I am not whole."

"I can't do something because I am afraid."

Please post your lies below. By posting comments directly on my blog at http://christysolly.blogspot.com, you may post annonymously. Feel free to post as many as you feel comfortable. These can be lies you've believed in the past or something you are believing now. Things that affect your view of yourself, of God, of others, etc.

Thanks so much everyone!

****Update July 20, 2010******
Hello everyone!

I'm doing my best to respond to each comment. I realize that some of you who are posting have already tackled your lie. But, as I'm talking to others about this post, I'm seeing more and more that many of us wrestle with the same lies. By posting the Truth here, I hope that someone will finally be able to uproot a lie that is poisoning their heart. Thank you so much for your honesty in posting here. It's helping more than just my writing!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Power of Forgiveness

A friend shared this with me this morning and I'd like to re-post it here. You can see the original post at:


(There's a very interesting story about Leonardo DaVinci and The Last Supper in the last 5 paragraphs)

The Power of Forgiveness

"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, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." - Ephesians 4:31-32

There isn't one person reading this who hasn't been hurt by another person. Question: what are you doing with that offense? Do you hold them hostage for the injury they inflicted on you? How many hours and days have you wasted thinking, "You owe me and I'm going to make you pay?"

That's a tough question on a painful topic but you have to get it settled. In order to navigate your way through relationships, you need to hold a conviction about how you're going to respond when someone hurts you.

Ephesians 4:31-32 gives us direction: "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, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

Read that last phrase again, "as God in Christ forgave you."

As freely as He forgave you.

As quickly as He forgave you.

As generously as He forgave you.

Jesus models what forgiveness should look like in our lives. He was falsely accused, mocked, beaten, and spat upon, then crucified. As He hung on that cross for your sins and mine, He said: "Father, forgive them." Jesus' model motivates us to live out Ephesians 4:32, "Just as God in Christ has forgiven you."

You've heard me say it before: there are no enduring relationships without forgiveness. None. Before you go very far in any partnership, there will be forks in the road where if you do not forgive, the relationship will not survive. It's true in every marriage, in every household, in every small group, in every friendship. This is always, always true.

You know that Kathy and I are committed to serving in one church for a lifetime. As I'm preaching, I look into the faces of people I've known for a long time. I know that I would not have those relationships today were it not for their willingness to forgive me and my willingness to forgive them. Forgiveness says, "Because of Christ, you owe me nothing."

I love this true account from the life of Leonardo DaVinci. Not only was he a great painter, but DaVinci had a great faith in God. On the day he was to begin to paint the masterpiece, "The Last Supper," he had a blow-out argument with one of his friends.

As he was painting the disciples seated around the table, DaVinci was still sour toward his friend. So when it came time to paint Judas - you guessed it - he painted his friend's face. Then he moved on to paint Jesus. Of course Leonardo loved Christ but try as he might, he couldn't paint His likeness in any way that he thought represented His beauty. He painted, erased, painted, erased. Convicted by his own unforgiveness, he repainted the face of Judas with some other, random likeness and went to get right with his friend. Only then could he return to finish his portrait of Christ.

It's been said that DaVinci's face of Christ in this work is one of the most beautiful ones ever painted. What a great picture of the mercy in forgiveness. It will bear itself out in your life and mine. We will not see the likeness of Christ reproduced in our lives until we forgive.

Has the Lord brought a relationship to mind that needs your long-overdue forgiveness? By faith say, "Because of Christ, you owe me nothing.”

Take to heart God's call on your life: "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, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."

Monday, July 19, 2010

When God Sighed

I read this today in my email and was completely overwhelmed by the sentiment it contained. I'm still wiping away the tears and trying to catch my breath as I write to share this with you. I hope you'll take a few minutes to read it.

When God Sighed
by Max Lucado

Two days ago I read a word in the Bible that has since taken up residence in my heart.

To be honest, I didn’t quite know what to do with it. It’s only one word, and not a very big one at that. When I ran across the word, (which, by the way, is exactly what happened; I was running through the passage and this word came out of nowhere and bounced me like a speed bump) I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t have any hook to hang it on or category to file it under.

It was an enigmatic word in an enigmatic passage. But now, forty-eight hours later, I have found a place for it, a place all its own. My, what a word it is. Don’t read it unless you don’t mind changing your mind, because this little word might move your spiritual furniture around a bit.

Look at the passage with me.

Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. There some people brought a man to him who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.

After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. (Mark 7:31-35)

Quite a passage, isn’t it?

Jesus is presented with a man who is deaf and has a speech impediment. Perhaps he stammered. Maybe he spoke with a lisp. Perhaps, because of his deafness, he never learned to articulate words properly.

Jesus, refusing to exploit the situation, took the man aside. He looked him in the face. Knowing it would be useless to talk, he explained what he was about to do through gestures. He spat and touched the man’s tongue, telling him that whatever restricted his speech was about to be removed. He touched his ears. They, for the first time, were about to hear.

But before the man said a word or heard a sound, Jesus did something I never would have anticipated.

He sighed.

I might have expected a clap or a song or a prayer. Even a “Hallelujah!” or a brief lesson might have been appropriate. But the Son of God did none of these. Instead, he paused, looked into heaven, and sighed. From the depths of his being came a rush of emotion that said more than words.

Sigh. The word seemed out of place.

I’d never thought of God as one who sighs. I’d thought of God as one who commands. I’d thought of God as one who weeps. I’d thought of God as one who called forth the dead with a command or created the universe with a word … but a God who sighs?

Perhaps this phrase caught my eye because I do my share of sighing.

I sighed yesterday when I visited a lady whose invalid husband had deteriorated so much he didn’t recognize me. He thought I was trying to sell him something.

I sighed when the dirty-faced, scantily dressed, six-year-old girl in the grocery store asked me for some change.

And I sighed today listening to a husband tell how his wife won’t forgive him.

No doubt you’ve done your share of sighing.

If you have teenagers, you’ve probably sighed. If you’ve tried to resist temptation, you’ve probably sighed. If you’ve had your motives questioned or your best acts of love rejected, you have been forced to take a deep breath and let escape a painful sigh.

I realize there exists a sigh of relief, a sigh of expectancy, and even a sigh of joy. But that isn’t the sigh described in Mark 7. The sigh described is a hybrid of frustration and sadness. It lies somewhere between a fit of anger and a burst of tears.

The apostle Paul spoke of this sighing. Twice he said that Christians will sigh as long as we are on earth and long for heaven. The creation sighs as if she were giving birth. Even the Spirit sighs as he interprets our prayers. (Romans 8:22-27)

All these sighs come from the same anxiety; a recognition of pain that was never intended, or of hope deferred.

Man was not created to be separated from his creator; hence he sighs, longing for home. The creation was never intended to be inhabited by evil; hence she sighs, yearning for the Garden. And conversations with God were never intended to depend on a translator; hence the Spirit groans on our behalf, looking to a day when humans will see God face to face.

And when Jesus looked into the eyes of Satan’s victim, the only appropriate thing to do was sigh. “It was never intended to be this way,” the sigh said. “Your ears weren’t made to be deaf, your tongue wasn’t made to stumble.” The imbalance of it all caused the Master to languish.

So, I found a place for the word. You might think it strange, but I placed it beside the word comfort, for in an indirect way, God’s pain is our comfort.

And in the agony of Jesus lies our hope. Had he not sighed, had he not felt the burden for what was not intended, we would be in a pitiful condition. Had he simply chalked it all up to the inevitable or washed his hands of the whole stinking mess, what hope would we have?

But he didn’t. That holy sigh assures us that God still groans for his people. He groans for the day when all sighs will cease, when what was intended to be will be.

Friday, July 09, 2010

You're Gonna Miss This

I just listened to the song by Trace Adkins called "You're Gonna Miss This". It really struck a chord with me today for a number of reasons.

Here's a link to the song if you'd like to hear it:


In the last few years, I've thought about the theme of this song a good bit. "You're gonna miss this...you're gonna want this back". I think, sometimes, we're so focused on what's next that we miss what's right in front of us. It's exciting to look forward, but all too often, we're looking back before we know it, wondering where the time has gone.

Sometimes, we're so focused on pain that we lose years with someone over something that, in the end, really never mattered. But, in those years, we miss moments we'll never get back. Life can change so quickly with loves, marriages, babies, and even death. You don't get those moments back. It breaks my heart to see what moments I've missed over the years.

So, I just wanted to stop for a moment and let this lesson sink in. I want to be someone who doesn't borrow trouble from tomorrow, but lives in today. I want to be someone who loves people well and walks beside them through the moments of their lives. I don't want to look back at missed opportunities to share my faith or the love of God. I don't want anger, bitterness, or pain to keep me from missing out on that moment when someone finds the one they've waited for, that grooms sees his bride approach, a baby's first smile, or a thousand other memories that come from living life with someone.

I would challenge you to remember this: time is precious and you don't get a second chance at some things. Choose not to live with regret by loving well, pursuing peace, and finding joy in the moment.

"You're gonna miss this
You're gonna want this back
You're gonna wish these days hadn't gone by so fast
These are some good times so take a good look around
You may not know it now
But, you're gonna miss this"

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Behind the Shower Curtain

Please visit: http://www.maxlucado.com/static/email_archive/2010/07.05.html
I encourage you to sign up for Max Lucado's daily emails. I often find tremendous encouragement in his words.

Behind the Shower Curtain
by Max Lucado

I’m going to have to install a computer in my shower. That’s where I have my best thoughts.

I had a great one today.

I was mulling over a recent conversation I had with a disenchanted Christian brother. He was upset with me. So upset that he was considering rescinding his invitation for me to speak to his group. Seems he’d heard I was pretty open about who I have fellowship with. He’d read the words I wrote: “If God calls a person his child, shouldn’t I call him my brother?” And, “If God accepts others with their errors and misinterpretations, shouldn’t we?”

He didn’t like that. “Carrying it a bit too far,” he told me. “Fences are necessary,” he explained. “Scriptures are clear on such matters.” He read me a few and then urged me to be careful to whom I give grace.

“I don’t give it,” I assured. “I only spotlight where God already has.”

Didn’t seem to satisfy him. I offered to bow out of the engagement (the break would be nice), but he softened and told me to come after all.

That’s where I’m going today. That’s why I was thinking about him in the shower. And that’s why I need a waterproof computer. I had a great thought. A why-didn’t-I-think-to-say-that? insight.

I hope to see him today. If the subject resurfaces, I’ll say it. But in case it doesn’t, I’ll say it to you. (It’s too good to waste.) Just one sentence:

I’ve never been surprised by God’s judgment, but I’m still stunned by his grace.

God’s judgment has never been a problem for me. In fact, it always seemed right. Lightning bolts on Sodom. Fire on Gomorrah. Good job, God. Egyptians swallowed in the Red Sea. They had it coming. Forty years of wandering to loosen the stiff necks of the Israelites? Would’ve done it myself. Ananias and Sapphira? You bet.

Discipline is easy for me to swallow. Logical to assimilate. Manageable and appropriate.

But God’s grace? Anything but.

Examples? How much time do you have?

David the psalmist becomes David the voyeur, but by God’s grace becomes David the psalmist again.

Peter denied Christ before he preached Christ.

Zacchaeus, the crook. The cleanest part of his life was the money he’d laundered. But Jesus still had time for him.

The thief on the cross: hellbent and hung-out-to-die one minute, heaven-bound and smiling the next.

Story after story. Prayer after prayer. Surprise after surprise.

Seems that God is looking more for ways to get us home than for ways to keep us out. I challenge you to find one soul who came to God seeking grace and did not find it. Search the pages. Read the stories. Envision the encounters. Find one person who came seeking a second chance and left with a stern lecture. I dare you. Search.

You won’t find it.

You will find a strayed sheep on the other side of the creek. He’s lost. He knows it. He’s stuck and embarrassed. What will the other sheep say? What will the shepherd say?

You will find a shepherd who finds him. (Luke 15:3-7)

Oh boy. Duck down. Put hooves over the eyes. The belt is about to fly. But the belt is never felt. Just hands. Large, open hands reaching under his body and lifting the sheep up, up, up until he’s placed upon the shepherd’s shoulders. He’s carried back to the flock and given a party! “Cut the grass and comb the wool,” he announces. “We are going to have a celebration!”

The other sheep shake their heads in disbelief. Just like we will. At our party. When we get home. When we watch the Shepherd shoulder into our midst one unlikely soul after another.

Seems to me God gives a lot more grace than we’d ever imagine.

We could do the same.

I’m not for watering down the truth or compromising the gospel. But if a fellow with a pure heart calls God Father, can’t I call that same man Brother? If God doesn’t make doctrinal perfection a requirement for family membership, should I?

And if we never agree, can’t we agree to disagree? If God can tolerate my mistakes, can’t I tolerate the mistakes of others? If God can overlook my errors, can’t I overlook the errors of others? If God allows me with my foibles and failures to call him Father, shouldn’t I extend the same grace to others?

One thing’s for sure. When we get to heaven, we’ll be surprised at some of the folks we see. And some of them will be surprised to see us.

From When God Whispers Your Name
Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 1999) Max Lucado

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Wedding Prayer

Lately, there's been alot going on in my life. Some of it has been amazing while some of it has been absolutely heartbreaking. One of the amazing things is that I'm digging deeper into music and into the gifts the Lord has given me. In light of that, I've been revisiting songs I've written and updating my artist profiles. There's still much work to be done, but it's an exciting thing to get started on the journey.

Today, as I was uploading songs, I came across one that I wrote for my friend, Joanna Winter before she became Joanna Grimes. As a vocalist, I've worked with a number of brides. Each wedding has had it's own personality and each bride has provided a different experience. Joanna was one of my favorites.

Joanna and I have been dear friends since high school. I've watched and walked with her as she has chased after the Lord and learned to honor Him with her life. As it came time for Joanna to marry Justin, she and I began to talk about wedding music. Joanna shared with me that she had 2 goals for that day: 1. That God be glorified 2. That we would celebrate what He had done.

As I thought about her day, the Lord gave me a vision of how it would look through her eyes. It was one of the most emotional song writing experiences I've ever had. I had to pull over and write it down before it was lost.

When I shared the song with Joanna, I expected that it would be a private gift from me to her. But, she surprised me by loving it and asking me to sing it in the ceremony. What an honor it was to share that day with my friend and to be able to portray her heart for her wedding day.

You can listen to the song, "In Us Be Pleased" at http://www.reverbnation.com/artist/song_details/4427411?play_now=true. When I recorded it, I had the opportunity to make it a duet with my long time friend, Dan Steere. Below are the lyrics. Enjoy.

In Us Be Pleased

Jesus, You have loved me since before I knew my name
You created me with purpose and a plan
On this day as I take these vows and forever things are changed
I feel the comfort of Your hand

She's Your precious daughter and I, Your blessed son
And today as we come into this place
We will join our spirits, our hearts and lives as one
And together, we'll forever seek Your face

As my daddy walks me down the aisle
I see my mama's lovin' smile
And the man You created for me
I pray that we will honor You
And every little thing we do will bring glory to Your name
You created me for him and him for me
Oh, Jesus, in us be pleased

Here before our families, surrounded by our friends
In Your name we take these sacred vows
And join our lives together, two becoming one
In a bond that cannot be undone
We choose today to honor You
And proclaim for all to see
That by Your grace and mercy You have made us complete

As my daddy walks me down the aisle
I see my mama's lovin' smile
And the man You created for me
I pray that we will honor You
And every little thing we do will bring glory to Your name
You created me for him and him for me
Oh, Jesus, in us be pleased
'Cause You created me for him and him for me
Oh, Jesus, in us be pleased

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Beauty of Friendship

Friendship has been on my mind quite a bit lately. It's difficult for me when a friendship goes south, and it's usually quite a long process. I don't give up on people. I'm a hard friend to lose. But, as that has been a journey I've had to travel lately, it's made me think about the friends who remain in my life.

And, I am overwhelmed.

My friends are amazing. In the last 10 years, I've shifted in my ideas of friendship. Once upon a time, it was important to me that everyone like me and that I have a ton of friends. I wore myself out trying to keep up with it all and with trying to make sure I only showed the "pretty" parts of myself. It was exhausting. I had to make a change. I knew alot of people, but few people really knew me.

It's been a crazy journey. The Lord had to break through some really tough walls in my heart and show me that it's ok to be imperfect and for others to see that. As I stop and take stock of where I am on this journey, I am so grateful that the Lord disciplines those He loves and shaved those rough edges off of my heart.

Yesterday, I was shown love in action in a way that I never expected. I'd had a really stressful and emotional week. I have a tendency to push those things aside and focus on whatever task is at hand. But, by Saturday morning, it had all caught up with me. I was on the verge of a breakdown. All it took was one final blow and I was in need of escape. I called one of my closest friends just to vent so I wouldn't explode on the people around me. She patiently listened to my rant and never judged me for the emotional outburst. After talking to her, I went back to work with a little more room for patience.

The next thing I know, she shows up, Starbucks in hand, ready to work. She had rounded up the help I needed and went to humorous lengths to do so. She came just to be there with me and help in whatever way she could. She had more than enough on her own plate that needed tending, but she set that aside to come to my rescue. I was overwhelmed. I'm so blessed to have someone who would step outside of herself, in ways I can't express here, to step up for me. It actually brought me to tears.

I have amazing friends. This is just one story of how they have shown the love of Jesus to me through their actions.

I have treasured mentors who love me like a daughter.

I have people who go before the Lord on my behalf and fight for His will in my life, His protection, His wisdom.

I have family who would fight to the death for me, even in a moment when things aren't harmonious between us.

I have friends who have known me since I was a child, who I may talk to rarely, but who love me and can reconnect at a moment's notice.

I have people who aren't afraid to speak the Truth in love, correct me when necessary, and help me dig into the Word of God.

I have seen the love of Jesus walked out in the lives of my friends. It's amazing. I don't know if I'll ever be able to deserve or repay it. Right now, I'm just overwhelmed by it. Thank you to you all. You are loved and appreciated beyond words.

Word of Life

Philippians 2:14-16a - Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of life

Word of Life Free Methodist Church had it's first official service in our new building with our new name today. It's exciting to mark this new chapter in the life of what once was "The Church at Whitewater" and "Fayette Community Church". I've spent nearly the last nine years calling this body of believers my church family. It's been an amazing, and sometimes interesting, ride. I've learned so much about myself, who I am in Christ, what it means to be part of a church family, and what it means to be in ministry. At times, it's been a hard fought battle to choose obedience, but I would not trade any of it when I look back over the road I've traveled.

I'm excited about what the future holds for our church body. In the last several months, I have seen the conversation shift from where we "do church" to what it means to actually be the hands and feet of Jesus in our community. We're at the beginning of this new chapter, but I'm thrilled at the prospects that lie before us. I've seen the Lord working in the hearts of His people and very much in my own heart. I thought I was going to miss the theater, but it's not too bad. I love the new building and the hearts of the people who gather there.

I LOVE the image of the verse in which our new name is highlighted: "Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of life"

We talked last week about being strangers and aliens in this world. And, this morning, as I was wrestling with my own perfectionist tendencies and frustrations before the service, tired from an emotional week, and feeling disrespected, this passage came to mind:

Philippians 2:1-11

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,but made himself nothing,taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

What a way the Lord has of putting us back into the right frame of mind and gently nudging us back into His path. I'm blessed to have a pastor who hears my emotional outbursts and gently reminds me Who deserves my focus. He was able to share from his heart and help me realign my focus. It was in God's perfect timing that the prayer team walked in as I was reaching my breaking point and I was able to share with them my need for heavenly intervention in order to fulfill my morning responsibilities. They prayed, sweetly, over the situation and reminded me again of the purpose of our gathering. Then, the Lord brought the above verses to mind and completed the process of humbling my spirit.

What a journey this is, following the Lord and learning to walk in His ways. I have SO far to go, but I treasure each step. I pray that I will shine like the stars in the universe and really hold out The Word of Life to everyone I encounter. Pray that I will continue chasing after obedience. It's all I want...to faithfully serve the One who has called me according to His purpose.