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.

Thanksgiving

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".

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\ / MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST -- http://www.heartlight.org/
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November 1, 2010


YE ARE NOT YOUR OWN

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

1 Corinthians 6:19
http://www.SearchGodsWord.org/desk/?query=1co+6:19&sr=1

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
heart.