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Good Morning, Grace

So, it really happened. The very thing I tried to avoid happening did indeed happen on the platform of our church in the Sunday morning service. Let me explain. My husband and I were going to be singing a special in the service with our Minister of Music and his wife. I was really excited about this. We had been planning it for some time and it was our first time to be singing as a quartet. We had practiced and were ready to go. The song was placed in the order of service after the 2nd song sung with the praise team and congregation. For the first two songs I was singing in the choir loft in my normal spot. I would have to make my way down around the corner of the band in an opening to the platform. I motioned to our guitar player and asked him to move the music stand over so I would have room to slip through the opening easily when it was time to sing. All was well till I was about to round the corner and my foot caught on the music stand. It made a loud noise and I did catch it from falling over. Good Morning, Grace!

I did something this time that years earlier I would not have been able to do. I took a deep breath, smiled and let it go. Can I tell you straight up that this is not because of a work of Amy. This is the evidence that Jesus has been doing something in me. It is all Him, not me. Over the past few years, God has been teaching me that there are times when you have to let things go. Before I probably would have not have been able to concentrate on singing my part because I was so embarrassed about tripping. I would have fretted and wondered if everyone was thinking, “Wow, what a klutz?” or “We had a beautiful flow of worship going and you messed it up.” Psalm 126:2 reads,  “Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them.”  Now I realize that this verse is in the middle of a praise song that is sung in the Old Testament how God had released Israel from captivity. It is a song of degrees that they sang over and over each round with more intensity than the time before. However, I could relate to this verse on reflection this morning. The Lord has taught me it’s okay to laugh at yourself, to sing on, and let the small stuff go! This has not been an easy lesson to learn, but I am grateful that the Lord loves us where we are in our walk and helps us along with patience and wonderful grace. Remember, You also may be an encouragement to someone who has been struggling to not sweat things that need to be released. So with His help I will laugh and sing it loud, “Let it go, Let it go, Let it go!”

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A Story Of Need

A well spun story can stir great emotions. A story can cause us to shriek with laughter. A story can stir deep emotions and thought patterns. A story can take us on a journey of imagination and discovery. A story can also move us to tears and break our heart. It is the latter of these that has stirred me this morning.

My husband told me a true story last night about a teenage boy who was so hungry he was gathering up the scraps of food that others had discarded in the trash. This story moved me to tears, and it broke my heart to know that this was happening in my county. We see in the media all the time the need of children around the world who do not have enough to eat. We help when we can, but when we hear of children and teens in our communities struggling to find their next meal how can we not be moved to action. Some might say, they get meals at school. Two, in fact, are available to them. What happens though to these on the weekends or during the summer? There is a great need.

” For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in… And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:35,40 

In the verses above, we find a message from Jesus himself. We find a call to action. Jesus wanted us to know that when we extend kindness and meet a need in the life of a child we are doing it unto Him. We are living out our faith by reaching out to another. As I think on this, we must meet the need for physical food, but it doesn’t need to stop there. We need to also do all we can to meet the spiritual needs of these dear ones. We need to point them to Jesus who loves them. We need to be the hands reaching out in Jesus’ name.

So how do we accomplish this? We must pray for guidance. We must also be moved to action. Knowing that when we reach out to the children of our communities, we are doing this for Jesus.

Only Today…

I have in the past week been on a trek of profound reflection. It could be the fact that I became a great-aunt a week and a half ago. It could be the fact that my friend who graduated from high school the same year I did proclaimed on Facebook that she graduated 30 years ago. Wow. I’m not sure which one did it, maybe it was the combination of the two. However, I began to look over my life of the past, ahem, 30 years and began to take stock of what I have accomplished in those years. On first glance and pondering, it didn’t seem like much. As I looked deeper I realized that I have gone through quite a bit in those years. I have gained a wealth of experience and knowledge. I met and married an awesome man. I had two amazing boys who are Jesus loving, well-rounded, and daily amaze me. My husband and I have served in ministry for all of our married life together (almost 24 years at 3 churches). We have a great family and a wealth of friends. To you it may not seem that much, but that doesn’t matter. What truly matters is have I taken the time the Lord has given me and served Him to the best of my ability. Have I done everything perfectly? Not a chance. On reflection, I feel I have followed the Lord faithfully to this point. Would I have liked to have accomplished some great things? Well, Sure! but I know that this is not the end. I have today. I am not promised tomorrow so I will take the day I have been given and live it out how I know Jesus would want me to do. I can show compassion, I can love Him with my whole heart, I can serve others in the work place and in my home, and I can live out the plan He has set before me for today. No matter what amount of time I have left, I can finish well the course the Lord has for me. Paul wrote to Timothy in II Timothy 4:7, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” This is what I want. I want to be counted among the faithful. A lifetime is made up of what we have done with all of our “todays”. We cannot do anything about yesterday or tomorrow. We have today. Let’s take our today, and put in it all that God would have us to do with it. Serving Him, Trusting Him, Loving Him, Worshiping Him, and Living Life with the purpose of bringing glory to His name will be my goal today. It is indeed a worthy calling!

When Faith Encounters Forgiveness and Love

You have met them at some point in your life. We all have. You have met a person that being in the same room with them sets your teeth on edge. The first word that passes their lips or even their demeanor has your number.  It is someone who you try desperately to like, but it is hard. In life there is always going to be ones with who we struggle to get along. Does that mean we stop trying? Certainly not. So where do we go from there? During these times, I find myself in the need of reflection and praying. Most times I will come to a couple of conclusions.

“Is the reason I struggle to get along something they have done to me or someone I care about?” If the answer is yes, the thought process follows. “Why am I holding on to this anger or hurt or frustration?” Often the reason is “I have to look after me and mine!” “They hurt me so I will hurt them by being angry with them, or finding a way to zing them back so they will feel bad about what they have done.” So if our thoughts take us to this place, unforgiveness is reigning in our heart. Our unforgiveness is coming between us and another person. The disciples were struggling with this too. In Matthew 18:21-22 we read, “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” I know the next step in the process. “You have no idea what they have done to me.” You would be correct in that, I don’t know. In these verses Jesus did not give a stipulation on the circumstances. He said to just keep forgiving. Is this an easy task? No way. IT IS A HARD THING, BUT IT IS A NECESSARY THING. It involves getting out of our own way and being willing to give up our right to be offended. Pride often will well up in us and we can’t let go. Pride can be quick sand on the road to forgiveness. It can bog us down and hinder us from doing what we ought to do. I can often bog us down for months, even years. We want to be free of our hurt. The only way to turn it over to God is through the avenue of forgiveness. This person may have hurt you over and over. We can’t be waiting for offense #491 then put the hammer down on them. The principle is to keep forgiving over and over. I have been in such a place so I am not speaking of something that has not been a hard, learned lesson. I know this is a tough subject, but it has been on my heart. When I see others struggling to forgive, I know if the freedom that is waiting on those who are willing to surrender their will to Father God in the area of forgiveness.

The other conclusion I come to when struggling to get along with others is “If they have not done anything to me, what is my hold up? Am I failing to love them as God loves them?” “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” (1 John 4:11) God tells us to love as He does. When God’s love is flowing through me it is extended to others. Only my unwillingness can stop that flow of love. In both of these conclusions, the power to get along with others begins and ends with us. You may find at some point you try to follow these things and the other person does not want to be right with you. It happens. You can’t control what others feel about you. But you can continue to forgive and you can continue to love because it is what God requires of you. When you know you have done your best and Christ is pleased with your effort there is a freedom and a peace that is beyond understanding. Then you can let them go continuing to pray for them and reconciliation to come one day.

The walk of faith was never said to be an easy one filled with only sunshine and roses. There are trials and testing to endure. We can be confident in knowing that we have a God who walks with us in the way and will help us through the hard times. We may struggle along the way to get along with others. Let God help you determine your part in the process of what you need to do to be right with Him.

Joy in the Process

‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. ‘ Romans 15:13

Of all the ministry areas the Lord has led me to work in, I find myself enjoying leading Bible Study with the ladies of our church. It actually has not always been this way. When my husband and I first began in ministry together, He was the associate pastor at a local church. He had been serving  in churches for quite some time before we were married so he had his feet already wet and prepared more than I was for the challenges in the ministry. I had served in the church, but had not yet been in a position of leadership. I remember the first time I was approached to lead a women’s bible study. Two words come to my mind, “SHEER PANIC”! I would have to get up in front of other women and lead in a study of God’s Word. I felt so unworthy and then concerned. What if they asked me stuff I didn’t know the answer to? What if they thought my teaching style was weird? I went through every scenario. I prayed a lot. I prayed God would change His mind. Then I realized that God was calling me to do it. So I took a deep breath and jumped in feet first. God did a work in me. He taught me to rely on Him.

When I think of leading a bible study now, I look forward to it. I know I am doing what God has called me to do. It took a little while to find my groove, but the Lord showed me I just needed to be myself and trust him fully. A lot of prayer and preparation goes into it, but I have found joy in all God has taught me over the years. It’s hard to believe that it has been 24 years since that first Bible study. I give God the praise for all He has done in me and through me. Last night, Our ladies finished up the Book, “Why Do I Put So Much Pressure On Myself And Others” by Kathy Collard Miller. Though the Book is a lesson on how God helped our author through overcoming and learning to cope with perfectionism, we looked at a lot of Scripture to realize who we are and whose we are! I had the privilege to go through this book several years ago. This time the Lord taught me some more about how my life goal should not be about making sure everything is perfect, but to strive to pursue Christ with my whole heart. Someone with perfectionist tendencies often never sees the joy because they are more focused on the circumstances. I am thankful that God is willing to take us where we are and lead us to where He wants us to be. If we spend all our efforts focused on things we cannot control we will not have the energy to pursue Christ. We can find so much joy in the pursuit of Christ.

God can fill you will all joy and peace as Romans 15:13 says. The key is we have to be in a position to let Him. Let go of things, and grab Jesus with both hands. Don’t let Him go. Tell Jesus you can not take one more step without Him. To Trust and Rely on God should be our focus. When this happens, Joy will be the product, and Peace of God will be experienced as you never have felt before. We can find joy in the midst of trials. The bible says, “Perfect love casteth out fear.” (1 John 4:18) We can learn to hope in God alone. Do you want pure joy? My friend, you cannot find it outside of God. Pursue Christ and find joy in the process!

Blessings to you today!

Heart Check Up

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. ‘ Matthew 15:8-9 

I have always been a cheerleader at heart. Yes, I did have the uniform to prove it from 1985-1988. Even after my cheer leading days were but a memory, I loved to cheer on the underdog. The one who always seemed to get the short end of the stick so to speak was the one I tried to lift up, encourage, and cheer on. In my quiet time today I was reading in Matthew 15. At the get go, in this chapter, the Pharisees were after Jesus and disciples again. They were criticizing the disciples for not holding to their traditions and doing things a different way. My inner cheer leader hollered, “Get ’em Jesus!” He did. Yet what He said gripped my heart. “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (v.8) 

Wait a minute! Am I guilty of this? Am I quick to honor God with my words when I know my heart is not honoring Him with my actions? Is my heart far from God? Do I say all the right things because people are watching, yet in my heart I know I am not where I need to be? I had some self evaluation time with my Savior. I won’t give you the results. That is between Him and Me. I will say it has set me to look after the things that I say.

I want to draw close to him with my whole heart not just my words. I want my motives as well as my lip service to be in line with God. The reason this issue is so important is because in the next verse it reveals why. A heart not right with God affects our worship of Him.(v.9) When we sing in church on Sunday, do the words we sing reflect what is in our heart. We may lift up His name with our mouth, but does it echo from our heart or merely lip service. Do we do more sinning in the song service than out in the world? Can I truly say with my heart “I trust and obey”, or “I surrender all”?

The second part of verse 9 states that instead of clinging to the truth of God’s Word we place in higher authority what men say. How we worship God can affect our view of God. I want to say that in my heart I hold what God says to be more important than what man may say. I want to show that my heart speaks and shows honor to God when I open my mouth. Pleasing God needs to come before pleasing man. My husband is fond of saying, “In my life, I serve an audience of One.” We do. We strive to serve God and honor Him alone. In our walk with the Lord, may we be careful that the words we say come from a heart that is drawing close to the Savior daily.

I am cheering for you, my friend. Let us together practice checking our heart before we speak!

 

How’s My Love?

Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ ”  ~ Matthew 22:37

One of the things I have tried to practice in my home is to tell each member of my family how much I love them. I wanted my boys to know as they were growing up that in any situation whether good or bad they were loved by me. Of course, I loved doing things to show them that I loved them. I feel this is indeed very important, but equally important is to say the words, “I love you!” Every time they were leaving to go anywhere or even off with friends. I would tell them to “Be careful, and I love you”. This did get a bit tricky when they moved into that age when saying “I love you” around other people can be embarrassing for a fellow to hear from his mother. So, we used code 143. (I Love You). It was something we did not explain to anyone. It was just something we did. It kind of cracked me up when sometimes when they got older. I would tell them 143 and they would respond back with, “I love you too”. We said it so much that it got to the point when it didn’t matter anymore. Our saying “love you” grew beyond the code. It became our second nature.

In our relationship with God as in our human interaction, we tell others we love God, and we even show our love by our actions, but when was the last time you told God, “I love you!” Maybe this has never occurred to you and that’s okay. I was talking with someone not long ago and this was the case with her. She began telling God she loved him and it made a difference in how she viewed God. She stated that it encouraged her to hear someone praying telling God that they loved Him. Our verse today in Matthew encourages us to love God with all that is in us, our heart, our soul, and our mind. Leave nothing out. We must love completely and love big! God has done so much for us. God shows his love to us, but He also tells us He loves us. (John 3:16) God is the very essence of love. (1 John 4:8) With all that He has done to extend love to us should we not want to love Him back with all that is in us: Heart, Soul, Mind? With our whole heart, the essence of who we are, we serve and love God and others. With our soul, spiritually seeking to love God as He loves while following his commandments. With our mind, using the knowledge and wisdom God has bestowed upon us discerning when we need to go the extra mile in loving.

So I give it to you, my friend. How’s your love? Do you love God with all of your heart, soul and mind. I have to say for myself, I have come a long way, yet I have not arrived. It is something that I am striving for daily. I want to love God the way He wants me to. I do need to remember that this is an area God can help me with.  ‘And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, ‘ (Ephesians 3:19-20)  God wants us to know his love! He can do more than we ask or think. So together, Let’s ask!