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Burned, But I’m Ok…

I am thankful for the part time job I have at a small country church in the next county. It is approximately around 15 minutes from my house. So as the drive goes, It really is not that far, and I have some good one on one time with God as well as time on some days when I can have some quietness of spirit. Today, as I was zipping back toward the house I began looking at a woodsy area that lasted for a few miles. In that particular area, someone had done a control burn. This is popular in our area of Georgia to make sure the undergrowth is kept at bay, and if there was a fire started by lightening etc., it would be easier to handle. So as the burn happened a while back, I could see how the trees and flowers were recovering. I am amazed at the resilience of the foliage that God created. It was taking time, but it was recovering. The black ground had new growth and the leaves on the trees were greening out. It was something to see.

Here lately, I have encountered a lot of men and women in ministry who are going through suffering. They are being “burned” by people inside and outside of the ministry. More than once in the last few weeks, I have heard church ministry leaders say that church ministry is hard. You know what, my friend? It can be hard. I don’t always understand why things happen as they do. When I have more questions than answers, I take them to scripture.

In my searching and praying on this topic, I have come to some conclusions. Let me say that I don’t claim to know everything. Hey, I am not Jesus. I do strive to be like him every day and to be a willing pupil of His teaching. I can say that I have been in the trenches of church ministry for 27 years with my dear husband, and through suffering God has taught me some things that I never could have learned any other way.

So, here is one of my conclusions! Only one for now, so hang with me if you will.

Ministry is hard, but God never told me that following Him would be easy. I’m not sure why this point did not occur to me years earlier, but it really hit home for me several years ago. I am called to serve God. I am called to love the people in my congregation. I am called to follow the Lord and His Word. While doing these things, I have been in the position where somebody didn’t like it. I have been where I have been hurt by those who are hurting. I have suffered at the hand of those who disagree with my husband who was doing what was right. I have had times where someone tried to hurt my family members with cutting words and backstabbing. In these times, I have learned that I am not the first one or the last one to encounter this scenario. So I go to the Word!

“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” II Timothy 3:12

Everyone who is trying to do what is right is going to suffer persecution. This verse in II Timothy says, “all”. Did not all of the disciples of Christ suffer bad things at the hands of others?

“And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:17-18

In these verses in Romans, when I suffer with Christ or because of Christ there is a benefit that I cannot get any other way. God’s glory will be revealed in me. Through suffering I am becoming more like Christ and a little less like me. You see, this suffering that I am facing it’s for my good. In my flesh, I can’t handle the emotions and arrows of hurt flung in my direction. However, I am not suffering alone. I am suffering with Him. In Christ, I know that I will receive the benefits far beyond what I can imagine. I may not receive the glory right now. The glory might not be till I get to Heaven, but that should not stop me from taking on the suffering with Him. I need to accept it as a part of being where I am right now, and doing what I am supposed to be doing. I may not like the suffering, but some things must be endured. I have to keep my focus on God through the midst of the suffering I am facing. I keep my focus on my God, and look forward to the glory that will come for the suffering I faced cannot be compared to it. I can experience joy today because I am in this place with Christ.

I need to be one who is willing to walk the hard road, and in doing that I may be burned sometimes. I must remember though the burning process new growth will take root and flourish. I will not stay as I am. I will recover and I will be closer than ever to the God who has walked beside me through it all.

At the end of the day, everything I suffer is for my good and for His glory. I have even heard a song written about this. I think it’s time to look it up again and take a listen!

Blessings to you,

Amy

When Compassion Meets Opportunity

And of some having compassion, making a difference.’ Jude 22

Well, we are headed back to the ball field. Tonight our little corner of southwest Georgia has begun our annual church softball league. I will say up front that as a former player of this sport, I love when the season comes around again. There is something electric when you get to the ball field. I loved playing softball in high school. I loved watching my boys play baseball growing up. Now, I get to watch them in the church softball league. I’m excited.

I do know that there are times when stuff that takes place at the ball field gets a “bad rep”. Parents going overboard, or kids having meltdowns etc., but in all fairness there is a lot of positives that can happen on our favorite diamond. One it teaches our younguns teamwork, and how to get along well with others. When they get out on the work force after school has ended, they are going to have to know how to get along with other people. It teaches to pursue excellence and doing your best. Also, great lessons to learn before thrust into the situation in your twenties. So for all intensive purposes, you can learn what to do when the pressure is on, and also what not to do.

It really warms my heart when I look back at the coaches my boys had at the ball field. They both had ones that worked with them and helped them, and above all showed them compassion when it was needed. They took the opportunity to show my boys the character it takes to achieve greatness. The boys often discuss the ball field antics now that they are older. The coaches that they remember are the ones that showed them how to strive for excellence, but also understood that character and compassion would be what they would benefit from the most.

So for all those sweet folks that will be out there on ball field across America. Remember, your kid might not be the next great one on the ball field, but if he is wouldn’t it be better for him to have character and compassion before he takes on the world of sports. We sure to need more of those!

My Plan for You

Plans can change in an instant. You may get up one morning and have your day planned out in the greatest detail, but often things do not always work out the way you plan. Sometimes what God has planned for you that day is completely different from your well, laid out, detailed plans. How important is it that each morning we give our daily agenda to the Lord? I would say very important. This was made even more clear to me on Wednesday two weeks ago. My agenda was set, and my plans were made, but in a brief moment everything changed. I don’t know how to even comprehend  how drastically things were turned around that day.

I am sure as I am here today that God knew everything that would happen that day and prepared the way before me. Psalm 23 comes to my mind “thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, thou anointed my head with oil…” On Wednesday, two weeks ago,  I was in a bad car accident. I know that in the midst of the storm I was facing; God was preparing my path. He showed his mercy to me in a person He put there to hold my hand till the paramedics came. Also, in someone calling my husband after calling 911. He showed grace to me by letting my husband get there to talk to me before the paramedics pulled out.  He had the helicopter ready to take me to Tallahassee, and a trauma team ready to help me upon arrival.  He had each group of people in the right place at the right time. Though the road was rocky, He prepared the way before me. Though I was unaware of His plan for me for that day, I know He was by my side through it all.

Maybe you are facing a time that is trying the soul. You may have made plans and in a moment those plans changed. Please know that even when plans change, God is there. Though pain and fear may be surrounding you, God is there. He is waiting to show you His love, His mercy, and His grace. In my devotions today, God lead me to Jeremiah 29:11. God had a special plan for me today. His perfect plan leads me to hope and a future. Let us never forget that as Christians God orders our steps. His will for us may not be exactly what we plan. We may not see all that He is doing because our wisdom is limited, but we have the ability to trust Him with childlike faith that His plan is just what we need.  May God be with you all today and as His plan for you unfolds, just put your hand in His and go through the day together.

Compassion Meets Opportunity

When I turn on the news, I am amazed at the amount of stories focused on people doing unthinkable acts to others.  Adults hurting other adults, Parents hurting children, Children hurting other children are all apart of a vicious cycle that does not seem to have a conclusion. Hurting people are lashing out at those closest to them.  When I look at all of these terrible things, I see an absence of compassion for others.  I thought to myself, ” Where are the stories of the heroes?  The ones who not only thought of others kindly, but also took it upon themselves to go the distance in showing compassion to someone else. Where are those who saw an opportunity to take compassion to the next level from thought to action?”

I may not see many in the news, but as I look around me, I see heroes who show compassion. I see it in my family members, in my friends, and in my church family. It reminds me of Jude 22, “And of some having compassion, making a difference.”  When a need arises they don’t just think about doing something for someone  else, They do it.  These heroes do not just say, ” I sure do care about you, buddy.” and move on. They have a compassion that inspires.  I have seen them give when they had little to give. They sacrifice their time in the midst of a busy schedule.  People who go beyond meeting someone’s needs with compassion they minister to their hearts.  They are ones who take the meaning of Jude 22 literally. They make a difference. 

 I can testify about these dear people because in a time not to long ago, I was a first hand witness to this compassion they showed. Last year, I had a badly sprained ankle that turned very serious very quickly.  Because of the severity of the sprain, I could not put even the slightest pressure on my foot for three weeks.  Due to my inactivity while recuperating, I developed a  severe blood clot in my leg. I had to undergo some aggressive medical treatment in the days following the finding of the clot. During this trying time in my life,  my church family and friends rallied around my family and me. They fervently prayed for us, they brought us meals, and  they went out of their way to comfort and love on my kids.  Without asking anything in return, they showed me  the lengths that compassion can go when faced with opportunity.

A few minutes ago, My boys and I watched  as Sgt. Dakota Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor. Sgt. Meyer is the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.  On September 8,2009, Sgt. Meyer saved 36 of his fellow soldiers by going back again and again under heavy fire to save those to which he refered to as “his brothers”. Even after being wounded, He returned to the battle.   I am sure if given the opportunity He would do it again.   Finally, a news story that shows compassion in action.

I am so thankful that in my need God showed compassion to me. He went beyond the call of duty.  He was wounded in showing his great love and extending compassion to me. In all these things, He made a difference. I pray that in some small way, I will in my life be able to pass on a portion of the love He has given to me to someone else. I pray I will make a difference.

Will the Real Me Please Stand Up?

We are taught as girls to be fearless.

 Throughout my young life when confronted with a foe, Well meaning adults told me not to let things bother me. “Put on a happy face,” or “Don’t be so sensitive” and the like were pounded into my brain. Without meaning to, these adults were telling me to hide my real emotions. Be Fearless! was their cry. In the midst of this I began to hide the “real me” behind a rosy cheek and a sweet smile.  The mask of “Everything is  Ok” was put firmly in place and the real me began to build a wall to protect my sensitive heart. Did these people want was best for me? I think that they did. Perhaps, you were in the same situation that I found myself in. To be honest, young girls can say ugly and even hateful things to you and laugh it off as if it is your fault if you took it the wrong way. Self protection lessons were taught to us by loving people who were looking out for our good and hoping that we would learn to be strong through the situation. So in confrontation we learned to suffer in silence and bury the fear we felt. On the outside we were fearless, but on the inside we were determined to hide our emotions and tears. This way of dealing with hurt followed us into womanhood.

Imagine what it would be like to be sitting in the middle of a crowd of women. A fearless soul steps to the microphone and announces, “If you are ready for us to see the real you, would you please stand up?” How many would jump to their feet and make their way to the mike? I sense that it would probably be one of those awkward moments where everyone is waiting for everyone else to stand up, and inwardly thinking, ” No way, not me!” Fear strikes hard and courage flees.

“How can I show you the real me?” The real me is something you don’t want to see. My mistakes and failures are many.  I fall short of what God would have me to be so often. My regrets overwhelm me and I am lacking in the good things you think you know about me. I am so weak and frail, yet in all of my weakness there is someone who knows the real me best. God knows every heartache, tear, and emotion that surrounds me every day. God sees my humanness, and loves me with a great love. He reaches out and holds my face in His nail-scarred hands and whispers, “I know you! I know your faults, and how needy and frail you really are. I also know your heart and when you lean on me in utter dependence how fear of failure can be overcome. By yourself  you are lacking, but with me you have everything you need to break through the fear. My love for you is infinite and nothing you can do or say will make me love you less than I do in this moment. I freely give to you a hope, a peace, and a future.”

God through His Word tells us, “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in trespasses and sins hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved:) ~Ephesians 2:4,5    A beautiful truth is revealed when God’s love is realized and experienced. 1 John 4:18 reads, “There is no fear in love for perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not make perfect in love.”   I am sure we have all felt fear tormenting us at times. Fear causes us to shut down and pull our “masks” firmly back in place. Fear can cripple us ,and push the “Real me” further back behind the walls we have built up over our insecurities. However, When we truly look at God, we can experience His perfect Love. Only then, can we become a person that is willing to share a portion of their inner self (the real me) with others.

As you experience the love of God today, ask Him to help you to open your heart to those around you and see a glimpse of the real you coupled with the love of God that shines through you. Will you dare to be fearless today and rely on His perfect love? Remember with God it is possible and probable to be fearless.

It is time for fear to take a seat and let the Real Me stand up. Are you up for the challenge today?

Blessings in the Storm

I trust that all my friends and visitors to this blog have had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year to come.  God has truly blessed my family this Christmas with a great family, church family, and a wealth of friends. I say all of this to say that this time in my life has not been without its struggles and things to lay at the feet of our Lord. Many times throughout our walk with the Lord we will face the unforeseen. It will come out when we least expect it and for a moment even hold us so tightly we cannot see which way we should turn. Storms can come upon us suddenly and dark clouds can bring fear to our hearts, yet in all of this we know we have someone who is there beside us in the midst of the darkness and fierce wind. Then it begins, the rain pours down. I have not thought of the rain as blessings, but it truly is so.

We need the rain. The rain nourishes the dry areas. It gives us something that watering from the hose in the yard will not. It cools the atmosphere around us. The leaves of the trees turn upward to receive the rain from the clouds. Sometimes the leaves will actually turn upside down to receive the rain at the place that will give  the most benefit for its delicate root system. The hard ground  softens under the impact of the rain upon it.  When you think about it, the rain has the healing properties in it to make things better for the earth, yet to receive the rain it must be accompanied by the storms.

I have found recently that in the midst of my storm, the Lord has sent his blessings of rain to overwhelm me.  The blessings have covered me at times with small drops and other times with large torrents. Over and over I have felt the love of my heavenly Father cover me with his strength, encouragement, love, and the cascading rain of His blessings. In my time alone with Him, I lifted my hands and heart to accept what He has for me as His spirit pours down like the rain. It has been what I have needed to help me when fear has taken hold of me. I wish that I could say that I am strong enough on my own to weather the storm. We try to hide our weakness so often for fear of what people will think of us, or put on a brave front because we feel it is expected of us. If you could see inside of me, you would know I am so weak and fearful. It is God who has been my strength. If I did not have Him with me I could never face the storms of life.

Not only have I received the blessings from the Lord, but also from the gracious friends and family who have interceded with prayers for me and my family. I do appreciate all of the prayers that have been sent on behalf of us. Thank you. You have been apart of the sweet rain that has covered us.

Blessings to you!

Snow and Cotton

As I was driving to work this morning, puffs of white drifted across my windshield. I was taken aback a moment because it looked like snow. For those of you who are not aware where I live it is quite an unusual occurrence for South Georgia doesn’t normally have snow. When I realized what it was, I laughed at myself for being silly. Someone close by was cutting the cotton from their cotton field.

It’s funny how we sometimes think something is one thing when it turns out totally different than what we thought. God is just like that. When I think I have a certain part of his nature figured out, he up and surprises me with a new part of who He is.  It is then that I realize that I can’t put God in a box like a Christmas present and say this is the only way He does what He does. I am constantly amazed at how wonderful God is. I have had the opportunity to get to know Him in so many ways. I know at times I will have to go through difficult things to find out more about who He is and to receive new glimpses of His nature. I also know that God has proved that in all things He is working out “all things for my good”. (Romans 8:28)

I was watching a movie the other day and the two main characters were discussing why God allows some things to happen. One replied, “Without suffering there would be no compassion.” This is so true. God shows compassion and love when I am hurting, and He gives me the opportunity to show love to others when they are hurting. If I never went through a hard time, I would not know how God could be my Comforter. If I never was betrayed by someone, I would not know how Christ could be “a friend that sticketh closer than a brother”. If I never knew sickness or pain, I would not know how God could be my Healer. If I never lost a parent, I would never know that God could be a true “Heavenly Parent” and bring peace to my heart. The list could go on and on. As I go through this life there will be circumstances that test me beyond what I thought I could endure. Yet in all I know that God is faithful.

I don’t know what you might be going through at this time in your life. I do know that we have a great God who will be the strength you need to face life’s trials, and when you least expect it, He will surprise you in wonderful ways and with blessings you did not think were possible.

Watch Out, Spider!

In my effort to get to work on time the other day, I, as usual, went flying out the front door and raced with my purse, foam “guzzler” of iced tea and bagel. Clay chose to fly out the door after me and  reminded me that he had seen a spider in the door of the car that we needed to take care of. I didn’t want to disappoint him the pleasure of killing a spider, but if I identified it quickly enough I could proceed down the road and reach my destination on time. My plan was to put Clay at ease and take care of it Iater that day. I opened the back door and asked him where he had seen the offender. This spider had built a web between the doors that you could only see if you opened the back or front door on the driver’s side. All I could see was two egg sacks and a complex web. Clay pointed it out as it was hiding up under the hinge that holds the door in place. The way the spider was hiding I could not identify it so with a stick I removed part of the web and the egg sacks and “squashed” them. I didn’t want them hatching and taking over my car. It is a small four door and there wouldn’t be room for all of us. 🙂 Anyway, because I couldn’t see very well I closed the back door and opened the front door to see if I could get a better view. I did. It was a black spider so I was immediately concerned I asked Clay to run inside and get the bug spray. When he returned, I armed myself with bug spray in one hand and a stick in the other.  I sprayed it good and as it slowly descended on a silky strand of web with legs curling I saw the red hour-glass shape on it. It was a black widow. I got chills as I “squashed” it when I realized that it had been there for quite some time. At any moment, it could have chosen to hop out on me or one the boys and hurt us.  I praise the Lord for his hand of protection on our family.

As I went throughout my day, I could not stop thinking about the near miss we had and God’s protecting hand. Then my thoughts lead me to realize that temptation and sin is there lurking, waiting for just the right moment to strike. It waits patiently for the opportunity to catch me with my guard down and in the place where I am the weakest. At every turn in this life, sin is all around us. We are faced with it in the media, in the places we go, and sometimes in strangers we come in contact with. We need to be ever mindful that there is one that would love to see us fail and bring down the name of Christ. It is so important for us to watch out for these opportunities, and “squash” them as we would a poisonous spider.

It is not easy to turn from temptation and sin, but we have the Holy Spirit inside of us and a Savior who overcame the very essence of sin and death on the cross.  It is God who provides a way of escape for us so we do not have to give in to the temptation.  In 1 Corinthians 10:13, we read, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will no suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”  We are going to be tempted to do the wrong thing. Satan does not want us to succeed in the Christian life, and if he can keep us defeated, he most certainly will. My favorite line in this verse is “God is faithful.” He is here with us and we can rely on his strength when we are weak. When we became a Christian, we trusted Him with our very soul. In the same way, we can trust God for our daily keeping also. He can help us to resist temptation and guard against the attacks of those who would harm us.

It is time for you and me to keep our eyes open and watch for potential danger, temptation and sin. We know we have a friend who has endured such temptation and become a victor over it. We must turn in Jesus in our need. Jesus is our hope and He is ever faithful.

Going For The Gold

I can’t help but imagine how the words “Gold Medal” stirs the heart of every athlete. It is something that they have been striving to attain. The “Gold Medal” is the reason they train for years and years. For those who make it to the podium with top honors glow with the knowledge that they gave it their all and achieved the highest standing in their particular event. I love watching the medal ceremonies. The joy and triumph just radiates off of them and when the anthem of their country plays and their flag is raised high, we often we see tears with the beautiful smiles.

In the Christian Life, My first thought was that we can go for the gold too. God has promised in his Word that there are crowns that we can go for. How often I wonder do we think of gaining these crowns without putting forth the effort that goes with it. When watching athletes, we see only the race, dive, contest, or tumbling pass. We do not see all of the practice, and hours upon hours in the gym lifting weights and training. As I was pondering all of the ends and outs of this train of thought, I was reminded of a verse in Job. “But He knoweth the way that I take and when He has tried me I shall come forth as gold.” –Job 23:10 

With achievement and glory comes sacrifice. It could be sacrifice of time, personal benefits, etc. The glory of the medal is achieved by the effort put into it and the pain and suffering that goes with it. There is a lot of things these athletes have to endure to get to the place where they can rejoice in the accomplishment. I see the same parallels with the Christian walk. Trials are going to come into our lives. Obstacles will be put in our path that need to be overcome. Through this trying process our God is purifying us so we can come forth as gold. He is refining us for better things so we can serve Him better.

I’m sure every athlete that receives the gold medal looks back on all they had to do and acknowledge that it was worth it. I know in my own life I have never been sorry for following God. He has been with me in every trial and is making and molding me into the Christian He wants me to be. Have I every faltered or questioned Him during the process? Oh, Yes! I am only human, but deep in my heart I know what He is doing is for my good so I too can come forth as Gold.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  –Hebrews 12:2

“There are some things you have to endure to get to the place of rejoicing.” –Clyde Box

The Boys Are Back In Town…

My boys are finally home and I have had a wonderful week with them. They were gone from our midst for about three weeks. First, they experienced their a week of overnight camp away (5 days). They had a blast being away and enjoying the joys of camp life. Then, after two days of them being back home the boys spent several days with my parents in FL. We got back home from that and with a day of turn-around went to VA. with their Meme and Nana (my husband’s mom and grandmother) being gone for 8 more days. I am so glad to have them back even though we jumped into the school year almost immediately.

We have enjoyed watching the Olympics and I have been amazed at all the events that I have never heard of before. It has been interesting to watch and at almost any time of the day you can find several events to catch up on. I have especially enjoyed the swimming and gymnastic events, but I have also have watched volleyball, beach volleyball, water polo (something new), and diving. We have cheered the USA to the very end. I can’t believe we still have several more days to cheer “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” There have been numerous inspiring individual as well as inspiring team events.

A favorite story of mine is the one that came out during the opening ceremony of the Olympics. The small boy that happened to be in the earthquake over there walked in with the delegation from China. This little one crawled out of the rubble then decided to go back in and he pulled out two others. When he was asked why he went back in he said, “I’m the hall monitor. It’s my job.”

In a way, we, as Christians, are called to be the “hall monitors” of the world. When tragedy strikes or in just every day life, we need to help pull people out of the rubble of sin and despair. We can share with them the only one who can heal and make them new,  Jesus Christ. By sharing the love he so richly bestows on us we are doing what God called us to do, our job.

I can’t wait for the events showing tonight. It should prove to be awesome.

“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of Light.”  ~Ephesians 5:8

***In keeping with the theme of the Olympics, My hubby has posted a top ten list on how to know if you’ve been watching too much coverage of the Olympics. If you need a chuckle this morning, pop over to Heavenly Heartburn and give it a look-see. Blessings to you today! 🙂