TO LIVE IS CHRIST

Taken from Philippians 1:3-2:13 (NET)
“I thank my God every time I remember you. I always pray with joy in my every prayer for all of you…I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that my situation has actually turned out to advance the gospel: The whole imperial guard and everyone else knows that I am in prison for the sake of Christ and most of the brothers and sisters, having confidence in the Lord, because of my imprisonment, now more than ever dare to speak the word…My confident hope is that I will in no way be ashamed but with complete boldness, even now as always, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether I live or die. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. Now if I go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me, yet I don’t know which I prefer. I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body. And since I am sure of this, I know I will remain with all of you for the sake of your progress and joy in the faith…only conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ so that – whether I come and see you or whether I remain absent – I should hear that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, by contending side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not being intimidated in any way by your opponents…Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the spirit, any affection or mercy, complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in the spirit and having one purpose. Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should in humility, be moved to treat others as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but the interest of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another as Christ Jesus had, who though He existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but He emptied himself by taking the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross! As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So then, my dear friends, just as you have obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your faith with awe and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort – for the sake of His good pleasure – is God.”She was definitely a Southern Belle. My MeMaw never learned to drive. She loved her jewelry, dresses and shoes. But she loved her God and family more. My PawPaw called her “The Prettiest Girl in the World” and I would have to agree. He wasn’t too bad looking himself. As a matter of fact, in his younger years, you might have mistaken him for Andy Griffith. He had a coarse approach to some things in life but I always knew he loved Jesus and he loved me.

After Jesus and family was music. My MeMaw taught piano lessons and was a church organist and my PawPaw sang in the choir. I would find myself racing to the piano at their house so that she could hold my hand and show me a note or two. I cannot even begin to tell you how many church services I sat in and simply breathed in the Holy Spirit through the songs they played / sung. I cannot tell you how many times, in the privacy of their living room, I would see her sit at the piano as he stood beside her singing to the hymns that she played. Their lives were a reflection of the work Christ did in them and because of that I learned a few things:

Work Hard but Pray Harder
Paul talks about, in verse 22 of chapter 1, that because he is still living that means he has work to do and that it will be productive work. PawPaw worked for US Steel, first in the Muscoda mine and then at the plant in Fairfield. He didn’t retire until later in life. He provided for his family, which was a large one: five girls and one boy. They weren’t rich by the world’s standards, but had more than enough by Heaven’s. Even though Paul mentions work in this chapter, it wasn’t the first thing on his mind. He started this letter to the church at Philippi with the statement that he prayed for them. Not just once in a while did he pray! He prayed for them EVERY TIME he remembered them. PawPaw may have had a little bit of a rough exterior but that exterior would crumble as he prayed to the Lord. He led our family in prayers at dinnertime. We would hold hands and he would say grace. I can’t tell you how often my PawPaw prayed. I can’t tell you that he remembered me in his prayers every day. I do know that there were many times I just “knew”…I just knew that if anyone was praying for me, it was them.

Treat Everyone as if They are Family
Paul states in verse 3 of chapter 2 that “instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should in humility, be moved to treat others as more important than yourself. “ I stated earlier that my PawPaw and MeMaw had a lot by Heaven’s standards. My mom tells stories of sitting down for dinner and never knowing who might be there. Don’t get me wrong; they ate as a family; all the children who were still at home were seated around the same table. What I mean is this: my PawPaw would bring men to eat at their dinner table…it might be someone from work who needed a hand or it might be a complete stranger. There were many times when my parents, as a young married couple, came home with bags of groceries taken directly off of my PawPaw and MeMaw’s pantry shelves. I’ve been the recipient of gifts that could not be described as coincidental…they would have to have been given at the prompting of the Holy Spirit and they would come “in the knick of time.” I have no doubt that they did that for others as well. I imagine that U-Haul truck was backing up to unload their crowns as Jesus stated “well done.” They were able to lay them at the feet of Jesus. This is what living is Christ “looks like.”

Hold Tight to Your Convictions
Even in prison Paul shared the gospel and urged other believers to live worthy of what Christ had done for them. Neither my PawPaw nor MeMaw were ever put in prison because of their beliefs, however, they lived out their convictions. My PawPaw was a missionary. He was a servant. They were givers. They were followers of Jesus. Their convictions took them to assisted living facilities to lead worship with senior citizens. His convictions took him to many parts of our country and to other countries on mission trips. His convictions urged him to ask my dad to go with him on mission trips. His convictions urged my dad to take my brother on mission trips. His convictions invited people to his dinner table. Paul’s urging was for the Philippians to “work out” their faith with awe and reverence. And that’s what my PawPaw did. Because he was saved he wanted to do things for others…not because he HAD to but because he GOT to.

Leave a Legacy
I see my parents holding up the values that my PawPaw and MeMaw (as well as several others) handed over to them. They left a legacy of Christ to their children and their children’s children. I thank God every time I remember them…their lives weren’t perfect. There were struggles that I heard stories about and there were struggles that I knew about first-hand. The one thing I could count on, however, is that through the storm, Jesus was their anchor. Through the storm, they praised anyway. Through the storm, they fed anyway. Through the storm, they served anyway. Through the storm, they took their granddaughter to lead worship in nursing homes. That’s a legacy that I don’t want to drop. TO LIVE IS CHRIST!

My MeMaw developed Alzheimer’s. She began a slow decline into the black abyss of forgetfulness. Dark clouds took over her body and mind; however, they didn’t (until her last days) take one part of her. Do you know what that was? It was her music. It was the way she praised her Lord and Savior. Close to the end of her life she could still sit down at a piano and play the hymns. PawPaw would stand beside her singing along.

God spared my PawPaw of the greatest decline in my MeMaw’s memory. HE took him after a very short illness (about 4 days). That was gain for my PawPaw. He walked into Jesus’ arms never knowing how far she would fall. It wasn’t too terribly long before Jesus escorted my MeMaw into HIS presence and healed her. EVERY SINGLE brain cell was healed…she knew Jesus, she knew my PawPaw and she knew complete worship of her Lord and Savior. TO DIE IS GAIN!

So the challenge is this…live like Christ, pass that on to your family and then walk… take that back, RUN, in full surrender, into the sweet arms of Jesus.

Southern Sweet Tea

I was just reading through older posts and was glad for this reminder…

The C's Calling

Never really had any notion of sweet tea being spiritual…I don’t really think so now, well, not really anyway.

I was in the car in the quiet this morning and was praying.  Something dawned on me.  As I asked the Lord to empty me of all my “me” and fill me up with HIM, I thought about a glass of sweet tea.

Think of it this way…

You have a cup of tea, filled to the rim.  You add ice and quite a bit of it.  Where does the tea go?  It spills over right?

I pray that I might be that glass and Christ is the tea that fills me up.  Then, no matter what stresses and things happen during the day that are added to the glass, only Christ spills out.

What about you?

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This one has no name…

It’s almost humorous the reactions we have had to coming “home.” After all “home” is where we all should want to be, right? I, when talking to people, almost without hesitation get the inevitable, “I’m so glad you’re back.” Don’t get me wrong, I love that you love us. I’m just not so sure that I AM glad to be back home… My emotions try to get the better of me… Honestly this isn’t where I want to be… it wasn’t in our plan.  Steve would be hearing this as well, if he were here yet. But as I type, he is still in transit with our boat. Yes, that’s right, our boat…it’s coming back too. Many conversations have also started with “so you’re selling your boat” or “when are you moving back into your house?” I’ve also overheard conversations about how crazy this was in the first place. “Would God REALLY call someone to just get on a boat and move? Leave family? Rent a house that they worked so hard to build?” Here’s another, “I tried to tell them it wouldn’t work…” So this post is to address many of the concerns and questions that so many of you have with our recent transition. I have NO IDEA where it will lead but this is what we do know RIGHT NOW.

On July 20th I wrote, as I started a new journal, the following words:

“So many times I have started a new notebook with a prayer or a story or a longing. So many times you’ve answered. I wonder if you will again or if you’re done with me. I know the answer but I still worry – will you free me once more from the sin I possess? Disbelief – Unfaithfulness! I need you God. My family needs you! I sense another magical tale being written, but it’s not magical is it? It’s eternal…It’s majestic…a Godly tale for sure. The world says all good tales must have a happy ending…I believe Paul would disagree. No, actually, he wouldn’t because in the end he saw you face-to-face. When this world could not give him a ‘happy ending,’ Jesus did. We need direction, we need you. James warns us not to say today or tomorrow we will do this or that (4:12-16) but instead we should say ‘if the Lord wants we will’… So my prayer is what do you want of us? Where do we go from here? You are my happy ending – my prayer though is that you will still write an amazing tale in the meantime…”

I wrote this with a feeling of uncertainty…doors had begun to shut. We didn’t know much “for sure” but I felt as though things were happening. (You know when you try to prop a door open and then it slowly creeps shut before you ever realize what happened…yeah that was me.) To give specifics is too hard. Too many things big and small began taking place to adequately describe them to you. Many things happened / circumstances that had been trying to force their way into our lives, were allowed in…God allowed them in to make us fully aware that indeed the doors were shut. Steve and I actually had a discussion about the fact that we felt as though the doors had actually been slammed instead of shut. I asked why… Why wouldn’t HE just let us know we needed to start preparing? The answer came pretty swiftly from Steve…we had become so comfortable with what we were doing, where we were, the ministries that seemed to be growing that if HE had simply let them gently close, we may have been too stubborn to move. HE had to slam them to show us the time had come.

Around the beginning of August things really seemed from earthly eyes to be falling apart. Really from hindsight, though, they were coming together…coming together to create a plot for our amazing tale. So we move…the boys and I came the 5th of August, not knowing what to expect…not knowing what would greet us when we got here. Circumstances here weren’t the best in every aspect of our lives…they still aren’t. You know, though, we aren’t promised easy… HA! Just thought of some really old song lyrics… “I beg your pardon; I never promised you a rose garden.” It’s not a rose garden and my heart really isn’t here. However, after lots of prayer, I realize my heart doesn’t need to be THERE either… my heart should be focused on Heaven… and even more on Jesus.

So, even though I am not saying we ARE doing this or that (remember James) the plan looks like this for now…we will be living with Larry and Barbara (The Clevengers) for this school year (at least) so that Austin can graduate from McAdory with his friends. The boat is coming back. It will be docked at the Lighthouse Marina in Adger, Alabama, where it was when we originally brought it back. IT WILL NOT BE SOLD (unless God says so…but HE isn’t saying that at this point!) We will step right back into ministering and loving our neighbors on the Warrior River. Anchor Watch will still GO ON. We will still be actively involved in our ministry. Our house will be rented out again. I have also been given a job back with Jefferson County Schools. I am split between Snow Rogers Elementary (K-5 music) and Fultondale High School (6-8 choir). With every penny we have over the next few months and years, we will be making a conscience effort to pay off our house as quickly as possible.   We DO NOT want funding to EVER be a negotiating factor in us being able to follow HIM.

I interrupt this post to bring you an important service announcement… GIVE TO MISSIONS! Missionaries these days aren’t “paid.” MANY different organizations require missionaries to raise their own support. Please don’t assume that because a missionary has a job they don’t need support (bi-vocational – even Paul was a tentmaker!). Most bi-vocational missionaries only have one job that supports a family of 2, 3, 4 or even 5. Dreams and visions can die without others taking hold of those dreams and visions. Without other people, their ministry cannot take place! You may not feel called to go but you can certainly give! Some aren’t even called to be bi-vocational… some are waiting on others to provide support so they can GO, period! Right now Sherri and Mike Sexton are praying FERVANTLY for God to provide the remaining support they need to go to Mexico to work on a farm for deaf children…How about contacting them TODAY!? (Message me for their #!)

With our house paid off we can go wherever and whenever HE wants us to without having to worry about whether or not the house is rented. This is an obligation that we made and HE tells us in His word to take care of the obligations that we make. However, even if we don’t get it paid off before HE decides to send us somewhere else, we will go! Without hesitation we will follow HIM, not follow the advice of our friends and family, not our “home” church, not what seems easy, or common or uncommon, near or far…we will follow HIM ALWAYS! Because HE holds the plan together…

What plan? Well how about his…

In the 15 months we were there a certain young lady that we knew as Peum was placed in an internship to work in America for 3 months. Peum was a choir student of mine at McAdory quite a few years ago. She was an exchange student from Thailand. She lived with The Collins’, a family that served at Grace Life (our church). So soon she became one of “mine.” Several of her placements for this internship fell through and she found herself being assigned to the Florida Keys on the Island of Big Pine. This was not where she wanted to be…it wasn’t her first choice…actually not even her 2nd or 3rd or 4th. She didn’t know we had moved there and we didn’t know she was coming.   I happened across a Facebook post that made me ask questions and we then found out her plans. Really they were God’s plans. You see, Peum stayed with us for several days during her training and began asking questions about God and Jesus. We were able to chat with her almost endlessly for 3-4 days and several days later she made a profession of faith in Jesus! Praise God. Amazing!   Talk about leaving 99 to search for ONE! If HIS plan was that we moved to Fort Lauderdale for Peum’s salvation AMEN to that!   I stay amazed in the presence…HIS sovereignty…HIS determination to not lose even one! Or maybe it was TWO (keep reading!)

Barbara Clevenger got SAVED! On my boat! You heard (read) me right! This “godly” woman for MANY years got saved making the trip home on my boat. She said for a while she knew she wasn’t saved…but at home in Bessemer, Alabama she could stay busy enough to ignore it…to let pride come in and ask, “What will others say?” But on my boat, last week, there was nowhere to run. She couldn’t get away from God.   God pursued her all the way to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and got on my boat with her! And HE didn’t leave her alone. How amazing is our GOD?!?! If HIS plan was that we moved to Fort Lauderdale for “Nannie’s” salvation AMEN to that!

These are two examples that I know of…there may be countless ones I don’t know of but WHO CARES! I don’t need proof to know my God is AMAZING and worthy of all my praise.   Even though my emotions sometimes get the better of me…I am making it a daily commitment to surrender my emotions to HIM. You see, “home” is not a town or a church or a familiar work environment or even being close to family and friends…home is HEAVEN. Home is worshipping at the feet of my Jesus. My soul WILL NOT rest until I am there…HOME.

Holy Week Part 1

I have been thinking of Narnia a lot lately.  I love the books.  I love their allusions to all things Biblical.  I love the pictures they paint.  Similarly, I’ve thought a lot about Jesus, his triumphant entry into a city where only days later HE would die for ME.  Tonight, after the kids went to bed, I sat down at the computer to look up some of my favorite quotes from the books.  So let’s look at a few quotes, several bits of scripture and a thought or two from me.

#1

“Aslan” said Lucy “you’re bigger”.
“That is because you are older, little one” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger”.” 
-C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

My God is big!  Bigger than I could have ever imagined as a child.  Bigger than I could ever imagine as an adult.  He breathed life into Adam.  He created all.  He parted the sea so that a Jewish nation could cross on dry land.  He stretched out HIS arms on a cross and took my place…HE took your place!  All you have to do is accept HIS gift!  Is HE growing bigger to you?  Or as scripture talks of, are you still a newborn feeding on milk?  Seek and you will find!

#2

“Welcome, Prince,’ said Aslan. ‘Do you feel yourself sufficient to take up the Kingship of Narnia?’

I – I don’t think I do, Sir,’ said Caspian. ‘I am only a kid.’

Good,’ said Aslan. ‘If you had felt yourself sufficient, it would have been proof that you were not.” 
-C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

WOW!  What a quote…trust me, it is not until we are totally dependent on HIM do we find true freedom and life!

Ephesians 2 “And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest…

But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you are saved!— and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.”

#3

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
-C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

God is GOOD All the time and ALL the time, God is GOOD!  When you seek HIM, you will find HIM.  It will be the grandest adventure EVER…bigger than you could ever imagine.  Harder than you would hope BUT better than ANYTHING you’ll ever do!

Philippians 4: 12 “I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. 13 I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.”  

These verses tells us that even Paul didn’t “have it made”…he had been snake-bitten, ship-wrecked, stoned with the intent to kill, imprisoned…that’s definitely not safe!  But as he was waiting in prison, knowing that he is going to die soon, he writes:

2 Timothy 4:1 “I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: Preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction. For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things. And they will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand they will turn aside to myths. You, however, be self-controlled in all things, endure hardship, do an evangelist’s work, fulfill your ministry. For I am already being poured out as an offering, and the time for me to depart is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith! Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day—and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing.”

It inspires me to keep running that race!

#4

“But I will not tell you how long or short the way will be; only that it lies across a river. But do not fear that, for I am the great Bridge Builder.”
-C.S. Lewis, Voyage of the Dawn Treader

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He GAVE HIS ONLY SON, that whoever believes in HIM shall be saved.”

That’s a bridge I tell you!  Think Golden Gate only with an eternal purpose.  He took our sins, so that the cross would span the gap between us and eternal life with our Heavenly Father.  I urge you to seek HIM, trust HIM and let HIS blood span the gap for you!

Remember that if you ever need me, I’m here…

Laura (clevengers@bellsouth.net)

 

It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Marathon

Hebrews 12 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up.”

A cliche that I’ve heard many times…It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Marathon…and it’s true!  Everything in life is not easy.  Actually, most things aren’t easy.  Honestly, the last few months have not played out the way I would have had them to.  I wish I could say that these verses were my mantra and I had pushed through.  It didn’t happen.  First off, I’ve had bronchitis…for NINE weeks I have coughed, stayed awake and just been pretty miserable.  I think it’s resolving…maybe.  And in the midst of physical issues there have been other things that have happened that have really just left me flat.  I have slacked off on my daily readings.  I have friends who have decided that this “call” is not for them.  I have had friends going through so many things.  I haven’t been “feeling” the prayers of others.  BUT really it all falls on me.  My “blah” has been my fault!  I have stepped away.  Thankfully, we haven’t had to go through tragedy to get my attention.  It was simply two conversations that came very close together to get my human side, my brain, back on go.

I usually either write a “Thirsty Thought” that is more like a Bible devotion OR I write about “Life.”  However, this will be a combo of both.  So here it is:

Conversation #1 came on Thursday Night, April 3rd.  Steve, the boys and I met with Marc Johnston (Florida Baptist Convention) and Don Minshew (Gulf Stream Baptist Association) for dinner.  The meeting was a very informal time where we were able to share our story and vision with these gentlemen.  Our goal of making a difference.  I don’t know who might be reading this that doesn’t know of our call, so I’ll recap quickly.  In 2011, Steve and I really felt a call from God to move out of our rather large house on a bunch of land and move into about 800 square feet with our boys.  A boat!  What!?!  Yep. That’s what we said too!  By January of 2012, we had bought a 47′ Chris Craft and had moved away from “home.”  For a year and a half we prayed that God would place us where we needed to be.  Doors remained shut until April of last year.  That is when I was offered my choice of three jobs in the same school.  After a week or so, it became clear which job was for me and I took a job as an elementary music teacher.  Later I found out that I was one of 80,000 applicants for 1,400 jobs inside a very large charter school organization.  Of those 1,400 jobs, I was offered my choice of THREE!  Only days before the offer I had mentioned to a friend that I wish God used neon signs.  HOW GOOD IS GOD!?!  MANY more signs came and we knew this was meant for us.  So on June 8th of last year we set out for our new “normal.”  Our goal was to set up activities and ministries at marinas in the Fort Lauderdale area.   That’s the condensed version.  You can always check back in the history of this blog to find out more.

Anyway, as we told our story and received a great deal of encouragement from these men, I was reminded of something.  Dr. Minshew told us that if we had gone through a formal missions organization and gone to another country (by the way, that’s what we did…ha!), we would have gone through a year of language school and a year +/- of immersion in the culture and then (and only then) would we be expected by that organization to “show” what we have accomplished.  A LONG process…that’s what that is… a marathon.

Conversation #2 came this Sunday during our Small Group time at church.  We were looking at the scripture at the top of this blog…and as we spoke several people and things came to mind.  I am a selfish individual!  Anytime you see the word “THEREFORE” in scripture, you have to ask yourself this: what’s the THEREFORE, there for?  Love that little saying from a very good friend and pastor of our’s Joel Frederick (Grace Life Baptist in McCalla, Alabama).  Anyway, Chapter 12 starts off with therefore… we then took a look back at what came in the chapter before…here it is:

Hebrews 11

New English Translation (NET)

People Commended for Their Faith

Chapter 11 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see. For by it the people of old received God’s commendation.By faith we understand that the worlds were set in order at God’s command, so that the visible has its origin in the invisible. By faith Abel offered God a greater sacrifice than Cain, and through his faith he was commended as righteous, because God commended him for his offerings. And through his faith he still speaks, though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he did not see death, and he was not to be found because God took him up. For before his removal he had been commended as having pleased God. Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, when he was warned about things not yet seen, with reverent regard constructed an ark for the deliverance of his family. Through faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, and he went out without understanding where he was going. By faith he lived as a foreigner in the promised land as though it were a foreign country, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, who were fellow heirs of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with firm foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 11 By faith, even though Sarah herself was barren and he was too old, he received the ability to procreate, because he regarded the one who had given the promise to be trustworthy. 12 So in fact children were fathered by one man—and this one as good as dead—like the number of stars in the sky and like the innumerable grains of sand on the seashore. 13 These all died in faith without receiving the things promised, but they saw them in the distance and welcomed them and acknowledged that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth. 14 For those who speak in such a way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 In fact, if they had been thinking of the land that they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.16 But as it is, they aspire to a better land, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. 17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac. He had received the promises, yet he was ready to offer up his only son.18 God had told him, “Through Isaac descendants will carry on your name,” 19 and he reasoned that God could even raise him from the dead, and in a sense he received him back from there. 20 By faith also Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning the future. 21 By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph and worshiped as he leaned on his staff22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, mentioned the exodus of the sons of Israel and gave instructions about his burial.

23 By faith, when Moses was born, his parents hid him for three months, because they saw the child was beautiful and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith, when he grew up, Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be ill-treated with the people of God than to enjoy sin’s fleeting pleasure. 26 He regarded abuse suffered for Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for his eyes were fixed on the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt without fearing the king’s anger, for he persevered as though he could see the one who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that the one who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them. 29 By faith they crossed the Red Sea as if on dry ground, but when the Egyptians tried it, they were swallowed up. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell after the people marched around them for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute escaped the destruction of the disobedient, because she welcomed the spies in peace.

32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets. 33 Through faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, put foreign armies to flight, 35 and women received back their dead raised to life. But others were tortured, not accepting release, to obtain resurrection to a better life. 36 And others experienced mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, sawed apart, murdered with the sword; they went about in sheepskins and goatskins; they were destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (the world was not worthy of them); they wandered in deserts and mountains and caves and openings in the earth.39 And these all were commended for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised. 40 For God had provided something better for us, so that they would be made perfect together with us.”

Bronchitis has NOTHING on what these gave up and STAYED FAITHFUL!  The verses in chapter 12 says that we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses…I think of standing in a museum with canvases of the Presidents or inventors or other “important” people.  It is humbling to think of al the things that mankind was able to accomplish.  But HOW MUCH MORE did God do for mankind through Abraham!  Moses! Isaac, Jacob, and on and on and on.  As a child of God these are my brothers in Christ!  OH MY!

The next thing that happened was I started thinking about people who are in different parts of their race.  I have friends who are children of God…running races that are in different stages and they are in different places with their faith.  I have friends who aren’t…they have races they are trying their best to win.  I have people that I have never even met but feel compelled to share with you.

The long and the short is this…it’s not about me!  I’ll be okay.  I covet your prayers for me and my family…that we will stay faithful to his call BUT I covet your prayers for the following people…  I cannot share the individual stories or places where each are but I will give you names.  Names to place on your heart and on your tongues as you petition the Heavenly Father.  My prayer (and I ask you to agree with me – Matthew 18:19) is that God’s will be done…that HIS plan and purpose (Jeremiah 29:11) will be revealed.   My prayer is that they know Jesus as their personal savior and that they run the race with endurance and that they are encouraged by knowing that Jesus took the torture of the cross for them and because of this we (as Christians) can run the race until the end.

These are the races God has put on my heart:

Family and friends of Nick Ruple

Bennett Coleman

Jeanie Moore’s Mom Irene (as well as my “Ms. Moore” – said in my best NY accent)

Fiona DeSimone and family

Madison Beck

Courtney Beam

 

Thanksgiving…

I didn’t post on Facebook every day for 30 days but that definitely doesn’t make me unthankful…I actually avoided doing that altogether.  I’m not really sure why this year but I decided I would write a post here in one place instead.  (This list had its origin 2 years ago, but has been edited to make it current.)  So here it is:

I’m thankful that I have a Heavenly Father that loves me enough to send HIS ONLY son to die for me on a cross to redeem me from sin.  I am thankful that I have the privilege of sharing His love to others.  I’m thankful that even when I fail HIM, HE NEVER FAILS!  I am also grateful that HE has provided me with the rest of this list 🙂
 
I am thankful for my husband, Steve, who does whatever it takes (legally) to take care of our family.
 
I am thankful that when I married Steve I was blessed to acquire an automatic family. Christin, you know I have always considered you like my own and I love you very much! I hope that you and Dan are able to have the same love and peace that your Dad and I have always had.  WE MISS YOU!
 
I am thankful for Dan and that he makes Christin so happy. I pray that you have many years of happiness together.  I pray that you will allow God to lead and mold your family.
 
I am thankful for my oldest son. Austin you are an incredible child. Thank you for loving your little brothers the way you do and for working toward BIG goals and dreams.  I am thankful that you are growing into a man of God.  I thank God for the gift He gave me when HE gave me you!
 
I am thankful for my middle son Aidan. I love seeing his love for life. He definitely has one of the biggest personalities EVER! I love the fact that he’s not scared to pray in front of anybody and always has the sweetest prayers.
 
I am thankful for my youngest son Ashton. I love how God’s plans are PERFECT and you match!
 
I am thankful for my other 900 children that I teach each week. I am grateful that, if only for a short while, I can be their school momma!
 
I am thankful that I have been able to teach 1000s of other children over the last 17 years…you have made an incredible impact on my life and I can only pray that I’ve done the same for you.
 
I thankful that I have wonderful parents who decided many years ago that church and family were the most important things!
 
I am thankful for my brother, who although still acts like a little brother (pest) sometime, has grown to be a great friend.
 
I am thankful for my in-laws. I am thankful that they raised a wonderful son and that they have helped us out so many times!
 
I am thankful for my extended family and family-in-law. I can’t imagine living life without the love and support of all of you!
 
I am thankful for my BFF. Monica you are a blessing to me and have ALWAYS been there for me. From driving me to the hospital several times when I thought a certain stubborn first child was going to be born to dealing with my many other health issues. To listening to me rant and rave about whatever. I hope I’ve been able to be there for you as much as you’ve been there for me. I LOVE YOU! 
 
I am thankful for Bob Johnson who stepped in and made my BFF so very happy!
 
I am thankful for a wonderful friend, Joey that has always been my friend. Talk about unconditional love…she’s the type of friend that no matter how different your friends or your life was, you didn’t have to be the same to still be friends. She has always loved people for who they were! I am grateful that oh my goodness we’re OLD and we’re still friends! Kindergarten was a LONG time ago, huh?
 
I am thankful for my both of my church families.  
 
I am thankful for my home pastor, Joel Frederick and that he has a WONDERFUL wife that’s supports him and happens to be a really good friend too!
 
I am thankful that there will be no Alzeheimers in heaven. MeMaw I love you and can’t wait to have you back.
 
I’m thankful for my Aunt Marilyn, who has always been such a strong Christian woman.
 
I am thankful for music! I am thankful that God gave it to me as a gift and I am able to spend my life surrounded in it!
 
I am thankful that God gifted the makers of Facebook with the ability and the persistence to create such a monster. I know that many times “bad” things are blamed on Facebook; however, I have been able to reconnect with so many wonderful people and share so many memories.
 
I am thankful that my mom can make my PawPaw’s coconut cake and my MeMaw’s fruit cake (it really is good, I think she must be tricking us calling it “fruit cake”).
 
I am thankful for books. I am thankful that my Mom gave me a love of reading.
 
I am thankful that just when I’m ready to break, God sends Thanksgiving break 🙂
 
I am thankful for Hand in Hand a division of UCP.  I’m grateful that they have helped out my little man SSOOO much!
 
I am thankful that there must have been a wonderful teacher in Josh Groban’s life.  He is amazing!
 
I am thankful for the fact that Christian singers and groups like Third Day, Audio Adrenaline, Casting Crowns, FFH, Newsboys, Kari Jobe, Audrey Assad and Selah have followed the calling on their lives and lead so many people closer to God.
 
I am thankful for wonderful friends that I have met in my tenure as a teacher:  Michelle Parks, Pat Myrick, Patsy Stoves, Beth Kelly, April Clayton, Julie Phillips, Stephanie Huffman, Pill, Sonya Scott, Nichole Hill, Susan Coleman, Robin Belk, Debbie Gray, Margaret Heron and the list goes on and on and on…  
 
I am thankful that the list of teachers that have become great friends are growing as we speak because I am growing closer to because of my new school family.
 
I’m thankful that when all of these fail, I still have JESUS!

HE Lives in Me

I’ve been the one to shake with fear
And wonder if You’re even here
I’ve been the one to doubt Your love
I’ve told myself You’re not enough

I’ve been the one to try and say
I’ll overcome by my own strength
I’ve been the one to fall apart
And start to question who You are

(Chorus)
You’re the one who conquers giants
You’re the one who calls out kings
You shut the mouths of lions
You tell the dead to breathe
You’re the one who walks through fire
You take the orphan’s hand
You are the one Messiah
You are I AM
You are I AM

I’ve been the one held down in chains
Beneath the weight of all my shame
I’ve been the one to believe
That where I am You cannot reach

The veil is torn
And now I live 
With the Spirit inside
The same One
The very same One
Who brought the Son back to life

Hallelujah, He lives in me 

Whew…the story of my life…doubt then belief then doubt then belief (and so on and so on, etc., etc., etc.)   Lately the doubt has been replaced with AWE…total AWE.  The song lyrics above are really got me to thinking about the gravity of the love of Jesus.  Let’s walk through the chorus for a moment.

  • You’re the one who conquers giants…

Bullies…this last week at school we have been going through the paces of “Anti-Bullying / Drug Free” week.  But bullying and mean people haven’t just recently started.  When sin came to be, so did bullies.  The devil is a bully and makes more bullies.  Goliath was a bully!

1 Samuel Chapter 17 tells us, ” (vs. 4-11, 16) Then a champion came out from the camp of the Philistines. His name was Goliath; he was from Gath. He was close to seven feet tallHe had a bronze helmet on his head and was wearing scale body armor. The weight of his bronze body armor was five thousand shekels. He had bronze shin guards on his legs, and a bronze javelin was slung over his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and the iron point of his spear weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer was walking before him.Goliath stood and called to Israel’s troops, “Why do you come out to prepare for battle? Am I not the Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose for yourselves a man so he may come down to me! If he is able to fight with me and strike me down, we will become your servants. But if I prevail against him and strike him down, you will become our servants and will serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “I defy Israel’s troops this day! Give me a man so we can fight each other!” 11 When Saul and all the Israelites heard these words of the Philistine, they were upset and very afraid.  16 Meanwhile for forty days the Philistine approached every morning and evening and took his position.”

Goliath mocked them, he verbally abused them…FOR 40 DAYS!  He wanted to take them as slaves.  No one would stand against him.   Who would blame them?  This dude was huge and had a whole army to back him.  No one would stand against him except David.  David was a BOY…a young boy who had been sent on an errand by his father.  No one would stand against him except JESUS living in David…JESUS.  Keep reading further in 1 Samuel Chapter 17…

“32 David said to Saul, “Don’t let anyone be discouraged. Your servant will go and fight this Philistine!” 33 But Saul replied to David, “You aren’t able to go against this Philistine and fight him! You’re just a boy! He has been a warrior from his youth!”  34 David replied to Saul, “Your servant has been a shepherd for his father’s flock. Whenever a lion or bear would come and carry off a sheep from the flock, 35 I would go out after it, strike it down, and rescue the sheep from its mouth. If it rose up against me, I would grab it by its jaw, strike it, and kill it. 36 Your servant has struck down both the lion and the bear. This uncircumcised Philistine will be just like one of them. For he has defied the armies of the living God!” 37 David went on to say, “The Lord who delivered me from the lion and the bear will also deliver me from the hand of this Philistine!” Then Saul said to David, “Go! The Lord will be with you.”  38 Then Saul clothed David with his own fighting attire and put a bronze helmet on his head. He also put body armor on him. 39 David strapped on his sword over his fighting attire and tried to walk around, but he was not used to them. David said to Saul, “I can’t walk in these things, for I’m not used to them.” So David removed them. 40 He took his staff in his hand, picked out five smooth stones from the stream, placed them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag, took his sling in hand, and approached the Philistine.  41 The Philistine kept coming closer to David, with his shield bearer walking in front of him. 42 When the Philistine looked carefully at David, he despised him, for he was only a ruddy and handsome boy. 43 The Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you are coming after me with sticks?” Then the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 The Philistine said to David, “Come here to me, so I can give your flesh to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the field!”  45 But David replied to the Philistine, “You are coming against me with sword and spear and javelin. But I am coming against you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel’s armies, whom you have defied! 46 This very day the Lord will deliver you into my hand! I will strike you down and cut off your head. This day I will give the corpses of the Philistine army to the birds of the sky and the wild animals of the land. Then all the land will realize that Israel has a God 47 and all this assembly will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves! For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will deliver you into our hand.”  48 The Philistine drew steadily closer to David to attack him, while David quickly ran toward the battle line to attack the Philistine. 49 David reached his hand into the bag and took out a stone. He slung it, striking the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank deeply into his forehead, and he fell down with his face to the ground.  50 David prevailed over the Philistine with just the sling and the stone. He struck down the Philistine and killed him. David did not even have a sword in his hand.”

Have you ever been tortured by something for any length of time?  If you are a Child of God, God’s got this!  HE knows your circumstances.  HE knows your name.  HE knows the outcome of the battle and you can trust HIM.  Not one time did David turn around as if to run from his giant, because he knew his GOD was bigger than any giant that could come at him.

  • You’re the one who calls out kings…

Chapter 16 of 1 Samuel speaks of the anointing of David as future King of Israel…you know the one who killed Goliath.

Chapter 22 of 2 Kings…Josiah becomes King of Judah at EIGHT years old!  He was called as KING at 8… He couldn’t have done that without HIM!  Even more, it (scripture) says that he did what the LORD approved of or “he didi what pleased the Lord.”  Later in the same chapter and the 18th year of his reign, the scroll of the Lord was found and Josiah realized that the nation had done many bad things.  He tore his clothes, which was a sign of distress.  He sought what was right in the eyes of the Lord.

  • You shut the mouths of lions

More bullies…King Darius had appointed 120 governors over certain areas of the kingdom.  Over these 120 governors were appointed 3 supervisors.  Daniel was one of the supervisors and was excelling far beyond the others.  They were JEALOUS!  They all (all 122) began plotting against him.  He was such an upright man that they could not find one single administrative thing to bring against him.   Daniel 6:5, “So these men concluded, ‘We won’t find any pretext against this man Daniel unless it is in connection with the law of his God.’”  They had to attack his faith before they could find anything…it continues.

(satraps were the governors) 6 So these supervisors and satraps came by collusion to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! To all the supervisors of the kingdom, the prefects, satraps, counselors, and governors it seemed like a good idea for a royal edict to be issued and an interdict to be enforced. For the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human other than you, O king, should be thrown into a den of lions. Now let the king issue a written interdict so that it cannot be altered, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be changed. So King Darius issued the written interdict.  10 When Daniel realized that a written decree had been issued, he entered his home, where the windows in his upper room opened toward Jerusalem. Three times daily he was kneeling and offering prayers and thanks to his God just as he had been accustomed to do previously. 11 Then those officials who had gone to the king came by collusion and found Daniel praying and asking for help before his God. 12 So they approached the king and said to him, “Did you not issue an edict to the effect that for the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human other than to you, O king, would be thrown into a den of lions?” The king replied, “That is correct, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be changed.” 13 Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the captives from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the edict that you issued. Three times daily he offers his prayer.”  14 When the king heard this, he was very upset and began thinking about how he might rescue Daniel. Until late afternoon he was struggling to find a way to rescue him. 15 Then those men came by collusion to the king and said to him, “Recall, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no edict or decree that the king issues can be changed.” 16 So the king gave the order, and Daniel was brought and thrown into a den of lions. The king consoled Daniel by saying, “Your God whom you continually serve will rescue you!” 17 Then a stone was brought and placed over the opening to the den. The king sealed it with his signet ring and with those of his nobles so that nothing could be changed with regard to Daniel. 18 Then the king departed to his palace. But he spent the night without eating, and no diversions were brought to him. He was unable to sleep.  19 In the morning, at the earliest sign of daylight, the king got up and rushed to the lions’ den. 20 As he approached the den, he called out to Daniel in a worried voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, was your God whom you continually serve able to rescue you from the lions?”  21 Then Daniel spoke to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and closed the lions’ mouths so that they have not harmed me, because I was found to be innocent before him. Nor have I done any harm to you, O king.”  23 Then the king was delighted and gave an order to haul Daniel up from the den. So Daniel was hauled up out of the den. He had no injury of any kind, because he had trusted in his God. 24 The king gave another order, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the lions’ den—they, their children, and their wives. They did not even reach the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.  25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and language groups who were living in all the land: “Peace and prosperity! 26 I have issued an edict that throughout all the dominion of my kingdom people are to revere and fear the God of Daniel.

“For he is the living God;
he endures forever.
His kingdom will not be destroyed;
his authority is forever.
27 He rescues and delivers
and performs signs and wonders
in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions!”

 
  • You tell the dead to breathe

Mark 5: 21-43

 21 When Jesus had crossed again in a boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around him, and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came up, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He asked him urgently, “My little daughter is near death. Come and lay your hands on her so that she may be healed and live.” 24 Jesus went with him, and a large crowd followed and pressed around him.

25 Now a woman was there who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years. 26 She had endured a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all that she had. Yet instead of getting better, she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she kept saying, “If only I touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 At once the bleeding stopped, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Jesus knew at once that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31 His disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing against you and you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 32 But he looked around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, with fear and trembling, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

35 While he was still speaking, people came from the synagogue ruler’s house saying, “Your daughter has died. Why trouble the teacher any longer?”36 But Jesus, paying no attention to what was said, told the synagogue ruler, “Do not be afraid; just believe.” 37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the synagogue ruler where he saw noisy confusion and people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he entered he said to them, “Why are you distressed and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 And they began making fun of him. But he put them all outside and he took the child’s father and mother and his own companions and went into the room where the child was. 41 Then, gently taking the child by the hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up.”42 The girl got up at once and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). They were completely astonished at this. 43 He strictly ordered that no one should know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

This is just one example…MANY more times the Bible tells of Jesus’ miraculous healing!
  • You’re the one who walks through fire

Bully!  See a theme here?  King Nebuchadnezzar had made a statue and sent out a decree that anytime anyone in the kingdom heard certain music playing that they were to bow down.  They were to bow down and sing praises to the king.  Not the King of Kings but King Nebby (please watch the Veggie Tales version of this!).  Anyway, long story short, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused.  Their punishment?  They were to be thrown into the fiery furnace.  The outcome?  The guards who threw them in all died from the flames leaping out of the furnace.  The three had not one scratch on them when they were released from the furnace.  Read on…

Daniel 6:24 “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was startled and quickly got up. He said to his ministers, “Wasn’t it three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied to the king, “For sure, O king.” 25 He answered, “But I see four men, untied and walking around in the midst of the fire! No harm has come to them! And the appearance of the fourth is like that of a god!” 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire. He called out, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the most high God, come out! Come here!”  Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego emerged from the fire. 27 Once the satraps, prefects, governors, and ministers of the king had gathered around, they saw that those men were physically unharmed by the fire. The hair of their heads was not singed, nor were their trousers damaged. Not even the smell of fire was to be found on them!  28 Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Praised be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent forth his angel and has rescued his servants who trusted in him, ignoring the edict of the king and giving up their bodies rather than serve or pay homage to any god other than their God! 29 I hereby decree that any people, nation, or language group that blasphemes the god of Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego will be dismembered and his home reduced to rubble! For there exists no other god who can deliver in this way.” 30 Then Nebuchadnezzar promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

  • You take the orphans hand

The orphan is you and me.  Think on that for a few minutes.  Yes, we all have Earthly fathers.  We have great relationships, bad relationship, no relationship…  But the Heavenly Father is there to adopt us as HIS children no matter our relation to our Earthly Fathers.

  • You are the one Messiah

“THE DELIVERER”

  • You are “I AM”...

YAHWEH…the form of God’s name that was considered by the Hebrew people to be “beyond” sacred.

But there’s more!!!!

The veil is torn
And now I live 
With the Spirit inside
The same One
The very same One
Who brought the Son back to life

Hallelujah, He lives in me 

When Christ died for you and me…for all of humanity on the cross the veil into the “Holy of Holies” in the temple tore from top to bottom.  This was a symbol that we have direct access to HIM.  When we accept HIM as Savior HE LIVES IN US!!!!

THE SAME ONE WHO PERFORMED ALL MIRACLES!  THE SAME ONE WHO SHUT THE MOUTHS OF LIONS!  THE SAME ONE WHO TOOK CARE OF ALL THOSE BULLIES AND BAD DAYS!  HE HAS A PLAN AND A PURPOSE FOR YOU!

Accept HIM!  He is the way, the truth and the LIFE!