Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Author of My Story

I love the way God adds and updates the blog of our lives.
There is always more to be written when He is the author.
Case in point....

I recently told u the story of my "Foul Encounter"(see August 1,2012 post) at a Greenville Drive baseball game.
And while that ball wreaked havoc on me that night, its impact didn't stop there.
You see, because my family found my victory that night so funny, and I so monumental(lol), the baseball found a home on the display in the middle of our dining room table.
And there it stayed, quickly fading into my background...just part of the jumbled scenery that often overtakes this extremely multipurpose room, not to mention my life.
Until one day I was dusting(a rarity I admit), and something caught my eye.
There was something on the ball.
Confused, I grabbed up the ball for closer inspection.
It was an autograph!
And a familiar one at that: my Daddy's!

What in the world? I thought. He hadn't been there with us that night it all went did...???

But then it came to me.

About five or so days prior, my mom and dad had come to visit.
Ah ha!

So I picked up the phone and called Daddy, who had a good belly laugh at how long it had taken me to even see that His name was written on this ever important, prominently displayed baseball!

And so it is with my Heavenly Daddy's autograph.
I so frequently and easily forget that His autograph is all over my life!
I take credit for feats that were HIS strength, HIS power and HIS sovereignty at work in my life.

I even have the audacity to claim He was absent in my times of chaos- like I did my earthly dad.

You see, that crazy night at Fluor Field, my earthly daddy may not have been physically present, but he WAS there:
HE was the one who taught me how to catch a ball,
keep my eye on the ball,
be strong,
be confident,
all of which brought about that "victory" and the prize I claimed as my own.
My daddy had every right to autograph that baseball...because the fact that it was in my possession all pointed back to him.

Yes, my Heavenly Daddy is always there.
In every feat, in every endeavor, in every step I take...He is there...His fingerprints evident all over my life...whether I choose to recognize it or not.

Too often I allow that truth to fade into the background of my life.

In my selfishness and pride, I display the evidences of God's grace for my own glory instead of His.

I must CHOOSE to see.
I must CHOOSE to recognize the ink of my Creator's pen all over every piece and part of my life.

Because even in missteps, even in the mistakes, it's His redemption that has brought me through.

And in the victories, I cannot forget that it is my identity in Christ that secures those mountain top moments, NOT my skill or my strength.

It's His rescuing grace that has kept this life novel going and growing.
It isn't me.

He is the author of my story.
Daddy, autograph this is Yours.

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:2

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Confessions of an Olympics Addict

I admit it: I am an Olympics addict.

I turn it on in the morning, stay up late at night, soak in and cry over the personal stories of the athletes, yell at the tv, and cheer loudly as though they can if the event I am watching didn't already happen 8 hours prior!

In a nut shell, I love everything Olympics related.

Maybe it's my fascination with the strength, talent and overall accomplishments of the athletes, or maybe it's the heavy dose of patriotism that the Olympics brings.

Whatever it is, it sparks something in me to make me want to do more and to be more...more than wherever I am.
It makes me want to remove the limits, those secure boundaries I place around myself...usually to simply avoid failure.

But then the inevitable question arises: How?
How do you attain those goals that obliterate your comfort zones?

After an amazing track and field event gold medal win, a commentator asked an Olympian that very question:
"How did you do this when no one thought you could?"

The key word of his response jumped out at me like a word highlighted on a page:

Diligence is(according to :
constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken. Persistent exertion of body or mind.

Some synonyms include:
activity, alertness, application, attention, care, constancy, intensity, vigor.

Am I naive to think that's all it took? No.
Do I believe that each and every day he loved doing all that had to be done? No.
Was it easy? No.
Was it critical to his finish? Yes!

He may have had natural ability that made his sport the perfect match for him, but without Diligence, it's just untapped potential.

How much I can learn from this Olympian in my walk with the Lord.

It's about more than studying sport technique, learning methods, theories and strategies on paper.
Head knowledge would have no more made that runner an athlete than reading anatomy books would make me a doctor!

Knowledge is simply the beginning.
Desire is simply the beginning.

Dreams of turning potential into reality cannot be accomplished without DILIGENCE.

Matthew 7:14, The Message says:
"The way to life-to God!-is vigorous and requires total attention."

As Grace rescued Believers, we can rest assured He placed within each one of us the potential to be a Glory-to-God-Giver of gold medal proportions.

He did it through the person of the Holy Spirit...alive inside of us!

But it is surrendering to Him and the total attention it takes as an Olympian of His Kingdom that results in the radical transformation bringing world record finishes that impact lives forever.

Constant, earnest effort.
Consistent, active, alert, intense, vigorous.

Does this describe the way you and I go after the goal of living out loud with excellence for Jesus Christ?

Don't settle for latent potential.
Allow the Holy Spirit to UNLEASH the fullness of His power in you!

Let His spark ignite the fire within you to be more...not in YOUR power, but through HIS!

I think not.
I am living FROM victory assured.
Gold medal all the way, baby!

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us." 2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV

"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."
Mark 12:30 ESV

"God's way is not a matter of mere talk; it's an empowered life."
1 Corinthians 4:20 MSG

"He must increase, I must decrease."
John 3:30 ESV

Monday, August 6, 2012

Color Me Grace

I am not sure why I didn't believe...or maybe I simply chose to forget.
Either way, my hands are now purple, orange, and red.
Apparently when the directions say wear gloves, and they provide them in the pack of tie dye, you should actually put them on your hands.
Who knew?!?

So now I look as through I slaughtered something with my bare hands while mixing raspberries and Tang.

Every time I look down, move my hands, reach for something....all I see are the stains.
"What will people think when they see theses nasty hands?"
"Is it weird to wear gloves in 90 degree weather?"
Momentary panic can lead to absurdity!

My hubby tried to encourage me saying it will wear off, and he is right it, probably will...but until then-
I am stained.

And some things are just like that...they leave a residue that is not easily removed.

It all starts as fun and games, but then, you see the stain it has left on your life, and it's not so innocent anymore.
We scrub, we soak in vain.

Enter grace.

In those moments that all we see are the screaming purples, oranges, and reds of our poor choices, His grace is available to quiet our panic when we see the reality of sin tattooed on our lives.

But this...THIS is why Jesus died.
To bring calm in these moments that we must look our humanity in the face.
To cover my sin stain with His cleansing blood.
To take this skin marred by the world and the results of my own choices, and replace it with His righteousness.

All cover-up tactics, all of the worry about what others will think- it can never help me maintain the appearance of holiness.
It only holds me captive.

I am blinded by my mess.

Consumed by that which I cannot clean, rather than by the only One who can bring the freedom of true cleansing.

But that is why Grace...
Why grace is amazing.
Why grace is all sufficient.
Why grace is greater than all my sin.
Why grace is the gift that never ends.
Why grace is for me....
because without it,
I am stained.

And when I find myself, staring once again at the filthy residue of my own sin choices, I will run to this grace- His love beyond compare- and know Jesus, in all His cleansing power, is ready to stand in my place...if only I will lift my hands in surrender.

Because after all...
"What can wash away my sin?
NOTHING but the blood of Jesus!"

So, forget purples, oranges, reds...
Color me GRACE.

"And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace."
John 1:16 ESV

"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."
1 John 1:7 ESV

"For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace."
Romans 6:14 ESV

"But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
James 4:6 ESV

"Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean, scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life..."
Psalm 51:7 MSG

What's That Smell???

Much like Gus on "Psych"(one of my fave shows by the way), I have been blessed and/or cursed with a "Super Sniffer".
Smells just cannot sneak past this nose of mine.
Hence the reason I love Yankee Candle, Bath and Body Works, fabric softener, and the like.

And, apparently, I have a smell of my own.
Weird. I know.
But let me explain.

My big sister has always done one thing first when she greets me with a hug: breathe in deep and say, "Ahh. You smell good."
And I always ask what I smell like and she says, "Julie."

I am hoping that's a good thing.

Hilariously enough, her oldest daughter never fails to do the exact same thing!
And, as for my kids, my son Jonathan at least once a day, sometimes more, comes up to me, puts his nose to my arm- about his head level- breathes in deep, looks up at me with a smile and says,
"Ahhh. Mama you smell so good! Especially after workout."

And I am like...what?!?
I mean, I do not even understand how that is possible!
My Vanilla Bean Noelle from Bath and Body can only do so much!

But nevertheless, this is the way it goes each and every day.
And Jonathan sighs contentedly and says,
"You just smell"

Sure, my kids and family get close enough to sniff me every now and then...awkward pause...
...Uh, yeah...

But here's the thing:
What aroma is my life- my attitude, choices, actions, interactions-giving off to all those I encounter?

2 Corinthians 2:15(MSG)says,
"...Through us he brings the knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation- redolent with life..."

Would those in my realm of influence say that when my life intersects with theirs, they breathe in an "exquisite fragrance" that can only be Christ?

I am afraid that all too often we spend more time trying to cover up the stench of death that is lingering over our lives rather than allowing the Lord to burn away that rotten flesh and replace it with all the sweetness of His righteousness.

But isn't it easier to remove the source of repugnant odor rather than wear yourself to the bone trying to keep it under wraps?

I mean, seriously, have you ever tried to do that?!?

The cover-up tactic may work for a time, but eventually the truth of who you are and what lies within is going to...for lack of a better word...reek.

All the more reason we need the purifying love and power of Jesus.

His Grace has a perfect way of cleaning us up, scrubbing us clean...filling our lives with all that He died for us to have.

Oh and how sweet it truly is.

So what do you have to do?
Give Him access.
Allow Him to take out your trash.
Make your emptiness available for Him to fill with the neverending gift of His Spirit.
Let the aroma of His praise rise from your life!

And then, as the world around you breathes in deep, they will say,
"Ahh! You smell!"

And you can know, without a doubt, THAT is a good thing.

"Generous in love- God give grace! Huge in mercy- wipe out my bad record. Scrub away my guilt, soak out my sins in your laundry. I know how bad I've been; my sins are staring me down...Soak me in your laundry and I'll come out clean, scrub me and I'll have a snow-white life."
Psalm 51:1-2, 7(MSG)

"For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live".
Romans 8:13 ESV

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:1, 2 ESV

"...and burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the Lord. It is a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord."
Exodus 29:18 ESV

"Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name."
Hebrews 13:15 ESV

CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO that goes right with this:

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Foul Encounter

All I wanted was to get a foul ball for my kids!"
That's what was going through my mind, as I found myself in one of the most awkward moments one could encounter as a pastor's wife, mom of three at a Greenville Drive Baseball game.

We sat on the grassy hill, near the top and had observed rather aggressive attempts amongst unattended kids to get foul balls which frequented the area. My kids knew better than to even engage in that nonsense, yet they wanted a ball SO badly.

This reality is what drove me to stand to my feet as a foul ball headed our way, landing atop the netted kids area.
I was so focused on that ball, because...Mama WAS gettin' that thing for her babies!
No one else near me, no hands even close to my angle on the ball, it rolled off the net right into my outstretched left hand!
I was ecstatic!
The ball had gone from the bat into my hand.
It was MINE!

I turned around, bringing my hand down, anticipating giving the ball to one of my children, whom I knew would be close by...and happened.

In a literal blink of an eye,

Before I could even wrap my brain around what was going on, I found myself at the bottom of a dog pile of about 20 prepubescent boys, clawing at my hand, trying to pry open my grip, finger by finger!

These kids had never even been near this ball!
It had not bounced around from person to person, it had not been dropped, fumbled or even remotely in reach of ANY of these WAS most assuredly MINE....

Yet, these boys were determined to steal it right out of my hand, no matter how they had to do it!

I sat in shock underneath this testosterone overload, death gripping the ball, thinking surely they will see I have it and move on...but nooooooo.

Finally, on the verge of panic mode, I went beast!
Using all the arm strength I had, I yanked the ball to me and screamed,

It went rather silent.

I furiously STOOD up, bewildered, and astonishly asked,
"What is wrong with you kids?!

Well, if it wasn't awkward was now!

They began to disperse, realizing they had messed with the wrong woman.

Some of them mumbled about having almost had it, blah, blah, blah...
Which I quickly corrected, reminding them no hands, save my own, had been on that ball...
And...I may or may not have told one smart mouth punk of a kid to go tell his friends he got beat by a girl...(not my finest moment, I know.)

But here's the truth of it:
These boys had literally just jacked up a 35 year old woman for a baseball!

They were no respecter of persons, there was no hesitancy because of age or size.
They wanted to take what I had and if pulling me to the ground would do it, then so be it.

But losing that ball was NOT an option for me.
Sure, I could have let go, surrendered what was rightfully mine.
Yes, it would have been easier, and I wouldn't have had the scratch marks and huge black bruise on my left hand for all those days after.

But that was MY foul ball.
Mine to have, mine to share with my kiddos.

So I dug in, and hung on and after what seemed like forever, but was only a couple of minutes, there I was...posing with that ball as my husband took a pic through his incessant laughter at all that had just transpired!

You, too, have an enemy that is no respecter of persons.
He is watching and waiting for you to grasp the blessings and joy that God has for you...and he is ready to TAKE YOU DOWN.

Just as you maneuver to pull it close and maybe even intend to spread the love, he is right there, vying to catch you off guard, wrestle you to the ground and convince you to surrender what is rightfully yours:
joy, freedom, wisdom, intimacy, power, peace...

He will claw at areas of your life, determined to pry open your grip on truth finger by finger!

But losing is NOT an option!

Don't be paralyzed by shock and disbelief, caught pondering the "why" of the circumstance!
Focus on the Giver
Focus on the good and perfect gift.
Focus on taking full ownership of what is rightly yours to possess as a son and daughter of the King of Kings!

We must be prepared for battle.
Never caught off guard, and ready to exert all the GOD STRENGTH that the Holy Spirit so freely gives!

"So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud NO to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and He'll be there in no time."
James 4: 7 MSG

Your enemy seeks to steal and devour, to intimidate and bully you out of the fullness of your inheritance.

But the reality is, HE is already defeated!
Like a child trying to take the ball from a fully capable and healthy adult, the only way he can take what is yours, is IF YOU LET HIM!

Don't surrender.
Don't give in.
God's fullness and blessing are worth the resistance you will face, the surface wounds you may encounter.

And live FROM Victory!

"Get serious, really serious. Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet."
James 4:10 MSG

"Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up."
1 Peter 5:8 MSG

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."
John 10:10 ESV

"Oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him-endless energy, boundless strength!"
Ephesians 1:19 MSG