Child there is freedom from all of it.

Wednesday night, we did a lesson on Hosea through The Gospel Project with the kids. The new big picture question was: what is God like? For the opener, we asked the kids what they thought. Their answers were: holy, alive, faithful, peaceful, the savior, powerful, wonderful, awesome, slow to anger, amazing, mighty, and the creator. Literally floored at the list they came up with. The more they get to know You, Lord, and the deeper they go, literally leaves me shouting for joy sometimes. You do not call the qualified, You qualify the called. Lord, if You called the qualified I wouldn’t be anywhere near leading a group of kids. I would be that back row Baptist they sing country songs about or I would probs not even be allowed in the building. Thank You, God, for placing me here and allowing me to plant seeds because seeing You through their eyes and getting to know You more with them is one of my greatest joys.

The book’s answer was: “slow to anger, merciful, and loving.” My sister pointed out that as Christians, we are supposed to strive to be like You so we should try to do these things as well. First off, being slow to anger, doesn’t mean we don’t get angry. It just means we try to be more purposeful with that anger. We’re gonna get mad, but as Christians, we need to practice what we preach. We teach kids to count to five when they’re mad, and we should do that as adults too. Taking a minute to pause, clears our head and we can think more rationally. We’re going to get mad, but we have to learn to think first, and react second. We have to think, through the madness.

The main point of the story was that You love us when we do not deserve it. You told Hosea to find an unfaithful wife and love her. Hosea’s life was to be an example of how You love us even when we do not deserve it. Hosea’s wife left him many times and he went after her every time. Being slow to anger, merciful, and loving is a building process. One leads to another. Being slow to anger is the first step, then comes the mercy. With mercy comes forgiveness and grace. Then comes the love, the compassion, the kindness. I never said any of this was easy. I told those kids, it was gonna be hard. Love is easy when it’s alone. When we put the other two in front, it gets hard, but true unfailing love like You give us, puts things in order for us. Being slow to anger and merciful are not products of love, they are the stepping stones to love. They are how we show love. They come first, not after.

The verse of the day that demonstrated the answer to the big picture question was Joel 2:13 which said: Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead. Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. That word grief gets me every time, because I know what it means now, because I’ve felt it. My first response in grief was to ask why. That question came so naturally, it’s scary. The first time I experienced grief, it came all at once and hit hard. I lost one person, then two, then three, all right there in a matter of months. When it rains, it pours. I wanted to know why they were taken, why they left the way they did, why they couldn’t stay just a little longer, why they all left at once. I know that everything happens for a reason and I wanted to know what that reason was. I didn’t want to see with my limited human perspective. There were a lot of why’s, but I learned to spell why differently. In taking away that y and adding You where I’m AT, I changed my why to what. I had to put You back on the seat of throne and remember that I am not You. What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do with what I’ve been given? What am I gonna do now? What is gonna change? What is moving forward and what is staying behind? There were a lot of what questions when I added You where I’m AT. Changing my why to what, gave me someplace to go.

I read 13 Reasons Why in high school and watched the Netflix series a couple of weeks ago. There has been a whole bunch of debate over whether it’s more helpful or harmful. When my friend and I talked about it, we both noticed there was a lack of Christians. Maybe we had it wrong though, maybe there were believers, maybe they just stayed silent. When I read and watched, the most basic lesson I got was to do better. Now while I believe that I am not responsible for anyone else and I cannot chose life for someone else, I can do better. There was plenty of blame to go around from the kids to adults and everyone in-between. I believe we can be better teachers, friends, acquaintances, administrators, parents, peers, co-workers, family, authority figures, human beings, Christians. I don’t want to stay silent. They can go ahead and label me a Jesus freak. If I have unshakable joy, isn’t it my job to share that? The whole reason I started praying more was because I wanted answers to my why’s. Instead I got new questions. Lord, You don’t always always answer the way we think You will, but You always answer.

Tonight, I heard that You don’t always calm the storm, sometimes You calm us in the storm. Lord, I heard Crowder on the radio again singing: “I’m the one who held the nail. It was cold between my fingertips. I’ve hidden in the garden. I’ve denied You with my very lips. God, I fall down to my knees with a hammer in my hand. You look at me, arms open.” Ohhhhhh, Lord have mercy. Got me right there in the feels.

So, here is my prayer. Lord, I pray that I do not stay silent. I pray that I shout your name with every breath I have. Lord, even when I’m the one with the hammer and the nails, putting you on that cross, your arms are stretched open for me. Lord, I pray that I do better, that I do more. I pray that I share your love with everyone I come in contact with. I pray that your love radiates out of my soul like sunshine. Thank you for changing my why to what. Thank you for knocking on my heart. Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for qualifying the called. Thank you for showing me how to love. Thank you for loving me when I do not deserve it. Thank you for showing us unfailing love. Thank you for showing me what kind of God you are. Thank you for calming me in the storm. I could’ve been lost forever. Yeah I should be in that fire. But now there’s fire inside of me. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

A cross meant to kill is my victory.

The other night, my dad and brother started talking about when You were gonna come back. I immediately started panicking and going through my checklist or rather my bucket list and thinking about all the things I haven’t done yet. I literally sat there and thought Lorddddd, let me married first. I sat there and prayed. I want to start a family. I want to contribute to the world. I want a career. I want to adopt. I want so many things and as I sit here praying I realize how childish I must sound. Actually, I probs sound purrrrty bonkers. Like this is my thought process: “Heaven, but first let me adopt some kids and find a good man…” Like child please. I’ve been told a lot that my head is in the clouds, I didn’t believe them until just now. There is nothing wrong with wanting those things. The problem is with my thought process and my reactions made out of plum fear. Like I sat there thinking, ohhh girl, better hurry up and a nail down a man before You come. Like I could rush it or something. I was praying out of fear.

You know who else acted out fear? Abraham and Sarah. There is a story in Genesis 16 about how they wanted some little munchkins running around, just like I do. Anddd ohhh poor Sarah. Boy did she act of fear. Homegirl wanted a family so bad she told her husband to make one with another woman. Then, big shocker, it didn’t make Sarah happy, instead she got jealous and mean. The devil intended to use her fear to destroy her. But what the devil intends to destroy, You use for Your ultimate glory. Two chapters later, in Genesis 18, You told Abraham and Sarah that she was going to have the child she always wanted. She literally laughed. I’m 24 and sitting here thinking that my clock is ticking and this woman is well past her childbearing years. She literally laughed. Lord, she let her fear consume her and drive her every action and thought.

Lord, so many times I react without thinking. The devil is playing on my weaknesses. He is literally using every tool in his arsenal to misguide, manipulate, and disarm me. He is doing everything in his power to stop me from praising You. But You came for me. So, today instead of letting fear control me, I am going to sing Crowder’s song as loud as I can.

“Oh, Your amazing grace, I’ve seen and tasted it
It’s running through my veins
I can’t escape its grip in You my soul is safe
You uncover everything”

I haven’t been this excited for an album in soooo long. My love for Crowder’s new CD started in September and I’m taking their sweet lyrics into October with me.

So, here is my prayer. I pray that I keep singing and I take the lessons I’ve learned from their lyrics with me. I pray that you keep showing me your love. I pray that I learn to act of love instead react out of fear. I pray that I let your amazing grace wash over me and run through my veins. I pray that you change my stinkin thinkin. Thank you for using what the devil intends to harm me, to use for your glory. Thank you for the cross. Thank you taking the sting out of death. Thank you for saving me. Thank you for taking away my sin. Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for coming for me. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I got dirt inside of me, but I was made to be royal.

Tonight I was telling my little that basically I was the little girl in 13 Going On 30. I wanted to be “thirty, flirty, and thriving.” I was complaining that I was ready for my struggling 20’s to be over. I was kidding, mostly. Funny, how there is always a little bit of truth behind every “just kidding.” That was definitely true today and there was some pain behind those jokes of mine. The conversation got heavy when I told her that my prayers were sad and pathetic lately. What I meant to say is selfish. My prayers were self-centered lately. She responded with this little beautiful piece of wisdom: “search deep down inside yourself and you’ll find the good prayers there.” Boy Howdy did I need to hear that. Those words spoke right to my heart and grabbed hold.

I heard once and it stuck with me: “If God answered all of your prayers, would the world look different or just your life?” Lord, I’ve been getting it wrong lately and I’ve been so consumed with my own life. Thank you for the reminder to pay attention to everything around me today. Thank you for the reminder that the world is much bigger than just little ol’ me.

Lord, a few weeks ago I heard Crowder’s new song and I have been singing it in my head ever since. The words in the song immediately gave me chills. They sunk right in deep and stayed there. It has become my daily prayer.

So here is my prayer today. I wanna go back to the Garden. Lord, I pray that I long for your presence. I pray that I walk with you more. I pray that I keep going down to the river. I pray that I am set free from my sin. I pray that I talk with you more. I pray that I worship you more. I pray that I give you all that I am. I pray that I stop that stinkin thinkin. I pray that I stop making the same mistakes. I pray that I go deeper in my relationship with you. Lord, we let sin tear us away from the Garden and our walk with you, but I pray that we go back to the Garden. I pray that I keep running back to you. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for loving me much more than I deserve. I pray you keep workin on my heart and changin my thinkin. Lord, today I’m praying for your eternity plan. I pray that your will be done. I pray that we all start looking around us and see more than the five feet in front of us that we’re used to seeing every day. I pray that we are reaching out our arms to those around us. I pray that we are going where you lead us. I pray that we stop seeing it at us versus them and them versus us. I pray that we start fighting the real war. I pray that we come back to you and come back to the Garden. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There’s gonna be a great rejoicing.

I woke up this morning with a need to talk to You, Lord. I saw this interview with Stephen Fry a couple of days ago and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. He was asked what would he say to You. His response: “I’ll say, bone cancer in children, what’s that about? How dare you? How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault? It’s not right, it’s utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world that is so full of injustice and pain. That’s what I would say.” I’ve heard the interview before but didn’t know what to say or think or do. Seeing the interview reposted a few days ago, I watched it again. I could see the hurt and pain and anger behind Mr. Fry’s words, but all I could think is what I heard in that movie I watched yesterday, In-Lawfully Yours. The pastor in the movie kept saying you can’t be angry with someone you don’t believe in.

This time, I would like to address his remarks. First off, that world he said You created Lord, where there is misery that is not our fault. You didn’t create a world with injustice and pain. You didn’t created a world filled with sin. You didn’t create us with malice. You created the Garden of Eden. You created perfection. You created beauty and life. You also gave us free will and asked us not to eat from one singular tree. But we chose that tree. We keep choosing that tree. We had the option of staying in the Garden of Eden or that tree and we pick that tree every single time. We’re all prodigal children walking away from You because we think we know better or can find better.

Now, about cancer. I don’t know why kids get cancer or anyone gets cancer for that matter. But I do know, You, God are still good. Lord, You have a purpose. You have a plan. I have a narrow and focused view of the world. I can only see what is right in front of me. But, Lord, You have an eternity plan. You are all-seeing. When I look, I can certainly see that cancer is bad, but that doesn’t mean You are. When I look, I can certainly see that pain and death is bad, but that doesn’t mean You are. When I look, I can certainly ask why my friend had to die so young or why my grandma had to suffer, but that doesn’t mean You are bad. You have this glorious plan that covers all time and all things. There is a reason, though sometimes I can’t see it or understand it. Nicole Reed said: “Sometimes the bad things that happen in our lives put us directly on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.” Maybe You were protecting us from something else or teaching us something or maybe one thing had to happen so that something else would like a domino effect. I can’t begin to understand Your plan. Your ways are not my ways. My brain can’t begin to wrap around what You see. There was a teacher in Tennessee that had cancer and was sitting at home when the entire school and faculty showed up in his driveway to praise You with him. When I look, I can certainly see Your hand in everything around me. When I look, I can certainly see Your goodness.

“Questions of this world, someday will be known.”

In bible study last week, we finished Stronger by Angela Thomas-Pharr. We watched the last video, God Is Stronger Than Every Broken Thing In Me. In the video, she tells a story about her 8 year old son running a 5k. At the end of the race, she was waiting at the finish line cheering: “bring it on home, baby, bring it on home.” So, he runs back to her crying and saying: “Mama, it was so hard.” She responded with: “but, baby, you did it!” Then he said: “that last part was all uphill.” She said that’s how she saw Heaven when our time is done. She saw Angels cheering: “bring it on home” and You, God waiting with open arms saying: “baby girl, you’re home.” Lord, sometimes our journey is all uphill battle, but You are teaching me to press on, every single day.

 

So, here is my prayer today. I pray for Mr. Fry. I pray that you heal his hurt. I pray that you open his eyes and soften his heart. I pray that you keep knocking on his heart, Lord. I pray that you don’t give up on him. Lord, he believes in you, he just doesn’t understand you. Lord, I pray that you help him see your goodness. God, I may not be able to understand your plan, but thank you for it. Thank you for the good stuff that I forget to appreciate and to thank you for. Thank you for the lessons from the bad stuff. Thank you for the assignments and work. Thank you for your ways. Thank you for your grace. Thank you for your benevolence. Thank you open arms. Thank you for Heaven. Thank you allowing me to run my race with endurance and passion. Thank you for teaching me to press on. Thank you for the grand reunion. Thank you for the great rejoicing. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for showing me your goodness. Thank you for showing me your love. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I got somethin’ make the devil gonna run.

I still sleep with a teddy bear. I still call my mama when something goes right or wrong. I still call my daddy when I need something. When I’m scared, I still pray. When I was growing up, my mama taught me to pray when the nightmares won’t let you sleep. She told to pray out loud and tell the devil that I am a child of Yours and tell him he isn’t welcome here. When it’s the imaginary monsters under your bed and you have a brand new faith that is bigger than the monsters, it’s easy. When the imaginary monsters become real, that’s when my faith gets tested. But the villain is still the same. And You, my God, are still bigger.

There is a quote that says: “Fill your mind with God’s word and you will have no room for satan’s lies.” I’ve been listening to the lies for far too long. All the guilt and shame and darkness and fears sound so stupid out loud. I’ve held it in for so long that I let it consume me until I could hardly breathe. I was giving my sins control over me. It felt so big when I was holding it in and the more I held onto it the more power I gave it and the bigger it got, the more it consumed me. I heard once that: “What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” I was doing all of those things. I was worshiping my sin. I saw this picture on Pinterest and the truth is: “where sins run deep, His love runs deeper.”

Beth Moore, at the Living Proof Conference, said: “wisdom is a whirl with wonder.” She said that: “when we play the fool, we always lose.” She said: “wisdom gets us out of the house before it destroys us.” The next day she said: “wisdom knows folly can kill you.” I can hear Beth Moore telling me to get me some wisdom right now. Frank Ocean said: “whatever you do, never run back to what broke you.” I have a problem running back to things I put down at Your feet, Lord.

For a girl who craves control, I sure was giving it away. The wanting for control started long before even me. Genesis 3:16 says: Then he said to the woman, “I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy, and in pain you will give birth. And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.” We were studying creation in Sunday School and I’ve heard the verse a hundred times, but never that version apparently. That word control grabbed hold of my attention and I’ve been thinking about it since. I may not have a husband yet, but I sure was giving my control away. To the wrong person. Matt Chandler said: “God has seen our unloveliness-the deep brokenness and rebellion in our hearts-and instead of withdrawing, He pursues us until the very end.”

“What God is bringing you through at this very moment is going to be the testimony that will bring somebody else though. No mess, no message.” “You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.”

So, that is my prayer today. Father, help me to give my control to you. Help me to lay aside what I’ve been carrying. I pray that I watch my thoughts. I pray that I protect my attitude. I pray that I guard my heart. I pray that I clean up my “stinking thinking.” I pray that I stop letting what I feel guide me. I pray that I have a more intentional imagination. I pray that I stop listening to the lies. I pray that stop running back to what broke me. Thank you for your love. Thank you for letting your love go deeper than my sins. I pray that I become the woman my mama taught me to be when I was a little girl. I pray that instead of hiding my mess, I use it for your glory. I pray that I pursue you. I pray that I am intentional in my walk with you. I pray that I seek you above all else. And as always I pray for my family and sorority sisters. I pray for my university. I pray for guidance for our government, church, and school leaders. I pray for protection for our troops. I pray for all of those that need you now and for those that haven’t met you yet. In Jesus’ name, Amen.