Let ’em know, we gon’ rise, we gon’ shine.

“Do you think Jesus is better off with you as one of His followers?”

That’s what my The Gospel of Mark Bible study just asked me. Like talk about a loaded question. If You had asked me when I started this study, my answer would have been different. My walk with You has changed so much since then. I stopped carrying all that baggage around, ya know that guilt, shame, all the hot mess. It’s a whole lot easier to walk when you’re not carrying baggage. And my hands are open and free to help others now too.

The pastor reminded us yesterday that the Promised Land is wherever You are and we belong to Your Kingdom. He said the Kingdom of God is present now and we are part of a greater Kingdom than anything this world has to offer us. He continued preaching with even in the battles, there is still a sense of victory, so keep laboring. Even when we don’t see the Heaven advances, there is still a sense of victory, so keep laboring. The war has always been won, we’re on the winning side, the deck is stacked.

This was a continuation from last week’s message. Where he said we are ambassadors of Christ. We need to act like we’re members of another Kingdom. He said we are not the warrior, You are. We can’t force others to follow You, even though I tried once, totally failed. I just wanted my friend to know the love and grace that I know, but I said the wrong thing and sent her running scared. I was like 15, my heart was in the right place, but boy my words were out of order. The pastor said we are called to communicate the message of the One who sent us. Now that I spend actual time in the Word, studying, my words are more clear. I have been given authority now.

The pastor always ends the service with Matthew 28:18-20 which says: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The fact that You gave me, of all people, authority to make disciples kinda blows my mind. Like who even am I? Oh that’s right, I am a child of You, God. I am Yours. I am blameless. I am holy, righteous, and free (instantly singing Blameless by Dara Maclean in my head now). I belong to the Kingdom. Lord, You fight for me. The pastor said the same grace that brought us to the Kingdom is the same grace that keeps us in the Kingdom. This cannot be taken from me. No matter what I do, because it never depended on what I do. It only depends on You, God. You are the One who sent me. You are the One calling me. You are the One fighting for me. You are the King, the One True God. I am a disciple maker because You are the disciple keeper.

So, here is my prayer today. I pray that I continue to make disciples. I pray that I keep laboring. I pray that I keep studying, growing, and walking with you. I pray that I repent and keep my eyes focused on you daily. I pray that I remember whose I am. I pray that I remember who you are. Thank you for unpacking my baggage. I pray I help carry other’s baggage to the cross too. I pray that I am your hands and feet. I pray I never stop moving forward for your kingdom. I pray I bring chairs to the table. Thank you for fighting for me. Thank you for the grace you have extended me. Thank you for calling me. Thank you for saying my name. Thank you for putting my name in the book. 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.

Oh I live for You.

I heard someone on the radio the other day say: “It is not your ability that counts, but your availability.” Blessss, that reached right down into my soul.

So, today I pulled out my The Gospel of Mark bible study from last year that I never quite finished and began looking over my old notes. I found: “The pardon Jesus handed the paralytic revealed that he wasn’t asking audaciously enough-that his greatest desire was still too dinky. Would you describe the prayers you’ve been praying lately as audacious or anemic? Why?” 

I am not even gonna lie, I have had some pretty anemic prayers in the past. But if working in a group home has taught me nothing less, it is how to pray audaciously. Sometimes we try to fit You into our little human box and forget who You are. We forget You are a miracle working God.

The bible study asked: what’s the most audacious “mountain tossed into the sea” prayer request on your heart this season? Do you feel like you’re whispering it toward Heaven with hesitation and trepidation or bellowing it to the Heavenly Father who delights in meeting your needs?

This study has taught me about the power and authority of You, Father. Lord, You literally tell the storm to be still. You have absolute power over the natural world, supernatural world, and even death. In my notes is the question: How does that truth change the way we live today? That undeniable truth reminds me to stay in my lane. That You are the one in control. That I can trust You. That I can ask audacious prayers. That I can expect miracles. That I can build my life upon Your love.

The study continued with: “I am completely accepted, therefore I obey.” The study taught that our obedience isn’t to work our way into Heaven, but a response in gratefulness because we have been given Heaven.

Mark teaches us through the story of feeding the 5000, that You give us what we need. We simply have to trust and obey.

So, that is my prayer today. I pray I remember who you are. I pray I remember to be still and stay in my lane. I pray I put my words to action. I pray I trust and obey. I pray I live your truth. I pray I build my life upon you. I pray I remember why I build my life upon you. I pray that I remember all the evidence of love and miracles you have placed in life. I am praying an audacious prayer, Father, I am asking for the big miracles. I am nothing without you. I can complete nothing on my own. Lord, it is only through you that I do anything. I pray that I remember to have heart checks daily and respond in gratefulness. I pray you keep teaching me to have confidence in you, in your word, in your ability, in your authority, in your power. Abba, thank you for Heaven. Thank you for saving a place for me. Thank you for providing for me. Thank you for everything. I am making myself available to you Lord. 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’m on my way to Heaven, would you like to come along?

I didn’t know where to begin this one. I didn’t know how to start or even where to start. A friend of mine shared their story with me so I wanted to honor that trust by bringing it to the very person who wrote my story, Lord, You. Father, I think the very least I can do is to trust You. A sweet preacher in Chelsea, AL taught us, a few Sundays ago, that: “no one can sing my song but me.” He said: “you are a somebody because He knows your name, He knows your song.” 

Ok, so here goes nothing. Or everything…

I was sexually abused by more than one person, in more than one way.

All before I even started high school. I wanted to pretend this wasn’t real. Sometimes, it still doesn’t feel real. I almost convinced myself that the nightmares, were just nightmares. I started the healing process through counseling. I started to see things more clearly. Some of the symptoms that I had just chalked up to normal life were actually signs of PTSD and Disassociation. I got wayyy more signs of disassociation than I would like to admit. Ya girl got issues.

But You, my God, are so patient. so kind. so loving. You were there through it all. The more I have gotten to know You, the more I can see You through all of it.

My favorite verse is Isaiah 43:2 which says: When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. If left to my own devices, I would be drowned, consumed, overwhelmed, and burned. I would have never made it through the second grade. But my God, that is the exact year I got saved. That is the exact year, I walked down that church aisle, asking You to save me. I always forget the first verse which says: But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. Lord, not only did You create me and form me. You redeemed me. You call me by name. When Satan calls me by my sin, You call me by my name! I am free from the wrath by the power of the blood. I saved this picture on my phone that says: “I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me.”

I started the Redeemed study by Angela Thomas-Pharr. In the first part, she asks us to fill in the blank for: “I’ve given up trying…” I finished it with: “to walk like this.” I am not carrying this baggage anymore. I am unloading these suitcases. I am not carrying this weight with me any longer. This guilt. This shame. This pride. This need for control. This darkness. I let everyone else in my life set the boundaries, so then I put up walls in response to my boundaries being crossed. What I should have been doing is letting You, Lord, set up my perimeters and focused on You. Because when I have my eyes on You, I’m walking on water. When I focus on everything around me, I’m sinking. Lord, I crave the light because there is a darkness in me, darker than even I know. In those broken places, is the exact places that the light gets in. In those broken places, is the exact places that we can help someone else. The exact place that I can chose to share Your glory.

When I lost my friend, I asked You a lot of why questions. Through Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl by Lysa Terkheurst, I realized that was the wrong question. The right question is: what am I gonna do with what I have been given, what I have left? In the Redeemed study, I am learning to ask: who You are and what You’ve said. In Unwrap the Bible, Beth Moore said: “God is going to use one question to lead to blessings in another question.” 

I have this question written in my journal that says: how do you design something, knowing it’ll fail? Lord, You created me, You designed every hair on my head. You knew I would fail before I even took my first breath. But I think that is the point. I think that right there is redemption. When I am broken way beyond repair. When I fall to my knees. That right there is exactly where I need to be. Because right there is exactly where You fix me. Because right there is exactly where I see You work.

Steven Furtick said: “whether we know it or not, we are passing on our perspective to those we influence. And whatever is not healed is handed down. I can’t chose what I’m handed but I can choose what I hand back.” In The Gospel of Mark, Lisa Harper told us that: “Jesus knows exactly where you are. Jesus knows how heart-broken you are, He’s been there. He’s been segregated and alone in the wilderness, facing wild beasts. He knows exactly where you hurt.” Lisa said we don’t have to clean ourselves up to come to You. But my God, You love us too much to leave us that way. You meet us there and cover us.

I have always been a very organized planner. I have my five year plan but I also have a ten year plan and a fifteen year plan. I have certainly changed my plans over the years. 1st grade me wanted to serve You and be a missionary. Best believe, I had a plan for it too. As I got older, I wanted to be a teacher. In middle school, ya girl watched Legally Blonde and got a little power hungry. Ya girl wanted to be a lawyer then a judge then swoop right into the supreme court. In high school, I came back around to teaching. In college, I switched majors to Communications. Now I’ve gone and started grad school in human services counseling in christian ministries.

I tend to get overly excited and put my cart before my horse. But no where, on any of my plans, was any of the bad stuff. Ok. I planned perfect fairy tales with only enough realism approved by yours truly. The only thing that has remained a constant is my want to serve You in whatever capacity I could find. Lysa Terkheurst said: “remember this: God is working things out. He is present. His plan is still good and He can still be trusted. I used to think that being in ministry made me more of a target for the enemy’s attacks. But now I think God saw the attacks coming and made sure I was in ministry. Having my heart and mind constantly focused on God’s Truths has changed the way I see and process everything.”

So, here is my prayer today. I pray that I lead with kindness and grace. I pray that I am showing others who you are. I pray that I am showing others what you do. I pray that I am showing others when to lean on you. I pray that I am showing others where you’re leading. I pray that I am showing others why I chose to walk with you. I pray that I am showing others how to follow you. I pray that every word in my story point to you. Father, even when I am not present, you are. Father, even when my plans are no good at all, you are. Father, even when I fail miserably, you can still be trusted. Kelly Minter said: “who Jesus has called you to be is the most exciting and liberating identity you can have.” Abba, thank you for reminding me that my identity is found in you. Thank you for reminding me that my identity is not what happened to me, what I’ve lost, or even what I’ve done. Hanna Brencher said: “one day you’ll be out of this. And all the things you felt-all the places you went in the dark-will help someone come out of the woods too.” Lord, open my eyes to the needs of those around me. Niki Rowe wrote: “like a wild flower; she spent her days, allowing herself to grow, not many knew of her struggle, but eventually all; knew of her light.” I pray that everyone around me sees your light in me. Lord, I chose you. I chose grace over wrath. I chose life over death. I chose light over dark. I chose trust over fear. I chose your plan over mine. 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.