A Reflection on “The Shack”

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Giving Thanks

I realized just tonight that I began blogging on this site on practically this exact day in 2009. Let me just say that WOW, the landscape of my life looks so different now than it did back then! I’m astounded at the changes and challenges that have occurred, but also at the overwhelming peace and perfection of the place I’ve found myself settled into today.

Who can predict from day to day where life is going to take them? How many of us can look back to even this time last year and see the absences and additions in our lives? Jobs, people, life… it ripples up and down like a slow-moving wave deep out in the middle of a vast ocean. We are all trying to navigate our ships out there, the ups and the downs, and to not allow a rough time to bring so much water into our ship that we drown. 

I’m thankful that I have a personal relationship with the Captain of my vessel. He is the One ultimately responsible for getting us to shore safely. Our job is to listen and follow His instruction. How comforting it is to know that I, in my limited wisdom of handing the ship, am not the one in charge. I have definite responsibilities during the voyage, but He is the guiding force. 

My thankfulness this season begins here… right here.  It is from this point that all other blessings and lessons are determined. 

My wish for each of you reading this is that you have a wonderful day of celebration with people you love. Take a quiet moment to hug everyone a little tighter knowing that this landscape may not look exactly the same next year. We are given these precious moments. They must not be minimized, or taken for granted.  I wish each of you a personal relationship with your Captain. It is through Him that you will have more to give thanks for than you ever imagined possible.

Abundant blessings to you all! Happy voyage!

Dive On In- a reblog from July 6, 2012

“Dive On In” by Amanda Elder Silvers

 
There is so much that I love about summertime. I love having the kids home from school. I love not having to rush around in the mornings to be out the door by 7:30 a.m. I love spending time outside with them; but most of all, as anyone who knows us can attest, we love the water.

From the time my children were infants I’ve had them in water. When I had just had baby number one and was pregnant with baby number two we lived in a house which had an above-ground pool. I’ve never been a fan of those- aesthetically speaking- but that all quickly changed when I could put my precious 9-month-old baby on a raft with me and let my 6 month pregnant belly soak in that cool water. It was heaven. It brought such peace.

We love all things “water”. The city pool gets our business every summer now that we have moved from the house with the pool. My daughter has even joined the swim team this year. That 8-year-old girl practically has gills and fins. She’s always been my little fish.

pEvery year since their arrival we’ve taken our babies to the beach for the summer. It’s such a nice change from the pool experience we are so used to in our free time. The beach offers something for my family which is hard to describe, but I know many people who feel the same. Standing on the shore, toes buried in the sand, and looking out at nothing but beautiful water for as far as the eye can see is an amazingly humbling experience. We are so small, so minute. My mind drifts to what may lay on the other side of that vast body of water. What lives take place far, far away? Who are those people? What experiences have they had? Being at the beach always makes me feel closer to God. I am standing in the very presence of his handiwork and never cease to be awestruck. What an amazing God we serve. I love that He is capable of creating such beauty. Throughout my year during times I feel stressed or overwhelmed I will often close my eyes and just imagine being on a beach listening to the quiet sounds of the waves. I can feel His peace simply wash over me like the tide coming in and immediately I’m relaxed. It’s a powerful entity unto itself.
 
 
Happy summer, everyone! Take time to enjoy the little things. Take time to marvel in His beauty.

Let Me Introduce You To My Jesus- a reblog from May 25, 2010

I am thrilled beyond words that I’ve been asked to contribute to this purposeful blog. Thank you so much for the invitation and honor. I feel I should give a brief background to offer a little insight into my relationship with Christ. I spent fourteen years of my life being a staff kid. My father was the business administrator at one of the largest Baptist churches in Arkansas. I came to accept Jesus as my personal Saviour when I was ten and have grown up with an understanding of the responsibility we all share when it comes to leading others to Christ.

Mark 16:15 ESV
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation…”

As Christians we are created to serve two primary purposes. The first being to worship and give praise to our Lord Jesus. The second being to lead others to Christ. Evangelism was an integral part of our church’s foundation and many classes were offered to help teach Christians effective witnessing techniques. I remember many nights overhearing my parents and their friends practicing and studying their “Evangelism Explosion” notebooks in preparation for the door-to-door visitations which would start upon completion of training. My parents and their friends memorized verses, knocked on doors, and presented the Gospel to any and all who would listen. My most vivid childhood memory, however, of my mother telling someone about Jesus had nothing to do with a planned presentation. It happened instead at our local grocery store. I was about nine years old and standing in the checkout line with her. A young mother with her two children was standing in front of us frantically trying to count out change for her milk as one of her children was crying inconsolably. Even I picked up on her distress. She was coming up short and the cashier was being neither kind nor patient with her. My mother quietly stepped forward and said, “Let me buy your milk for you in the name of Jesus. It’s what He wants us to do for one another.” That tiny snippet in life made a lasting impression and taught me that even in our gestures and actions we are given the opportunity to tell others about our God. It doesn’t have to be a perfectly-scripted scene and we don’t have to be Biblical scholars to do the task which is set before us.

In my teenage and adult years I’ve been blessed by having the experience of getting to pray with several people as they accept Christ. Sometimes it has been a situation where I feel God telling me very clearly to speak to someone and other times it is more subtle, quiet. About five years ago I was feeling very convicted that I hadn’t lead anyone to the Lord in such a long time. I told God that morning that if He would open the door for me to speak to someone I’d be more than happy to do so. I was having a yard sale that particular day and spoke to all of the visitors who came into my yard. A girl I had never seen before came up to discuss a picture of mine she was wanting to buy and I noticed cuts and scrapes on her arm. I asked if she was okay and she went into a lengthy story about a car accident she and her child had been in just a few days earlier. She said to me (and I PROMISE this is exactly how she said it), “It’s a good thing we didn’t die cause you know I’m not a Christian and all…” My mouth literally fell open. Are you kidding me, God?! I get the message loud and clear! I asked her to wait for a second, turned around and marched into my house, came back outside with my Bible, and read John 3:16 to her. Sitting right there on my white porch swing this sweet girl prayed to receive Christ. I was so happy for her and thrilled that God had so clearly set this up. As Christians we are happiest and have the most joy when are living in the fullness of His plan for us. I was so thankful to know that in that moment the fullness of His plan for me that day was being accomplished.

Several years ago I was praying for a friend who was very ill, dying in fact. In an effort to coordinate her friends and family from across the country I decided to start a Facebook prayer group for her. Through no reason other than the amazing power of Jesus this prayer group in less than a week grew to over 800 members. People my friend didn’t even know from all over the world were praying for her. God healed my friend and allowed this wonderful prayer group to become the foundation for “Church Without Walls (the not-so-small small group)” on Facebook. I described it as an “uncommon common ground for people to meet on Facebook” and encouraged people to “check their denominations at the door”. It serves as a place to meet and leave prayer requests and share testimonies of what God is doing in their lives. After seeing God move through the prayer group in such a palpable way it was obvious that His work needed to continue. This group has been life changing for me in ways that I never even expected. I realized a new-found accountability to the people I was writing to through the devotions and songs on that site. When Jesus is speaking through us and using us as a tool we must be sure that we are living up to that privilege. I’ve had days of struggle with this, days I didn’t feel “worthy”, but the beauty of the Lord is that He is always loving, always accepting. He died for us and wants to spend eternity with us. That’s the Jesus I want people to get to know. In the age of social media we are able to reach miles beyond where our legs could carry us. That’s one reason I get so amped up about groups like Kingdom Bloggers. I can’t imagine a more productive use of the Internet than bringing people into His kingdom.

We are called to share the good news of our Lord through our word and our actions. Whether it be face to face, on the phone, or through the computer God wants to use each of us as His mouthpiece. Pray that He will provide the opportunity. I promise He will bring it to you.

Blessings- receiving them, counting them, and sharing them

It has been suggested to me tonight that I should blog on the topic of “blessings”.  I’m very excited by this prospect, actually, because I find the whole concept of blessings just fascinating.  They are fascinating to me because as humans we are so unworthy of Christ’s blessings, but as His children we become completely worthy of them.

The Scripture tells us that He was made to be sin for us, so we could become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).  WOW, now that’s powerful stuff!  In our salvation, we BECOME the righteousness and therefore become worthy of the fullness of His blessings.  I’ve stated in earlier blogs that I once heard a preacher explain it like this: Heaven is a storehouse full of wonderful gifts just waiting to be had.  All we have to do is ask and receive.  Luke 11:19 tells us to ask and it will be given unto us, seek and we will find.  I don’t know why it is so difficult for us to wrap our minds around this concept, because why should it come to any surprise to us that our Heavenly Father Who was willing to give His only Son for us would want us to receive all of the blessings He has in store for us?  Is it because we still feel unworthy?  Are we too embarrassed to ask?  Or maybe it could be the devil planting little seeds of doubt in our mind…. “God doesn’t care if you need a miracle/a healing/a new job/a car/etc”.  Whatever our reason, God Himself has already told us that His blessings are waiting for us.  We need to stop questioning and start being obedient.  Let Him shower His blessings on you, on your family.  Accept these wonderful gifts He has prepared for you.  You are the love of His life and He wants to show His affection.  We serve a mighty God.

In addition to receiving blessings we are also instructed to count them.  In Psalm 103:2 we are called to bless the Lord and forget not all His benefits.  In a life which is most often flooded with stress and pressures, this can be a daunting task.  It may not be the easiest of chores to make your list of blessings when you’ve just been fired, or are caring for a sick parent, or are going through a divorce.  However, it is during these times that we MOST need to remember the blessings He has provided us.  “My God shall supply all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus”  (Philippians 4:19).  We serve a Lord Who is faithful, however, we as His children are required to be faithful as well.  We can’t be fair-weather Christians and then run away at the first signs of strain.  These times in our lives are the very testament to the level of our strength and foundation in Christ.  I believe we should count our blessings daily.  Thank Him for what He has done for you, for your family, for your life.  Bless Him and His holy name. 

Once our blessings have been received and properly counted, we should then share them with others.  Matthew 5: 1-14 is often referred to as “The Beatitudes” (from Latin meaning “blessed” or “happy”).  Let me share it with you…

Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them saying:
 3“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 4Blessed are those who mourn,
      for they will be comforted.
 5Blessed are the meek,
      for they will inherit the earth.
 6Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
      for they will be filled.
 7Blessed are the merciful,
      for they will be shown mercy.
 8Blessed are the pure in heart,
      for they will see God.
 9Blessed are the peacemakers,
      for they will be called sons of God.
 10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
      for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

 14“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

We have an awesome responsibility to our Lord.  We are instructed to be “the light of the world”.  Our light is to shine before all men so they can see the Lord in us and give praise to God.  We must share our light with others.  We must tell of His wonderous deeds.  Share the blessings He has provided you with others.  We can share His blessings in speech or in action.  There is no right or wrong way.  We simply must be obedient. 

I’ve enjoyed spending time on this subject.  I pray that the Heavenly Father will pour out His abundance of blessings upon each of your heads.  I ask in His name that you will be willing to receive and never hesitate to ask.  Thank you, Lord, for all of the blessings you continue to bring into my life.  We alone are not worthy, but it is Christ within us which makes us worthy.  Thank you for this gift.

Make Yourself Available to Him

***I posted this note tonight on the wall of a prayer group for a sweet friend of mine who is in the hospital fighting for her life.  When Kelley Johnagin is completely healed by the hand of God I fully intend to print this off and give it to her.  Throughout this horrible situation with her God has swept over her friends and family like a quiet wind.  I am honored to get to witness this magnificent event.***
 
Friends, I am going to try to keep this brief (those of you who know me personally are chuckling at this point!), but I just have something I want to share.

First, I hope it has been made abundantly clear from the inception of this prayer group for Kelley that every square inch of this has been done to provide information about her progress, to provide friends/family a “place” to come and share words of encouragement and lift up prayers, and most importantly to be obedient to God and His Word. I believe this sums it up best:

“The Bible tells us clearly that we are one spirit with the Lord. “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor. 6:17). We also know from Romans 8:16 that the Holy Spirit is with our spirit. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Paul even says that the Lord Jesus Himself is with our spirit. “The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit” (2 Tim. 4:22). Therefore, we have found in our experience that we need to have our spirit released so that the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit might also be released in our meetings. To us this is not something to be mocked, neither is it a doctrine that we hold. It is simply a practice we enjoy.

There are numerous references in the Psalms where the writer cries out, “O Lord!” One of these references is Psalm 130:1: “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” We have found that to call on the name of the Lord is not only scriptural, but also quite effective in contacting the Lord.”

– from contendingforthefaith.com

I did not personally do anything extraordinary by starting this group. Any one of you could start a group on Facebook. Just a few clicks and you’re done. What HAS BECOME extraordinary about this group is that the Lord Himself has washed His love and His healing through it and Christians from far and wide are being drawn here to pray and to be encouraged. How could anyone doubt the unending powers of Christ after experiencing even a fraction of something like this? ALL GLORY and appreciation for this group should be directed right up to the one Who is in charge of it all. To use a quote from one of my dearest friends, I was merely a vessel.

This leads me to my last point and a wonderful testimony which I feel bears repeating.

Wednesday night my friend, Kelli Welborn, and I went to Kingsport to have dinner and to go to the hospital in the hopes of getting to see Kelley or at the very least to get an update. When we arrived friends and family were in the waiting area and filled us in on all of the up-to-date information.

As we were about to leave I asked the family/friends if it would be okay if we prayed for Kelley before we left. They were very sweet and agreed and almost as if it had been coordinated, everyone stood up in a circle and joined hands. Well, we just began to pray. It wasn’t anything flowery or well-rehearsed, it was just honest words and requests being lifted up to God the Father. (I would like to interject here that you must never be afraid of prayer. Just talk to God as if He was standing in the room with you and speak with Him as if you were speaking to your best friend. God just wants you to talk to Him, he doesn’t have a script which needs to be followed. Come to Him as a child would- humble and honest.) The prayer was a specific request of what we would like for God to do- healing specific parts of Kelley and calling them by name. Asking for peace and strength for her. Remember, we are instructed to CLAIM what it is that we want. We are to come BOLDLY before His throne. Don’t be scared to share with HIM the desires of your heart. He tells us to do this.

When the prayer was finished we all wiped our eyes and noses and Kelli and I began walking down the hall. We hadn’t gotten 20 feet from the waiting room when she turned around and said, “Wait, he wants us.” I looked at her with a confused face and turned around to see an older man following us down the corridor. I was a bit baffled since I didn’t hear him call out to us and I wasn’t sure how she was even aware of his presence. The gentleman came to us and said, “Ladies, what church are you from?” Kelli and I both smiled and told him that we were actually between churches right now (long story), but that we were Christians and firm believers in the power of prayer. This sweet old man looked right at us and said, “I attend a Holy Ghost-filled church. Your spirits have spoken to mine and I have a favor to ask.” The favor that our new friend Dwight asked of us that night was if we would come into the room of his elderly mother-in-law in ICU and pray for her. Kelli and I were both so overwhelmed with God’s grace in that moment that it almost felt like we needed to catch our balance. We, of course, immediately agreed and he walked us back into the room.

Inside that room was a precious, frail, old woman who had recently had a stroke. Dwight introduced us to the family in the room saying, “I saw these girls praying in the waiting room and I want them to pray for mom.” Well, friends, we did just that. We talked to sweet little Betty Ann and told her God loved her and then we prayed for her healing. I don’t even know the exact words which were spoken in that room that night because the Lord had taken over so completely.

Kelli and I said our goodbyes and walked out of that room changed women. For those of you who have truly been touched by the Holy Spirit, you will know exactly what I mean. For those of you who have not yet experienced this REAL LIFE manifestation of the Holy Spirit, just pray that you will. Because once you’ve had even a small taste of it you’ll realize that there’s nothing like it.

I say all of this to say- there is nothing special about who we are that makes us any more or less “worthy” of having such an experience with the Holy Spirit. It is, in fact, GOD IN US which makes us worthy to be in His presence as we were that night. Christians, make yourself available to Him. He will use you, and it’s like nothing that you’ve ever experienced- otherworldly, really. You must let the Lord know that you are willing and able. I encourage each of us to do this everyday and to see what a firestorm of spiritual revival would sweep this country- this world.

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