The Man Who Invented Christmas- New Film Releasing soon!
November 10, 2017
With the cooler temps breezing into the Midwest, I am getting extremely excited for the season ahead, enjoying parties, Thanksgiving, and….
Of course, Christmas is one of my favorite holidays because it is when us Christians get to joyfully celebrate and remember when our Savior King left His throne, came down to earth, and became Emmanuel, God with us!
My family and I also enjoy all the rest of the typical Christmas traditions such as decorating a tree, gift giving, and tons of yummy food with family.
Another favorite thing we always do is pull out all of the wonderful Christmas movies and reminisce over all the past holiday seasons throughout the years.
Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas…the classics!
And I am thrilled to hear that another Christmas classic is hitting the Big Screen this November…A Christmas Carol!
Well, maybe not exactly another film adaptation of A Christmas Carol, but the story behind the creation of A Christmas Carol and it’s author, Charles Dickens’!
THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS is a delightful family film that will hit theaters on Friday, November 22 – just in time for this holiday season! Actor Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey, Beauty and the Beast) brings beloved author Charles Dickens to life as we follow the inspiration that helped him craft one of the most cherished novels of all time. Some of the others cast in the film include, Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Carribean, Miss Saigon) and screen legend Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music, A Beautiful Mind).
Watch the trailer below and mark your calendars for Friday, November 22nd! Another fun Christmas activity for the whole family to enjoy!
Also, here is a fun behind the scenes featurette for you to enjoy!
Forever My Girl-New Film Releasing in January 2018!
November 8, 2017
I don’t know about you, but I am a total sucker for romantic movies, and when they have music interwoven in them, they are even better! And maybe it’s just my small town, southern Illinois roots, but I have a sweet spot for country music love songs. That’s why I am extremely excited about an upcoming film called FOREVER MY GIRL that is coming to theaters about a month before Valentine’s Day 2018!
Not only does the story line draw me in, but the music soundtrack includes some of country music’s favorites such as CMA New Artist of the Year nominee Lauren Alaina, Travis Tritt, and Alex Roe who stars in the film as country star “Liam Page.”
FOREVER MY GIRL tells the story of country music super-star Liam Page (Alex Roe) who left his bride, Josie (Jessica Rothe), at the altar choosing fame and fortune instead. However, Liam never got over Josie, his one true love, nor did he ever forget his Southern roots in the small community where he was born and raised. When he unexpectedly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his high school best friend, Liam is suddenly faced with the consequences of all that he left behind. -From Roadside Attractions
FOREVER MY GIRL releases in theaters on January 19, 2018, so be sure to mark your calendars and make it a girls’ night out or a date night!
Watch the trailer below!
Holding Onto Hope
March 17, 2017
“Hold onto hope!” were some of the last few words I wrote in my journal as I reflected over my current circumstances.
I had no idea how much the word “hope” would become even more tangible to me as it has bubbled up inside of me these last few weeks while Paul and I have been discussing our future.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
Now, I understand that many Bible scholars and Bible thumpers HATE when people quote this particular verse to apply it towards any given circumstance in life. Many agree that it is widely taken out of context.
I understand that the Lord is talking to Israel through His prophet Jeremiah in this passage, and I also understand that the Israelites would have to endure seventy years of captivity in Babylon before they began to see God’s promise of a great future come to pass.
But does that mean that God’s plans towards us are not good or that we should not remain hopeful of a glorious future ahead?
Of course not!
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28, NKJV).
God’s character has not changed and He loves us just as He loves His chosen people, Israel.
Yet, we definitely need to remember that our definition of good and God’s definition of good could be two completely different things and those plans could possibly involve some suffering and challenges on our way to that glorious future.
And the Lord knows Paul and I have endured some of those challenges and suffering over the last few years that have tested our faith and shaken our hope in the Lord’s promises to us, especially as it concerns our desire for debt freedom- a dream we have had since very early on in our marriage, which has always been accompanied by very limited time together from all of the jobs we have had to take on to see that dream become a reality.
Although those difficult and sometimes painful experiences seem to have loomed over our heads these last two years, they have most definitely become more intensified these last six months or so.
Our son Isaiah has always seemed to have sleeping issues since he was born, but in late September until early February, he was waking up every single night (no exaggeration), multiple times, into the early morning hours. This just so happened to be around the same time I started my new part-time job in retail where for almost three months (well over 20 hours a week) I wouldn’t get home until close to one o’clock in the morning (thanks to those lovely extended holiday hours). All I wanted to do was sleep during the day, and I dreaded having to do it all over again that night, not to mention hating all the time I was missing out on with my family and friends on the weekends as well.
I didn’t know how quickly this would all catch up to me- my health definitely took a turn for the worse, which was difficult for me to experience since I was in the best shape of my life after working out for an entire year straight, eating clean, and taking supplements. But in December, I began experiencing severe bloating, fatigue, and issues with my menstrual cycle that culminated in a chemical pregnancy, which is a type of early miscarriage, because my hormones were extremely imbalanced from all of the added stress. I was having panic attacks in the middle of the night and arguments increased between Paul and I because of the sleep deprivation and utter exhaustion from dealing with a child who would inconsolably scream for hours through the night. Did I mention we live in an apartment complex? I’m sure our neighbors just adore us. 🙂
But thanks be to God…and to friends who have been praying for us continually!
We have seen great improvement in Isaiah’s sleep and in my health this last month! I have had no choice but to hold onto hope. I have had no choice but to fight to hold onto my peace and joy and to fight for my marriage.
I’ve held onto it all with a death-grip, really.
I refuse to sink. I refuse to let the enemy win because frankly, he’s a loser and has already lost the battle.
My Jesus has already won the war!
I know this sounds kinda cheesy, but it has such a deep truth:
I don’t know what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future.
God does.I will hold onto the hope that God is holding onto me. Click To Tweet
Whatever you are facing today, know that God is holding you. He’s got this and He’s not going to let you down. His thoughts and ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9) and His plans are greater than you could ever ask, think, or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
HOLD ONTO HOPE IN JESUS TODAY, FRIEND! He is your anchor and won’t let you sink!
I’m holding on to hope
I’m holding on to grace
I’m fully letting go
I’m surrendered to Your ways
The anchor for my soul
Father You will never change
I love You, I love You
–From “Anchor” by Bethel Music
Ian Yates’ AWAKEN TO LOVE- A Review
August 17, 2016
As a writer, I often receive emails from my readers from all over the world who take the time to let me know that something I wrote encouraged them or inspired them in whatever they were facing at the time. Those emails always encourage and inspire me! Last month, I got another email from a reader of one of my blog posts, but this time, it was from a Christian music artist “across the pond” who stumbled upon my CD review of Matt Redman’s album Unbroken Praise that I wrote last summer. This Liverpool UK music artist’s name was Ian Yates who I had not heard of before, but he just so happened to be a friend of Mr. Redman and even co-wrote “No Longer I” on Unbroken Praise! How cool!
Ian asked me if I would like to review his new upcoming album, Awaken To Love, that releases next month. Without hesitation, I excitedly agreed and patiently waited to hear his new music!
I can boldly say that I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to these 12 songs non-stop for the last month! I listen to a lot of music, and there are very few albums that I can listen through without skipping through a couple songs. Awaken To Love is one of those easy-listening albums that you can just let loop as you work on your computer or on your commute to work.
Ian’s sound, in my opinion, is a mix between Hillsong’s Young and Free and Switchfoot- upbeat, yet very powerfully moving songs that tell of God’s goodness and love.
He even does a version of another Liverpool artists’ song- The Beatle’s “All You Need is Love,” bringing this classic song to a whole new generation with a brand new sound!
I honestly enjoy every song on this album, but my favorite has to be “He has Never Left You,” reminding the listener of God’s faithfulness and nearness. I am a sucker for acoustic guitar!
Awaken To Love releases on September 16th, but you can pre-order it right now on Ian’s website (receive a a signed physical copy plus a digital download), iTunes, and Amazon!
You seriously don’t want to miss out on this new music! Check out the album trailer in the meantime!
For more information about Ian, his music, and how to connect with him, visit his website: www.ianyatesmusic.com!
Thank you , Ian, for sharing your musical gifts all for God’s glory! It was an honor to get to listen to these amazing songs before they are officially released for the world to hear! God Bless!
God Can Use Empty Cups: Part 2
May 13, 2016
Click to read: “God can use empty cups: Part 1”
I found out very quickly last Saturday that you can indeed pour yourself out even when you don’t feel like you have much to give.
God took full advantage of the fact that I was asked to sing “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from Phantom of the Opera with my cousin at my grandpa’s funeral. Phantom of the Opera was one of his favorites and my grandpa loved going to hear his grand-daughters sing when we were both involved in musical theater. I just thought I was going to (try to) perform this song (without crying uncontrollably) and quietly sit back down in my seat, but God had other plans.
The night before the funeral service, I rehearsed with my cousin and tried my best to get some sleep, knowing that the next day was going to be a very heavy and emotionally draining one for me and my whole family.
I wrestled on and off trying to fall asleep because I wasn’t sure how I was going to introduce myself and the song and try to make it all sound somewhat uplifting, since the song is VERY VERY DEPRESSING. Absolutely beautiful, but nonetheless, depressing.
Playing out in my head different scenarios, I mentally wrote out my script, but trusted that God would give me the words. Then He told me that He wanted me to say more than just an introduction to the song and why we were singing it.
He wanted me to share my faith and speak His truth about eternity. In front of MY WHOLE FAMILY, many of who are not believers nor have a relationship with Christ at all….yet. 🙂
Immediately, I thought of all of the reasons that I was not equipped to do such a thing:
I haven’t read my Bible in weeks. I’ve pressed the “Catch Me Up” button on my “Digging Deeper Daily” one year Bible plan so many times, I’m about 7 months behind on where my original end date was. My prayer life consists of “Help me, Jesus” and just praying I can stay awake. And YOU want to use ME? To be Your vessel? Right now? Like tomorrow? Or better yet, several HOURS from now???
But one thing I do know about the Lord is that He does not call the qualified. Even in seasons of dryness and weakness, He qualifies the called.
And I know that I’m not only called, but chosen.
So this little chosen solider in the army of the Lord said, “yes sir.” Then I prayed a very familiar prayer:
Empty me of myself. Fill me up with You. I want to be Your vessel. I want to over-flow with You.
Then I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep, trusting that God would fill my mouth with His words.
And He did.
I can’t remember much of what I said, which usually happens when you become a mouthpiece for the Holy Spirit to speak through, but I can say that I poured out every bit of what God poured into me. Not just in that moment, but everything He poured into me in all the years of time spent alone with Him in His Presence. I’m so utterly grateful for the history that I have been able to form with the Lord, especially these last eight years.
I’m also EXTREMELY grateful that God would use this season in my life, a season where I don’t feel like I have much to give based upon my merit or Christian duties of prayer and Bible study, to allow me to share with my family (and extended friends and family who were in attendance that day) about one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given- eternal salvation through the finished work of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Proving that I will never be good enough in my own ability or strength. No, when I am weak, He is so very strong. And His grace is ever sufficient.
Through many tears and a shaky voice, I ended the song in prayer:
Boldly praying and thanking God for my grandpa’s life and all who he touched during his blessed 89 years here on this earth, thanking Him for the opportunity to share the gospel with my grandpa a few years ago where I was able to lead him to Jesus before he took his last breath and met the King of Glory face to face, and then praying for those under the sound of my voice to believe and trust in Jesus Christ and not wait another moment.
Then I opened my tear-filled eyes, slowly walked back to my seat, and sobbed. Many probably thought that I was crying so hard because we had to say our final good-byes to my grandpa (and yes, that was definitely heavy on my heart), but the tears were coming from a place of deep, deep joy and gratitude because God is so incredibly faithful.
He fulfilled a constant prayer of mine in an instant.
That is, I would be able to share with my family how much I love Jesus and how much He loves them, how much He has changed my entire life from the inside out because of His amazing love and forgiveness, and how they can spend eternity in heaven with this beautifully, merciful Savior too.
I thought this was all going to happen at a small, family gathering during the holidays, but God completely blew me away during the most unlikely of circumstances- turning ashes into beauty as He always does.
He used me as an empty cup that day. Emptied completely of myself and my own abilities or strength and filled me up with so much of His love and His Holy Spirit.
My cup now runneth over.
Love and miss you so much, grandpa. I can’t wait to see you again. Soon and very soon. XOXO
Heaven on Earth: Finding Family
January 25, 2016
I heard a quote the other day that really hit me strongly.
“The more heaven comes to earth, the more earth will look like family.” -Jonathan Helser
Oh, how I long to experience heaven in that way again, I thought!
Within that statement, I began to envision the Father’s heart behind His original design of creation, and then seeing His ultimate plan when Jesus came to reconcile man back to God through the Cross.
But I have to admit, any time I heard someone praying “on earth as it is on heaven” or heard songs proclaiming “let heaven come,” my mind immediately associated those words with miracles, signs, wonders, and encountering God’s tangible Presence like never before.
I have experienced those types of encounters both privately and corporately and, yes, they are quite heavenly to be sure!
But there was a point in time where even in a crowded room, among other believers, I still felt like something was missing.
Although I have experienced “family” with a body of believers before, it seemed to have disappeared; I believe the void in my life began forming a couple years ago.
I no longer felt the sense of being a part of the family of God.
I mean, of course, I KNOW I am a daughter in the Kingdom of God, and I know I am a member of the Body of Christ, but the family element of my weekly church gathering had seemed to vanish.
As I saw close friends of mine, one by one, leave our church home, my heart began to grow colder, but instead of dealing with the pain it caused to lose touch with them, I embraced my ministry assignments and kept moving forward in my calling.
But sadly, my personal time with the Lord began to suffer, and I began to view my involvement in ministry leadership as just another job. Because of my driven and goal-oriented personality, I didn’t question this jaded point of view.
Just keep moving ahead with the vision. Don’t look back for those who no longer want to support the vision.
Just keep attending those leadership/planning meetings.
Just keep going to those worship team rehearsals….even on those nights when they are 3 hours long…
Just keep preparing those messages for the youth meetings.
Just keep attending those prayer meetings.
Just get to church early to unlock the building, run through sound-check, wrestle the baby through the service, pray for this visitor, invite that girl to the next youth group outing, stay late for a meeting with Pastor, do the process all over again if there was an evening service/midweek service and then do it all over again next week and the week after that and the week after that…
Just typing through all of that makes me exhausted!
As I have shared in previous posts, by the direction of the Holy Spirit, Paul and I decided to step off of the hamster wheel of ministry at our church home and trusted the Lord would lead us where we belonged…hoping we would find our tribe, our community, our FAMILY.
A few weeks after we stopped running on the “hamster wheel,” we found ourselves in a safe place at a Baptist church, with sound teaching and surrounded by believers who truly love the Lord, but we both knew that our stay would most likely be temporary until we found our new “home.” We enjoyed four months there: Bible studies, Sunday school classes, Christmas concerts, choir rehearsals, and made some new friends. We are truly thankful for everyone who poured into us while we healed from our ministry wounds.
And then yesterday happened.
I’m still giddy from excitement and in awe of how quickly God can make things right in an instant of trusting Him to make all things new.The Lord can take our brokenness and bring wholeness in the blink of an eye! Click To Tweet
A few weeks ago, we kept running into an old friend of ours who also felt the pain of finding family, but recently found her tribe. Yesterday, we decided to take her recommendation, and got the whole family ready for church.
I was filled with such hope and anticipation, and within just a few hours, discovered my prayers of belonging had suddenly came to pass.
Just like I knew Paul was my husband after our first date, I knew this new church was our home after the first service!
Of course, everyone who greeted us as we walked in the door was so warm and inviting and we were both super impressed by the check-in process for their children’s ministry, making it as easy on the parents as possible…so helpful! And who could complain about a church in St. Louis that offers Kaldi’s coffee on tap! *Praise break*
Paul knew I was all in when the worship began. The song choices and the music style are, seriously, the sound of my heart, and since God has created me as a worshipper and songbird, it was hook, line, and sinker for me!
The message was the second one in a series called Renewal, which is totally a word the Lord has been speaking to me about my current season.
Stop mourning past seasons. I want to do something new in your life…trust Me.
I received confirmation on some passages I had been studying during the week, which is always something you are grateful for when coming together corporately to worship and study God’s word!
Then as we were leaving, we were able to connect with a young couple. We found out they only lived a few miles from us, so we exchanged numbers and I spent the next couple hours after we got home connecting with my new friend!
We are both stay-at-home moms too! Another answer to my prayers- finding someone who was in the same stage of life as us!
So within just a few hours, God turned ashes into beauty and is bringing “family” back into our lives again! We are so looking forward to our community group tomorrow night and then I have a girl date with my new friend on Friday- a night of worship with the women of the church!
Lord, You are speaking my love language!
I’m just so thankful and praising God for His faithfulness!
If you are battling discouragement or disappointment in your life right now, especially regarding relationships, I just encourage you to hang on, keep trusting the Lord! He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother and is faithful to the end! Soon and very soon you will find yourself surrounded by those who will love you for who you are and not what you can do for them. They will speak your language and make you feel right at home…
…just like heaven on earth.
When Death Surrounds Us
January 18, 2016
We are are now three weeks into 2016 and the only word I can use to describe it is HEAVY.
It seemed as if every time I logged onto Facebook, my eyes fell upon the tragic news of someone passing away.
One by one, headlines announced that another beloved artist in the music and entertainment industry had taken their final breaths here on this earth.
Then one by one, memorial service details for friends’ loved ones began to fill my feed.
Then I started receiving texts with more news of…
They were taken too soon.
This seems like a dream.
I can’t believe they are gone.
Heavy thoughts. Heavy words. Heavy hearts.
One of the many precious people who have gone from this life was a part of my own blood family (a distant great uncle of mine), and the other, just today, was my husband’s uncle.
My heart is so, so heavy with those grieving who I know very well and those who I may never meet.
What do we do when death seems to completely surround us?
The best advice that I can give is run to the Word of God.
It is full of promises of eternal hope, light, and life.
I have spent the last couple of days finding comfort in Psalms 121:
God the Help of Those Who Seek Him
When death seems to surround us, what do we do? We lift our eyes upward towards the heavens. Click To Tweet
A Song of Ascents.
121 I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul encourages those of us who are believers:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your[a] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-3 ESV)
We know that no one will be able to escape natural death (unless you are caught up to the heavens when Jesus returns), but once we spiritually die with Christ, we receive the promise of His resurrection life. We become born again!
This is this hope of eternal life that we hold fast to.
Although when our loved ones leave us, we have to remember that this world is not our home.
Our bodies may taste death in this life, but when we trust in Christ and the sacrifice He made for us on the Cross, our spirits will never truly taste death because there is a life to come and a resurrection of those bodies are promised when Jesus returns in glory, as Colossians 3 proclaims.
But I have to ask, is your life hidden in Christ? Do you embrace the gospel truth of John 3:16?
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 NKJV)
Do you believe on Jesus?
If so, everlasting life awaits you and there is no need to fear death or hell. Death, hell, and the grave has been overcome by the Cross!
The Apostle Paul brings us more hope in 1 Corinthians 15:
I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:55-56 ESV)
We continue to grieve the passing on of those whom we hold close in our hearts, but we must keep our eyes on the life to come. I will continue to pray for those of you who are mourning the loss of someone close to you today. Look up to the heavens where your help dwells and know that He sent a Helper and Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to hold you during this time. He is our Peace.
I also pray that you begin to see this life with eternal lenses and embrace the promises of everlasting life with Christ. Hide yourself in Him until your dying day or until He returns in His glory.
None of us know what day will be our last, so I pray, believe on Christ today, beloved!
December 7, 2015
I haven’t spent too much time lately on my blog sharing current personal events. It doesn’t mean there hasn’t been anything important to write about, I just haven’t felt the need to dive into some of the messiness of our life.
Paul and I have been through a lot of major transitions and changes throughout our six years of marriage, but for some odd reason, I never can seem to get used to it. Since I’m a “go-getter,” I pull up my boot-straps, bite my lip, and move forward full-speed-ahead.
In early May of this year, through studying the Word of God in a new light, we began a journey of discovering why we believed what we believed. We began to realize that so much of what we embraced was not sound doctrine. After hearing the pure gospel of Jesus Christ, our eyes were opened to the truth that we had become victims of the prosperity gospel– giving to get more in return, visualization boards, believing we could speak things into existence just like God did (we are not “speaking spirits” or “little gods,” my friends- that is not what being made in His image is about) positive declarations and confessions, seeking increase in possessions and finances, etc. That’s when we began to ask questions to spiritual leaders whom we trusted. We wanted to make sure what we were hearing, whether on Sunday morning or YouTube videos from well-known Bible teachers, lined up with the Bible, and most importantly, the words in red.
Within just a few weeks of studying, the Lord spoke to us about selling our house, so we obeyed. We started that process and within seven days, the home was under contract. Within 30 days, we packed up our three bedroom home in the country and moved into a two bedroom apartment closer to the city and closer to our church.
About two months after we got settled in and used to our shorter commute to church (we spent more time there than at home sometimes), the Lord started speaking to us about finding a new church home.
Again, we obeyed, relieved ourselves from our leadership positions appropriately and completely wrapped in love, and just trusted God would lead the way. Within a month, we were divinely invited to a church where some of Paul’s family (whom he had lost touch with over the years) attended. Being a product of numerous denominations over the years, it didn’t bother me that this church was a Baptist church. Paul’s religious upbringing was different than mine though. He spent his whole life at non-denominational churches, rooted in the charismatic and Word of Faith movements. This theology and doctrine became spiritual reality and truth to me since 2008 when I began attending the church he grew up at. Once we left that church, we found ourselves in an environment similar to that of which Paul grew up in. Since this was all he knew, we never thought about questioning it.
But we did start to question it.
And what we found out, over the course of several months of studying God’s Word, revealed the deception that had clouded our minds about God’s truth, salvation, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, here we are, having attended the Baptist church for two months, learning more about the names of God. About HIM. Not US. About what we can do for JESUS. Not what Jesus can do for US. And in our own studying at home, continuing to learn more and more about the lies of the prosperity gospel and Word of Faith movement, of which they often go hand in hand.
I’ve realized that the devil will try all He can to distract you, bring doubt, and confuse you regarding the will of God for your life. Yesterday, I experienced that in the form of waking up from a terrible dream, which caused me to be completely out-of-sorts all morning- on my drive to church, the sound-check for the worship set (I joined the choir a few weeks ago), the whole church service, and my drive home. I was an emotional mess, all from one stupid dream the night before involving some rejection that occurred over the last few months. Because of the lingering feelings from the dream, I was finding myself missing our involvement at our previous church home and began to question our decision to leave.
I walked into the sanctuary at our new church as round 1 of sound-check was going on and I said, “Lord this isn’t me.” I had been involved in leading worship with different music styles, had experienced what charismatic churches like to call “prophetic flow” in worship services, and had many tangible encounters with God’s presence in that kind of environment, and to be honest, I was missing that in my current corporate worship situation.
While waiting for sound-check to start for the choir, the Lord spoke to my heart:
Stop mourning past seasons. I want to do something new in your life…trust Me.
We made it through sound-check and then 15 minutes later, I made my way onto the risers for worship service to begin. I tried all I could to “enter in,” ignoring the blank stares, straight faces, and lack of enthusiasm and expression from the congregation (I’ve concluded this isn’t just at Baptist churches, but can be found in churches all over the US…it’s just the fact that many don’t fully understand how much they have been forgiven and what great sacrifice Jesus made for them to be free), and centered-in on the One whom I was worshiping.
We were celebrating the Lord’s Supper and one of the song selections was “Jesus Paid It All” by Kristian Stanfill– a favorite of mine.
Just as we got to the bridge, I lifted up my hands in surrender and tears began to fill my eyes.
OH, PRAISE THE ONE WHO PAID MY DEBT/ AND RAISED THIS LIFE UP FROM THE DEAD
I have heard and sang those lyrics to this song countless times. I have stood on a stage for many years, whether performing in musicals and plays or leading worship. And this type of spontaneous overwhelming experience while singing, especially to the Lord, has only happened to me when I was involved in charismatic circles. I thought this was a result of “the anointing” or because our worship services were able to “flow” or they lasted longer than 30 minutes (sometimes).
In that moment, my ideologies and judgement about certain denominations crumbled. It doesn’t matter if I am in a “spirit-filled” church (which is actually a term that should be used for all churches who are filled with believers because all believers are “spirit-filled,” otherwise they wouldn’t be saved, and not ones who simply speak in tongues and embrace charismatic worship styles).
Above all, I believe the Holy Spirit is filling a place when He is allowed to guide us into all truth, bring conviction, and grant people repentance that leads to the revelation of Jesus Christ in whom they will put their whole trust in, thus becoming born-again or having restored fellowship with the Father once again.
“Prophetic flow,” extended times of worship, singing in tongues, dancing, hands raised, or clapping doesn’t make my worship in song better or more anointed.If the Holy Spirit is in a place, He is the anointing. Click To Tweet
And if you are a born-again believer, you are anointed!
God was doing something in my heart yesterday and my soul was trying to dominate with mixed emotions.
Knowing that there was something not quite right with my struggle to try to control my situation and questioning God’s will in my life, I went down to the alter towards the end of service and asked God to purify my heart.
Just then, the song that was being sung by our worship pastor met me right where I was:
“Make Us New” by Doug Mickan
Saturate us with your presence
Illuminate the sin within us
Help us to see the things that need to change
You know too well of our transgressions
Now we come with full confession
You are Holy and we are so undone
Purify our hearts
Make us new, make us new
Change our desire
Make it you, make it you
Remove the stain of shameful sin
Restore Your joy to us again
All consuming fire make us new
Tears streamed down my face and I lifted my hands in surrender.
I know that I may not be completely comfortable in my current season, but I do know that I must let go of the past and let God do a new thing in me, even if it is sometimes painful.
Then I’m reminded, the Potter’s wheel is never comfortable, and the molding process can hurt, but it is worth it to see God further shape me into a vessel that seems best to Him. He is making me new…again.
Stripped, But Expectant
October 28, 2015
Since adding working out to my daily routine, I have had to choose how I spend my time during my son’s naps.
I have to admit, writing has taken a backseat as an option. And although I miss it, I haven’t felt like I have had much inspiration lately.
I think I might be in a barren season- a winter season.
Not because of any harsh trial or suffering- I just feel like I’ve been stripped of a lot of activities that were probably just meant to distract me from my thoughts.
It’s in these solitary circumstances that you are offered the opportunity to truly reflect and do what some call “soul searching.'”
It may sound like I’m over-exaggerating, but truthfully, this may be the first time since I was probably five years old, that I am not hyper-involved and busy.
Yes, being a mom, and a stay-at-home mom at that, is a marathon and although I love every single minute with my son, it leaves me exhausted until my head hits the pillow. What I’m talking about is all the extra “life-fillers” that I spent years upon year upon years crowding the margins of my existence with:
Dance class, gymnastics, cheerleading, running track, Student Council, Marching Band, Pep Band, Concert Band, Art Club, Peers Group, musicals & plays (“I can’t. I have rehearsal.”), auditions, performances, church choir practice, tutoring, youth ministry, college and career ministry, worship team rehearsals, Bible studies, prayer meetings, church leadership meetings, drama practices, event planning committees, speaking engagements…
…just to name a few.
And although I occasionally have a radio interview here or there or I may lead a Bible study once a month, for the first time in a VERY LONG TIME, I am not a member of a group, ministry, or team.
And I believe the Lord is using it.
He’s telling me, “No more DOING. Just BE.”
I’ve heard Him tell me that a lot throughout my walk with Him, but I have never attempted it fully. I may have cut out my involvement in one thing, but not everything. I can’t say that I even had much to do with my current circumstances either. The choice to stepped down from all ministry leadership at our church and start attending church service elsewhere was my husband’s decision, and I followed him because I’m his wife. I trust that he listens to the leading of the Holy Spirit and knows where the Lord wants to take our family through my husband’s leadership.
This is why I believe God the Potter is having me hop back on the wheel. He has more work to do on me, as He will until I see Him face to face one day.
He has stripped a lot away and asked me to yield to His hands once again.
I may have been trying to resist the Potter’s wheel because I know when He starts to spin it, my world won’t look the same once He’s finished.
At this point, it kind of doesn’t. Friendships have come and gone, and I’m discovering new things that I’m interested in. I’m not hating the waiting as much, I suppose.
I haven’t stopped dreaming though.
I know all that God wants to do in my heart, the process, will all be worth it.
It may not look like much is going on in my life right now, and I can’t seem to find all the words yet, but I know the work God is doing is a deep one.Maybe what looks barren is actually just branches that are being pruned. #endure #persevere Click To Tweet
I know that the more pruning that happens, the more fruit I will see one day.
I will continue to endure this cutting-away and expect that abundant life is on its way soon!
Awakened (Part 1)
August 7, 2015
For the first fifteen years of my life, my view of God and Christianity was purely religious and an empty routine- attending church and Sunday school weekly and going through the sacraments, but never really understanding why. I just followed the rules and didn’t ask any questions. I memorized the “Our Father” and the “Nicene Creed” and attempted to memorize the “Prayer to the Holy Spirit” and “Hail Mary.” To me, they were just words, so after a while, I saw no point in even trying. I remember my Sunday school teachers focusing on stories of the Old Testament and thinking God was angry and would smite me down with a lightning bolt if I sinned. I had no revelation of the Father’s love or grace or forgiveness or the sacrifice of the Cross. The only thing I knew of Jesus was that He was one of the persons of the Trinity as “the Son.” I saw Him hanging on the crucifix at the front of the church every Sunday, but to me, it was just a statue- a piece of art, almost.
As I got older, it very obviously became harder and harder for me to keep from sinning or follow the rules. A spirit of lust that I believe laid dormant from some seeds of sexual perversion that were planted early on in my childhood began to tighten its grip around my young heart. Right from the moment I entered high school, I got entangled in alcohol abuse and a promiscuous lifestyle in the backseat of cars. My straight ‘A’ reputation at school and my church attendance on Sundays were just covering up my reputation that I had on Friday nights. I wanted people to think I had it all together, but once people started talking, I was having a difficult time keeping my mask on. By the time spring came my freshman year of high school, the guilt and shame from the names girls were calling me and the gossip that filled the lunchroom became too much to bear. My solution was to confess everything to my mom and attempt to live differently. I wanted a fresh start so my answer was to seek out a relationship with “the Christian kid.” Maybe just simply being around Christians would help me become one, I thought to myself.
When I started dating this boy from school, not much changed. I was still behaving promiscuously with him, but tried keeping it hidden by attending church and youth group meetings. Although I had a bad taste in my mouth regarding religion, I remember being drawn in by the contemporary worship music of his church church. I actually enjoyed being there and wanted to learn more and read my Bible that the church gave me once I became a member. As the months went by, I experienced a few “God moments” where I felt Him tapping me on the shoulder during the sermon.
One of those “God moments” occurred at a youth conference that our youth group attended when I was sixteen. I don’t remember exactly what the preacher was saying accept that my heart was about to beat out of my chest if I did not run to the foot of that alter and surrender my heart to Jesus, who I just found out died on that Cross so that I would be forgiven and given a new life in Him.
I ran to the foot of the altar and cried out to God in desperation, “Oh God, please save me! I don’t want to do this on my own anymore. Jesus, be my Savior!”
Shortly after I made that confession, I was right back in the same mess I had found myself in before, and as the years went on, WORSE.
Alcohol, sex, adultery, pride, selfishness, lying…
To this day, that has always bothered me.
How could someone be awakened to the truth that they are sinful and need a Savior, embrace Jesus, and still live in darkness?
Was my salvation experience false?
These questions would haunt me for many years…
CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE ON TO “AWAKENED (PART 2)”