Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What I'm [Stealing]

“Borrowed” this from another person’s blog I read who “borrowed” it from one they read …

What I’m [reading] = Fearless – Max Lucado

What I’m [also reading] = Crazy Love – Francis Chan and one of the 25 or so ghost and folklore books I bought from Spice of Life’s going out of business sale. I normally collect them as souvenirs when I travel various places in the U.S., but I just couldn’t pass these bargains up!

What I’m [eating] = Every single thing in my sight, sadly! I’ve got to exercise more and eat better! UGH!! Currently, I’m waiting on breakfast so I can have a little pb/banana action today (even though one of my bananas looks like it has a black eye).

What I’m [hearing] = Right now? “Love Has Come” and “Your Love is a Song” on WRBQHD2 on iTunes radio. Normally I listen to Xmusiconline.com, but it seemed redundant today so I switched to this station from Tampa (I wouldn’t mind being in Tampa right now listening to some awesome Paula White preaching, to be honest!!)

What I’m [writing] = At work? Copy for the website which includes feature stories on new administrators and such. On a personal level, not much to be honest (and I should be writing more; I’m … hold it, hold it, you’re gonna be shocked by this admission … LAZY right now. Wishing I were doing more to feel more inspired, really).

What I’m [missing] = Hmmmmm … this could be a long list. Wish it stated what I’m NOT missing; that might be easier to compile and keep me out of some trouble, too. In a condensed version, I’m missing my friends Michelle and Janet – I wish we could all be in one place hanging out for about a week or six. ☺ I’m missing my Emmaus Walk #59 Team and Pilgrims – what a blessed weekend we had and I miss sharing the glow and love and praise and worship with all them.

What I’m [loving] = My life to a certain degree. Granted, it’s not as complete as I’d like it to be. I’m still looking for that special person to totally share it with and say “I do,” too. I truly believe he exists; He just hasn’t perfected the timing yet. I’m loving my job very much. I have some of the best co-workers (who have become some of the best friends and truest friends ever) and know some of the best kids in the world.

What I’m [googling] = Honestly? Wide width walking shoes. My friend, Robyn, wants me to walk with her and I NEED to walk (my diabetes NEEDS me to walk) but I have no comfortable shoes for this process. So I’m trying to find some. And definitions of certain phrases I’ve been hearing that I want to expound on as posts for my blogs. I’m working on two different posts right now – maybe three – thanks to Toy Story 3 and the recent CHS Band reunion!

What I’m [watching] = Way too much instant viewing stuff on Netflix! LOL Although it took me several weeks to view the DVD I had from them at home, I’ve managed to sort through the 200+ titles I have in my instant que and have watched quite a few movies and complete TV series on there. I was hooked on Hulu, but I think Netflix has a better lineup. Last night, though, I started a “Fearless” series on Lifechurch.tv. Pastor John got me hooked on Craig Groeschel several months ago, and I’m enjoying his messages so much.

What I’m [surprised about] = Well, not that my friends, Webb and Bubba, are getting married. I knew that was bound to happen eventually and I’m ecstatic. I was surprised about the flowers that the Dorans sent me earlier today. They’re gorgeous. I was pleasantly surprised how many people showed up at the CHS Band reunion last Saturday night! I was afraid folks just wouldn’t turn out, but I guess I forgot that they love Mr. E and Mr. Smith as much as I do.

What I’m [wondering] = How much longer this feeling of living in a state of limbo will prevail?!?! I know without a doubt that God has a plan for my life and He keeps telling me over and over again that it will be worth the wait. I just, well, sometimes get weary waiting. I’m trying to remember that wait is definitely an active verb and I’m not just being idle about it all. But there are still some areas of my life that I truly believe need some action and it’s getting really frustrating waiting for that to happen.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Who is He to you?

Matthew 16 (The Message)
13 When Jesus arrived in the villages of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,
"What are people saying about who the Son of Man is?"
14 They replied, "Some think he is John the Baptizer, some say Elijah, some Jeremiah
or one of the other prophets."
15 He pressed them, "And how about you? Who do you say I am?"
16 Simon Peter said, "You're the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
17-18 Jesus came back, "God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn't get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I'm going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church,
a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.
19"And that's not all. You will have complete and free access to God's kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven."

Who is He to you?

That question was posed at the end of a powerful video I ran across on a website recently. The video contained several people from obviously different backgrounds in life eloquently describing who God was to them.

Some of their answers included:
* a consuming fire
* light and big
* infinite
* eternal hope
* my redeemer and my sustainer in trouble
* light that pierces darkness
* the rim on every cloud
* unchanging
* He is love and He loves me
* He is indescribable and yet He loves me

Honestly, I had to watch the video twice to allow it to all sink in. And watching it brought to mind the passages in the gospels where Jesus asked his disciples a similar question.

For some reason, the version in Matthew is the one I chose to look up this morning. And to be honest, this passage of scripture frustrates me whenever I read it. You will probably find my explanation of that statement very funny, but read on nonetheless.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for those 12 men to have been hand-picked by Jesus to follow that closely with Him and serve His ministry. I wonder how much they really thought about what they were doing during the process or if they were just following out of faith. That is not really explained within the texts.

What frustrates me about Matthew 16, though, is Jesus posed this question and they obviously gave the correct answers. They answered the question directly, but the answers lack, well, eloquence. It’s as if I wanted them to suddenly become poets and offer words of fluent and beautiful alliteration. It was their moment to shine - and they were more dully straight forward.

This morning it hit me, though. These men most likely didn’t have the vocabulary to offer flowery speech. Many of them were laborers or simple fishermen. I’m not picking on them and I’m certainly not saying they’re ignorant, but how many times have you watched “Deadliest Catch” on the Discovery Channel and heard any of those guys spout

The other thing I’ve missed in the other times I’ve read these verses is: this transpired early in Jesus’ ministry. Although they had witnessed some of the miracles of Jesus and had an inkling into what He was capable of doing, they hadn’t really gotten a grasp of exactly how Jesus was going to literally transform the world as they knew it in that time and all of the eons to come.

They hadn’t “arrived” yet.

Nor have I.

Although I have known about God for more than 40 years, I have only recently begun to truly know who He is and what He is capable of doing. Had I been asked that question 20 years ago or even as soon as a decade ago, my answers would have been vastly simple compared to what I would reply today.

Who is He to me?

Maybe I shouldn’t be so frustrated with that passage of scripture after all. I can come up with some fluid, beautiful and poignant adjectives to describe God and His infinite roles in my life. But I’d like to believe, despite the times I waffle in my faith and despite the times I fail to honor Him and serve Him as consistently and deeply as I should, that my answer would come down to two simple words: my all.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Believing what seems impossible

I’m not one to give up dreams very easily. Even the ones that seem almost impossible to attain, I still keep hoping they will eventually come true!

Recently, I have believed really diligently for a couple of things to happen in my personal life. Some of them are fairly simple and just seem a bit beyond my fingertips right now. Some of them I have in my grasp, I’m just waiting for them to completely be mine. And, well, there are a couple that if I dwelt really hard on them, I’d cry because they seem so impossible to obtain.

Nothing is impossible with God, though. I learned that as a child because our choir at South Corinth Baptist Church sang a song that had lyrics which stated, “Nothing is impossible when you put your trust in God; Nothing is impossible when you’re trusting in His word. Hearken to the voice of God to thee; ‘Is there anything too hard for Me?’ Then put your trust in God alone and rest upon His Word; For ev’rything, oh, ev’rything, yes ev’rything is possible with God.”

All these years later, I can still hear the choir singing that song and all these years later, I still believe that nothing is too hard for the God I serve.

It just seems like sometimes His delivery is a bit slow, you know?

Saturday morning I was driving to Tupelo to meet some friends for a fun day of shopping and eating – two of my favorite hobbies lately. Surprisingly, I was running a little late. Generally my route to Tupelo includes going down South Harper Road and hitting U.S. 45 right past the Mississippi Welcome Center. And that’s the route I took Saturday morning. When I got in front of the Northeast @ Corinth center, though, a train started to slowly cross the tracks right before World Color. I didn’t have time to wait so I turned around and drove up the road past the Alcorn School District offices. Preparing to turn left, I noticed a road closed sign on that roadway. So, I took a right and decided to go out Fulton Drive, a route I rarely take.

The sign at Shady Grove Methodist Church, my parents’ old place of worship, caught my attention as I started to drive past it. “The best is yet to come” it stated. Honestly, I wanted to stop right there and shout. But I was already running late so I just kept moving and shouted in the car.

The next morning, I drove to Kentucky to spend the day with my nephew and his family and my sister. Wednesday is Owen’s first birthday and we wanted to celebrate it in grand style. We decided to include a trip to church for our immediate family in the festivities.

Midway through his sermon, the Baptist preacher stopped, looked out into the audience and said six critical words. Yep, you guessed it: the best is yet to come.

That kind, longtime preacher man almost knew he had a Holy Ghost-filled person in his midst at that moment. Sistergirl wanted to shout! I remained in order, though, but my heart pounded harder than it has in months. It was all further confirmation to me that I am finally on the right track in my life.

And I think if I remain steadfast and unshakeable, I honestly believe the best IS truly yet to come!

Friday, July 9, 2010

He set me free

"Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance
I just wanna praise you
I just wanna praise you
You broke the chains now I can lift my hands
And I'm gonna praise you
I'm gonna praise you

Been through the fire and the rain
Bound in every kind of way
But God has broken every chain
So let me go right now."

Warryn Campbell, Erica Atkins-Campbell and Trecina Atkins-Campbell

Standing on the platform with the Real Life Church praise & worship team one recent Sunday morning, I had a moment that might be defined as an epiphany (well, the second definition of the word; not the “feast” one): You never know how bound you have been in life until you are finally free.

That moment was truly a defining one for me and set off a process that will most likely be a continual one for the rest of my life.

It has been no great secret that I have been going through something for the past year. Although I still don’t want to talk about the entire particulars of it, I will admit that it totally changed my life as I knew it. Thankfully, it didn’t end my life since I’m much stronger than I give myself credit for being. But it did change me drastically.

Prior to this, I’d been hurt numerous times, but never at such a cataclysmic level. I was devastated. I literally felt as if someone had taken a surgically-sharpened machete, cut my legs off at the knees and then - almost gleefully - stood over where I lay and cut my heart out of my chest while staring directly into my eyes.

Dramatic? Maybe. True? Abundantly.

My heart was not just broken. It felt shattered beyond repair and felt as if the pieces were sitting heavy and almost vilely at the bottom of my torso. I guess the best way to describe how it looked to me in my mind is how one of those glass balls that hangs on Christmas trees would look on the pavement when dropped from the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building.


Worse than my heart being broken, though, I felt my spirit had been broken. Although I certainly didn’t want to harm myself, I simply couldn’t manage to care anymore. I was just numb, but painfully numb. That probably doesn’t make much sense but it seemed that I felt nothing yet I still hurt.

People closest to me reached out and tried to help. I didn’t resist, but I didn’t really receive either. I couldn’t. Oddly enough, a handful of folks who aren’t that close to me offered some words that later became very encouraging to me. And I’m honestly not certain if they even realized what they were saying or if God was just using them to messengers for Him since I wasn’t really listening closely to Him at the time.

I didn’t exactly give up on my faith, I just didn’t, well, have much faith in it. If God truly loved me, I couldn’t believe that He would allow this pain to continue. I begged Him to stop it, to fix it, to remove it and even, at times, to remove me.

In either a psychology class or sociology class at Northeast, I can remember learning about the stages of grief. I never truly believed they existed. With me, I generally lost, cried and attempted to move on. This time I experienced almost every single one of the Kubler-Ross model: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Until I started writing this paragraph, I didn’t realize I experienced them in that order, too, but I honestly believe I did although it seemed I kept revisiting the anger stage often.

Although I finally worked through four of the stages, I never could seem to settled on the fifth one: acceptance. It wasn’t that I didn’t want the pain to be over and to move on with my life. I’d prayed for that since the very beginning. I just couldn’t seem to walk there. It was like I’d almost get to what I deemed the “end,” and something would happen to propel me backwards. To say it was frustrating for me is an understatement. There were nights when I would cry out to God to remove the hurt, that I just couldn’t take it anymore. And then there were times when I would just scream because I couldn’t find the vocabulary to match my cries.

Then one Sunday morning we were singing Darlene Zschech’s song “Freedom.” Although I was “faking it until I make it,” I certainly wasn’t feeling the words until we got to the line in the lyrics which states “It is for freedom You’ve set us free.” And something within me moved. Standing there, I literally felt as if heavy, iron shackles were falling from my wrists and ankles. I really believe I saw them drop and heard them clank against the platform floor.

The final process was finally beginning.

I began delving more into the Word than ever before and it became alive to me. It was like a salve for my wounds. I learned that there truly is power in praising God, in my case, healing power. I really listened to the lyrics of “How Great Is Our God” and “Come As You Are” and began to sing them honestly and live them fully.

John 8:36 became my lifestyle.

Despite feeling free, though, I couldn’t seem to let go. I felt as if my immediate past was glued to me and I couldn’t release it. I’d pray for it to go away - for total restoration - but it seemed to me as if God wasn’t interested in completing the process.

Although I love Mercy Me, I didn’t want to continue living “Bring the Rain”:

"Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain."

I was ready for the sun - and the Son - to completely and fully shine in my life again.

But God doesn’t always do everything instantly. Sometimes He works by process and, well, apparently I was still a work in progress.

In January, I was invited to become a member of a team for a Walk to Emmaus. Although I didn’t feel worthy to do it, I found myself accepting anyway. Believing that God is come-as-you-are, I knew He would either get me ready or move the opportunity.

Standing in one of the team meetings, I sucked back tears as I looked around that room. We were truly a team in every sense of the word despite the fact that many of us had come into the Walk as strangers. We all had baggage. We all, it seemed, were going through something. We all were instantly bonded. We all became cohesive and undeniably close knit.

We all were at various levels of truly becoming overcomers.

The Walk weekend elevated me to a relationship level with God that I had never experienced before - not even on my own Walk. Still spiritually high, for lack of a better term, I went to Clinton for the Fourth of July weekend to visit Janet, a fellow W Girl who attended the Columbus college at the same time I had. Although I knew we would have fun, I never really dreamed it would be a weekend that was almost as spiritual for me as the one before.

I’m thankful God has provided me friends who aren’t ashamed to take my hand and approach the Throne of God with me often. I’m thankful for friends who aren’t so scared of me that they will get in my face and tell me I’m wrong. I’m thankful for friends who aren’t afraid to put on their waders and step out into the muck and gunk surrounding my life and offer to help pull me out of it. I’m thankful for friends who see value in me and deem me worthy to love even when I feel so unloveable. I’m thankful for friends who believe in me when I am unable to believe in myself. And I’m thankful for friends who are ultra persistent and refuse to give up on me even after I’ve long given up.

Bottom line, I’m just thankful ...

Monday morning came and it was time to head north to Corinth. Although I didn’t want to go, I really had no choice. Starting the car, I popped a CD in the player and Third Day’s “Mountain of God” began playing.

"Thought that I was all alone
Broken and afraid
But You were there with me
Yes, You were there with me

And I didn't even know
That I had lost my way
But You were there with me
Yes, You were there with me

'Til You opened up my eyes
I never knew
That I couldn't ever make it
Without You

Even though the journey's long
And I know the road is hard
Well, the One who's gone before me
He will help me carry on
After all that I've been through
Now I realize the truth
That I must go through the valley
To stand upon the mountain of God

As I travel on the road
That You have lead me down
You are here with me
Yes, You are here with me
I have need for nothing more
Oh, now that I have found
That You are here with me
Yes, You are here with me

I confess from time to time
I lose my way
But You are always there
To bring me back again

Sometimes I think of where it is I've come from
And the things I've left behind
But of all I've had, what I possessed
Nothing can quite compare
With what's in front of me
With what's in front of me

I thought that I was all alone
Broken and afraid
But, You are here with me
Yes, You are here with me."

Midway through the song, I began to feel a warmth start at my feet and slowly move up through my body. By the time it hit my shoulders, I was shouting and crying and praising God all at the same time.

I was finally healed.

There in the driveway of Janet’s home, the almost yearlong process was completed.

I wanted to do like the folks of the Old Testament variety and get out of the car and build a tabernacle. I didn’t literally, but figuratively, I did. And I will never, ever look at her driveway the same way again.

Stopping by Janet’s office, I had a such a huge smile on my face she asked me what was going on. Although I couldn’t fully find the words to describe it all, somehow she understood and she rejoiced with me.

Now I am looking at the world literally through different eyes and a different heart beats within my chest. Although I said I’d never trust anyone again, I’m cautiously and slowly relearning how to do that. I know I will begin to trust again soon, I will just be more careful in choosing who I allow into my life and how much of my heart I will give to those around me. I’ve hardly “arrived” yet and perfection is not even a word in my vocabulary. I’m still flawed, but I’m improved.

I’ve grown up a lot over the past few months and I honestly believe that’s a good thing. I told someone recently that I felt as if I had been to a rehab center of sorts and much of the junk that was once weighing down my life had been detoxed. I am more me today and more real than I have ever been.

And I like that feeling.

Please forgive me for sharing so many song lyrics, but music has always had the ability to speak to me more than any other form of written communication. Natalie Grant has a song that somewhat sums up where I am today. It’s called “I Will Be” and the lyrics are indicative of where I hope I am in my life - where I truly want to be.

"One heart, one voice
Living out love in this world of noise
My dream and my joy
Giving you all I have made a choice
Desperately I'm waiting
To answer your calling

I will be a candle in the darkness
I will be the hand of heaven above
I will be a mirror that reflects your
Endless love
I will be the hope among the hopeless
Where there is conflict I will be peace
Only by the power of your spirit that's living in me
I will be

Your heart, your plan
Give me your eyes help me understand
My feet, my hands
Holding out living hope to every man
Knowing what you've made me
With every single heartbeat

Gracious, Gentle and Kind
Knowing that your love will shine
Through mine."

Please be patient with me as I continue through this process we call “life.” I’m evolving every day and I like most of it. Change has never been something I enjoyed, but I now can say change was necessary.

I’m looking forward to the future and returning to look back and revisiting the pain of the past. In the present, I’m attempting to figure out just what it is that God has in store for me. I know He has a plan and I’m ready to walk in it now more than ever. I have dreams and desires that I am hoping He will see fit to fulfill soon.

Most of all, I am grateful - and so very blessed.