Fully at Your Mercy

Ever been completely at the mercy of someone else? Ever felt so much brokenness, shame or heartache in a situation, that you knew you had nothing left, but to give up and allow someone to reach into the dark pit you call home and pull you out? Let me answer that for you. Yes, the answer is yes. How do I know? Because each of us comes to this place at one point or another. The moment we enter this world and sin we are dropped at the foot of the throne of God and our sin- induced shame is written across our face. Mercy. We need mercy in this moment. And when our soul is so downcast with anxiety, fear, and hurt that we feel breathless, God’s mercy is our hope.

I felt this breathlessness this past week. Something happened that hurt me so deeply that the breath in my lungs seemed to vanish. The only thing I could do was to shed tears and look to my creator for mercy that He alone can provide. I won’t pretty it up for you. I felt anger- towards others, towards myself, towards God even. I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth. I told God what I felt and immediately he reminded me of a story about my mom.

I won’t tell her story because it is truly a tragedy and something everyone does not need to know. It’s her story. The thing that got me though was that her sister came to her in this devastating time and prayed Psalm 103 over her. My mother responded in anger and hurt. If you know my mom, you know she loved God’s word and this was very uncharacteristic of her response to scripture. It’s just that her pain was so deep she MUST have felt that breathlessness I mentioned before. She must have felt the need for mercy, but could not accept it because her situation devastated her in that moment.

Well, God brought this part of the story to mind as I sat broken and angry before Him and I knew that I needed to read aloud Psalm 103.

Wow! What a challenge it was to read it aloud.  This is a little summary of how it went. Que uncontrollable sobbing.

Bless the Lord O my soul and ALL that is within me. (Verse 1)

All? Really God? What is left in this moment but heartache?

“Bless the Lord O my soul and FORGET NOT HIS BENEFITS” (verse 2)

Ok, yes God has done so much for me. Even in my hurt He’s not left me alone. But, still I am angry and this is just not fair!

“Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things so that your youth is renewed like eagles wings.” (verses 3-5)

Oh, and how he saved me from my sin! He erased it! It’s all gone! And oh yeah, how he has turned my ashes into beauty! Oh yes, there is goodness and joy in knowing God! How tender and gracious my God is! I am at His mercy! Thank you Lord that I am at YOUR mercy and not this world’s!

It is incredible how God’s word can bring hope. I still feel the sting from the situation I am in and I still don’t understand some of the struggles I’ve been through in my short life. But, I choose to be fully surrendered to God’s mercy because this world and this life just can’t match up to his goodness!

So this is my prayer and I hope you will say it aloud if you are in need of mercy.

Lord, I am fully at your mercy. Thank you for your grace and salvation poured out for me. I trust that only you can heal my woundedness. Only you can bring joy in the midst of pain. Only your mercy can cover my sin and anger. Help me to walk in that truth today and free me from my shame. Amen.

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10 Reasons You Should Serve in the…

nursery! I left nursery out of the title because I know people hear nursery and don’t even give it a chance. But really, how much more important does it get than serving the littlest of church members? If JESUS wanted them to come to Him even in a busy hour, then you should too. Here are 10 reasons serving in the nursery is critical.

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1. You serve the older AND younger generations when you give your time to the nursery. You heard that right… You are not just caring for a baby or toddler, but also for their parents who may not have had a moment to breathe all week until they dropped their kiddo off on Sunday morning. It’s a ministry that branches out to more than the one person you are actually with.

2.You get to change history with prayer. You get to help “train a child up in the way he should go so that when he is older he will NOT turn from it”. Even with the littlest babies who can’t repeat their memory verse, you are changing history because you get time to pray over them! What a special moment to hold a child and pray for their future, for their family, for their SALVATION!!

3. Babies and toddlers are fun. Yes, they cry. Yes, the poop their diaper. But they also give the best toothless smiles and giggles around! You cannot be grumpy with a giggling kiddo in your presence. And you cannot feel hostile while holding a peaceful, sleeping infant.

4. Getting to know kids in the nursery provides an easy opportunity to meet their parents. If you’re like me, running up to a new family is intimidating and uncomfortable. But you have a reason to meet them when you are teaching their children about Jesus. It takes the pressure and awkwardnessIMG_3044 out of introducing yourself at the perfect moment. It’s natural to exchange names when you’re spending an hour and half with someone’s child.

5. Did I mention it is ONLY an hour and a half of your time? I mean really…I don’t know many people who don’t have 1.5 hours to give to the Lord. Maybe that sounds harsh, but it’s true. I can’t say that all church nursery schedules work this way, but for Praisin’ Place we try to maintain enough volunteers so that people aren’t working more than 2 Sundays per quarter.

6. It produces gratefulness. When you volunteer in the “off stage” places in the church, you get an eye for how much work goes into a Sunday morning. When you realize all the work that takes place, it makes your heart more grateful. And that gratefulness, will in turn, minimize the temptation for a critical spirit. Feeling critical of the church and everyone around you? Take a chance and serve somewhere. I can pretty much guarantee you will quickly feel a “heart check” happen and your joy return.

7. IT’S BIBLICAL. Jesus told the disciples “If a man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all’. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, ‘Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.” That pretty much says it all. There is tenderness in Jesus when he “takes the child into his arm”. I want to be tenderhearted like Jesus. And I don’t know about you, but I definitely want to receive God!

8. GOD IS IN THE NURSERY TOO, FOLKS! Y’all, God doesn’t just show up for the adults in their worship session. He shows up to minister to little one’s hearts. And his presence is with us everywhere we go. So, go in the nursery and share some Jesus with those kids and watch God meet you right there in that group of 3 year olds! He’s that good, y’all.

9. Teaching Bible Stories helps you comprehend and remember them better. I’ve read statistics all over the place that say you retain 90% of what you learn when you teach it! That’s phenomenal. What an easy way to write God’s word on your heart and in your mind.

10 Did I mention, it’s biblical?. God’s word says “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matt 5:9) Let’s face it, toddlers require a little “peace making” from time to time. 😉

If you absolutely cannot handle working with small children, then don’t. But find somewhere to serve. Many of these apply to other areas in the church and we are called as believers to serve others. So, go find somewhere to serve!

Free Indeed

So, this is my fourth blog post and I have only shared my blog with two people. Boo… I feel like a big chicken because of that. My mind is playing that childhood teasing chant of “bock bock bock, Chickeeeen!” over and over as I imagine sharing this blog with others.  So, today I am changing things up and sharing a little more of myself with the world. Why today? Because I was reminded in the sermon yesterday that I am free INDEED. I am free of the fear of rejection. I am free of shame and the need to compare myself. I am free of the pride that holds me back. I am FREE because the son set me free! Hallelujah!

Pastor Dennis preached more on Ephesians yesterday. He said “Grace given=salvation. Grace received=transformation.” I want my life to be so transformed that no fear can hinder what God desires to speak in and through me in this life.

Acts 4:33 says “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.” I want to be like the Apostles and have God’s grace AT WORK in me…transforming me and resulting in the transformation of others.

As Pastor Dennis Gallaher said, grace shouldn’t stop with salvation and a couple life changes. It should draw us to the battle line. It should call us to fight.

So with grace on my side, I will share what God has on my heart. I choose to stand at the battle line and fight. And if that means sharing my real heart and the real struggles I encounter, so that others can be encouraged, so be it.

What’s keeping you from standing at the battle line, friend? Freedom was yours the moment you chose Jesus. Embrace it!

“So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free.” John 8:36 NLT

Teeny Tiny Roses

It’s funny. As a kid I always thought my mom was a weirdo for all the time she spent gardening. Hours of her day were spent trimming, pruning, pulling weeds and watering plants only to start over the next day. Her skin was dark brown from the sun and more than once she pulled a SNAKE up with a flower she was transplanting. But sun and snakes never                                                                      imagestop her. She loved it. I hated it. Any time I was forced to help in the yard, I would throw a tantrum through the whole ordeal.

Then, I became an adult and purchased my own home… With an HOA… Meaning yard work is the law of the land. It started with a little mowing and watering. Next, I designed and dug up my own flower bed. Now, I have several flower beds and a vegetable garden! And guess what? I love working in the yard! Sun and snakes don’t stop me. (Sidenote: We found FIFTEEN snakes in my vegetable garden a few days back, but I am still growing those veggies!)

This morning while cleaning out my front flower bed I discovered that my climbing rose bush will bloom for the first time this year! I found little tiny rose buds on several of the branches [see above photo] and I jumped for joy. Silly, I know. But, they’re lovely and even lovelier is that God is using gardening to speak to me!

A couple of days back, I felt him with me in the veggie garden showing me more about his plans for Judah. I bravely invited Judah to dig dirt and plant vegetables with me. Let me tell you, 2 year olds enjoy making messes in the dirt and nothing is spared from their destruction. Plants get broken, seeds get thrown, and everything is muddy when they’re finished. It was hard to not get frustrated, but God calmly used this moment to teach me that He has great and mighty things in store for my son and I am the mom He chose to nurture him. It was more specific than that, but for Judah’s sake, I will keep the details in my heart.

He chose these teeny tiny rose buds to speak to me about how he gets excited when his people allow him to trim and prune and water them because he knows that it will result in beautiful, vibrant blossoms. He reminded me that I need to be cared for like this every day. But unlike the roses I get to choose whether I will be watered and pruned and have the weeds pulled out around me. Sometimes I allow weeds to suffocate the growth around me. Sometimes I don’t take in enough of light. I felt motivated by these little rose buds to spend time with the Lord, understanding that I MUST have light and water from him.

Isn’t it cool how God can use something I once complained about to speak to me?  And how appropriate that relationship with man began in a garden?! I think that must be why my mom spent so much time in the yard. She heard God’s voice there. It’s pretty astounding that God our creator wants to communicate with us. I’m humbled more and more as I go through life knowing Jesus and experiencing his great love for me!

Revelation 3:20 “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

Let the Little Children Come to Me

Anyone else out there feel bogged down by all of the self help books and how-to blogs? I know I am. While I’m grateful for the buckets of information we have as American Christians, I am at my wits end with the to-do list I’ve thrown upon myself because “so and so” said I should. I started writing a blog earlier today about turning simple moments with your child into “salvational” ones. It started to read something like a “Salvation for Dummy’s” book and unfortunately I heard mostly my opinion in it. I chose quickly to throw that into the saved documents file and start over.

So, I asked God what He desires for parents to know when teaching their children who he is and what he endured for us. His answer was simple. He said, “Let the little children come to me.” That’s straight out of God’s word, folks! Matthew 19:14 reads: “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”. I sat for a moment and pondered what it means to let my son, Judah, “come to Jesus”,  and it hit me. I must allow time for Judah to pray with me. Time for him to read God’s living and active word with me. That’s it and that’s all. I believe that as we spend time in God’s word his truth and mercy reign in our lives. As a result of that, our children’s lives are ruled by truth and mercy. The next step is simply encouraging them to go to Jesus all on their own. Are they hurt? Bandage their boo boo and encourage them to ask Jesus to heal their wound. Are they disheartened about misbehavior? Hug them and pray with them that God will strengthen their heart and help them to chose to do right. Also, don’t be afraid to teach them what sin is in these moments.  Are they learning about the solar system in school? Show them in God’s word where it says he simply SPOKE the sun and moon and stars into existence! Relationship with God is exciting and our children will grasp this if we encourage simple moments like these.

I’m all for allowing the Holy Spirit to alter simple moments into holy ones. But that’s just it. It has to be the Holy Spirit working, not me. For example, I wanted to try a fun activity with Judah that my friend Laura did with her 2 year old. I threw  a bunch of dollar store glow sticks into the bath tub with Judah. When I turned the lights off he seemed a bit timid about the darkness. In that moment I felt the Lord show me what a perfect opportunity it was to teach him about how Jesus is like the glow sticks. He is light in the darkness and it doesn’t matter how hard you try, darkness cannot hide the light. Judah understood that Jesus is the light because it was the Holy Spirit working.

I don’t know about you, but I am grateful that Jesus makes the gospel comprehendible for even the youngest humans. That confirms for me that he truly desires for us (and our children) to have a relationship with him! Ask God for insight into what your child is dealing with in life and work with that. Encourage them to be bold and pray out loud. And show some excitement that because they’ve asked, God WILL answer! Parenting as a believer is hard, but if we are faithful to seek him, God will show up.

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:19

Hope for a Rescue

If I were to describe the last year and a half of my life in 2 words they would be: waiting and loss. In November 2013 my mom was diagnosed with late stage colon cancer. Within a week she was on a respirator that was breathing 100% for her and the future with her was grim. She fought for 7 months before passing away in April 2014. It was a LONG 7 months. Witnessing your mom suffer through that immense pain and knowing there is little you can do to help is beyond difficult and emotional. It’s agonizing.

Losing your mom means the loss of countless dreams and hopes. The hope that your mom will grandparent your children. The hope that your mom will answer your phone calls when you need a listening ear. That she’ll talk you through cooking a pot roast for the hundreth time or make you a yellow cake with chocolate frosting for your birthday again. More loss than one person can manage alone.

To add to that loss, my husband and I have begged God for a baby for over 2.5 years. It seems like couples around us get pregnant by simply dreaming a baby up.  Month by month we wait… and pray… and wait and pray more. I won’t sugar it up for you. It’s an emotional roller coaster and I struggle daily to combat feelings of jealousy, anger and disappointment. If you’re enduring something like this, I just want to take a moment to hurt with you and tell you that you are NOT alone. Did you hear me on that? I pray your heart receives that truth from the Lord. You are in fact TOGETHER with Christ. And there are many women fighting that battle at the same time that we are.

Through it all though, God is sovereign. The King is still on His throne. And to top it all off , He [God, THE creator, our healer, redeemer, savior…woah, are you with me?] doesn’t sit on the throne and ignore us in our pain. He comes to us in our weakness. And he RESCUES us!

We sang a song in church yesterday titled, I Lift My Eyes Up. It’s an old one, but the chorus struck me in a unique way.

“Oh, how I need You Lord, You are my only hope
You are my only friend
So I will wait for You to come and rescue me
To come and give me life”

That doesn’t mean the pain will cease or that I’ll wake up not wanting to call my mom for a recipe. It simply means I’m not screaming out in a desert all alone. So, I will wait. Come loss or life. Come devastation or joy. Come trial or party. I will wait for YOU, Jesus, to come and rescue me. Because I know you can. Because I know you will.

What are you waiting for? What loss have you suffered? Take heart. You don’t have to do it alone. Jesus wants to be with you as you wait. He wants to make whole, your aching lost heart. He’s come to rescue you.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14