Dry Bones Live Again

While unpacking and organizing my things, I took the time to read through a lot of my old notebooks. I found to-do lists, doodles and scores from card games Mom and I played while I was in the hospital over ten years ago. I found half-written letters to friends, sermon notes and even a dead spider squashed between two pages.

I also came across poems, songs and random journal entries that didn’t make it into my actual journals for some reason or another. I am always amazed at how horrible some of my song lyric ideas were. It’s no wonder I never did anything with them. But I am also amazed at the treasures I sometimes find amidst the junk in these notebooks: God-whispered inspiration that stays covered and hidden in the pages until just the right time.

Members of our church are gathering for the first 21 days of the year to seek God and pray together each morning. This has been such a blessing to me already, and we are only four days in! I have been able to just sit and soak in the presence of God, surrounded by my brothers and sisters in Christ. We have worshipped through song, devotions and scripture readings as we have prayed over our nation this week. One of the scriptures referenced in the last couple of days is Ezekiel 37, when God speaks to the prophet Ezekiel and takes him to a valley filled with dry bones. He asks Ezekiel if the bones can live again and Ezekiel gives the faith-filled answer of “Lord God, only You know.” And God, through Ezekiel, raises up a vast army from the dead.

In Ezekiel 37 the bones represented Israel, dry and without life. God was sending Ezekiel to prophesy to Israel and breathe His breath into them the way he had done with the dry bones.

God brought to my mind a poem I found a few weeks ago in one of my random notebooks. I wrote it in 2014 while I was still single and living in a windowless basement. I was seeking God, His purpose for my life and seeking the man he would give me as a husband. I was desperate for change. I was honestly as dry as they come.

I am dry and hollow
brittle and wasted away.
I have been torn apart,
eaten up
and left to dry out
in this desert.
And the scavengers come to take all the rest
until there is nothing left
but my dry bones.
There is no hope for these remains
No skeleton has ever lived again.
I am scattered around this valley
unable to put the pieces together.
I’m too far gone to be saved,
there’s no marrow to keep me alive
There’s no chance I could ever survive
in this state.
I’m just a heap of time-weathered bones
Just a pile of unwanted parts.
Live again.
Come together.
Put on a covering of flesh and skin.
Live again.
I rattle
I click and I quake
My body takes form once again.
The warmth of this blood in my veins
How am I breathing again?

God, you take these dead and worthless parts of us and you put them to use. You are raising up an army from these once dry bones.Your breath gives us life, and You are breathing life into the lungs of Your Church that we may shout our battle cry against the forces at work in this world.

You command us to live again. And we know that we live with Your very Spirit inside of us! Let us not forget who we are and where we came from.

Amen.

 

Advertisements

A new journey

It has been over two weeks since we moved to Connecticut. In some ways it feels like much longer.  We have been so blessed by different people in the church who have allowed us to stay with them until we close on our house. Our closing date is  supposed to be the 15th, so we are pretty much two weeks away from moving in!

I drive by the house often, stop my car and stare at it. It’s hard to believe that the cute blue house I picked on Zillow many months ago is actually going to be our home. I pull up the pictures on my phone and look at them every day. It’s my way of keeping sane while I wait.

David has his work to occupy his time. Right now I mostly spend my days wandering the town or reading and writing. I am enjoying life here so far and have found people to be a lot more friendly than I expected. We were warned that we would have “culture shock” moving from Alabama to New England, but I haven’t been the slightest bit shocked yet.

We arrived in New England at the perfect time of year. The air was cool and crisp and the leaves were breathtaking. I spent nearly three full days just driving around with wide eyes in awe of the beauty of God’s creation. I am also a sucker for old barns and old houses. Over every hill and around every bend, I discovered some old faded building surrounded by vibrant autumn foliage, so I felt as though I had just arrived in heaven on earth.

Then last Thursday, we experienced a little taste of things to come when we got several inches of snow quite unexpectedly. David and I were at the church, in the middle of painting his office when it started to get dark, so we decided to call it quits and make the drive “home” to the house where we were staying. The prospect of snow, doesn’t scare either of us, but we know that we are inexperienced compared to many of the other drivers around here, so we want to play it safe!

The snow melted the next day and we have had beautiful weather ever since.

I’ve been trying for over a week to write this post. Every time I start, I either get distracted or lose the will to post at all. I am a very emotional writer. I write what I feel. I write what I often times cannot speak aloud. And right now I am overflowing with emotions of all kinds.

I am tired. I am not naturally outgoing and energetic, but when we arrived in Connecticut, we hit the ground running. David obviously has a lot going on with the church and I have tried my best to be the supportive wife he needs right now. I am constantly  meeting new people and trying to remember names and connections within the church. Its good! But exhausting. The members have been so kind and supportive. It is very encouraging to us, having come from a place that had very little support.

I am sad to now be 1,106 miles away from my best friend. But I am thankful that she is coming to see me in 29 days to help me settle in and organize my new house! I miss her and her little girls so much already. Now I’ll have to watch my god-daughters grow up via pictures and Skype. It broke my heart to say goodbye to them. It breaks my heart that they ask about me and that they miss me. But it also give me joy, because I know that the relationships I formed with them are important and unbreakable.

I am so happy to start a new journey with my husband. For most of our marriage so far, we have lived with his parents. We only had a few short months after our wedding that we were in our house before we sold it. Living with my in-laws was actually amazing. They are the best in-laws a girl could ask for. But still, who wants to live with their in-laws? Especially at the beginning of their marriage? I have never lived alone. I’ve always lived with parents of some kind except for those few months David and I had in our little house in South Huntsville.  And I always thought of that house as “David’s house” even after I came in and turned it upside down with cosmetic renovations.

So now we are about 2 weeks away from moving into OUR house. David and Amber’s house that we are buying together! Like I said, I drive by it often. Often enough that I think the people living there right now probably think I’m a creeper. I drive by and I can’t even fathom that it’s going to be mine. I’ll have a house to make my own. A kitchen to cook Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Walls to decorate, closets to fill, bathrooms to clean. It will be mine. And that’s just the beginning….

This house is the house we will bring our kids home to. It’s where I’ll stay up all night with crying babies, potty train them, cut the crust off of their toast and make them sit at the table until they at least TRY the broccoli. It’s where I’ll do endless loads of their dirty laundry, help them with homework that even I don’t understand, and stay up late pacing the floor when they break curfew.

This house is one more checked box on the list. Now I am so much closer to realizing my dream of being a mom.

I am so, so close.
God has a way of surprising me with the best things.

He is working so clearly in our lives and I am amazed each day at what he has done. I look around and literally ask, “Is this my life?” I have to remind myself that it’s real. We have been waiting for what seems like forever for something like this, and now here we are!

Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we get settled and acclimate to things around here. We appreciate it!

 

 

 

 

National Confession of Sin

   ​I have been slowly reading through the Old Testament. Very slowly. Today I was reading in Nehemiah and came to a passage subtitled “National Confession of Sin” (Nehemiah 9)

   My first thought was, “What a concept!”

   After Jerusalem’s walls had been rebuilt and the exiles returned to the city, they held a festival. It says that it was a celebration like none they’d ever seen in their lifetime. There was tremendous joy!

   And in their joy, they assembled to recognize where they’d come from and to repent from the ways of their ancestors. 

   I read the passage and found myself feeling more and more broken. The nation of Israel turned its back on God any chance they got.

  “They refused to listen and did not remember Your wonders…Even after they had cast an image of a calf… and said ‘This is your God who brought you out of Egypt’….You did not abandon them because of your great compassion… You sent your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. You provided for them in the wilderness 40 years and they lacked nothing….” (vs 17-21)

   I can’t help but picture America in place of Israel. A nation blessed by God. A nation that is disobedient and rebellious. 

   “So You handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. In their time of distress, they cried out to You, and You heard from heaven. In your abundant compassion You gave them deliverers who rescued them from the power of their enemies. But as soon as they had relief, they again did what was evil in Your sight….You were patient with them for many years, and Your Spirit warned them through Your prophets, but they would not listen…” (vs 26-30)

   Probably the most impactful thing I read was near the end of the chapter:

   ” You are righteous concerning all that has come on us, because You have acted faithfully, while we have acted wickedly. Our kings, leaders, priests, and ancestors did not obey Your law or listen to Your commands and warnings You gave them. When they were in Your kingdom, with Your abundant goodness that You gave them, and in the spacious and fertile land you set before them, they would not serve You or turn from their wicked ways.

    Here we are today, slaves in the land You gave our ancestors so that they could enjoy its fruit and its goodness. Here we are — slaves in it! Its abundant harvest goes to the kings You have set over us, because of our sins. They rule over our bodies and our livestock as they please. We are in great distress.” (vs 33-37)

We are in great distress. 

Breaking News

In my last post I explained that David was losing his job and that we would soon be without a real substantial income. Over the last few months, I have been blessed to be a part-time nanny to a beautiful baby girl. It has been a good thing for me to feel like I’ve been contributing to our finances, but most of all it has been a blessing to enjoy sweet baby cuddles!

David has been looking for a job for over a year. We put our house on the market and sold it almost a year ago. We have been living with his parents ever since. We continued serving at Pulaski while he searched. It seemed as though every door that opened was quick to close. We were anxious to know when we were supposed to move on. And we were curious where God would call us. But at the time, it seemed He was telling us to wait. So wait we did. 
At the time David was told his position was being cut, he had been talking to a couple of churches in the New England area. He was a few steps into the process with both, but we had been this far and further before…so we had no reason to be overly hopeful or excited. But we both felt peace! We both knew that this was the time God had ordained for us to move on. The when was answered. The where was yet to be seen. 

Things progressed quickly with one church and I felt the Spirit speaking peace into my heart: The time is now. Do not fear. I will not leave you hopeless.

As I write this, I am sitting in the airport. We are on our way home from Granby, Connecticut, the place that God is calling us to next. We have spent the last five days visiting a church family that has welcomed us with open arms. We are so excited to see what God will do in and through us at Valley Brook Community Church. 

It has been such a long road. But God is ALWAYS on time. Waiting is never fun. It’s never easy. But it’s worth it!

Please continue to pray for us as we make this transition. We have a lot of moving details to figure out. We also had the opportunity to look at houses while we were there and are hoping to put an offer in on one ASAP. Pray that we get pre-approved for the loan and that God will continue to clear the way for us. 

We are humbled at the power and love of our great God. He knows all things. He only gives us good things. Praise Him!

It’s September Again

I know I write a lot about cancer and how I’ve been affected by it. I know some people are probably tired of hearing about it. But it’s September again. And September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
I’m not going to pound you with all the statistics concerning the horrifyingly underfunded research. I’m not going to beg you to wear gold or use certain hashtags in your status. I’m not even going to post a single bald picture in this blog!
Instead I’m going to share with you an excerpt from the rough draft of the book I’m writing about my life. After you read it, I ask you to consider all of the children out there who have to experience and feel the same things I did. Then I ask you to consider what you can do to help. And if you’re interested in giving directly to a cause that helps fund pediatric cancer research click Here. That is all.

     A few weeks earlier, I’d started taking pictures to document this part of my life. I knew that one day this would be over, and I didn’t want to forget what it was like. I wanted to remember, even though it didn’t make much sense.
     I guess what started it all was when I lost my hair. At first my reflection was a stranger, but soon I forgot what I looked like with hair! And so it helped to look at the pictures I had from just a few months prior.
     I had noticed the hair on my pillow going from a few strands to many. After the surgery to have my first (infected) port removed, I was unable to take a shower until the wound was fully healed. So I bathed carefully. I hadn’t washed my hair quite a while, so my mom offered to help me wash it in the kitchen sink.
The warm water on my head and the soft touch of my mother’s hands felt amazing. My scalp was so itchy and oily, having been neglected for so long. The sweet smell of shampoo filled my nostrils. I closed my eyes, enjoying my luxurious spa moment. But a few seconds later, I heard a sharp intake of breath and then a sad sigh.
     “Oh, Amber…” Mom said in a voice barely louder than a whisper.
She held in her hands the bulk of what used to be my full curly ponytail. I lost most of my hair that day. The few stubborn ones that refused to let go, we shaved off.
———————————–
     It was past midnight. The rest of my family had long since fallen asleep, but I couldn’t. I tried, but the pillow felt strange against the bare skin on my head. So I got up and turned on my lamp, crossed my legs and took a seat in the floor in front of my closet. I stared into the mirror on my closet door for several minutes, turning my head from side to side, examining the newly exposed skin.
     In my fourteen years on earth, I’d never seen my own scalp. From before I could remember, I had hair covering it. This was my first look, my introduction to the skin that had been with me all my life, but just now under terrible circumstances I was meeting.
     In a morbid representation of a handshake, I lifted my hand and ran it from the front to the back of my head and then down my neck. Nice to meet you, head.
     My hand lingered on the back of my neck and my eyes searched the rest of my face. My eyebrows had thinned substantially, but they seemed to be hanging on for the long haul. I had lost some lashes as well, but not all of them. The circles under my eyes were deep and dark. I was so tired but hadn’t slept well in quite some time.
     Tears blurred my eyes and my image went out of focus. My blurry reflection looked alien, a pale bald head and dark eyes. I had completed my transformation, my integration into this new world.
 

 

I am a Pastor’s Wife

It’s no secret that full-time ministry is a difficult profession. So difficult, that when I made my list of “Must-Haves” for my future husband, I intentionally excluded a calling to  ministry. In fact, I specifically asked God not to make me a pastor’s wife. I practically begged. My argument to Him was that I am not pastor’s wife “material”. I am not the put together, well-mannered lady that always used to greet me on Sunday morning with a smile and a hug. I have no desire to be involved in the behind-the-scenes goings on of church politics. I am not the sweet, soft-spoken woman who I picture when I think of a minister’s wife. I’m a fireball. I’m a warrior.
When I met David, I looked to the heavens and sighed. There was no use fighting it. God really has a way of making me do things I don’t want to.

                                                 And so I am a pastor’s wife.

David has been working as the Associate Pastor at Whitesburg Baptist Church’s second campus on Pulaski Pike in north Huntsville for the last three years. When I began attending, it was clear to me that this ministry was much different from your average church. The vast majority of attendees are children and teens that volunteer drivers pick up in shuttles and buses. Their parents do not attend. This makes for an interesting Sunday almost every week.
The facility was in need of repairs. The kids and teens had behavior issues that were out of control. There were major reforms that needed to take place. I was terrified by the prospect of taking it all on. But I am not the kind of girl who is okay with the status quo. And it seemed to me that Pulaski was just trying it’s best to stay afloat.

So I came alongside my husband-to-be (at the time) as I knew I should. This is where God had placed David, and so this is where he had placed me. I stepped in and started teaching one of the most challenging groups, the high school girls class. I fought with them, laughed with them, cried with them and -honestly many times – because of them. I joined the praise team, and in that I found the one thing that I could truly look forward to on Sunday mornings.

Through a leadership change at the church, David took on more responsibility. I watched as my husband took the full weight of the campus on his shoulders. I watched as he slowly fatigued and became more and more discouraged. It was hard to see the man I love in true anguish over what to do. Ministry is hard. It’s more than a job. You don’t “leave it at work” like you do with other jobs. Your church is your life. Your church is your family, who you are supposed to be able to go to for support and encouragement. So what do you do when that church is the reason you need support and encouragement?

So we fought for change to advance the ministry to new heights and effectiveness. We made little to no progress, but we pushed on. There was never a Sunday that we left church satisfied. We only ever left feeling burdened and frustrated. We were running on fumes and taking what little strength we could from tiny victories that were few and far between.

We prayed and asked God for direction. David is not a quitter. He will persevere and see things through to the end, so it was hard for him to consider leaving before he knew he had fufilled God’s purpose for him there. We discussed things and came to the conclusion that at some point (likely soon) we would have done all that we could do where we were at, and that God was calling us to something else. So at that time, he began to search for a new job.
It has been quite a while since that search began. We have waited and pressed on working at Pulaski, believing that when the time was right to move on, God would reveal it to us.

A few weeks ago, David came home and told me that his position at the church was being cut due to budget concerns. What should have been bad news and a stressor to us, was in fact the most relieving news we could have recieved. When David sat down next to me and I looked into his eyes, I no longer saw a man swaying under the weight of something too heavy to bear. I saw the man I first fell in love with, a man who is faithful to God in all things and who was finally delivered from the burden he had been carrying.

As the news spreads, people respond in the normal way you respond to someone who is suddenly without a job. They say they are sorry. They remind us that God has a plan for us and that we are in their prayers. And we can only smile, because this was God’s answer to our prayers. We know for sure that this is the time we are meant to move on from the ministry we have labored in. We have no idea where God will take us from here, but we have complete and total peace, because God is good.

It is by no means easy to walk away though. For all of the hard times and hurt, there are still cherished moments and invaluable lessons we are taking away. There are still pieces of us poured out there, forever to stay. Pieces on the stage where I closed my eyes and sang my heart out in worship to my Heavenly Father, Healer and Redeemer. Pieces in our classrooms where we chiseled away at the indifferent and closed off hearts of students. Pieces in the hearts of the kids we love, and who now by some miracle love us in return. Yes, it hurts much more than I thought it would to walk away.

Last night, we were surrounded by friends and church volunteers at a party thrown in our honor. They spoke words of encouragement and affirmation over us. They laid hands on us and prayed. They sent us out to do God’s work wherever He may lead us. The overwhelming theme of the things spoken over us was this picture painted in James 1:12:

A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.

I heard people affirm things that I’ve believed all along. That God was bringing us through a test during the time we served at Pulaski, and that – yes! -we passed it. We did make a difference. We can move on knowing we have made an impact. All of the tears I shed are not in vain. All of the battles we fought, they counted for something.

Tomorrow will be our last Sunday at Whitesburg’s Pulaski Pike campus. New things are on the horizon, but I will never forget my first years as a pastor’s wife. I’m a fireball. I’m a warrior. It’s what I needed to be. And God knew that. He always knows.

Please keep us in your prayers. David has inverviewed with several churches and we are praying that God lights the way for our next adventure together.

“Educatin’ with Satan”

wp-1470244523362.jpg

Two different friends on Facebook shared a news story yesterday about how Satanists are pushing to start after-school Satanism clubs on school campuses nationwide. I read the news articles with skepticism. It seemed a little far-fetched to me. One article had a link to the organization’s website. Now I am not fond of opening doors like this, but after a quick prayer for protection and discernment I clicked on the link to see what this was all about.

“After School Satan” was the heading, printed in attractive brightly colored block letters. The word “Satan” was adorned with cute little red horns coming out the ‘s’ and ‘n’. And there was an adorable crayon and paintbrush border.
“The Satanic Temple’s Extracurricular Program for Public Schools. Donate to help us counter evangelism in schools…Educatin’ with Satan will focus on the concepts of critical reasoning, independent thinking, fun and free thought”

As I said in my previous post, I am not surprised by evil in this world. Humans have been turning to other gods since the fall of man. Israel, God’s chosen people, turned their backs on him more times than I care to count. We will continue to turn away from God until the Final Judgement.

What pricked my heart though was a conversation in the comments section of my friend’s shared post. It was a back and forth argument that began with her communicating shock and disgust for such an idea. Her friend then commented:
“Why? Satan promotes love and equality.” Seriously?
He went on to explain that in the Satanic bible there is no killing or hate speech at all. He accused Christians of thinking Satanism is bad without knowing anything about it. He then posted a picture of “The Eleven Satanic Rules of the Earth.”

  1. Do not give opinions or advice unless you are asked
  2. Do not tell your troubles to others unless you are sure they want to hear them
  3. When in another’s home, show them respect or else do not go there
  4. If a guest in your home annoys you, treat them cruelly and without mercy
  5. Do not make sexual advances unless you are given the mating signal
  6. Do not take that which does not belong to you, unless it is a burden to the other person and they cry out to be relieved
  7. Acknowledge the power of magic if you have employed it successfully to obtain your desires. If you deny the power of magic after having called upon it with success, you will lose all that you have obtained.
  8. Do not complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself
  9. Do not harm young children
  10. Do not kill non-human animals unless you are attacked or for your food
  11. When walking in open territory, bother no one. If someone bothers you, ask them to stop. If they do not stop, destroy them.

Most of those rules don’t sound like they promote love and equality to me. And the fourth and eleventh rule clearly state that it’s perfectly fine to harm and even kill someone simply for getting on your nerves.
The guy stated, “In Christianity you’re supposed to love and accept others and you just want to treat Satanists like s***. When was the last time you prayed for Satan?”
I almost couldn’t take this guy seriously, but watched the conversation unfold as my friend argued against his points.

I began to feel more and more sad that there are people out there who actually believe these things; That there are people so blinded that they choose to see Christianity as the religion of hatred instead of recognizing that our God is the most loving, forgiving and accepting god of them all. (Not to mention the only real one.)

How could an entire group of people come to the conclusion that it is better to serve Satan than God? The concept boggled my mind. But I took a deep breath and started to break it down.

1. The Instinct to Seek Gratification

I did a little more research in hopes of finding some answers and came upon a link to the “nine satanic sins” in which I found the following statements:

“Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek. Satan represents all the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental or emotional gratification.”

These are statements that having read the Bible, I am well aware of. Satan represents everything that God says is wrong. I also know that most times doing those wrong things would be gratifying, but does that justify the celebration of sin?
If I stretch my mind a bit I can start to see why the idea appeals to Satanists.
A life lived doing and saying whatever felt good and right in that moment sounds amazing…Except that it definitely isn’t the peaceful and loving religion that the man who was arguing portrayed it as. If I only did what felt good and right to me, there would be a whole trail of hurt and broken relationships behind me.

2. The Christian Reputation

Another rather obvious thing I noticed about Satanism is its disdain for Christians. The “After School Satan” website specifically mentioned Child Evangelism Fellowship and how the organization is teaching “fear of Hell and God’s wrath… and everlasting other-worldly horrors” to children.
I have heard it said that the biggest obstacle to evangelism is Christians. Meaning that people look at us and see something less than desirable. In fact, we are turning people off and against God and toward other religions like Satanism.

If I haven’t told you before,  I hesitate to admit that I’m a Christian sometimes. But let me make this clear: I am in no way, shape or form ashamed of Christ. I am ashamed at the reputation Christianity has because of some other Christians. There are people who call themselves Christian who spread hate and lies and constantly stir up trouble. They are quick to judge, quick to pick a fight and do it all “in Jesus’ name”.
Even some Christians who aren’t as outspoken or rude turn people away from Jesus by the way they present the gospel. By focusing on getting someone to make a decision between the glory of heaven and the punishment and torment of hell, they make Christianity sound more like a kooky cult and less like the beautiful, organic, relationship-driven religion that it is.

It breaks my heart to hear people’s opinions of Christians, and I think that too often the things they are saying are accurate.  Jesus did not intend for his followers to be known for their judgement and hate. We are called to be light. We are called to live a life of love, forgiveness, charity and selflessness.
Obviously there are things that Christians should stand against, but in taking that stance we should always be cautious about the image we are projecting. Are we being a reflection of who God really is, or are we carrying out our own agendas while smearing His name in the mud.

3. The War We Cannot See

I do want to say that I am fully aware that not all mean things said about Christians are our fault. When we stand against things that the world says are acceptable, we are putting targets on our backs. Even doing the right things in the right ways can get us in big trouble. It got Jesus killed. And he promised us that we will have the same troubles. We will be persecuted and mocked for what we believe. We will experience spiritual warfare and face horrors of all kinds

Spiritual warfare has been a popular subject lately amongst the girls who attend my Sunday school class. The last two weeks we have talked about how it isn’t enough to just know about Jesus. It isn’t even enough to acknowledge that the Bible is true and that Jesus really did die on the cross and conquer death to pay for our sin debt and restore us to Christ. There’s something more required:  A submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ. A faith that is proven through action.
During this discussion, I used the widely known and quoted James 2:19 to prove that belief itself is not enough to save you from your sin.

“You believe that there is one God.  Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.”

At the mention of the word “demon”, my class was sent spiraling into chaos. One girl’s eyes widened until I thought they are going to pop out of her head. One girl covered her ears and doubled over to put her face in her lap. The others started chattering about scary and supernatural things they’ve experienced. I was amazed that I could evoke such a reaction by the mere mention of demons.
But demons and Satan have been glamorized and idolized. Scary  movies prey on the mind and give more power to these evil spirits than is biblically accurate. Yes, demons are real, but you have no reason to fear if you are a child of God. We are protected and have even been given power over them!
Satan doesn’t scare me. Demons don’t either. God is so much bigger.
In essence, we are a lot like Satan and his demons in that we chose to rebel against God, thinking our way was better. We wanted to be our own god and have control over our own lives. When I proposed this comparison in my classroom it sent the girls over the edge.
“I ain’t no demon!” exclaimed one girl.
“I never said that you were. Only that we followed in Satan’s footsteps.”

And we continue to follow.

Obviously, after school Satan clubs are troubling. What’s more troubling though is the completely benign way this group presents itself. And perhaps most troubling is that the website lists nine schools around the country that have already started their clubs.  I fear there is little we can do to oppose this movement, as the same religious freedoms we enjoy apply to them as well. And every club attendee must have a permission form from his/her parent or guardian to attend, so it is the parents’ choice whether or not to send their child.
I will not start an anti- After School Satan club website or put up a huge fuss about it. What I will do instead is try to change the world one person at a time. Through every interaction I will seek to show other people who God really is in hopes that even one person would stop searching for love and acceptance in the wrong places.

For more information, I am providing a link  to the program’s website along with a final quote from their “Corrections” section:

We are not interested in converting children to Satanism. Unlike the Child Evangelism Fellowship, which openly seeks to convert children to their religious view through fear of eternal suffering, The Satanic Temple does not believe in imposing a one-size-fits-all approach to religious opinion. As Satanists, we believe that science is the best arbiter of truth. We see the quest for knowledge as a noble pursuit, and we believe in personal autonomy. However, nobody needs to be a Satanist to benefit from any of these things, and children should be given access to a variety of comparative opinions with which they can ultimately decide what is best for them.

Here is the link if you would like to view the group’s website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Last Days…

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires,  always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.” -2 Timothy 3:1-7

I don’t talk about current events. I don’t like the debates that spring from any post giving personal opinions about politics, gun laws or racial equality. I think it is pointless to participate in or facilitate these arguments on social media, as I’ve never seen a Tweet sway anyone’s opinion. I rarely speak about these matters outside of my home.

That being said, my heart is heavy after waking up this morning to a Facebook feed overflowing with “Pray for Dallas” and “Black Lives Matter” posts. I hadn’t yet learned about the shooting in Dallas. Sadly, I was not shocked to learn that police officers in Dallas were gunned down. I was not astonished at the shooters’ hatred. I did not say, “How could this happen?!”

Do the things going on in my country and around the world made me sad? Yes. A thousand times, yes! But am I surprised by them? No. Not in the least.
I am not surprised by the events of the past week, because this is exactly what God said would happen. His Word says, “There will be terrible times in the last days.” Then it goes on to explain why there will be terrible times: People

The Bible speaks often about the human heart. We all are inclined to selfishness which is the root of all sin. Every day, in every moment and decision, we weigh our options. We either choose to do what is beneficial to us – quenches our desires and boosts our egos –  or we choose to do what is right. And what is right is seldom what is easy.

I am assuming (and yes, it’s only an educated assumption) that the gunmen in Dallas were seeking some sort of “justice” for the black men recently killed by officers in several states. I think it should be obvious to any person in their right mind that killing police officers not even involved in the incidents is no form of justice at all. It’s not even revenge. The only statement you’re sending is one of hatred, disregard for the law and disrespect of even the people you’re trying to avenge.
But that’s the state of the human heart.

 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,  slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. – Romans 1:28-31

On my way to work this morning, I was thinking about how much tragedy I’ve seen in my life. The first tragic event that I can clearly remember is the Oklahoma City bombing. Then Columbine. Then September 11th. Since then, I’ve seen too many horrible things to even count. I’ve seen anger turn to hatred. I’ve seen hatred spark wars. I’ve seen fear undo progress.

When I was a little girl, my dad was in the U.S. Army. I attended public schools on those Army bases with the children of soldiers and officers of every race.  I knew and was friends with white children, black children, Hispanic children. I knew they had different color skin and hair than I did. I didn’t know that was important. We played together, talked together and learned together just the same. To me the girl with the black dad and German mom was just Jessica. My friend. To me, my black next-door neighbors were just the nice people who came to Bible study at our house.

When my dad left the Army and we settled in Alabama was the first time I realized that race was an issue. The first day in my new school I felt like something was wrong, but I couldn’t really put my finger on it. Then I realized what it was. Everyone was white. It wasn’t that black people weren’t allowed there, it’s just that in the suburbs of Birmingham there were clearly “black neighborhoods” and “white neighborhoods”. And as a result there were mostly white and mostly black schools. I found it strange, even as a fifth grader.

Now that I’m an adult, I don’t find it as strange. It makes sense to me that people belonging to certain cultures would rather live near and go to school with people of the same culture. And as far as I can tell, being black is not just about skin color. It’s about culture. So, in that sense I can understand a certain amount of “division”. I cannot however advocate for any kind of discrimination based solely on the color of a person’s skin.

No amount of protest – peaceful or otherwise – will change the problem of discrimination in this country. You will not see me posting #blacklivesmatter , but I believe that they do. I’ve had precious friends, wonderful co-workers and even family members who are black. I admire the men and women of all races who faught for and are still fighting for equality in the right ways. The problem comes when the people saying “black lives matter” and “all lives matter” aren’t living their lives like that’s true. Why do black lives matter? Why do all lives matter? Because each life, no matter the outer shell, was created for a God-given purpose. Your life matters and my life matters because God has a plan for us.

I’ve watched all my life the story unfold. I’m watching now as this country spirals into defeat. Yes, defeat. We are letting evil triumph. We are fueling the fires that blaze against peace and true justice. We are taking our lives and our futures into our own hands, instead of following after and trusting in God. The only hope for our country and our world starts with a change of heart on an individual level. It starts with my heart changing. It starts with leaving justice to the “One Lawgiver” and “Righteous Judge”. It starts with submitting to God’s will in our personal lives and opening our hearts to love.

What do I do in the face of yet another tragedy? Do I let hate brew or let fear grow? Do I lose hope that anything will ever change?
As odd as it will sound to the unbelieving heart, I praise. I praise God because He still holds the future. The victory is His. He has “given over” this world to our evil desires, but He is still here wishing we would let Him pick up the pieces.

 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

 

 

From the Ashes

     A year ago on my birthday, I finally got the tattoo that I had spent years thinking of. I wanted it to be a symbol of life, but I really wanted it to be more than that. So I asked for a phoenix. I’ll be honest, my first encounter with the mythological bird was in fact while reading the Harry Potter series as a child. The concept intrigued me.

It is said that only one phoenix can exist at a time, and when nearing the time of death the bird erupts into flames and is consumed by the fire. Then, from the ashes, the phoenix is reborn.

    It’s been 14 years since I was diagnosed with leukemia. I spent the next five fighting through chemo, relapse, life threatening complications and a couple of close brushes with death. All of that while also navigating the wonderful world of adolescence! At night I would lay staring up at the ceiling, thinking too much. My mind unleashed was a powerful weapon against me. I was convinced that my life was coming to an end.
And in some ways, it did. My life as I imagined it ended abruptly.

I came out on the other side of those five years a new person, having grown into a young woman, a fierce warrior and a humble follower and servant of Christ.

The struggle of course didn’t end there. I spent the next several years fighting against my own thoughts. I agonized over time lost. I obsessed over moving forward. I wept over the imperfections I saw in the mirror. I convinced myself that I was unlovable and that was why I was still alone. I questioned my purpose. I questioned my worth. I pulled the curtains, locked the doors and built walls that kept me from feeling anything at all.
I had again come to the end of me. It was a slow burn, and I was painstakingly aware of every second of torment. And then something beautiful happened. Someone climbed my wall, knocked down my door, scooped up my ashes and forced me to feel something, anything other than the flames. It wasn’t the end after all.

Daily I find myself wrestling. Sometimes it’s against my thoughts toward myself when I look in the mirror. Sometimes it’s with the empty feeling that comes from not having a child. Sometimes it’s because I am ready for David and I to move on, but I’m scared that this is all there is for us.
     Sometimes I wrestle because it’s something to do other than wait. And I’m so tired of waiting.
I am coming to an end again. I’m nearly there. Nearly to where I say goodbye to all that I’ve known and all that I’ve held on to.

My life has erupted into flames several times, and each time I’ve felt that it must be the end of me. But I’ve seen what God can do. Isaiah 61: 3 says that God will “…bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…”  
When I’ve thought that my life was over, when I have been consumed by the fire in my life, God has taken my ashes and reformed me, giving me new life.The phoenix on my shoulder will always be a reminder that even when I feel as though my world is on fire, a new me can always be reborn from the remnants.

phoenix

To the father of my (future) children…

To the father of my (future) children,

Today is Father’s Day. For us today is the day that we celebrate my dad and your dad and thank them for all that they have done for us.
It will come and go and we will not think much of it until next year.

weddingdadBut today I thank God for my father, who taught me how to act right while still allowing me to have my stubborn and strong-willed personality. He recognized my potential and spent time pruning me and training me to be a functional member of society.
I thank God for the times when I sat in my daddy’s lap, cheek pressed against his grey Army t-shirt, breathing in the scent of a hard day’s work. I felt so small in his arms. In my eyes, my daddy could do anything! He knew how to fix everything, and he knew the answers to all the questions I could ever come up with!
I thank God for the times that my dad punished me for breaking the rules. I received ample warnings and subsequent spankings when I did not heed those warnings.  I spent many a week grounded and sitting in my room alone with only my books and my thoughts for company. I thank God that my father followed through with punishments, teaching me that there are always consequences for my actions.
I thank God for the times my dad was vulnerable with me.
I thank God for the moments when I was sick, scared and sleepless and my dad spent the time sharing his life story with me, baring it all: the good and the bad.
I thank God for giving me such an amazing and godly man to call Dad.

weddingparents1 (2)

And today I thank God for your father, who raised you to be the man you are today. I thank God that your parents allow us to live with them during this transitional time in our lives. I am thankful that I am able to see firsthand where you learned to be an exceptional man.
Your father is thoughtful and selfless.
He puts your mom and you first.
He is kind and generous.
He works hard.
He loves big.

 

engageSo, David Siler, it is with full confidence that I can say you will make the best father to our children one day.
I see in you all the best qualities of your father and mine. You give so much of yourself and expect nothing in return. You love with your whole heart.
A few years ago, when I was still giving out strikes to guys on eHarmony, I knew that I wanted to marry someone who was a lot like my dad. Why? Because I knew that I wanted my children to have a father who loved and cared for them as much as my dad did for me and my sister.I am so blessed to have found you, a man who values fatherhood and wants to be a parent as much as I do.

boysOne day we will have kids to call us “Mom” and “Dad”. Right now our “kids” are the ones we see once or twice a week at church. You might not think of yourself as a father yet, but I see you as one. You care about those kids and about where they end up. You sacrifice your time and energy to minister to them and teach them. You play with them. You lecture them. You’re a role model in their lives. For some of them, you’re probably the only decent male influence. I’ve seen you invest real time into some of them. I’ve seen you speak proudly of their accomplishments.

Sure, it’s frustrating when they can’t be serious. It’s heartbreaking when you can’t get through to them. Because you want what’s best for them.

That’s being a father.

So happy Father’s Day to my dad, your dad and YOU.