Potato Chip Cookies

Once when I was a kid, our church had a bake sale. I was very eager to make a contribution. I remember carefully searching through a recipe book for the perfect baked good. After many pages, I enthusiastically chose, what I believed would be a truly unique and tasty item which would be intriguing enough that no one could resist. I chose to make potato chip cookies. I presented my recipe to my mother and you know what my mom said? Okay. So, I made potato chip cookies for the church bake sale. The day of the bake sale, I proudly presented my creation, certain they would be an instant hint. Individuals would approach the table, scan the goodies, and several asked about my cookies… they asked if they were chocolate chip. When the truth was revealed, the reaction was not as I had anticipated and needless to say, the church did not get rich from potato chip cookies. I learned some important lessons that day. 1. Most people are not adventurous when it comes to their taste buds. 2. People really like their chocolate chip cookies and if you want to make money at a bake sale, make chocolate chip cookies.

You may be reading this, and thinking, “Vanessa, you are weird. Why would you even make potato chip cookies, and why on earth would you admit to ever making them, and on top of that, why would you write an entire blog on potato chip cookies?” This blog isn’t about how weird I am for making potato chip cookies, this blog is about how awesome my mother is for allowing me to make potato chip cookies.

My mother dared to let me be weird. She endured all the fashion nightmares, the hideous hairstyles, and every other freakishly, funky, crazy, idea I created (Okay, maybe not EVERY idea, I had to settle for bright yellow walls instead of bright orange, but now I recognize the wisdom in her redirection). My mom said okay to potato chip cookies.She said okay to being creative. She said okay to being outside the box. She said okay to me being me, which allowed me to become who I am, a crazy sock wearing, bracelets to my elbows, funky colored hair, children’s pastor who doesn’t quite fit the cookie cutter. My uniqueness allows me to do what God has called me to do. I can better relate to others who are not quite normal. I can connect with those who may consider themselves different from the main stream. I can use my creativity to teach in a way others may not have heard. I can be my weird, crazy self, and God uses that, in fact it is one of the reasons He made me that way. He purposely created me with a potato chip cookie making mind and He uses my potato chip cookie way of thinking for His glory.

So thanks mom for allowing me to make potato chip cookies.

The Worst is Yet to Come?

Most often we do not find encouragement in words which predict certain doom. Starting a blog with the title “The Worst is Yet to Come” may have even scared a few readers away, but you are here, inquisitively searching for the reason behind my discouraging word choice. I will not say this is a post designed for easy reading (lost a few more readers), I don’t promise you will feel warm and fuzzy after reading this. It is not light-hearted or for the faint of heart. This post is for warriors, for fighters, for those willing to stand their ground, draw a line in the sand and refuse to surrender. This post is for those who are bold enough to dream big and have faith to believe God will do what He says and is not afraid of what may come to deter them. That is right, because there will be deterrents, there will be struggles, there will be moments and events and circumstances and whispers that challenge your dreams, confront your faith, and contradict ever word God spoke to you.

Don’t stop reading because it does get better, but not before it gets worse. When we determine to believe, and stand strong in our faith, all hell will attempt to fight us. When we dare to declare our dreams to others, the dreams God has birthed in us, distractions and difficulties will attack and attempt to dash our dreams. When we confidently claim God will do what He says, circumstances will arise that contradict what was spoken. Satan fears faith, so when we make a decision to have faith, he attempts to distract and contradict. He will create difficulties that challenge every fiber of faith that pulses through us.  How awesome is that! You are giving me that confused look where you crinkle your nose and raise your eyebrow, but this is where it gets good. If Satan is daring to challenge you, then you are on the right track. You have him nervous so he is coming against you. Your bold faith is making him sweat, your dreams from God scare him and you daring to embrace and believe those dreams terrify him. He will try to crush your confidence in what God spoke, he will attempt to destroy the dreams God placed in you, but he will fail. Standing in your faith, the worst is yet to come, but if you keep believing, keep declaring, keep dreaming, keep standing strong, there is something beyond. Beyond the worst that Satan can ever do, is God’s Words coming to fruition. It is your dreams giving birth, it is your passion coming alive.

When we stand in our faith, the worse may be yet to come, but the hope of what awaits on the other side, is so much greater. So be prepared, buckle down, hold fast, do not be swayed, stand firm, and continue to dream, continue to pursue that passion, continue to believe in that Word God spoke, and dare to scare Satan. The worst will pass the best is still yet to come.

The Breakup

Dear Fear,

So we have been in a relationship for quite a while. I knew you before I knew much of anything else. When you first entered my life you protected me and kept me safe from danger. I don’t want you to feel I am unappreciative of that, because I am, but as I got older and bolder and attempted to venture out on my own, you did not approve.

You held me back from pursuing my dreams. You convinced me people would laugh and mock me. I was told I would never make it and failing would be my only destiny if I were to step out of the comfort zone you created for me. Any attempts to engage in a new adventure was met with a condescending whisper and a disappointing glare. I was discouraged from making new connections as they may be a poor influence on me, actually encouraging me to pursue my passion. When I did dare to believe, and something happened which temporarily set me back, you were there reminding me of how ridiculous I looked and how I should never attempt such foolishness again. You persuaded me that there was too much hurt in the world for me to venture out and try to love. You said I may be rejected so I should not bother making the effort.

You told me…

“I would not amount to anything.”

“I would be rejected.”

“I would only fail at my dreams.”

“I would be hurt.”

“I would look foolish.”

“I do not have what it takes.”

Your words are hurtful and they hold me back. I know you believe you are doing what is best for me, but I need to be able to dream and pursue and love. I have met someone who has told me it is okay to do these things.

He told me…

“I am loved”

“I am never forsaken”

“Through Him, nothing is impossible.”

“I can do all things through Him.”

So fear, I am going to have to ask you to leave now. You have protected me, but you have held me back for far too long. I have someone who makes it okay for me to dream again. I have someone who not only believes in the passions I have, but actually placed them there in the first place. Don’t worry fear, Jesus will take good care of me and if I fall, He will lift me up and if I am rejected by all others, He will always love me, and if I look foolish in pursuit of my dreams, then I am in good company because people thought Jesus looked silly but the things He accomplished made it totally worth it. Jesus has me now and He will take good care of me. So long fear, it’s not me, it’s you. This just isn’t working anymore. We are going down different paths now. It just wasn’t meant to be. I just don’t need you any more. Sayonara fear.

Nevermore yours,

Vanessa

 

Crazy

There are times in our lives when we feel forgotten, forsaken, excluded, unwanted, uninvited, unloved, etc. We question our placement and assignment from God. We attempt to remain faithful, standing on what we believe God spoke to us, but wonder if we have gone completely crazy, questioning ourselves and questioning what we thought we heard. We struggle, we debate, we deny, we yell, we cry, we scream, we repeat, sometimes multiple times throughout the day. We finally determine to believe, but are so easily swayed by the winds of circumstances that we find ourselves questioning our sanity at every turn of events.

We square back our shoulders and insist that this time will be different and we will stand firm on what we know was heard, but the current circumstance only seems to mock us and taunt us, throwing in our face, just how far everything seems to be from the promise God made. We search for comfort, support, and help through prayer and scriptures, reading of those strong in their faith, waiting out the odds. We recall the great stories of the bible and inquire how to have faith like that. We recollect from our own lives and become inquisitive, searching for where that faith to move mountains went. It was there. It spoke to storms and told it to halt. Faith to move when God said move, even if the details were not completely worked out.

There was faith enough to believe God would provide what seemed like impossible financial support. Where is that faith? Where did it go? What happened to it? Did the weight of the current circumstances crush it like a delicate flower after a heavy rain? Has this situation frightened it away, causing it to cower in the dark corners of the soul? Perhaps the faith is still there, but buried so deep underneath the layers of hurt and brokenness, smothered beneath the anger and confusion like a seedling buried under a late winter snow. Perhaps it is still there, but you just can’t see it, or feel it, or barely remember it.  What was it like to really have faith? How did it feel to look at the improbable odds that were stacked against you and laugh, completely confident God was going to work in your favor? Do you remember? Can you catch a glimpse?

Dig deep, deeper, deeper. It has to be in there, it has to be, it is needed, it is required. If there is any way of making it through this situation with our sanity, then it has to be found, recovered, pulled from the depths, whatever it takes. It is like diving into the drink cooler, searching for your favorite soda. Your hand enters the chill, your nerves sends chill bumps up your arm, your fingers tingle, but you just can’t seem to find the right can, so despite the early warnings of frostbite, you dig deeper, up to your elbow now, scouring the bottom of the cooler, passing can upon can, but never settling, desperately searching, your fingers are numb, your hand is pulsing, but you keep going, determined to pursue until you can emerge victorious.

Perhaps that is what it takes. Dig deep. Dig in pass the anger, the hurt, push aside the bitterness and brokenness, shove pass the confusion, dig deeper than the doubt, and determine within yourself to reach that faith, no matter how buried it may be. No matter how cold your hands get, no matter how numb you feel, or how difficult it becomes, determine to keep digging until you arise triumphant. Until your faith can be seen again, felt again, heard again. It only takes the tiniest of a hole, the size of a grain of a mustard seed it big enough to give your faith room to grow. You just have to give it a chance.

Allow yourself to believe in the long shot, tell yourself it is okay to pursue that passion, let yourself trust what seems to be impossible. Does this make you crazy? Probably, but do it anyway. Keep pressing forward, keep believing, keep standing on that yes when everything around you screams no, keep chasing that dream, despite the roadblocks, keep believing it will happen, regardless of the naysayers. Keep believing in that crazy, impossible, improbable, totally outrageous, wacky, zany, implausible, thing, dream, passion, word, whatever it is, dig it out and let it live because it won’t seem quite so crazy and impossible when it comes to pass.

Dare to Be

Oh, to be anyone else than who I am. To be the fun loving, high energy, life of the party, or maybe the extremely popular pretty girl, or how about the star athlete everyone adores. The book worm, the math genius, the computer nerd. Anyone but me.

Have you ever felt that way? I am sure we have all felt it to some degree, the urge, the desire, the envy to be someone we are not, even if it was only for a brief time or in response to a specific event.

We have a tendency to focus on our flaws and imperfections. We see the worst of ourselves.  I am the quiet and shy girl, often invisible to the world. Insecure, and awkward. I over analyze and over process. I am over emotional at the wrong times, and too reserved at other times. I am less flexible than I try to convince myself. I take comments too personally. I try to please people far too often, and think of myself far more frequently than I would like to admit. I struggle connecting with people. (One of the many reasons I envy the high energy extremely extroverted personality type. They make it look so easy). I stumble over my words all the time, and more often than not, I have no words at all.

These are but a few of my many faults. They are a part of me, I resist them and even resent them at times, but these parts of me that I have despised are the exact components God has used to make me who I am. These deficiencies are what God has used to do His work so He gets all the glory.

No one ever thought the quiet and shy awkward girl standing in the corner barely noticed by anyone would ever be seen on stage standing before hundreds. Or how about that girl who could barely say a sentence without flipping words and stuttering over phrases, who would have ever thought she would one day be speaking into a microphone before a crowd. Could you see that insecure and overly reserved kid ever becoming a crazy animated children’s pastor?

This is who I am.

I could struggle to be someone I am not, or I could dare to be what God has designed me to be and allow Him to work through me despite my imperfections. This way no one could ever say I did anything on my own and God gets all the glory. After all, it is only God who could take an imperfect and flawed individual and make her into something valuable and useful.

I dare to be me. Who do you dare to be?

Peeling the Apple

Dig way back to your days in Sunday School. Back to when you were just a little tike learning the basics. Where do we start? At the beginning.

Sunday School Question: Who were the first people created in the Bible?

Sunday School Answer: Adam and Eve.

Sunday School Question: What was the first sin committed in the Bible?

Sunday School Answer: When Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

Sunday School Question: What type of fruit was it?

Sunday School Answer: An Apple

Sunday School Question: How many commands did God give to Adam and Eve?

Sunday School Answer: 1, do not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

I am not here to bash Sunday School curriculum or the hard working and dedicated Sunday School teachers out there. I am not attempting to topple our primary biblical foundations. I am only encouraging us to dig a little deeper. To see beyond the basics, to explore hidden truths that possess profound power.

Truth- Adam and Eve were the first humans created on the earth. No challenge there- The Bible makes that very clear so we are good so far.

Onto the Apple.- I did not skip the question about the first sin, I am simply going to cover it later.

Truth is, Adam and Eve did not eat an apple from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. How do I know, you ask? Because in Genesis 1:11 The Bible states God made all vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit to bear fruit “according to their kind.”and repeats it in verse 12 “…and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, according to their kind. “We see this law of nature even today. Apple trees produce apples, orange trees produce oranges, and pear trees produce pears. We do not go to a banana tree looking for a mango, because all trees produce fruit “according to their kind.” So what type of fruit did the knowledge of good and evil tree produce… knowledge of good and evil. So does this mean Adam and Eve literally ingested the ability to recognize good from evil? (Just a random thought) All fruits and vegetation were created to provide the body with something. Oranges are high in vitamin C which helps support healthy immune system. Bananas have potassium which aid in heart, muscle, and kidney functions. Carrots have carotene which is good for the eyes. God created the fruits and the vegetation to provide something for the body, the knowledge of good and evil fruit provided one with the ability to recognize good from evil. Only, that was not a fruit God wanted for man to eat. God desired for mankind to live eternally in innocence. God desired that He be all that man needed for knowing what is right.

Now I am going to combine the discussion of the first sin with the commands God gave.

Commands- That is right, God gave more than one command to Adam and Eve.

1st Command-Genesis 1:28- “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth.” – God told Adam and Eve to have offspring. Now I have no idea how long Adam and Eve were in the garden or if they had ample time to reproduce from the time they were given this command to the time they were expelled from the garden, but it was a command they were given.

2nd Command- Genesis 1:28- “Fill the earth, subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.” God gave man authority over the animals. It was the animals who were to listen to Adam and Eve, not the other way around.

3rd Command- Genesis 2:17 “But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.” This was not the only command, but it is the only one where God gave a specific consequence.

So what was the first sin? Would the first sin being breaking any of the commands, or just the one with the consequence mentioned- Perhaps it would be helpful to define sin- Sin is disobedience to God’s command. Any time a command is broken, that is a sin.

So was the first sin the actual consumption of the fruit or is there something a bit deeper?

In Genesis 3 we see where the serpent comes and speaks to Eve regarding eating from the trees in the garden. He knows the answer to the question, but he is setting her up. He is hustling her, puts on this image of ignorance, while painting God as harsh and cruel. “Did God REALLY say ‘You can’t eat from ANY tree in the garden?'” (Essentially the serpent is saying, What type of God would place His creation in such a beautiful garden and tell them they can’t eat any of the fruit). She responds they can eat from any tree except the one in the middle, they can’t eat or touch it. In Genesis 2, God’s command is to not eat from the tree, He doesn’t say anything about not touching it. (Side note, I would say as a protection from possible sin, setting up boundaries to not even come close to sin is a good idea, but God’s command was not to eat it, if Adam and Eve had decided to set up that protective boundary for themselves, then that is great, but you can’t quote that part of what God told you). Technically, the laws about not adding or taking away from God’s word have not yet been written, and stating God said not to touch it, doesn’t  technically break one of the 3 commands they were given, but do you really want to risk trying to get into heaven on a technicality? (And just to clarify, lying is not acceptable behavior and just to clarify again, I am not saying Eve was innocent, I am attempting to provoke thought)

If that is not crazy enough for ya, get this. The serpent continues to speak and contradicts God. He says, “No you will not die!” Home girl should have drop kicked his lying tail half way across the garden at that point, but no she continues to listen. At this point, she relinquishes her authority over him, by listening to his lies. God’s 2nd command was to rule over the animals and subdue them. Subdue means- overcome, or bring under control. At the moment the serpent spoke contrary to God’s Word, it was Eve’s responsibility to bring him under control, but she failed to do so. She did not act on the authority which was given to her by God and she did not subdue an out of control inferior being.

I am sure some of you are thinking, “You just said it was okay for Eve to lie” Which is not what I said, but people read what they want. I am not focusing on the serpents actions because he was just a vessel used, I am addressing Adam and Eve’s behaviors to encourage us to think deeper than just the surface level of this story. They gave up their authority! How many times have we done the same thing. God tells us we have faith to move mountains. In Matthew 18 Jesus tells us “Whatever we bind on earth will be bond in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” God has given us authority to operate in His name and how many times have we relinquished that authority over doubt, or bad advice from inferior beings?

Adam and Eve’s sin did not begin with the consumption of the fruit (not an apple), that is where it led them. Their sin began when they voided their authority by listening to lies. God’s Words are true and the authority He has given us is greater than any lie from Satan. Don’t sacrifice your authority over an inferior being.

Not a Beggar

There is a song played on the radio and the young lady sings “I’m on my knees, begging you please.” The song speaks of her desire for God to remain with her and not leave her, even when she is a punk sometimes. The song is a fun song with an important message, but I am not writing about the song, I am writing about this one line which was really the only part of the song I heard the first time I heard it. I turned on the radio and heard the line “I’m on my knees, begging you please.” I had no idea to what the song was referring, but I said out loud, “I’m not a beggar.” God gently spoke to me and said, “No you are not.” You see I am a child of the King. I don’t have to crouch at the end of the table, and beg for scraps. I pull up a chair to the table and I can eat freely of all my Father has for me. If I need healing, it is on the table for me. If I need courage or strength, it is already on my plate for me. If I need peace, hope, or an extra dose of love and compassion, it is right there at my fingertips. If I need financial provision, it is there for me. Anything I need, I can pull up to the Father’s table and accept what God has for me. I can even come back as often as I need a refill.  I don’t have to live on yesterday’s blessings, I can come to the table every day, as often as I need to get full. God is a good Father and a mighty King who provides everything I need. I don’t have to beg, I just have to pull up to the table and eat freely.

Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech August 28 1963

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was phenomenal man who is best known for his peaceful acts and powerful words calling for equality. I have included a link which provides an overview of Dr. King’s lives including some of Dr. King’s most important achievements. I would encourage everyone to read it.

http://thekingcenter.org/about-dr-king

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor and preached this sermon entitled “The Drum Major Instinct” which discusses Mark 10:35-40 and Jesus’ stance on greatness.

 

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I have posted a copy of his most noted speech and included a visual/audio link of him giving the speech.

Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech August 28 1963

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.

This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check; a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.

Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?”

We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality.

We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.

We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.

We can never be satisfied as long as our chlidren are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “for whites only.”

We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.

No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, that one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exhalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that; let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

 

Oceans

Yesterday in Children’s Church we sang Oceans by Hillsong United. It is a very popular song and the students truly worshiped throughout the song. It was a beautiful atmosphere.

God has used this song to speak to me on more than one occasion.

In December of 2014, God called me to Enon (For those who may not know, Enon is a church about 45 minutes from where I was serving at the time).  I was worshipping in Children’s Ministry one Sunday and a song was playing which spoke about going were God wanted. I remember saying to God. I truly want to go wherever you want me. Now most of the time when we pray this prayer, we are thinking world-wide travels. A proclamation to our Father daring Him to send us to the uttermost parts of the world, a fired up faith ready to traipse through the darkest jungles, scale the highest mountains, and cross the loneliest deserts to broadcast the Good News of Jesus. I declare to God, “I truly want to go wherever you want me.” God’s response, “Even to Enon?” Enon Africa? Enon South America? Is there an Enon in China? Of course I kid, I knew exactly were God meant and my response, “Even to Enon.” I know it doesn’t sound like a very large leap of faith, but my declaration to go wherever was genuine and so was my response, so off to Enon I went. This may seem very anticlimactic, but bear with me, the story is just getting started.

I have thought about that moment several times throughout the past year (Wow it has been over a year already since God called me here) but I could never remember the song. I could recollect the moment, the experience, but the song escaped me, until this past Sunday. I was listening to the song Oceans prior to service, I had worked over night that night (I work at a group home) and it had been a slightly challenging shift and I was attempting clear my mind so I could focus on ministry. While I was singing “Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me.” Everything from that event which occurred in December of 2014 came flooding back and I said, “This is the song! This was the line!” I found myself encouraged to be reminded I am where God called me.

But wait there is more!

The song continued to resonate with me and I began to think of the scriptures which inspired the writing of the song. I went to Matthew 14:22-33 and read the account of Peter walking on the water. In this story, it is really late at night or very early in the morning, depends on how you view the 3:00am-6:00am hour and these poor guys have been up throughout the night battling this storm, they are unable to reach land because the winds are so strong and the waves are carrying them far from their destination, they are exhausted and weary. They may even feel abandoned by Jesus, wondering why He seems to be there for everyone else, but nowhere to be found when they are in need. On top of all this, they are now seeing ghosts!

I am sure we have all felt this way at some point in our lives. We wonder if it can get worse and it does. We may even feel this way after great miracles have occurred in our lives (remember this boat trip was right after Jesus fed the 5,000 and the disciples were a part of that).

They soon discover this ghost is actually Jesus and He calls out and encourages them not to be afraid. Peter, being Peter, says, “Hey Jesus, if that is really you, tell me to come out to you.” Jesus replies, “Come on.” (In the Vanessa version of this I see “Jesus I will go wherever you want me to go.” Jesus replies “Even to Enon”)

So Peter steps out and begins to walk on the water. He is legit chillin’ on top of the waves. Dude is defying the very laws of nature, but then something happens. Peter sees the effects of the wind. He feels the winds’ strength and the overwhelming waves created by the squall and he begins to sink beneath them. Peter calls out “LORD SAVE ME” and Jesus reaches down and rescues him. Then Jesus says to Peter, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Time out Jesus! He did have enough faith to believe you would save him. If he had doubted You, wouldn’t he have called out to one of his peers in the boat, “James help me. “Matthew, throw me a line.” But he didn’t, he said, “Lord save me.” Come on, doesn’t that count for something? Then I felt the Holy Spirit impressed upon me, Peter trusted Jesus to save Him from the waves, but he lacked the faith to believe Jesus would see him through the waves.

God has called us to walk through the storm, not to be swallowed up by it. So many times we face storms in our lives and we call out to Jesus and say “Jesus save me.” But the storm was never designed to drown Peter, it was created to take him deeper in faith, to move him to a place where he could trust without borders.  Can you imagine the depths of faith we would reach if when storms arose, despite the wind smacking us in the face and waves grasping at our feet, we walked on. Imagine the borders and boundaries which would be removed from our lives if instead of calling out and asking Jesus to save us from the storm, we thank Him for walking with us through it.

We sing the song and we say the words, but if we truly want to be in a place where our trust is without borders, and our faith is made stronger, then we have to be willing to walk through the storm and not be saved from it.

Maybe you feel you have been walking through a storm and you wonder when it will end. Take heart, the storm will not last forever, focus not on the waves, but on the borders being removed from your life, the depths to which God is taking you in your faith in Him. Do not grow weary in the last hour, you will reach the boat, and those who watched you walk through the storm will be encouraged and God will be glorified.

How is that for a climatic ending? Only this is not the ending, it is the beginning, the beginning of a life where there are no borders in what we believe God can do, the beginning of a relationship with God where our faith is so strong, no storm can shake us, no wind can break us, and no wave can swallow us.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior.

 

Perfection

I started writing a blog almost 3 years ago. I entitled the first post, “1st post” and admitted that I had been “encouraged, persuaded, and slightly coerced” into creating a blog as at the time I was serving at a church where the Media Guy decided it would be a good idea to have all of the staff create a blog to link to the church website. Being one with an inquiring mind, I asked, “why?” He stated it would create an opportunity for us to share our thoughts with people. I informed him I had nothing profound to share, no deep theological mysteries waiting to unfold, and no quotable statements that were so inspiring they would lead the world to a revolution. I was convinced I had nothing of value worth sharing and no one would be interested in ever reading anything I would post on a blog. I was asked to give it a try anyway, and out of obedience and obligation I did as I was requested.

My first post is hardly worth mentioning, and made not one ripple in the pond. My second post had a few readers, but there was no big splash. My third post was very personal and took a lot of courage to post. My blog post did not go viral, I am not even sure anyone shared it, but one young lady commented, one young lady thanked me for saying the words that needed to be heard. By my 4th post, three people had commented. As I wrote more and shared deeper, people thanked me for what was said. I was told the truth behind the words written had encouraged them and they were grateful for what was shared. I eventually went back to the Media Guy and apologized and thanked him. I told him I was reluctant to post, but he was right because I did have words to share and people did care to read them.

I continued to post for a while, sharing what I had. Some posts were spiritual, and some were just fun, some a little of both, but then I stopped. I became so focused on creating dynamic reading material, I talked myself out of posting anything less than perfect, which means I didn’t post anything at all. In my first post I admitted I wanted my first post to be “some deep, thought provoking, eye-opening, post that would revolutionize the lives of every individual who reads it.”

This is what I do, I strive for perfection, and there is nothing wrong with giving my best, but my best will never be perfect, because I am flawed and imperfect and that is okay because we are all imperfect humans living this life together and if I were perfect then I could relate to no one and no one could relate to me. If I were perfect, then I would have no need for God’s grace, forgiveness, and strength, and I would much rather be broken and flawed in the hands of God than perfect without Him. (which in case you were wondering, is not possible).

I don’t really make new years resolutions, that is not the reason I am reviving this blog, I am writing because I need to be reminded I am not perfect, I don’t have to be perfect, and my God loves me and uses me not in spite of my imperfections, but because of them, because in my imperfections, He gets all the glory. So here is to being imperfect so my perfect Father can be seen through me.

(Please forgive any spelling or grammar errors you may notice, I did not re-read this post 10 times to check for errors, it seemed hypocritical.)

 

« Older entries