Tuesday, February 9, 2016

If

I've thought all day about how to write this post, and I'm still not sure. I think I could write for hours about all the things God taught me and is still teaching me from this weekend's If:Gathering. The teaching was as amazing as I expected, and the worship was better than I could even hope for. But the things that stick with me the most are the ones that happened all around the event.

The story really begins with a "chance" meeting in August with a "random" mom whose son was about to be in the same kindergarten class with my son. From there, she and I ended up in a Moms in Prayer group together. Again, just a "random" moment. Who knows why, but after that very first prayer group, she sent me a FaceBook message that basically said, "I think God wants me to ask you if you know about If and if you might want to help." I didn't even hesitate. I just replied, "yes, I've known about If since they first launched, but I've never done a thing about it. Maybe this is a sign that I'm supposed to."

And all that is true. I initially heard about If on social media over 3 years ago. A lot of the people that I follow started talking about it and from there I started following along on Twitter. Truthfully, I was a little scared of the concept. It involved people from different backgrounds and denominations coming together to wrestle with the question, "If God is real, then what?" I knew what that meant for my own life, but I also know that not everyone's theology is exactly like mine and perhaps hearing from other viewpoints might challenge me a little bit. Yep, I admit it. I was scared that if my beliefs got challenged, I might have to think a little bit or possibly adjust my worldview.

Knowing all this, I'm still a little surprised at how quickly I replied back. I think the main difference between now and when I first learned about If is that I'm now a parent of some kids who don't look like me. That alone with change your worldview. I've also started reading and listening to a few more people who don't always think exactly like me theologically. Sometimes they anger me, but they make me think without offending me. Regardless, I said yes and never looked back.

I figured out this might not be your ordinary "women's conference" way back in October when we had our first meeting. My first clue was when there was no agenda. Just meeting to worship, pray, and see where the Spirit was leading. For this Southern Baptist girl, that was different to say the least. Then those of us who were going to be putting together If:Fayetteville started talking a little more and I was the only Baptist in the room. What?? I mean, we're in Arkansas and it's a women's event.

From that first meeting, the pieces started to fall into place in amazing ways. The first actual planning meeting did involve an agenda (which, I came to find out, is not unusual when you are working with elementary teachers), but it also involved more unbelievable "coincidences." We started the meeting by simply going around the circle and introducing ourselves since very few of us actually knew each other. Someone suggested we not only introduce ourselves, but also tell our personal area of gifting as we went around that circle. I sat in awe as we reached the end of the circle, and almost EVERY AREA OF NEED had been filled. We had gifts of administration, gifts of prayer, gifts of encouragement, gifts of hospitality, and everything else we needed.

From there, I'm sure the details exhausted and stressed out some that had more responsibilities than I did, but I never heard complaining. Instead, I just heard calls for prayer over some specific areas. Need food provided at a reasonable price? Let's pray over that. Weather forecast calls for snow? Let's pray about that (and watch God change the forecast in less than 24 hours time). Need to know who to invite so we won't be the only ones there? Yep. Just pray.

And they came. Almost 200 of them. And they came ready to worship and receive a word. And all along we just kept praying. We prayed for the hurting and for the lonely and we praised God for his providence and provision all along the way.

The weekend was amazing and I hope to never forget some of the words that were spoken directly to me, but my biggest takeaway was this--the body of Christ is beautiful. Regardless of the labels we place on ourselves or the signs on our churches, when we come together, miraculous things can happen. And that's not scary at all.


Monday, January 25, 2016

We have winners (sort of)!

Just didn't want to think I'd forgotten about you. That last post generated some views, but apparently people are still having trouble commenting. SO, I am going to extend the the giveaway to next week when I am back on FB and can check comments on there. For those of you who have already commented and shared, you get BONUS entries. Happy commenting!

Monday, January 18, 2016

The One With the Giveaway

I mentioned in my previous blog post that I have a goal of memorizing more Scripture. I've realized lately that most all of the verses I know by heart were memorized when I was a child. Thanks to some great Sunday school, VBS, and Children's Church teachers, I hid words in my heart when I was very young and those are the ones I can still call to mind now. Most of the ones I have memorized the best are the ones that were set to music.

With that in mind, a few months ago I asked for recommendations for Scripture songs to introduce to my own children. The music needed to meet a couple of criteria. First, it needed to be just Scripture so they could memorize the verses and not just another song. Second, it couldn't be BAD MUSIC! I think, specifically, I requested "non-cheesy" music. I've tried to download similar music in the past and the quality was just cringe-worthy.

Upon the recommendation of a friend, I discovered Seeds Family Worship. The mission of Seeds is "to get God's Word through Seeds into as many homes (and hearts) as possible around the world." As part of their method of spreading the gospel, they even give you a free CD (or download) for every one you buy.

A few months ago, Seeds offered a free download of Seeds of Courage (Volume 1). We quickly discovered those songs are perfect for our boys. What boy (or child, period) doesn't need to be reminded that, "lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who love the Lord lack no good thing (Psalm 34:10)." Or, "fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10)." Bonus, the music is actually GOOD!

Recently, Seeds gave me the opportunity to review their new project When You Lie Down: Lullabies and Scripture Songs. I have to admit, I wondered at first how I would like it since my kids are past the age of lullabies. I quickly discovered that it is the PERFECT music to relax ME. During a tough week at work, I actually looked forward to getting in my car and unwinding as the word of God calmed by soul. This CD is a wonderful way to instill Scripture in your children, but it would also be perfect for you to listen to during your commute, or your quiet time, or anytime you just need to relax and let the Word of God comfort you.

As a special bonus, in addition to giving me a CD, Seeds has given me THREE copies to GIVE AWAY! To be eligible, just leave a comment in the comments section below. I'd love for you to tell me your favorite verse or just tell me hello. Since I'm not on Facebook right now, you can earn a bonus entry just by sharing this post with others for me. Just include in your comment that you shared it (on Facebook, Twitter, or some other form of social media) and I will enter your name twice. Next Monday (Jan 25), I will use a random number generator to choose the winning commenters and I will send you your FREE CD.

Good luck and I can't wait to see your comments.


Monday, January 11, 2016

21 Days

Hello bloggy people.

I haven't forgotten about you, I promise. But, in the interest of trying not to bore you to tears, I haven't been blogging about my exciting life. For instance, I feel quite sure you don't care that not one, but TWO of the last 10 days my children have stayed in pajamas all day. Seriously. They took off pajamas only to bathe and put on clean pajamas. That's just how we've been rolling. There's been a new computer system at work that has caused me to audibly growl a few times, but other than that we've just been laying low. And that's just fine with me (see also: December is Trying to Kill Me).

Despite all of that "excitement," I've found the time to start something new. Our church started a 21 day fast yesterday. In addition to fasting from social media (more on that later) and sugar, I'm endeavoring to memorize 21 scriptures in 21 days. I've been using a handy app called "scripture typer" and I'm amazed at how well it works.

Y'all know I'm not a devotional writer, but I thought I might try my hand with blogging about a few verses as I memorize them. I most likely won't be doing it every day, but I want to share the ones that are particularly meaningful to me.

Yesterday was the first day of the fast and my first verse was one I discovered several years ago. Genesis 15:6 says, "And he (Abraham) believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness."

The striking part of the Genesis verse is that Abraham BELIEVED and it was credited to him as righteousness. He believed and by faith he acted, but the verse in Genesis says that he was credited with righteousness BEFORE he acted. God had promised to give him descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, and Abraham believed despite the fact he had no heirs. He believed despite being old and married to a barren wife. And he was called righteous.

The next chapter of Genesis is where I really identify with Abraham, however. Because he believed, and God called him righteous, but then he decided God didn't have a clue what He was talking about. So since he was married to a barren wife and God somehow wanted him to have a slew of descendants, he took it upon himself to take another woman and have a baby with her. You know, because his plan was better than God's plan.

And here's the part of the story that gets me the most. After that poor decision, he forfeited all that righteousness, right? I mean surely, after God had commended him for his faith and then he went and tried to take matters into his own hands, God would find someone else to make a covenant with. But that's where grace kicks in. For years I didn't seen grace in the Old Testament, but there it is. In Chapter 17 of Genesis God comes back to Abraham and makes a new covenant with him. And he promises AGAIN to make him the "father of a multitude of nations." And, just so Abraham doesn't get confused again, he gives him the details this time. "Abraham, you know that old, barren wife of yours? Sarai? Yeah, SHE will give birth to a son. His name will be Isaac and he is the one through whom I will fulfill this covenant."

Of course, you know the rest of the story. Abraham fulfilled his side of the bargain and God did just what he promised. But righteousness? It was credited to him BEFORE any of the rest of that.

So, during this 21 days, I am seeking to believe more. As Pastor Nick said yesterday, this fast may not lead to getting specific prayers answered the way I want, but it will definitely lead to getting more of God. And that is the ultimate goal.

As a final aside, you may have clicked here from Facebook, but I won't see any of the comments you leave if you leave them there. I am planning to share the blog there (since that's where most of you find me), but I won't be going on there to read anything. I welcome any comments here, of course, but don't feel obligated. I hope this blog encourages you, but, more importantly, these are truths I need to write as a way of rehearsing them to myself.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Silent Night

400 years. Silence. Nothing. Not a sign in the sky or a word from the prophets. Nothing but stories of exodus passed down from generation to generation. They heard of God's faithfulness to others, but they had never experienced it for themselves.

The children of Israel had to be wondering if the stories were true. Were the promises just meant for someone else or did God have something in store for them, too? 

And then Christmas happened. And we are all supposed to celebrate and sing "Joy to the World" because Jesus came and all is now right with the world.

Only it's not. Yep, I said it. Despite the song that tells us otherwise, Christmas isn't always the most wonderful time of the year. Sometimes it's just hard. 

I am, by nature, a Christmas nerd. Christmas socks, tons of food, Elvis Presley singing on the radio, and loud family gatherings are my jam. But Christmas is about kids and those Christmases where I longed for them the most were some of the worst of my life. Everywhere I looked there were cute kids in their Christmas finery singing Joy to the World and I was anything but joyful. I would sit in church and dream of the day when those were my kids on the stage singing and I would pray that I wouldn't have to endure another Christmas where I had to answer the inevitable, "so when are y'all having kids?" question.

Instead, year after year, I heard silence. That's not to say God wasn't speaking in other areas of my life, but in the area of my family, I just kept hearing static on the other end of the line. And it hurt a lot, but especially at Christmas. Because I wanted to celebrate the birth of a baby. I just wanted it to be my baby and not the one who came for us all.

I'm not an expert on grief and I have no idea what Christmas must be like for people who are suffering from other heart aches--the loss of a loved one, or a sick child, or another unimaginable tragedy. But I know what it's like to sit in that silence and long for the one thing you can't have. 

And I also know what it's like when He breaks that silence. For me it came in the form of two boys who are anything but quiet. But I don't want people to think that I'm okay just because now I have everything I prayed for. Because that's not the case for everyone. People don't always come back  and sickness doesn't always go away, and sometimes circumstances just stay hard. 

But, rest assured, just because we may not hear Him, doesn't mean He is quiet. And if we sit in the silence, and lean in close enough, sometimes, instead of just hearing Him speak, perhaps we can hear Him singing... 

"What hope we hold this starlit night
A King is born in Bethlehem
Our journey long, we seek the light
That leads to the hallowed manger ground

What fear we felt in the silent age
Four-hundred years can He be found
But broken by a baby's cry
Rejoice in the hallowed manger ground

Emmanuel, Emmanuel
God incarnate, here to dwell
Emmanuel, Emmanuel
Praise His name Emmanuel

The son of God, here born to bleed
A crown of thorns would pierce His brow
And we beheld this offering
Exalted now the King of kings
Praise God for the hallowed manger ground

Emmanuel, Emmanuel
God incarnate, here to dwell
Emmanuel, Emmanuel
Praise His name Emmanuel

Oh, praise His name Emmanuel
Oh, praise His name Emmanuel"

Emmanuel (Hallowed Manger Ground)Chris Tomlin
from the album Glory In The Highest


Thursday, December 17, 2015

December is trying to kill me

When last we spoke, we were preparing for Trae's 9th birthday. And it seemed like all was going to be right in the world. And then December actually hit, and we haven't slowed down since.

For Trae's actual birthday we had a quiet night eating with friends (chicken on a bone, of course) and then we came home for cake. Simple enough and very similar to how I celebrated most of my birthdays as a child.  I remember very few birthday parties when I was a kid, but most of them were similar--a few friends, some cake and ice cream, and that was about it. I remember a few industrious moms who had a game or two involving either pinning a tail on a pre-printed donkey or dropping clothespins into a jar. Nothing fancy. No treat bags or elaborate themes. Just friends and fun.

So, for the love, when did I turn into one of THOSE people? A PINTEREST MOM! Last year we simplified and had a party at an indoor swimming pool. Get a pool, add friends, serve cake. Bing, bam, done. But, not this year. I decided it might be "cheaper" and "more fun" to have a party at home. And did I mention it had to be a party for BOTH boys since their birthdays fall at the beginning and the end of the month? We began with theme, and since both boys are big Hog fans (and the ideas on Pinterest looked so cute), it was "suggested" that maybe we have a Razorback tailgate theme. And they both agreed. Initially.

I should have known I was going to have issues when Will woke up the next morning and announced he didn't WANT a Razorback football party. He wanted a BASEBALL party! So, being the good mom I am, I just went back to the (Pinterest) board and decided we could do a baseball/football Razorback tailgate. Then it was ON. I found cupcake designs and tablescapes and tons of fun games we could play. I designed party favors and did all the other neurotic things that I never imagined I would do.

What I didn't plan, however, was how I was actually going to pull off all of those fabulous things in the midst of DECEMBER, the busiest month of the year. And did I mention it was at my HOUSE? Which also had to be cleaned and decorated for Christmas. But I could do it. Because Pinterest also shows me all kinds of inspirational quotes like, "she believed she could, so she did." So I made a schedule (see Pinterest board: organization) and I bought some vinyl and I got started.

And then I also worked. And tried to buy a few Christmas presents. And put up a Christmas tree. And did the thousand other things that working moms do every day, but especially in December. And then, right before this fabulous birthday party that I had been working my tail off for, I realized it had become WAY more about me and my pretty party plans than it had about my children. You know, the ones for whom I was HAVING THE PARTY!

Somehow, mainly thanks to the weather (can I get an Amen for a 70 degree Saturday in December????), we had a fun party. And do you know what was the highlight for my children? Not the party favors, not the custom Razorback cupcakes, and certainly not the hand painted Razorback we forgot to pin a tail on. Nope. It was playing in the back yard with their friends. The same thing we could have done without ever looking at one Pinterest board. Yes, it was a good thing I had a plan just in case the weather had not cooperated, but the same ingredients that made parties great when I was a kid still worked. We could have played hot potato and dropped clothespins in a jar, and my kids would have loved it simply because they were enjoying the company of their friends. And not one child ever looked at my lights and said, "wow, Mrs. Harris, thanks so much for making sure I didn't have to look at any dreadful cobwebs!"

I'm a little older than most of the parents of kids the same age as my kids, and maybe because of that I have a bit of a different perspective. While the helicopter circles a little closer to their kids, I sometimes choose to give mine a little more space. Or at least I try to. But then the mom guilt kicks in and I think, "but won't he be upset if all the other moms are doing ________ and his mom does something different?" And lately I've been giving in to that guilt more often than not. But that birthday party proved to me that sometimes less parenting is more. The organized games were fine, but kids enjoy being with kids. Period. And given the opportunity, games will break out and fun will happen naturally. Also, kids will eat cake whether it looks like a Razorback (#PinterestWin) or a "baseball" that appears as if it might be bleeding (#epicfail).

And with that lesson in mind, I'm now preparing for Christmas. And I'm again kicking myself because we don't have an Advent calendar, and our Elf hasn't parachuted in or made a snow angel in flour yet, and we have yet to make gingerbread houses. So maybe this won't be a Pinterest Christmas. But I'm vowing to plan less (mainly because time has run out to plan more) and to let a little fun happen. And also to stay off Pinterest. At least until January 1. When I'm sure I'll be back looking for inspirational quotes related to something entirely different.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How Deep

I really wanted to post something funny tonight. The last post was a little heavy and I was hoping to write something that let me use my sarcastic side. But I logged onto Facebook one last time before bed and I was reminded again just how difficult this life can be. We are supposed to be joyful this time of year, and I am certainly counting all my blessings, but there are just things on this side of eternity I will never understand. In just the last few months I have seen babies die and babies diagnosed with cancer. I have seen friends walk roads of infertility and cancer scares of their own. I have talked with parents whose children are facing demons they should never have to face simply because their biological parents made poor decisions. And, frankly, it just sucks.

So, tonight, I am again counting my blessings. But I am also praying for those of you walking a more difficult road right now. In the midst of the hard posts on Facebook tonight, I came across one post that includes the lyrics of this song. Tonight as I go to sleep I will pray that every one who reads this will be able to grasp How Deep The Father's Love for Us.






How deep the Father's love for us
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the man upon a cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Songwriters
Stuart Christopher Townend