Thursday, October 20, 2011

Connecting the Dots

One of my favorite activities as a child was to complete pages and pages of "connect the dots" books.  I could sit forever counting those dots and searching for how the next line would connect to the next dot. I can still remember the excitement that would build as the picture would become more and more clear as I connected more and more dots.  Sometimes I would get impatient and try a short cut.  I'd skip a number or jump across the page to get to the end.  But if I did that, the picture became distorted and didn't make sense.  If, though, I followed the dots in their numerical order, the picture would be clear.  Then I would turn the page and begin another one.  Those dots would entertain me for quite a while.

As I'm continuing to grow up, (I just turned a mere 49 last week) and as I become more mature in my walk with the Lord, God is showing me how to connect the dots in my life that are helping to tell His story.  The story that God continues to tell is very exciting and full of mystery.  Connecting the dots to complete His illustrations, though, takes more than just counting numbers. It takes trust, and complete faith in Jesus Christ to trace His hand in our lives. As I seek Him, I am more acutely aware of His hand guiding mine as He directs me to the next dot, the next, and the next. 

Look closely at these pictures.  What do you see?  It appears to be a mess of childrens blocks stacked randomly and scattered with no purpose.  I use this to illustrate how we need to search for God in the details of our lives.  If we aren't searching for Him, we may miss something incredible that He wants to show us.

For example, about a week ago, Madison and I were in her Orthopedic Dr.'s office.  I was looking for the "Living Real" magazines that I had left there a couple of months earlier and I didn't see any.  I told Madison, "I'll be right back.  I'm going to get a few magazines out of the car."  I came back in and strategically placed them on the tables in the lobby.  Then I sat back in my chair beside my daughter. After her appointment, I really didn't give the magazines much thought.  I took Madison to school and went on about my business.   

This past Tuesday, I received a phone call from a young mom who had picked up the magazine in Dr. Ekman's office.  On the other end of the line, I heard a voice full of joy as she expressed to me what a great magazine Living Real is.  She said, "Keep it up!  I loved it."  She was particularly drawn to an article called "A Real Fireproof Marriage" because in her bible study group they are discussing "forgiveness".  Before I knew it, we had talked about her Bible study group of "cute" girls.  (That's what she calls them.)  I suggested that I could meet her someplace and give her a magazine for each girl in her study and a stack for her to take to her church.  She was ecstatic that I would meet up with her.  If I hadn't listened to the Holy Spirit telling me to go and get more magazines, I would have missed this incredible "dot" that He was connecting and I would have missed God in the details.  Check out the next picture.  Who is in full focus now?

Today, I have a new friend.  Her name is Blair.  She is a precious young mother of two. As we had coffee at Starbucks and shared our stories with each other on Wednesday morning, the excitement about what Christ is doing in her life was just spilling out of her.  Her spirit was so refreshing and it was very evident that she is deeply in love with Jesus.  I knew God had orchestrated this meeting and I was reminded once again of how God is in the details.  It wasn't just happen-stance that Blair was in Dr. Ekman's office, selected a "Living Real" magazine to read, and then called up a complete stranger to encourage her and agree to meet.  This is a beautiful picture of how the love of Jesus Christ can connect His children if we just listen to His voice and are obedient.  God guided both of us to the next "dot".  As a result, His picture, the image of His Son, is continuing to develop in our lives to bring Him more and more glory.  Watch for His hand in your life today.  Don't miss one, single "dot"!

My Pleasure,

Monday, October 3, 2011

Priceless Truth from Noah

As I sat in my familiar place yesterday, four rows back on the piano side of the church, listening to the Word of God being proclaimed with boldness and courage, the Holy Spirit began to point out some very clear truths that I had not seen before in this incredible story of Noah, the ark, and God's picture of Redemption.  As our pastor was moving through his points with great conviction, compassion, and concern, the Spirit was speaking loudly to my heart (mind) some treasures that I needed to hear and see.  You can hear our pastor's sermon at and click on the podcast for October 2, 2011.  If you haven't read the story of Noah lately, go to Genesis chapters 6-9 and refresh your memory.  Just as with every part of God's Word, here lies beneath the surface, truths beyond measure.

I was reminded of the spiritual condition of Noah when the Scripture says, "But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord." (Gen. 6:8 NKJV)  Even in the midst of perversion, evil, and utter wickedness, Noah loved God and walked with Him.  God found favor, or grace, with Noah because of the righteousness that Noah was "clothed" in.  Noah's faith and life of obedience allowed God to clothe him in righteousness, not Noah's righteousness, but God's righteousness.  Noah was living day by day in sweet communion with the Father.  How do we know this?

God spoke to Noah.  He had conversation with Noah.  Noah wasn't suprised when God spoke because he knew the voice of the One he loved and trusted in.  Noah was a friend of God.  Because God knew Noah's heart, He revealed truths to him that he didn't share with others.  God told Noah of His plan to destroy the world and how He was going to save Noah and his family.  God reveals truths to those who know Him and trust Him.

Even though Noah heard God's plan, he didn't just sit around with the truth he had been given, all puffed up with knowledge and pride.  He acted on the truth immediately.  He proclaimed the truth to the wicked people of the day as they ridiculed and watched him build this "thing" that would save them from the rains (something no one had ever seen because it had never rained on the earth), and let them know that judgement was coming! Their only hope was to repent of their sins and turn from their wicked ways.  God had given Noah the message of salvation and what he had to do to be saved.  Noah had faith and believed what God said.  He spent the next 120 years building the ark, staying focused, and pressing on in obedience to God's design and call on his life.  Noah was "being" saved as he trusted God with his whole heart, and as he acted on his faith everyday by continuing the building of the ark.  Because of his faith, Noah was a very important part of God's redemptive plan (an Old Testament picture of Christ) which was now moving full speed ahead.

In Genesis 6:5-7, God declares how wicked the people are and He says He is grieved in His heart.  He says He is sorry that He ever created man.  This may sound like God is saying He messed up, but we know God is perfect and His ways are perfect.  God didn't mess up.  We did!  And God knew we would.  I believe God is saying that He is so grieved in His heart because His perfect plan of salvation (which was from the foundation of the world), the sacrificial death of His only Son, which will pay the penalty for man's ugly sinfulness, is now moving forward.  The sin of the people grieved God's heart, but the death of His only Son, which had to take place, grieved Him even more.  Our sin still grieves the heart of God, and rightly so, because it is a rejection of His Son, Jesus Christ.  We are called to repentance of sin to replace the rejection of Christ with the reception of Christ.  True repentance leads to true reception.  And true reception of God's Son turns us away from a life of sin to a life of faith, trust and obedience to the Word of God!

In Chapter 7, verse 1, the day of salvation has arrived!  Noah hears God say, "Come into the ark."  What a beautiful visual of what we will hear Christ say one day as we enter heaven. Because we received Him, He will receive us.  He'll say, "Come on in, my child."  If we stay the course, press on, in faith, and trust Christ with our lives wholeheartedly, our salvation will be complete.  Our faith will be made sight just like Noah's was.  We are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  We can have a personal a relationship with this just, holy, compassionate and patient God by the grace of, and through our faith in Jesus Christ.  We can walk and talk with Him.  We can find favor with Him.  We can have the same strong faith that Noah had if we just believe, trust, and live a life of obedience.  Noah and his family experienced the joy of the Lord while the rest of the world experienced God's wrath and destruction.  The familiar bumper sticker really does say it all, "No Jesus.  No Peace.  Know Jesus.  Know Peace."

How about you today?  Are you walking with the Lord so closely that you know His voice when He speaks?  As His child, sometimes His voice is muffled because we've allowed sin to creep in and crowd out His voice.  Take a spiritual hearing test and see what God is revealing to you.  He may be saying, "Repent of the sin that is clogging up your heart so you can hear Me.  I have things I want you to know.  I miss our conversations and because of your disobedience, you are distorting the image of My Son in your life and our relationship isn't what it could be... and there are consequences for that." 

If you don't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you can.  Place your trust, faith and hope in the One who knows you best and loves you most.  Believe in Him today.  Stop rejecting Him and receive Him into your life.  You don't have to live a life of despair.  Begin a life of hope today- receive Him!

My Pleasure,

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"We Will Never Forget!" (or have we?)

Bumper stickers, signs and banners, hats, shirts, etc... all bearing the phrase, "We Will Never Forget!" The most horrific event in my lifetime occured 10 years ago on September 11, 2001.  I remember watching with horror and disbelief as the tragedy unfolded on the television. Watching that unbelievable cloud of dust and debris rolling down the streets of New York City like a tsunami engulfing everything in it's path; people emerging from the dust cloud looking like zombies.  Who could do such a thing?   I remember thinking about the freedom that we all share but take for granted in this country.  I thought about my then 6 year old daughter and 11 year old son.  Were they safe in their classrooms at school?  Should I go get them and bring them home?  What or who was the terrorists' next target? Those poor people!  What about their families?  How do these people get past something this devestating? As I relived that day with the rest of the nation, it was as horrifying as the first time I watched.  

Now a decade has past.  My children are 16 and 21.  We have lived through another 10 years, and some  have passed away during these last 10 years.  Life for most of us has moved on, but those who lost their lives that day missed the past 10 years with their families;  watching their children grow up, graduations, marriages, births, Mother's Days, Father's Days, Christmases, vacations, etc... And for those who were left, what should be joyful occasions, are bittersweet because someone is missing.

My church family remembered the 9/11 tenth anniversary through a musical called "Shelter" based on the 46th Psalm.  My family remembered through images on TV and conversation.  The country remembered through memorials and special services, TV interviews with survivors, and interviews with family members of survivors.  For me, the entire weekend was heavy and very somber.  In what way did you remember?

Horrific acts are remembered, reviewed, revisited, and retold throughout history such as World War I, World War II, Pearl Harbor, The Korean War, Vietnam, The Hollocaust, The Oklahoma bombing, Columbine, etc.  But there is another horrific story that still needs to be retold today and everyday...the story of the cross.  It was a horrific death for anyone, but especially for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He chose to leave heaven, to give His life, and die on a cross for you and me;  to take on the wrath of God Almighty, His Father, to take the punishment for our sins, yours and mine.  He bore the horrible scourgings, beatings, being spat upon, being humiliated, and the crown of thorns placed on his head, and excruciating pain. While His blood flowed, He was nailed to a cruel cross, and hung to die a slow death for all to see.  This was the most incredible event ever in the history of mankind.  He chose death so we could live life through Him and with the power of the Holy Spirit.  His life was the only one that could satisfy the wrath of God for the sins of the world once and for all.  Jesus tells us to remember Him every time we receive the Lord's Supper.  That's how church families remember together.  But how do we remember, review, revisit, and retell the greatest story ever told in front of the world, and tell those who may have never heard the story of love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, redemption and healing?  Simple!  Live out what Christ died for.  Live out what you have received from Him. Live a life of love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing, each and everyday!  Our lives should be a "His-story" book!

Dear Jesus,
Help me to never forget the lives that were lost in 9/11, their families, the first responders, soldiers who have given their lives, and the soldiers still fighting for freedom today.  Help me to never forget that I live in the greatest nation in the world built on Your truths.  But even more, help me to never forget what You did for me on the cross.  My desire is to live the greatest story ever told every day of my life.  I want to bring You glory because of what You have given to me.  Thank You, Lord.  I am forever grateful and I will never forget!  In Jesus' name, the name above all names, I pray, AMEN.

My Pleasure,

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My Best Friend!

Godly Character.  Prayer Warrior.  Spiritual Leader. Wise.  Protector.  Loving Husband.  Great Dad.  My Best Friend.  Just a few words that describe the one who won my heart over 30 years ago on a... "blind date". 

Two weeks before our blind date, I had poured my heart out to God and surrendered the choosing of my husband.  I hadn't done a very good job with the dating scene, although I had dated some really wonderful guys, I had not allowed God to choose my dates for me.  So, one night in my bed, on my knees and through tears, I surrendered this very important issue to the Lord and asked Him to bring into my life the one He wanted me to marry.  In less that 2 weeks, my girl friend was making plans for Rick and I to meet on a blind date.  At age 17, I knew that God had answered my prayer.  The next 5 years would prove to be some of the most crucial in our life together.  They were the most incredible years of dating, of growing in love with my future husband, growing more in love with Jesus Christ through discipleship, spiritual growth, and the deep planting of spritual healthy roots; all of which have grounded us to this day.

Who is this man that God answered my prayer with over 30 years ago?  

Rick, my sweetheart!  The one who brings much love, joy, and leadership into my life and our family.  He brings security and a feeling of safety.  He is my earthly rock!  (And he's handsome too!)Rick is one of the most godly men I've ever known, next to my dad.  Rick is a true reflection of Jesus Christ to everyone with whom he comes in contact.  He doesn't separate his spiritual life from his every day life.  (In reality, you can't!)  What you see is what you get... a kind, compassionate gentleman who puts Jesus Christ above all in his life, family, and relationships.  He is the epitomy of a godly husband, father, friend, and leader. He pours himself into others through serving and discipling. He's a true prayer warrior for me, our children, and others.  It really encourages me to know he prays for me daily.

Why was he chosen for me? 
God had only one thing on His mind when He chose Rick for me.  His Glory!  God knew we could bring Him more glory together than apart.  Just like all marriages, we have our challenges, struggles, and differences, but how we respond to each other through the good and the bad is how we point others to or away from Christ.  Leading people to Christ is how we bring God glory.  We are all on display as we proclaim Jesus as Lord.  People are watching.  People are observing.  People are analyzing and scrutinizing.  Our marriage is a portrait of Jesus Christ and the unity (the oneness) of  the Trinity.  Our relationship should model the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Have we perfected that image in 26 years of marriage? No, not yet.  And it won't be perfect until we see Jesus face to face. But, hopefully, we have become more like Him during these years of loving, learning, and growing together.  With each precious year that we are allowed to love each other, our prayer is that we are displaying to our children, and the world, a beautiful portrait of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

How is this possible? 
Only with the power of the Holy Spirit abiding in and living through us, and with a husband who takes his role of the spiritual leader in our home seriously.  Rick has always taken his role very seriously and therefore, helps me to fulfill my role.  My responsibility as his wife is to pray for him and with him, to love him, and to help provide an atmosphere in our home that is warm, encouraging and comfortable.  An atmosphere in which he loves to come home to and doesn't want to leave. Living out God's design of a Christian marriage is hard work, but so worth the effort.  My husband's relationship with Jesus affects his relationship with me and vice versa.  Maintaining a healthy realtionship with our Lord individually, spills over into our relationship together.  I praise God today and everyday for a wonderful godly husband who loves me like Christ loves the Church and gave Himself for her.  It's an honor to be his wife!

"For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.  This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.  Nevertheless, let each of one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."  Ephesians 5:31-33 NKJV 

Rick,  I love you with all my heart!  I respect you and I love being your wife, the mother of our children, and your best friend!  (Sorry Kenny!)  :)

My Pleasure,

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Word I Heard

Monday.  The day after Sunday.  The day I either live what I believe or walk in a different direction. The question I'm asking myself this morning is, "Was the Word I heard yesterday and the worship I experienced with my brothers and sisters in Christ affecting the way I live today?"  I don't know yet.  I'm still thinking and writing through the experience this morning.  What did I hear?

My daughter was sick yesterday so she didn't attend church with us.  I left after the service to check on her and wasn't able to attend Sunday School, words I didn't hear.  The afternoon was filled with preparations for a concert I would be doing in the evening and I didn't have much time to ponder the sermon, words I did hear.  What I did think about, though, was the song that the women sang during the service.  It has been our Women's Ministry theme for about 5 years for our Summer Outreach event.  The song is "O Taste and See", based on Psalm 34:8.  "Taste and see that the Lord is good.."  This verse was playing over and over in my head yesterday.  So, the word I heard was, "taste"

The author of The Psalms uses this verbage, I think, because he knows that if you do "taste" the goodness of God, you will be satisfied with His flavor, and therefore continue to crave God more.  The author knows, because of his own experience, that once you "taste" the Lord, you will have found what satisfies your spiritual hunger, that gnawing deep down in your soul, and, as a result, you will not want to go anywhere else to curb your appetite for truth, goodness, mercy, and love.   The author also knows from experience, that if you try to satisfy your soul with something else, it may taste good for the moment, but will leave a nasty "after taste" in your spirit; sort of like a strong cup of coffee does in your mouth. Yuck!

So, what have I been "tasting" lately?  Have I tasted the Lord's goodness or do I have a nasty after taste in my soul?  What word did you hear yesterday that you are applying to Monday?  The Monday difference is living out the Sunday experience.  My writing and thinking today has led me to dwell on God's goodness this week.  His goodness fills me with joy!  I can't think of a better way to reflect Christ but to be joyful.  How can I not be?  I've tasted His goodness in so many ways that I know from experience, too, that my soul only finds satisfaction in Jesus Christ. 

Have a "tasteful" week!

My Pleasure,

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Another Step Away

This morning, my daughter, Madison, began her junior year in high school.  Where have the years gone?   Earlier this week, she was cleaning out her closet and dresser drawers and found a photo album with some of her baby and toddler pictures.  It seems like yesterday that we brought this bundle of joy home from the hospital after a few days in the "nic-u", and placed her in a large Christmas stocking and took our picture under the Christmas tree.  What a gift she has been!  She is growing into such a beautiful young lady and makes my heart, and her daddy's heart, proud! 

Today I'm reminded of a song that I used to listen to in the car when Turner, my son, was small.  Sung by "Ariel", the Disney mermaid, it was a song about growing up and was sung from a mother's perspective.  The line that moved me to tears every time I heard it went something like this. "With every pair of new shoes, they take another step away from our care."  This is so true.  Every mark of growth on the wall or door frame,  means another step away.  Although it can be very emotional, it is also very exciting to watch your children grow.  Tomorrow, my son begins his senior year at the University of South Carolina.  He will be 22 years old in September.  He is now an adult and is even closer to stepping away and being on his own.  He is living at home this year after living away for two, and I couldn't be more thrilled to have him home for just a little while longer.  He is such a joy to have around.  He makes us smile and we're so proud of him!

Another step away, though, can also mean another step closer.  Closer to what?  Closer to the Father.  Closer to spiritual maturity.  Sure we all want our children to grow up to become independent, productive citizens of society, but more importantly, we want them to grow up and mature in Christ.  Another step away from the world and another step closer to Jesus.  This is what I'm excited about! Watching my children grow up in Christ. The most important job we have as parents is to parent towards that end- their spiritual maturity.

     My devotional this morning, from Mornings with Tozer, was about this very topic.  A.W. Tozer said, "The apostle Paul's greatest desire was to always move forward in the knowledge and blessing of God."  He went on to say, "Because he did not want to stand still, Paul testified: "I follow after; I press toward the mark.  I am striving to lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold on me!" (See Phillipians 3:12)" Just because we reach one mark doesn't mean we stay there.  We press on toward the goal of Christ likeness.  That's what spiritual maturity is- looking like Jesus.

The small window of time that we have our children in our care is crucial.  We not only need to love them, teach and train them in the knowledge and wisdom of the Lord, but we have to live it in front of them each and every day.  We should all be in the process of stepping away from the world and stepping towards our Savior. 


My prayer for both of you is....

"That you might be filled with all the fulness of God."  
                                                                     Ephesians 3:19

I love you both so very much!  It's my incredible pleasure to be your mom!

My Pleasure,
Melanie (Mom)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"Please Sir; I want some more."

Remember the musical, "Oliver"?  Near the beginning of the story, Oliver, an orphan, is sitting at the table with the many other orphans, talking amongst themselves and eating their bowls of porridge.  It's very loud in the dirty, dungeon-like cafeteria. The boys around Oliver talk him into asking for some more.  All of a sudden, in the midst of the chaos, this very meek child gets up from his place and begins a long, slow walk toward the very large, gruff man in charge.  All eyes begin to follow Oliver, and the silence becomes so thick, you can hear a pin drop.  Then Oliver, as he reaches his destination, begins to speak in his trembling, pre-puberty voice and says, "More, please."  The large, gruff man is furious and says, "What did you say?".  Oliver politely responds, "Please Sir; I want some... more?"  Then in a very loud, disturbing voice, the man says, "MORE?"  Then all heck breaks loose and the orphans go wild!

I began thinking about this scene from this wonderful musical this morning as a result of last night's portion of an event that I've been attending this week.  The event is a VBS (Vacation Bible School) for women, designed and taught by the author, Denise Hildreth Jones. The Women's Ministry at Bethel Worship Center in Camden, SC are hosting the event for three evenings.  The scene from the musical, though, is totally opposite from how our Heavenly Father responds to our asking for more.  I love to learn more about God's Word and about His character.  It's so "filling" and satisfying to receive "more" from the One who feeds my spirit.  Denise is pouring out on us, this week, what she has been given so we can be filled with more.  Thanks Denise!

As we receive more, more is required. We are responsible for doing something with the "more" that God gives us.  In Luke 12:48, Jesus is teaching through a parable about the faithful servant and the evil servant.   He is cautioning them to stay focused and to be prepared for His coming, the second time. He has given them, His disciples, knowledge, spiritual ears to hear and the ability to understand what He is talking about.  Now it's their turn to respond.  They are to live according to the wisdom and knowledge that they have received.  What they learn, and now, Who they know, should change their lives.  Jesus says, "But to him who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few.  For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required;...". NKJV (Jesus used the Master-slave analogies quite often because of the culture they lived in.)

Learning more is not only gaining head knowledge; it's applying the knowledge that you receive to your heart.  The heart is our soul.  It's what defines us.  It's our inner most being.  We are responsible for the knowledge that we receive.  As disciples of Christ, we are to put that knowledge into action.  The action is called "obedience".  The "more" we receive, the more we should look like Christ.  That's called "transformation".  His image reflected in and through our lives is the ultimate end of the "more" that He continues to reveal to us.  Wisdom, which is seeing life from God's perspective, leads to teaching others about the knowledge that we've received from God. Proverbs 9:10 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."  NKJV  We obey because of our fear of the Lord.  Fear doesn't mean that we cower. It means that we love God so much that we would'nt dare... not to obey Him.  The fear of the Lord is a healthy understanding of who God is, what He requires, and then living out, in faith, what we believe and understand to be true. 

Do you want "some more"?  First, we have to finish what's on our plate; applying what He's already fed us and then ask for more. The more we live out what He's given us, the more glory He receives.  With ladle in hand, it would be His pleasure to serve you up "some more"!

"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning." Proverbs 9:9 NKJV

My Pleasure,