Seeking Sonshine

"Not all who wander are lost" – J.R.R. Tolkien

What’s My Worship?

My local church had an amazing service last Sunday about worship that has made me sit down and examine my worship in a very real way. I serve on the worship team and have felt insecure about truly worshiping the way I do in private in front of people. I get insecure around people when it comes to singing. I would like to say I am a strong, mature Christian who rises above, but that would be a lie. Sometimes I think people may assume those who raise their hands and close their eyes, swaying with the music is a choreographed act for worship leaders to do. I really can’t argue this because I know some churches do stage their worship experiences. I hate that because I feel like it cheapens authentic worship. But, I can’t speak for anyone else or their reasons except my own, so I knew I needed to dig deep and put some time and prayer into this.

What drives my worship? It can’t be feelings, I learned that a long time ago. There are times I knew I must praise when I felt I simply could not. There is power in obedience and praise. I have had and still do experience events that threaten to shake my faith and make me realize that I must be intentional with my worship. Intentional goes beyond the feelings of the moment and gets to the motive of the moment. Worship is all about the motive. Am I worshiping to “get” something from God? Or am I thanking Him for what He’s already given me? Am I using it to manipulate God or others? Or am I using it as an opportunity to come before God and ask Him to search me and reveal what still needs refinement within me? I would love to say my worship is always authentic, but that’s not always true. I’m human and make stupid mistakes when I know better. However, the story of three Jewish boys who stood in the face of death by fiery furnace and declared to the king that their God would rescue them demanded a response. And even if their God did not save them, they would never bow down to worship King Nebuchadnezzar.That is a powerful response that must have required a radical faith. I would dare to call this radical worship. Their God is my God. So I had to ask the question. Is my worship radical?

The Priority of Worship

Worship is not the slow song that the choir sings. Worship is not the amount you place in the offering basket. Worship is not volunteering in children’s church. Yes, these may be acts or expressions of worship, but they do not define what true worship really is. There are numerous definitions of the word worship. Yet, one in particular encapsulates the priority we should give to worship as a spiritual discipline: Worship is to honor with extravagant love and extreme submission (Webster’s Dictionary,1828).

True worship, in other words, is defined by the priority we place on who God is in our lives and where God is on our list of priorities. True worship is a matter of the heart expressed through a lifestyle of holiness. Thus, if your lifestyle does not express the beauty of holiness through an extravagant or exaggerated love for God, and you do not live in extreme or excessive submission to God, then I invite you to make worship a non-negotiable priority in your life.

Our pastor, Justin Racca, said “the extent to which you worship God is the extent to which you know God.” (Told you it was good and a lot to unpack!) So, I decided I needed a personal worship mantra and I thought I would share it in case you might, too. (Disclaimer – this is my own personal one and it does not mean that I think everyone should worship like I do. I am choosing these statements based on my personal ups, downs and in the middle relationship with Jesus and the things He has done for me and went through with me. I personally believe that God knows our hearts and desires individual worship from us that is personal and heartfelt. Just wanted to make sure I threw this out there!😄)

I will raise my hands to Jesus in response to Him and His radical love. I will do so, no matter what men may say or think, because my worth is determined by my Christ; and I am forever thankful to Him. I will close my eyes and focus my thoughts, attention and intentionality toward Him, thanking Him privately in my heart for the many, many times He has made a way in my life. I will remember to focus on Jesus when I am scared, doubtful, anxious, angry, lost, hurt, happy, distraught, disappointed, betrayed, rejected, chosen, affirmed or in despair. I will worship Him no matter the outcome. I will not worship for a particular outcome. I will never forget that He died for me. I will never worship like resurrection is common. Worship is a choice I am making, come what may. Thank you, Jesus. ❤️

Here is the message that inspired this post.

“Stoned Worship” – Justin Racca, Lead Pastor, Heaston Church

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The Winds of Change

I’m not sure if it is the fever that has accompanied this flu epidemic which has hit our household this winter season that has me so fired up, or if it is just past time to act and move on to fully embrace what God has brought me here and called me to.

Confession time. I’ve been silent for several months. I told myself long ago that if it isn’t from Him, I don’t have anything to say. There are many things that have changed over the past two years that have made me a different person. I found that I had truly put my identity and measure of success in what I could achieve and excel at in my career and station in life. The work itself was important but not life changing. It paid very well. Self righteous thoughts came so fast and great in number that I never gave a minute or glance to… or had I? Self righteousness has a funny habit of erasing our memories of our failures and less than stellar moments. Who would want to remember those anyway? I finally realized, I did. I finally realized that those were the moments I could catapult off of instead of shoving them in a closet. I had to get OVER being scared of failing and realize that failure can sometimes be the best teacher. If you let it. That was a hard lesson for me to learn. I wanted to quit. Give up, this is obviously not for me because I am BAD at it. I rejected it.

But there’s another response. Let the pain make me better. How? Examine it. Get to the root of it with nothing but God’s Word and my questions and honest prayer asking for wisdom in this area. I love this clip from Student Takeover last year at Elevation Church. I encourage you to listen to the lyrics of the song and especially the beginning dialogue:

Believer – Elevation Student Takeover

I always saw this passage in 2 Corinthians that Paul preached and to be honest, I never truly understood it.

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NKJV)

Honestly, it felt like it was written for a much more mature Christian than myself and I always sort of glossed over it. I always thought boasting about failures was crazy and maybe it was because I was a bit envious that I never felt the power of Christ resting upon me. Maybe that was because I had told my stories of failure in humor to hide the pain and frustration I felt. I have a real fear of failure and yet I will self sabotage myself to that point and for what? Why? I did understand Paul’s scripture in Romans much more clearly because he could have been describing me.

Romans 7:15-20 New International Version (NIV)

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

This, I understand and can identify with. My flesh must become less. It can’t be about me. That’s an impossible task to complete while operating in the flesh. So how do I switch mindsets to activate God’s power in my weakness? I opened up my inbox to this graphic from Steven Furtick’s Waking Faith Devotionals.

This is a terrifying thought to me because I always assumed the definition of calling with successful, happy, living with purpose, knowing why I was created, etc. I guess I always thought my ability and capability would be the things that were central to fulfilling my potential. But Weakness? What?

Maybe God’s calling is different than the calling I heard and tried to filter with the “well, He must have meant this when an opportunity would arise that seemed to match.” Hmmmm. Man, pride is never six degrees away from sin in my life, it seems like. Pretty sure I remember how God feels about that sin…

So what can I do about this?

My steps are to ask the Lord to search my heart and reveal any wayward belief in me, especially the ones that revolve around pride. I then need to ask Him to show me how His power is made perfect in my weakness. I want to be able to boast like Paul did in all my weaknesses instead of trying to hide them or compensate for them. But how? I am asking for wisdom and I found an article John Piper wrote that changed the way I thought about this verse forever. Please take the time to read it below.

“The deepest need that you and I have in weakness and adversity is not quick relief, but the well-grounded confidence that what is happening to us is part of the greatest purpose of God in the universe — the glorification of the grace and power of his Son — the grace and power that bore him to the cross and kept him there until the work of love was done. That’s what God is building into our lives. That is the meaning of weakness, insults, hardships, persecution, and calamity.” – John Piper

He is creating in us the ability to STAY. Develop grit. This is good news for wanderers like me. There is hope in my situation if I don’t walk away, give up, burn out or quit. The work of love is never done for us as long as there are souls who need to hear it. ❤️🔥 Nicky

To Be Free


It’s a tricky thing.

It can be a goal to achieve or a privilege to enjoy or something that you never had. People have died for it and for lack of it. It can be a gift or a curse. Jesus thought it was important enough to die for so that we could live in it. And yet, I have wondered how many Christians truly experience it on a daily basis. Because I certainly did not. Peace and freedom from anxiety and depression seem impossible at times, to be frank. I am wired to make things more difficult than they have to be, and overthink all situations to be sure I am hitting my daily level of strife. (If I cared as much about my steps, I would experience more freedom in my waistline for sure! 🙄)

This is where the enemy likes to isolate me and fill my head with thoughts of shame, guilt and failure in all aspects of both my personal and professional life. I will fight with my husband about something minor and feel like I am Tom Cruise in a Few Good Men and I am determined to prove my case to, well, someone. I try to navigate waters I have never been in before and feel like a failure when I realize I am LOST. Anybody else ever been there?!

Then, I actually spend time with God because I know I need it, regardless of my feelings or circumstances; and realize my perspective is being provided by a deep shade of resentment. I have a job, a family and I am blessed. I begin to see that there is something better and deeper in this relationship with Jesus that I am missing out on.

I learned something this summer and fall and well, about two and half years now. The enemy will wait you out to see how far he can push you. And he doesn’t get tired. Not of trying to destroy you, anyway. He will put thoughts in your head that make you think, surely this season will be over, soon. Surely this is the max of my meter that God knows I can handle. Where is God, anyway? Is this real? He loves to plant seeds of doubt over a short or extended period. I have worked these fields of bitterness and fear long enough.

The Lord has been working deep roots of control and unforgiveness out of my soul. It is so freeing and yet, very unpleasant. I have gotten too used to “comfortable.” I don’t want to exercise because it isn’t comfortable. I am an emotional eater because it feels comfortable. Yet, those two things could be potentially lethal for me. And I choose them, because I have the freedom to. It leads to more anxiety and strife but I do what I hate. Sound familiar?

I like the apostle Paul way more as an adult. I appreciate some of his writings much more now than I did as a teen. He was a hardcore team player for any team he chose to play for. I can relate. I understand the all or nothing mentality and how it can be a huge motivating force or a hindrance… depending on my choice. God woke me up at 4 am in the form of my daughter’s stirring because she isn’t feeling great right now. I read and heard something in a new way that my soul was ready to hear, finally. I wanted to share it with you.

Galatians 5:13-26 The Message (MSG)

13-15 It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.

If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?

16-18 My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

19-21 It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.

22-23 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

23-24 Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

25-26 Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

I love the visionary comparison to an orchard. Working it out in our daily lives, through each monotonous motion some days. I saw Melissa Helser speak about the importance of growing roots in freedom and love. (Podcast here and worth the 40 minutes or so to hear her drop some powerful truth bombs Growing Roots – Melissa Helser)

My favorite part is when she talks about how any fool can count the number of seeds in an apple, but no one can count the number of apple trees in the seeds. When we choose hourly, daily, to live in the Spirit, He takes care of sowing those seeds in our hearts. Sometimes, in spite of us, He will do it and move us on a heart level that we cannot deny it was anything other than Him.

I felt like someone other than myself needed to hear this today. ❤️

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Prodigalism From A Reformed Prodigal (who is prone to wander…)

Raising kids is HARD. And mine are not even in middle school yet. 😩#prayformeplease. One of the reasons I ask for prayer is because it is like a highlight reel begins playing in my head of myself as a preteen, teen and 20s-thought-I-was-an-adult-child. Aannnd I shudder. (Then, I hear stories about my husband and we think… what were we thinking??) Thank goodness for Jesus. 

The highlight reel looks so much different when I am in the role of Mom. And I wish I knew then what I know now. I hope that I would have shut up and been more grateful and realized the meaning behind the discipline. I didn’t know the why behind the rules. Not saying I would have changed my mind…if I am being honest and transparent. I was extremely passionate when I thought I was right, lol! And stubborn. (Hence the prayer request. 😉) I never could have known this without becoming a mom. That is honestly what it took for me. Unfortunately. Sorry, Mom! 😂 I know that my parents prayed for me more than I can ever imagine. Thank you, Mom and Dad. ❤

I thought maybe someone else might be on either side of the child or parent who is far from God and us. I write this as a reformed prodigal that tends to wander. Warning: It’s About to Get Real.

To the Parent of a Prodigal and A Prodigal,

I cannot even imagine how heartbreaking this is for you. The Parent/Child relationship is tricky to navigate on both sides. The hurts can run deep and defenses can be strong. Criticism kills relationships. It does. There is a difference in criticism and parenting. Make sure love is your basis for everything. And this means speaking love in the Parent or Child’s individual love language. That shows we care about them. Even when they don’t speak our love language. Even when we cannot agree. Even when we may NEVER see eye to eye. I believe God is a God of forgiveness and reconciliation. I believe it because He did it in me and I NEVER would have believed it would happen if you would have told me this during the most difficult and lowest times in my life. 

We have an enemy and it’s not each other. He wants to isolate us so he can feed lies and hate into our minds about each other so it grows in our souls and manifests in our emotions. 

First, do we believe the Bible is true? Always? Is this our own personal standard of truth? Because if we can’t believe this:

…then we have other things we need to decide. (It ain’t called a Come to Jesus Moment for nothing. Just saying.) 

We can only decide this for ourselves. We cannot force it upon anyone else. We are the only ones we can change. And we have to let Jesus do it in us. If we can come to this conclusion, we can examine how to properly fight the true enemy.

Suit up. Next step:

That is how we deal with being a Prodigal, loving a Prodigal and parenting a Prodigal. Last thing.

Ask for a loving heart if you feel you cannot muster that emotion. I speak out of being there myself and doing this. It is HARD and it HURTS. But it’s WORTH it. Because Jesus called us to do it in a capacity that we are not capable of doing without Him in our hearts. He gave us a commandment to do what He gives us the capacity and capability to live out through Himself. 

This is His standard for love. He died so we could live and love like He did. Any life worth living involves other imperfect human beings in it. Relationships are messy and raw and vulnerable. Identify your real enemy. Suit up and fight Him with Truth in your mind and your heart. Priscilla Shirer leads an excellent study called “Armor of God.” She walks you through each piece and identifies the need for each one. Then pray for strength, for love, for wisdom, for discernment and for peace. You are promised all of these things in your relationship with Christ. It’s like the bonus extended warranty that you never realize you have until you study and realize you are okay and it will all be okay. Why should we do this as quickly as possible?

We are never promised another day. There are plenty of parents and children who wish they had another chance to hear their loved one’s voice or hug him or her one more time. Jesus loves us and He wants us to love each other. He said He would help us do it. Don’t waste earthly time making temporary bargains for selfishness and stubbornness. We never know how much we have left. 


A Reformed Prodigal Who Is Prone to Wandering. ❤

Photo & Verse Credits:

YouVersion Bible App

Why You Must Never Give Up

I am three weeks away from finishing my first year as a junior high art teacher. It has been the craziest year of my life since my college days. 😂 I have had some major peaks and days of clarity and beauty and deep crevices of moments that I questioned why in the world I am doing this. There is one thing that is for certain. I know why God called me to this. He knew how passionate I am about the power of encouragement because He gave me the spiritual gift of encouragement, Himself. He knew how much I absolutely loved the arts and how good it would be for my soul to have a job that allows me to use my creativity and explore. He brought students to me that would need something from me to help encourage them and be a cheerleader for them. He knows how much I love to speak into someone’s life and show him or her love and kindness from another key adult figure. He knew I have a heart for the abused and neglected children, because He directed me toward training through C.A.S.A. all those years ago. He knew that the kids of our next generation need someone to show them why kindness matters and showing grace is a good thing for everyone involved. Our kids today face dangers that we as adults never could have even comprehended in our times. They need support and guidance so they learn what is noise and distractions from their God given gifts or talents.

I share this with you not to brag or boast, but because I spent many years distracted and depressed by many different things of this world. I had a focus but it wasn’t God’s focus. It was what I wanted God’s focus to look like and be like for my life. I couldn’t see or understand that giving control over to God was not going to disappoint me, nor would I have to settle for something lesser than my great idea. And I thought that maybe, just maybe, there was somebody else out there that was suffering from feeling like you were meant to do more in this life than what you are doing right now. For anyone who ever felt a grand calling on your life, but felt stuck or you don’t know how to achieve what you want to do, or are just struggling to figure out what you are supposed to be doing… this is for you guys. ❤

To the Starry Eyed, Big Dreamer, Called and Anointed Ones for Greatness,

Take heart. Don’t lose hope. This too will pass. You can seek God to fight your battles for you. He promised He would help you. Lean into that promise with everything you have left in you. Highlight His words to you and say them out loud. The Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword. When you feel low, read Psalms and echo David’s sentiments to God. There is something in Psalms and Proverbs alone that can fit any situation you are facing. These are His words to us. We must turn here with our dreams, our sorrows, our joys and to find guidance for our lives. It is easy to turn to a friend or Facebook or others for validation, but that is not going to sustain us on the days that we want to give up and abandon this dream. Because we are weary of fighting the enemy for what he knows will be a Powerful weapon for our Jesus. He hates those and he hates us. So we fight the true enemy, which we know requires a heavier armor. Our purpose is heavy. We must be prepared to defend it because we will be under siege if we don’t give up. <<
now your true enemy. Maintain a daily time with the Lord. No matter how brief. Just do it. You need it more than you can ever imagine! Mistakes are inevitable if you are trying something new. Just learn from each one. I kept a journal so I would remember what I learned from each tense situation. Don’t waste a mistake. And don’t let the enemy beat you up with them. He will taunt you with them, but be firm. Realign your focus. Realign your purpose. It will be hard. Anything worth accomplishing is and it’s hardly ever fair. Keep going. Keep the faith. It will come to pass. He cannot fail. We will fail. Adjust your expectations by just turning them over to God and letting Him do His thing.

He who is within You cannot fail,


Fellow Starry Eyed, Big Dreamer, Called and Anointed One for Greatness. 😉

The Apostle Paul wrote thirteen letter to Christ followers following his dramatic conversion from Saul. (Author note: what is with the name of Saul? They are generally not nice folks in Bible times!) He was an encourager and teacher to many people in those days. I love the words that he wrote to those believers before us still inspire us today.

A Guide to Paul’s Letters Photo Credits:

It may be Saturday…but Sunday’s on the WAY!

Holy Saturday, Saturday before Easter, Black Saturday, Easter Eve. 
I can’t imagine how bleak and dark this day was for the followers and especially the apostles of Jesus. Can you imagine how Peter was doing? He had denied His own Lord and Savior and wasn’t even present at Calvary to see Him die. We all know how Judas handled his betrayal of Jesus. We know John the loyal, steadfast one was the only apostle to remain with Him. We know Mary, Jesus’ mother, was there as well.

But what I really want to know how Mary, his mother, was doing. After all, she was the only one who truly knew (because of solid proof) that her son WAS indeed the Messiah. The human side of Mary had to be wracked with grief because of the agony of watching her beloved son and Savior die in the most gruesome of ways.. and it was because of her. Because of ALL who would follow her.  Because of us. We know she pondered things in her heart because the Scripture tells us this. 

Stop for just a minute to consider how Jesus had personally ministered to Mary since she was a young teen. He was her first child, the one who made her become a mother and who had been a perfect child. (By the way, can you imagine the heyday the enemy had to have created in the way of sibling rivalry? How do you compete when your brother is Jesus… AND your parents really do worship Him?! 😬😬😬)  I hesitate to think about all the mistakes I made with my firsts with either of my kids!! I was terrified most of the time. But if my baby was Jesus?!?! Good thing He is the Author of Forgiveness, I am just saying! 😂 

Parents can be so hard on themselves when they make a mistake with their child. Can you imagine the fight between Mary and Joseph when they both realized they had left their son, you know, only the Alpha and Omega, behind at the temple? How many times have I forged on in my life when things were good or I was busy, and left Jesus behind. Remember, Jesus was the only perfect member of that family…not his parents. 

Then again, I am almost glad that we don’t know what Mary was doing. Maybe she was holding a Prayer Vigil with her closest family and friends. Maybe she was pleading with them to have hope, because He did exactly as the Scriptures foretold and all has come to pass. But, somehow, I revel in the fact that Mary is a lot like all of us. Sometimes when we know something without a shadow of a doubt, the enemy still tries to make us doubt. Grief is blinding to every sense in your body. It would be perfectly acceptable for her to be inconsolable and alone, deep in sorrow. It’s hard for us to imagine because we know what happens on Sunday. 

So let’s dig deeper.

What about the situation you are facing, have faced, or will face soon? When you don’t know what the test results will say when they come back. When you aren’t sure your child is going to make it. When there’s no telling what will happen…the middle battleground. The Black Saturdays of our lives are the days of the unknown.  I personally believe that these are the reason faith is called a fight. It is a massive war on these days. If I am not armored up and prayed up, I am in trouble. My attitude will sour, my thoughts are more negative and my soul gets downcast. Even when I know, I have Victory in ANY situation because of what Jesus did and endured for me on Good Friday. 

Sometimes, we just have to give our deepest sorrows, regrets, failures and grief to the One who bore them already. He wants to take them from you. He KNOWS how heavy it is to carry all the baggage we lug around our lives. He lugged a cross that was heavy all on its own, without the sin of the world, all the way to Calvary. He finished it. Can we finish it?

If we can, we give our Savior the most beautiful gift that we will never get to give Him on the other side of Glory. No angel can provide that kind of worship to Him. Only the people He created out of His own image can offer Him the kind of surrender and love that we can give… if we choose to. And that is why it is such a beautiful gift for Him to receive. It is because we choose to, out of the free will that He gave us. Just like He chose to give His life for us.

So, in ALL our lives, in ALL our situations, let us remember, in the great words of Carman, Sunday’s on the way. 🎤  

Sunday’s on the way in the weakest areas of ourselves. Sunday’s on the way for the hurting. Sunday’s on the way for the brokenness. Sunday’s on the way for the lonely and the downcast souls!!! Watch out devil, because Sunday’s on the WAY!

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When God is in the Classroom

Mrs. Ackley

I’ve heard it said in various ways, “They have taken God out of the classroom.” I’ve even been asked, “How can you work in a public school when you can’t share your faith with the kids?” I’ve watched teachers walk away from public education with great frustration because of politics, evaluation systems, state standards, pay, and lack of support.

If I am being honest, there are days in which I ask, “Why am I still here?”

Yet, every time I ask myself that question, I hear a soft whisper in my soul… “Because I am here.”

God is in your classroom.

From the depths of my soul, I believe that God has never, can never, and will never be removed from the classroom–even a public school classroom.  One, He is bigger than that. Besides the fact that He is omnipresent , He is the “indwelling spirit” that fills you…

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IF: Gathering 2017…Disciple

I just experienced my very first IF: Gathering (mostly online) and may I say….WOW.

That was intense.

No wonder this thing has spread like wildfire. Ladies, if you have not experienced IF, you are missing out on seeing God showing up and MOVING. You can access it here and I gain nothing by you doing this. I am in no way affiliated with IF, just an amazed first time attendee. I implore you to watch these conversations and these teachings on your own time because they are powerful and are based on scripture that is alive and relevant for you, today.

Yesterday was my birthday and IF being the first weekend in February is the best gift I could imagine. What a blessing to spend 24 hours before beginning a new age to reflect and reprioritize! This year, the focus of the gathering was on the early church and how Jesus only used a few disciples. Twelve, to be exact. Those twelve spread the Good News across Judea, Samaria and all over the world. I had never studied Acts or the Apostles before. Now, I can’t stop thinking about them.  These men were with Jesus. They were chosen by Him to follow Him. They watched Him teach, heal, perform miracles, die, be buried, grieved His death, and saw Him after He rose again. They were the first ones to ever be filled with the Holy Spirit. And all but one died a martyr’s death for it.  Their stories are remarkable. Jesus changed their lives forever. He is still in the life changing business, which is good news in today’s world. It is our job, those of us who have experienced His goodness and His grace, to pour that into others so they can experience it for themselves.

I had a lot to unpack after hearing these dynamic women’s challenging sermons and I had to examine my heart and my motives. I am now one year older. What am I going to be intentional about this trip around the sun? I want it to count for the Kingdom…I want my life to matter in some way. Don’t we all want this to some degree or another? I decided to take Jennie Allen’s Word from God and apply  it. Disciple. Yes, Lord. Show me what it looks like for me. 

I believe He will show up and off for us in our own individual lives if we will simply offer up our hands and say, Yes, Lord. I will be a woman who says Yes to whatever You have planned for my life. Because I have tried to run it my own way and I have tanked it in fantastic fashion in so little time! We have so little time here on Earth. There are so many people hurting all around us that could really use Jesus. 

What if we said Yes, Lord? Choose me. Send me. I am ready. I will go. 

I don’t know what or where this will look like. I know it starts with an everyday intentional choice to surrender my will to His. Whether I feel like it or not. Jennie’s talk about discipline painfully convicted me that it is an area I have ignored for far too long. It is past time I addressed it. (Even though my Sanguine self screams against it!! 😂)

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The Wrestling Match

I have always found the Biblical story of Jacob extremely interesting. They lived for so long back in those days, that they are intertwined in a lot of Biblical history! First of all, he is Isaac (of Abraham and Sarah) and Rebekah’s younger son. He has a twin brother who is older and can totally kick his you know what from birth, practically. No pressure living up to this family’s legacy (Grandpa Father of Nations over there) to begin with. All family has its Jerry Springer moments and this one was no different. I admit, I do find small amounts of comfort in that. 😂 

Jacob was a Mama’s boy and his Mama, Rebekah, had a prophecy given to her during her turbulent pregnancy with the twin boys. 

The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your body. Two tribes that are now inside you will be separated. One nation will be stronger than the other. The older son will serve the younger one.” – Genesis 25:23

She later helped Jacob (#younger) trick his father into stealing Esau (#olderverymadmuchbiggerbrother)’s birthright. You have to consider that she probably thought she was doing God’s will. See, women aren’t stupid. We love ALL our kids the same, right? So if God tells you that one of them is going to serve the other one… then which one are you going to side with so you steer clear of a nursing home? Just throwing that out there. Not defending her by any means. I am just saying that it is a lot easier to read scripture thousands of years later and assume that we would make better choices when we regularly miss great opportunities in our own lives on a day to day basis.

This wasn’t the first time Jacob used deceit when it came to his brother. (Jealous, much?) Genesis 25:29-34 tells us about how Esau came in from a hunting trip and was so hungry, he gave Jacob whatever he wanted for wanted for a bowl of stew. Of course, Jacob wanted his birthright. That sounds crazy to us, but I can name too many things I traded in for a bowl of stew in my life. Taking the easy way instead the right way. Applying a short term, earthly fix to a spiritual problem. How many times have I traded in my birthright for a bowl of stew because I was facing a storm? That is the trigger for me. Maybe it’s different for you.

It’s not always easy to remember that we have an Anchor in the storm. Until you do remember in a storm. Then, it changes how you view storms.

I used to fear storms in my life. Truth be told, fear had a stronghold so deep in my world that I suffered physical symptoms because of it for years. It was linked to my gut and stomach. I worried and feared about horrible outcomes that never came. I wallowed in self pity and regret. I listened to thoughts that whispered self deprecating lies about myself because I did not put enough truth in between my ears to know the difference between lies and truths. Friends, please learn from my mistakes. Pick up the Bible. Google God’s Promises to you. Listen to the lyrics of this song.

“No Longer Slaves”

You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song

Of deliverance from my enemies

‘Til all my fears are gone

I’m no longer a slave to fear

I am a child of God
From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me

Love has called my name

I’ve been born again

Into your family

Your blood flows through my veins

I’m no longer a slave to fear

I am a child of God
I am surrounded

By the arms of the father

I am surrounded

By songs of deliverance
We’ve been liberated

From our bondage

We’re the sons and the daughters

Let us sing our freedom
You split the sea

So I could walk right through it

My fears were drowned in perfect love

You rescued me

And I could stand and sing

I am a child of God…
You split the sea

So I could walk right through it

You drowned my fears in perfect love

You rescued me

And I will stand and sing

I am a child of God
Yes, I am

I am a child of God

I am a child of God

Yes, I am

I am a child of God

Full of faith

Yes, I am a child of God

I am a child of God

I’m no longer a slave to fear

I am a child of God -Bethel Music Video

Jacob probably had some strongholds, I would imagine. After all, he was on the run from a really mad Esau and Friends. (Sounds like a kids show!) Simply put, Jacob is sweating bullets and becomes desperate to save his life. He then comes into contact with an Angel. The Angel is basically telling him that he is lacking in some major areas. Jacob is obviously feeling very guilty and repents over and over to the Angel. The Angel, however, refuses to budge. Jacob, in all his desperation and worry, begins to WRESTLE the Angel. (Dude…no, do you really think you’ll win?!) But he doesn’t care! Why? What could be so important that he would act the fool with a representative of God? He wrestled him to receive a blessing! This guy is obsessed with blessings!  This post explains it well and compares it to present day believers:
“There is so little exercise of true faith and so little of the weight of truth resting upon many professed believers because they are indolent in spiritual things. They are unwilling to make exertions, to deny self, to agonize before God, to pray long and earnestly for the blessing, and therefore they do not obtain it. That faith which will live through the time of trouble must be daily in exercise now. Those who do not make strong efforts now to exercise persevering faith, will be wholly unprepared to exercise that faith which will enable them to stand in the day of trouble.”

He wrestled with this Angel all night. He wouldn’t stop. He couldn’t stop. It’s fascinating to me. First of all, what had to be going through Jacob’s head to wrestle an Angel?! I mean, that is wrestling with not flesh and blood to the most literal terms!! If the Angel killed him, what would happen? I guess he didn’t care. He must have been so desperate for God to move on his behalf, he would have done anything and given anything to be different. 

I have been there. This rings very true with me in different parts of my life. Times that I questioned it all. I couldn’t and refused to try and understand. It can very vividly be described as a wrestling match within myself. I think a lot of people have a similar experience in their lives as well. It is a time when you must decide what you’re going to believe and follow it, no matter what. A time when you must set your true North. It can be a situation, a diagnosis, an addiction, a death, worries, anxiety, depression, or any kind of overwhelming circumstances that will test every part of you. Pieces you never knew existed will be under attack from forces you never see. You may wrestle for awhile with God, but don’t ever let Him go. 

Jacob refused to let go. The Angel touched his hip and dislocated it and Jacob never walked right again. But what a story he had to tell why he was using a cane! The cane is a symbol of leaning on God. He got his blessing from the Lord and his name was changed to Israel. He ended up fulfilling his part of his family’s legacy.

But not without struggle. Not without a wrestling match. 

Struggle is not an ideal place to be. It is not something we choose for ourselves and no matter how many inspiring pins we pin to our spiritual Pinterest boards, it is uncomfortable. It hurts. It can make us angry and emotional. It doesn’t tend to bring out our best. But it is shaping us to be our best. Painfully. Slowly. Persevering. 

This definitely sounds like a trait that comes from God to me. The many blessings that come to those with a tenacious mindset and have staying power include longer and happier marriages, raising children that stick with problems even when they are difficult, determination to keep going in journies to getting healthier and actually reaching goals we set, going to work with a purposefulness in mind and refusing to let distractions sidetrack what we are meant to accomplish. Perseverance can help us in every single area of our lives. And we receive it by the testing of our faith.

So stand strong and pray. Grab on and don’t let go. Receive the blessing. ❤️
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