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Seeking Sonshine

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

Author

Nicky.Howell

An Acoustic Life

Anyone who knows me even a tiny bit knows that I absolutely love worship. It’s one of the things that I truly love to do. Music honoring our King becomes an anthem for my heart to cry out! It doesn’t always sound very good, especially when it is worship from a raw place of hurt and/or disappointment. When what I thought was going to happen is interrupted by what actually happens that doesn’t match my expectations. It reminds me of acoustic versions of my favorite songs.

The acoustic version of a song strips away most all of the instruments and leaves the singer or singers with one or two sources of accompaniment, usually, to guide them. The singer or singers are in charge of the quality of the song. There’s no fancy soundtracks to cover or auto tune for the voices. Don’t I wish I could auto tune my life sometimes? I seek comfort for issues over confrontation. This inflated expectation gets me in trouble because great living starts when I start taking responsibility FOR my life.

But what does taking up my cross daily look like? How do we live out the ancient text in our modern world??

To “take up your cross” is something that has to take place in your thoughts. When thoughts that aren’t pleasing to God come to your mind during the day, you “put them to death” on an inner “cross.” – Lauren Weatherall

https://activechristianity.org/what-does-it-mean-to-take-up-your-cross-daily

I MUST think about what I’m thinking about, and strip those thoughts down to their own individual acoustic versions. Sometimes I have to write them down. Next, I must compare them to Scripture. Scripture is the ONLY accompaniment that we need to play the soundtrack of our thoughts upon. Take out the extra distractions. Strip it down. Only then can we renew our minds as Paul described in the New Testament. Is it easy? No. I suffer as an inconsistent Christian, tossed around the waves of life when I have the anchor the whole duration of the storm and it’s in my hands. I can choose to let it down and anchor my soul or hang on for dear life.

“Following Jesus is easy when life runs smoothly; our true commitment to Him is revealed during trials. Jesus assured us that trials will come to His followers (John 16:33). Discipleship demands sacrifice, and Jesus never hid that cost.” – https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.gotquestions.org/amp/take-up-your-cross.html

I’m ashamed to admit how many times I sink in the waters of anxiety and worry. I can see Peter in the text and think, I could never do that, but the truth is, I can’t honestly say that when I’ve faltered under much less pressure filled situations. But we don’t have to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Pastor John Hagee once said, “I cannot do everything at once, but I can do something at once. Take action. Make a decision.” It really spoke to my heart. Jesus made it simple to live and love living an acoustic life.

By playing for an audience of ONE.

Photo Credits:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ryannguitar/14160223494

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.northsails.com/sailing/en/2016/09/how-to-sail-safely-through-a-storm/amp

Conquering the Cloud ☁️

The greatest of storms begins with the formation of a single cloud. It can be something small, like a simple painting, to trigger the winds of sorrow and roll in a tide of grief from the loss of a loved one. It happened years ago, yet it can still feel like it was only yesterday the wound was carved in your heart. You grieve not only the loss again but all the person has missed since they’ve been gone. Grief is sneaky and disguises itself well. It could be a relationship where you have invested time and a huge part of yourself; only to have all of it traded in for a moment of weakness from someone you trusted your heart to. Suddenly, you find yourself having to teach yourself to start over a billion times again. Maybe it’s having to begin every single day trudging through the fog of a very heavy weight of anxiety and depression to get out of bed and make it to the shower because it’s a battle to make every engagement you have scheduled EVERY DAY. You try to remain but you’re human and fall short. There are days that you forget and you break.

If any of those are you today, friend, I’d like to put my arms around you and cry with you. I don’t know the storm you’re walking through, but I’d like to tell you that you matter and please, please don’t give up. There is hope and a place to put it.

I write from the silver lining part of aforementioned cloud after attending my local church on a chilly December morning. God spoke to me and gave me a Word that I was desperately seeking to share with you right now. Psalm 42.

“Subject. It is the cry of a man far removed from the outward ordinances and worship of God, sighing for the long loved house of his God; and at the same time it is the voice of a spiritual believer, under depressions, longing for the renewal of the divine presence, struggling with doubts and fears, but yet holding his ground by faith in the living God. Most of the Lord’s family have sailed on the sea which is here so graphically described. It is probable that David’s flight from Absalom may have been the occasion for composing this Maschil.https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/treasury-of-david/psalms-42-1.html

Psalm 42

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.

By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭42:1-11‬ ‭ESV‬‬

http://bible.com/59/psa.42.1-11.esv

Awesome. So what does that mean… to put your hope in God? What’s it look like on a daily basis grinding against depression and still find joy in the loss and the fact everyone has moved on except you? How do we live it out? Sometimes I wish there were formulas like coupons or something. This formula keeps your eyes on Christ. This routine will keep you safe in life. Boy wouldn’t that be an easy ticket to sell? #legalismforsale

But relationships aren’t like that. Religions are. But not relationships.

My hope in God is a personal thing. Our individual relationships with Jesus are all so different and that amazes me and fills me with joy to know He is personal. He longs to know us and for us to long to know Him.

“Some people think hope is an emotion. “I’m feeling hopeful,” they say, but true hope is a discipline, a determination to believe in God’s reality and power, even when the world seems to be crashing down around you. That is the genius and the power of hope. It flies in the face of calamity, saying, “The world can do its worst to me. But still I will hope. Still I will know that this is the day the Lord has made, and He will take care of me.”

The key to surviving any challenge or crisis is hope. Hope that Jesus loves you. Hope that He is, right now, working out a solution for you. Hope that the future you place in His hands will be better than the present you hold in your own. “’For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).”

https://www.guideposts.org/faith-and-prayer/prayer-stories/pray-effectively/find-hope-in-any-situation

Choosing hope can be as simple as googling “Bible verse about (insert problem/storm/condition here and press enter.)” That is what I have to do. I’m trying to memorize them so I have them in my mind and heart always ready to reveal the enemy’s lies with truth. Until that time, I will choose to believe His Word is true and what He says about me should be the most important thing to me. Then, I ask for wisdom in the area to see what He’s needing me to move, change, let go or work through. Choosing hope could mean Jesus promises He will never leave me or forsake me and that alone being the comfort to combat loneliness and negativity over my situations. I choose to believe what is true to me and my choice is to believe the Bible is true and should be the basis for my relationship with Jesus. Those are just some of my personal experiences that may be helpful in some small way. I hoped they might encourage you or give you some kind of small comfort today. You’re loved and seen by God.

Making it my motto.

#choosinghopesince2019

Photo Credits:

https://goo.gl/images/caKqF8

https://pin.it/pth7lb5dv6lsuj

http://jenniferfarlow.com/

Journey of a Flame Thrower…. Part 4 🔥🔥🔥

The night we experienced in Northwest Haiti was intense. We stayed with missionaries Bruce and Deb Robinson. Bruce answered the missionary call thirty five years ago to move to Haiti and use his engineering skills to bring clean, safe water to villages in NW Haiti. He has laid more than forty miles of pipeline already, giving life sustaining water to the people in the remote villages in NW Haiti. He shared with us about how mission trips from all of the world would have people come to Haiti, install wells for these remote villages and share Jesus with them. Then, they returned home to the States. The well would eventually break and there was no one in the village who knew how to fix and maintain it. The villagers associated Jesus as someone who helps for a bit but breaks and can’t be counted on to sustain life. Bruce and Deb operate a company called Odrino that helps install and maintain wells and structures for Haitians. They have created jobs for people of Haiti, who suffer from an approximate 85% unemployment rate nationwide. The Robinsons welcome teams from around the globe to bunk at a group house and volunteer as well. They had two interns who were staying for a few weeks to learn the trade hands on from an expert engineer while we were there. Their story and ministry is incredible. https://odrino.com/

https://vimeo.com/53301600

We sat around Bruce and Deb’s table that night with his two interns (one a recent Ohio State grad and another a Texas A&M junior) and our STEP missionaries along with our mission trip team. Deb prepared the most delicious meal of honey mustard chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and cole slaw with cake for dessert. We were in heaven. I loved Haitian cuisine but this farm girl’s favorite comfort food is mashed potatoes. 😂 And comfort we needed. Bruce opened up his Bible and his heart to us about the spiritual attacks, hardships and battles they were enduring and had been for years in the area. We had three men around the table who had been to seminary, and Bruce was needing prayer and wisdom for the spiritual warfare he was facing. Wawa was calm and spoke about his story and testimony that involved being a voodoo priest’s son; and how Jesus turned his life and his father’s life around, eventually leading to his father’s graduation from STEP Seminary and building a church where his voodoo practice had been. What a powerful testimony!!!! He also reminded us all how we must view people on Earth as people who are no different than us; but are currently choosing a different path for what they desire most. (Safety for their family, peace, worth, etc.) It is a fear based tactic that pries on our natural, flesh based weaknesses. Wawa reminded us to look to Jesus for the victory He won over ALL the forces of darkness. We prayed powerful spiritual warfare prayers and worshiped together around that table. Wawa played old hymns on the recorder and we sang along. It was a moving and powerful experience I will never forget. We walked back to the team quarters and tried to sleep. The heat was intense and we could hear the drums that were beating to summon spirits not far from our bunkhouse. Later in the night, loud wailing filled the air. We didn’t know what was going on but we prayed a lot that night!

The next morning, we went back to the Robinsons where we learned the wailing was due to a man dying during the night. I began to realize that spiritual warfare was much clearer in Haiti than I had ever known it to be anywhere else. It was like the veil was ripped in half once the plane crossed into Haitian airspace. It was seeing the battle with my eyes all across that country. It wasn’t invisible there. We ate and prayed with the Robinsons and made our way back to Port-Au-Prince. I sat in the back with Wawa and some members of our team and just asked him question after question about spiritual warfare and how to pray and what to pray, etc. He recommended I read the book of Job, saying it was the best book of the Bible about spiritual warfare.

Skip forward a few days. I was home and opened up my email. I had not checked it in seven days and it was ridiculous. But one of the emails stood out like it was bolded and the rest of the print faded away. It was an email from Lifeway and was advertising Lisa Harper’s newest Bible Study over the book of… you guessed it, Job. I ordered it immediately of course. I dove into it and it is incredible.

Make no mistake, we are in a battle no matter where we live. That night in NW Haiti opened my eyes to it in a whole new way. Our prayers matter. We cannot defeat the enemy without Jesus. We can make a difference for our families and our world by immersing in the Word and living it out. Christine Caine delivered an impeccable word at Life.Church a few weeks ago about this. I highly encourage you to take the 40 minutes and listen. Our enemy is brilliant and knows us well. He has a plan for your life and it is to steal from you, kill you and destroy you and all you love in both the spiritual and physical realms. He cannot have your soul as a Christian but he can render you useless for Christ.

https://youtu.be/RNQGXPmtAGs

Photo Credits:

https://goo.gl/images/h53n2i

Journey of a FlameThrower 🔥…Part 3

We woke up in Port-Au-Prince around 5:30 a.m. our time to get ready for the eight hour trip to the Northwest part of Haiti. We had the BEST fruits and fruit juices I have ever had in my life in Haiti. Bananas were like nectar from God Himself. (Don’t get me started on banana chips…) Amazing! We quickly grabbed some things to stay the night in the NW and got on our way. Port-Au-Prince traffic is also a very unique experience. They use their horns to communicate all sorts of emotions and intentions. It is this intricate, personal way of transportation and I have never heard nor seen anything like it. NPR even did a story about it! https://www.npr.org/2017/07/14/537174782/the-secret-car-horn-language-of-port-au-prince

First Haitian Breakfast! 6/4/18

I had been told stories about the roads leading to the Northwest and how treacherous they can be. We had no idea what we were in for. 😂 Rough Riding from Port-Au-Paix

We had to switch out people riding in the very back because it got very rough. We crossed through a river. Yes. A river. I couldn’t believe it but we made it!

Haiti Faith Building Exercise – Crossing the river 😂

I remember I saw so many women and children walking alongside the narrow dirt roads with cars barely missing them. Where were all these people coming from? They live in the hills and come to get water because water is hard to come by out there. We learned that the culture dictates the area of Northwest Haiti to be the poorest of the poor. The roads are completely treacherous and at times, impassable. What would have taken us almost two hours to drive in America, it took us eight.

This was the point in the trip where I began to feel God completely changing me and wrecking my heart and mind to realize how much I take for granted everyday. Clean Water. Air conditioning. Flooring. Paved roads. Sanitation. My own vehicle. Medical professionals that are readily available. The ability to be able to read my Bible in my own translation.And yet, the JOY I experienced when meeting with our missionaries later that afternoon was like nothing I could rationalize, except I knew the Source. ❤️🔥

Northwest Haiti – Eventz Marc and family church, schools and home

The pastor who started this church and school is a graduate from STEP Seminary in Port-Au-Prince. He is unique, because he was called to this place, in the middle of a dormant and remote place, to pastor the people in the area. Most pastors would take the call and live in nearby larger villages or towns and travel to the church on weekends to have more benefits and advantages in town for their families. Not Pastor Eventz. He and his wife made their home among the people living in this area. They invested in the land and the people in this remote area of Northwest Haiti. He and his family have recently come to see 43 kids commit their lives to Christ of the 75 children who attend weekly on Saturdays for an Awana or VBS type event at their church. They also run a school for the children in their area. Their prayers are for buildings that would adequately accommodate the children, sewing machines and fabric for the women to make clothes for the children to wear so they may attend church, (It is a standard in their culture that they must wear good clothes to church. If they have none, they will not go) Bibles for the children to read and study, and that Compassion International would agree to sponsor this school.

Biblical Truths God Put on my Heart:

Isn’t it true that sometimes it is the very road itself that can stop us or stall us in our faith journey? The roads we encountered on our passage to the Northwest were eroded in areas that made the roads completely unbalanced and dangerous.

I can relate to these patches of road. The more I think about the roads we drove on, the more I see what a beautiful metaphor it is for my soul and personal journey. Doubt eroded some areas and hard times caused mudslides when my life felt like it was out of control and terrifying. Potential dangers lurked on the sides of the roads at times. There were plenty of pitfalls available if we had chosen to stop. We made it safely through to our destination by focusing on the road ahead and not stopping. We can relate this to spiritual battles we face when we keep focusing on Jesus. We will face resistance when we are trying to submit. Keep focusing on Jesus. Google your situation and add Jesus that the end of it. I have done that. Separation and Desperation are scary apart but paralyzing together. They are two of the enemy’s main tactics. Stay close to the Vine. (Jesus)

The rewards of the journey far outweigh the potholes, erosion and obstacles if we will not give up.

Photo Credits:

Nicky Howell

Julie Reuter

https://loveachild.com/2016/01/clothing-donation-in-la-tant/

http://www.traveladventures.org/continents/americas/hinche.html

Journey of a FlameThrower 🔥…Part 2

We returned on a very eventful trip home this morning. (6-8-18) God showed me so many things and opened my eyes to His Word on this trip. I am only in the beginning stages of processing through it, but I wanted to share it with you. I hope that if you ever feel God may be placing an opportunity to serve anywhere along your path, you say, “Yes. Send me, Lord.” It’s scary and exciting and also terrifying at first. But, friends, it is so richly worth it. ❤️

I did end up getting that suitcase packed and after a nice flight attendant gave me a super strong plastic bag, it even fit in the overhead compartment box. #whew

We made it through security and kissed our loved ones goodbye until Thursday. (Or so we thought 😂)

#teamhaiti2018

We settled in to part one of a three leg journey from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. I kept a prayer/worship/experience journal during the mission to help process it all later and extract God’s truth from it. (Great advice from a fellow Haiti missionary friend!) I didn’t want to forget a single detail. My thought was not to overwhelm or bore anyone, but rather work through the Biblical truths that my eyes were opened to during this time. Please add any comments on anything similar if you feel led. No pressure. 😄

Gorgeous views from our flight in to Haiti.

We were welcomed warmly (literally and figuratively) when we stepped off that plane in Port-Au-Prince. The airport in Haiti is a unique experience. Our experience was tame, however, and we were very thankful! We were quickly ushered to Immigration and worked our way through to see some smiling faces outside. Luke Perkins and Wadestrant Jean-Baptiste (WaWa) were there to greet us and get us out of the airport. We climbed in two different cars and took in the sights and smells of Haiti on a Sunday afternoon. We went to the house we stayed at during the trip, and were met with a delicious meal that all of us were very grateful for after not getting to eat that day!

First Haitian Meal! 6-3-18

We settled in and I began to seek the Lord about opening my eyes to see what He wanted to show me. I was unsure at this particular point in the journey as to why I was there. I had experienced multiple attacks from the enemy to prevent me from going on this trip, so I was very excited to see what God had in store. I was also a little scared that I didn’t have any idea about what I could offer or why I was chosen for the trip. I had fearful thoughts that rang out “What if this was all a mistake and God isn’t going to show up for you here.”

I had those thoughts for a moment and then decided to reflect on His specific promises of if I draw near to Him, He will draw near to me. (James 4:8a) If I seek Him earnestly, I will find Him. (Jeremiah 29:13)

Have you ever experienced similar thoughts? You want to have faith but somehow, you talk yourself out of it?

And what does it mean to seek, anyway? I wish I could tell you there was a certain ritual that worked for me to call down Heaven on Earth immediately. God is not able to be reduced to a formula so we can just get what we think we need. He is so much bigger and better than that! Here is one thing that always works for centering my heart: I start singing worship songs to Him. I can usually tell how far off my attitude is by my hesitancy and authenticity of my worship. Sometimes, I am truly not aware of how off kilter I have become. I choose to recall events in my life where He worked miracles and how grateful I am He still does. Do I always do this? Nope. I make so many mistakes so the times I get it right, I remember… sometimes! 😂

I close with an invitation for you and I to deliberately set time aside for seeking God tomorrow… whatever that looks like for you. Fifteen minutes is a great place to start if this is new. I started with a Children’s Bible because I wanted the summation of His Truth. It doesn’t have to be fancy or elaborate. Sometimes for me, it is a cry and confession to God about something that is hurting me. This is what I love about having a relationship rather than a religion. God is personal and He knows You and I better than we know ourselves. Surrendering to an unknown is terrifying, whether in every day life or on a mission trip. I relate. I wish I could say I do it easily, cheerfully and constantly. I should by now. However, I am very much in process and am glad that He has not given up on me.

Day One Truths:

It’s not about me.

It’s not for me.

It’s not to elevate me.

It’s about YOU.

Be about the business of remaining.

I can trust God. (This was the overwhelming truth He branded on my heart this trip. I have struggled with trust as long as I can remember, so this was very significant to me.

Photo Credits:

Heaston #teamhaiti2018 members

https://goo.gl/images/uLdPmr

https://goo.gl/images/n2saA9

Journey of a Flamethrower 🔥…Part One

*I meant to publish this last Saturday, June 2, 2018. Oops! 🤷🏻‍♀️

This is my backpack (Thanks for the rental, Loraine!) buried underneath my stuff I am taking to Haiti. We fly out tomorrow morning, but I am making sure I have what I need…still. I have been dreaming about tomorrow for years. It feels surreal that it is actually happening. My connection to Haiti began back in 2012. I sponsored a little girl named Emilie, just like my one year old daughter at the time. You . We wrote to her and learned so much about her and her family and they about us. If you have ever felt the tug to sponsor a child, I pray you consider saying yes. It is incredible to watch your child learn and grow and change all the time! I first started researching Haiti in 2012 and initially planned a trip to visit then. Those plans fell through due to a massive downturn in the oil and gas industry. But, I kept believing that at the right time, I would get to go to Haiti. That time came this year.

I saw a sign in our church hallway that said the Haiti trip meeting between services. I was singing on the worship team that morning and remember being late to second service!! I had to sign up right away and start this adventure in motion. I love our church and their heart for missions. I get to become a foreign missionary and help encourage those who are set up in long term ministry in Haiti. It’s amazing what God can do with only a few!

All that being said, you know me and my Israelite side. I am fighting thoughts of fear and the unknown. Anxiety and worries have tried to endlessly drown out any joy. I realize the power of the helmet of salvation and its ability to silence the distortion and lies of the enemy. What better way to do this than to sing praise to Jesus? In the midst of being a fearful person, how can someone fear the Lord and not man or circumstances or outcomes?

To Be Continued…

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.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/bible-answers/spirituallife/what-is-true-worship.html

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.

https://vimeo.com/261746291

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

Photo Credits:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.pinterest.com/amp/abbasgirl68/praise-worship/?source=images

https://www.bluechairblessing.com/store/p332/Let_them_praise_His_name_with_dancing_8_by_10_christian_hand_lettered_art_print._Bible_verse_from_Psalm..html

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.pinterest.co.uk/amp/carlnkaren/worship-and-praise-the-lord/?source=images

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.

https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/christs-power-is-made-perfect-in-weakness

“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

Freedom.

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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