More Than Silver and Gold

Deb here…

It’s been nearly 3 weeks since our last gathering, and if I’m real and transparent, I have gone through a myriad of emotions…relief, sadness, grief, and confusion. Refuge has, and will continue to be a vital part of our DNA. Whether there is a corporate gathering or not will never change that. Seven years ago, God breathed a vision into Mike and me for the brokenhearted, the bound, and the ones who needed fresh sight of their identity and standing in Christ Jesus. We walked into the unknown not knowing exactly where God was taking us, but knowing that where He was going was good, and we wanted to be right alongside Him.

We have continued to try to stay in step with where the Spirit is leading, and for that reason, it was time to turn the page and go where again, we don’t know where.

There have been many reasons that the page needed turning, but I wanted to share one with you that most will be able to resonate with at some level. Jesus uses music to speak to deep places within me, and a few weeks before we settled into where we knew God was leading, I heard a song that sang over me truth and revelation to the state of my own heart.

In You I Live by Housefires

Silver and Gold
Could never come close
I’d trade it all for You
Silver and Gold
Could never come close
I’d trade it all for you
Cause You’re my everything.
All I ever need is You, is You

We all have things in our lives that represent silver and gold. To some it might actually be money or status, to others it may be a relationship held a little too close, while for others it might be a career or the hopes of the house and the Land Rover or a social standing. Silver and gold, in whatever form, were never meant to be hoarded, exalted, or idolized.

As I sit here writing, Bing Crosby was singing “Do You Hear what I Hear?”, and how fitting that part of the chorus sings, “Let us bring HIM silver and gold.” Exactly, Jesus. Exactly.

So as I’m listening to the song by Housefires, God gently showed me part of the “why” that Refuge needed to turn the page. Mike and I have loved this long season of leading people at the Refuge. We have seen people find their identity, break free of shame, overcome strongholds, and own their faith like never before. This season is one we will never regret, and even though the change was a challenge, to say the least, we would do it all over again if God led us to it.

So, that silver and gold piece…when Mike and I took the faith leap to step out and do something drastically different than any organized Body of Christ that we had ever seen or been a part of, our hearts were completely pure in motive. We just wanted to see the hurting and captive set free by the Power of Jesus that lives in all who say yes to Him. Somewhere down the line we got duped by the enemy. We allowed people’s questions of “So, how many do you have coming?” to begin to cloud God’s vision of the reason we began Refuge. We live in a performance based society. If you perform and people like it, you succeed. If you don’t perform, you’re a failure. That became our silver and gold. People and participation. I can’t tell you how many times we claimed the “take the thought captive and make it obey Christ” verse over ourselves and asked why we couldn’t get past it? Honestly, the battle in our minds was absolutely exhausting, (Can anyone relate?) and we knew that we needed to begin praying as to what needed to look different.

So the words “Silver and gold could never come close, I’d trade it all for You” became the song Jesus sang over me and I in turn sang it back to Him. Although there were many other factors that fed into God leading us to end our Sunday evening gatherings, we felt it was time for us to get out of our own way and begin to disassemble anything that was trying to build a higher place than Jesus in our lives. He deserves so much more. He deserves it all.

This decision was excruciating to make, but sometimes the hardest decisions have to made to put Jesus back on His rightful place on the throne of our hearts. I love the Body of Christ. I’m for the Body of Christ. Our hearts have always been to see in our community, followers of Jesus, lovers of Jesus to link arms for a united influence for the Kingdom. We will continue to be a part of the Body. It will just look different, and that’s okay. Jesus is King of our home and we will follow Him and His plan for our lives relentlessly.

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mornin’ juice

Mary did you know? Remember this song? Yea sure you do.

Mary did you know your baby boy…first time I heard this song Kathy Mattea was absolutely letting it rip.

Still one of my favorite songs. Stop to think for a moment.

Mary did you know that approx. 700 years earlier these words were spoken.

Isa 7:14 NLT 14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

Mary, even if you did know, or had even heard these words, did you even consider that this might be you? Mary had you ever have the thought that you might be the virgin who would conceive this child of God? Oh Mary, in your engagement with Joseph did you know that you would receive a visit from an angel named Gabriel, an angel from God who calls you favored and that the Lord is with you? Mary in this moment could you ever in a million years know that after he settled you down from a moment of fear that you would hear these words?

Luke 1: 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.

Immanuel, God with us. God in you…

Mary, did you know that you would say:

Luke 1:38 NLT 38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

Mary were you shocked, were you in awe, goodness, were you in complete amazement considering your son has walked where angels trod? Mary did you ever doubt or consider how you would tell Joseph? Mary, where did your courage come from? Was it from the one you would deliver, the ONE who would soon deliver you?

Gosh, how did you know how to treasure this moment as you walked to share this season with Elizabeth, yea Elizabeth who is carrying John, the one who would holler out to the world the coming of the Messiah, the son of God, the Prince of Peace, Immanuel, God with us, God in you.

Gollee, Mary there was no way you could’ve known that THE perfect lamb would be born in a stable with lambs, could you?

Mary did you know that when you kissed your little baby, you kissed the face of God?

Mary did you know any of this? Wow, maybe not the details of the how and when but you sure did know who to trust. Thanks Mary for modeling faith, modeling trust, showing how to beLIeVE.

Thank you mary for your yes to our merry CHRISTmas

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mornin’ juice (who’s your daddy?)

Heb 1:1-2 NLT 1 Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.

When I read the first two words I can’t help but think of the words from Star Wars, “a long time ago in a galaxy far far away….

Maybe for some, the words God spoke through the prophets about Jesus Christ was in a different galaxy, and yes was a long time ago. My desire for the weekly chats is to help us connect the long ago to our today. So, each week we will take a look at the words from the guys (prophets) who were telling everyone the how, the why, and the where Jesus Christ was coming. Maybe our saying yes to Jesus was a long long time ago and we feel like He is galaxies far far away. I pray the weeks to come will remind, encourage, and recall the wonder and awe of our Savior, the prince of peace in a stable. We will look at Mary and Joseph (mama and daddy) who beLIeVED the Heavenly Daddy’s (God’s) words when He speaks of the coming of the Messiah, the one who will save the world. The world, gang, including yours and mine, whatever galaxy you may find yourself in, the babe created it.

Let’s have a blast drinking in the mornin’ juice as we celebrate the reason for season!

In today’s climate, we certainly understand or can at least relate to power and authority. Nations are clamoring against one another. We live in a world where the motto is to display your strength, not much has changed gang. God established kings, priests, rulers through His chosen people. In the era of Old Testament living, your lineage was important.

“who’s your daddy?” meant power or lack thereof

King David, yea that’s right, is the same David who as a shepherd boy went out and pummeled the big ol’ boy named Goliath. He is a man after God’s heart, (Acts 13) and the family line from which Jesus Christ would come from.

Isa 9:6-7 NLT 6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!

You see, David’s daddy Jesse is also known as king of Israelites, it just so happens that he lived in Bethlehem and was from the tribe of Judah.

Isa 11:1-2 NIV 1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—

If you were to take the time and read through what seems to be an unending list of names after names after names in Luke 3 you will see. (go ahead have fun with sounding out the names, its fun)

Luk 3:32-34 NLT 32 David was the son of Jesse. Jesse was the son of Obed. Obed was the son of Boaz. Boaz was the son of Salmon. Salmon was the son of Nahshon. 33 Nahshon was the son of Amminadab. Amminadab was the son of Admin. Admin was the son of Arni. Arni was the son of Hezron. Hezron was the son of Perez. Perez was the son of Judah. 34 Judah was the son of Jacob. Jacob was the son of Isaac. Isaac was the son of Abraham. Abraham was the son of Terah. Terah was the son of Nahor.

It’s part of the Jesus family tree that traces back to God, the creator of all…God is changing the line of priesthood from the tribe of Levi (works), to the tribe of Judah (faith). This fulfills the old way and replaces it with the new way of faith through Christ, Jesus. Oh yea, as we finish our mornin’ juice, see that guy in verse 34. Abraham, the daddy of Isaac, granddaddy to Jacob. The one some refer to as father of faith.

God talking to Abraham….
Gen 22:18 NLT 18 And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed–all because you have obeyed (beLIeVED)me.”

Rom 4:3 NLT 3 For the Scriptures tell us, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

Looks like these ol’ boys knew the answer to who’s your daddy.

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Liz

It was Saturday morning. I jump into my workout clothes, bust through the door, into the truck and off the gym. Saturdays the gym doesn’t open until 07:00 am and I arrived – yes as the family would attest – a bit early. Find me a spot in my normal area and waited.

I noticed Liz as I was pulling into the parking lot. A frail lady that was walking in the middle of the stripes throughout the lot. My glances to the gym door to see if they were ready for folks to come in and get those endorphins flying, would land back on Liz. At this time she had coaxed the window down of another early gym rat and a dollar bill came out of the hand of the driver into the hand of Liz.

Here she comes. Dang it. The windows to my truck are tinted, not totally blacked out, yet tinted enough, you know the tint that back in my day would have you wondering if that was a “weed car” (you know mary jane, canibus). I ducked my head reading Luke. Yeppers, reading the Word. Real honesty here, hoping the tinted windows would deter this now very visible older lady, blue jeans hanging on top of her body, with clean yet oversized clothes everywhere and a big comfy wool hat for her head. Nope she was coming. Rolled the window down.

Me: Good morning
Liz: I have had two brain aneurisms (in a voice that was weak, scratchy. Her eyes large and wide open as she asked if would like to see her scars)
Me: No maam, thanks for asking but i really don’t want to see your scars, whatcha ya doin’ this morning? what’s your name?
Liz: Liz
Me: oh yes Liz we have met before, its been years ago, how are ya, remind me where you live?
Liz: (dazed look, eyes still wide, dilated, stains of what appeared to be tobacco in the corners of her mouth). I live on lokey, I need money for my medicines

(I’m thinking as she is talking questioning her motive…my guards are up….)

me: Liz have you been to hope clinic?
Liz: i’ve had two brain aneurisms, no they won’t help, just need $15.00 (now her voice is squeaking, face winched, eyes now squinted and flowing with water)
me: dang liz i hate that, yet i know that they are very helpful, (as i lean over to pull money from my pocket)

I thumb through the $10.00, the $5.00, the $20.00 to get to some singles and hand over $2.00 …………geeeez……

Liz: all i need is $3.00 more.
me: silence….

Double, triple geeeeezzz ….not at liz gang, but looking back it’s with me…HUGE realization moment for me, as i traipsed in to the gym. Climbed on board one of my favorite machines, affectionately named sparky. The gym i pay $40.00 a month to attend, that has the machine where i just plunked $1.50 in a machine to retrieve a bottle of smart water HAHAHAHa…to read from a screen on a phone that is starting the “feel” outdated, only to stop at the counter to retrieve a recovery smoothie for that $5.00 i strolled past just an hour ago.

I’m not reliving this moment to beat myself up or to try and create shame. It has made me realize that at times I feel myself being frustrated at the lack of empathy I have experienced in the body, the lack of attention given to the least of these from the organized barns (churches) in helping the Liz’s of the world. I’m part of that body!…seeing the very thing in me that i don’t want to see.

So how did this all start to stir in me? Well after Liz left my car, I watched her walk to another car, and the person wouldn’t roll down the window. She then approached a couple as they to were walking into the gym, but they didn’t acknowledge her. One more attempt as she was walking to another car, but the car pulled away and went to another parking space. It hit me like a ton of bricks to see me in those movements, sure I at least rolled down the window after, except I was hoping upon hope that she would not come to my window…ugggggghhhhhh…

We have to be wiling to walk through and learn through these moments, remembering that GOD is a good good father. He wants and desires the best not only for me but for Liz also. In that moment I placed myself in a place of authority over her instead of remembering she too is made in the image of God. It’s not about the three more dollars she asked for, gang. Its receiving and treating her as a princess of the King of Kings. A daughter of the most high. To see her as Jesus knows her!

I wonder what and how Liz feels? You see if I remember her house on lokey, she has a banner out front stating that Jesus loves us. It is about jesUS….the US, the whole body coming together as one to show a world we beLIeVE, giving ourselves and each other grace as we stumble through some teaching moments. I think next time I see Liz, i’ll ask her if she wants to share a bottle of that “smart” water.

love em up!

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flip the switch

As a child i remember if the room i was approaching was draped in dark, i would stop at the door, kinda scoot myself over to the side and do the 180 degree reach in, flip the switch and whamo darkness gone. I just had to be able to see those nasty gnarly snaggled tooth whatevers before i entered. Yea all of us can recall “there’s nothing to be afraid of dear” statements from our parents….bull crap, if you only knew what was swirling in my 8 yr old…sometimes 53 yr old skull you would run for your life hahaha.

Monday the world is churning due to the upcoming eclipse. For a few minutes up to hours depending on your location darkness will come. A different type of switch is being flipped. There was a day when He flipped the switch to darkness to satisfy and bring light to you and me.

Luk 23:44-46 NLT 44 By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 45 The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. 46 Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.

Listen to what Jesus said in v46 “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands”. Wow some translations have I commit, I give, my spirit into your hands. Im reminded of his conversation with God in the garden before the cross. (my interpretation of the conversation)

Jesus:
Hey dad uh hey i’ve been thinking, and just talking out loud here uh is there any other way to eliminate darkness? I mean Im with ya and everything, but yea heart is pounding outta my chest here, flip my sweat is lookin’ like blood so just thought it would be worth asking if there is another way. God replies: “Son you know this is the only way to completely satisfy and secure eternity for everyone who beLIeVES?
Jesus: yea right right right…but man o man ok….yes your perfect love drives out fear, im pressin in on that dad,..i do trust you, was just wonderin’….i see that we have to walk through unknown knowing you are in control of the unknown…..yes yes you make the unknown known…you are safe and you are light….yes your will not mine…

And then to hear Jesus speak out my God my God why have you forsaken me….the darkness is overwhelming on friday

3 hours. About the time of a football game or baseball game, 3 hours, darkness consumed the land when Jesus took upon him the sin of the world. Darkness much of the time and rightfully so is tied to satan, evil, yet at this time of darkness the curtain of the Temple the very symbol of being separated from God came rippin down. God in this darkness is telling the world that my light overcomes the darkness and through Jesus you have total complete access to me.

v46…..I commit my spirit into your hands

Sunday is coming and the switch is flipped to ON….forever!

You will no longer ever have to reach in and be fearful of what might be in the room, on your path, to turn the light on. The light of me will be within you!

Think of the areas in our lives where we have turned the light off.
maybe it’s a particular talent and gift you have been fearful to share
maybe it’s reconciling or rekindling a relationship
maybe it’s releasing what the future will look
maybe it’s releasing unspoken expectations on others
The switch within us is flipped on gang through our yes to beLIeVE. Graham Cooke shared that we as a body of Christ are the visual aide to the world what the character of God is like. hmmmm visual aide…what is needed to see gang? YEPPERS LIGHT….the switch is ON….let em see ya beLIeVE

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Bright Eyes

It has been a bit since my last update to everyone on the travels of my mama and daddy. For those who may have just now tuned in, my mom has dementia, among other ailments such as diabetes that has taken a toll on her 80 year old body. Her man, my daddy, has been the sole caregiver for many years leading up to a time when his health got him sidelined which resulted in mama staying at a local life care (nursing) facility. The care in this facility is second to none and gave the family a glimpse of what we had no idea was coming. Daddy, however, believed his sole role was to bring his bride back home and he did….

Over the months extra hands were needed to provide the daily care a woman whose ability to communicate dwindles and the mobility is almost gone. The time was coming and did come when her man – my daddy – saw that the best care for her was at the nursing facility. So daddy loaded his bride up and settled her back in to room 243 in Tullahoma life care. No words to describe the pain that is coursing through my daddy, he is healing as the family continues to remind and love him through the fact that, yes, this is best but still painful.

One trait that mama hasn’t lost is her laugh and her eyes. These deep dark eyes that will light up the room when she meets ya. Wednesday this week i met daddy in tullahoma for breakfast at his favorite little restaurant, City Café. The ladies there just dote all over him and boy does he drink it in. They ask about mama and send plates of food often. We finished and headed over to hang out with his bride, my mama. As we entered the building ladies were positioned around tables. Some in wheel chairs, only a few agile enough to walk and seat themselves. Around those tables were other women feeding the ladies. Feeding ladies who one day fed. I’m picturing now the words, the “gooo gooo gaaaa,” the pleading, the “open up the hanger let the airplane in” ways my mama used to coax open the mouths of me and my brother. Pretty sure her eye brows would be raised describing the excitement that would come if only I would open up.

I came up to mama as she was being fed by her now buddy, Mary. I said “hey mama” kissed her forehead like she would kiss us…like a machine a gun on automatic hahaha…..and her eyes lit up to say, “Hey tommy”

Tommy is her sister’s son, who many would say that me, Tommy, and his brother Jerry looked alike. I said, “Hey mama, you having fun with breakfast?” “Yes honey, now yall go play,” replied mama. Then she heard a voice, a voice that was all too familiar, one that jolted her head and eyes over my head and latched on to her man. Her man had arrived….and her eyes lit up….incredibly bright eyes!

WOW WOW WOW….she may not have the words but her eyes said it all….My man is here and I am safe…..Daddy saunters over to give his “poooky” a kiss on her scrambled egg covered lips. As I sat and watched I couldn’t help but think of the days their eyes first met and lit up with excitement, screaming bright at the sight of this new found beauty in each other. Or the day as she starts to walk down the aisle, her eyes bright with excitement to become one with her man, Dan, through the One, Jesus. The bright deep brown eyes that would light up each time she and her man would load a bus in their retirement years and head off to a destination she always wanted to go to.

The eyes are bright, no not all of the time. The eyes of Joann Bivins, wife to Dan Bivins, mama to Danny and Michael (she has always called me Michael), mama to our brides Brenda and Deb. Nanny B to all of our kiddos and now a great grandma to Everleigh, will go off into a distant stare at times, yet I know they will be bright as can be one day when she sees Jesus face to face!

Thanks for letting me catch ya up. you are loved, thanks for loving me.

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Where are the Fixins?

As I sit watching the steady rain, it’s so refreshing to my soul this morning. Mike and I have been on a journey to find something that we didn’t know that we were looking for until it was right before us demanding a response. The response demanded? What about the Refuge?  Does it still make sense? Are we still called to it?

To answer that question, I have to back up a bit…For well over 10 years, Mike and I both felt a strong call from God to walk closely with people, broken people willing to unveil masks and live authentically together. Our heart has always been to equip others to own their faith.  What does that mean exactly? From the beginning, the Refuge has never been about programs or missions. We don’t have “ministries” we offer or committees to join. We have always, as we walk alongside people, encourage them to take those beautiful and unique gifts that each of us has, and use them in their homes first, then at work, and in the community. Finding our niche looks so different for each person, and at times the task of pushing through the awkward and possibly doing something on our own, daunting.

A while back, God gave me a vision of how many churches in the West look like and it helped me see where Refuge fits, or misfits, quite honestly.

Picture a Thanksgiving dinner spread. The table is set. The family set to arrive soon. Mom or Grandma getting up in the middle of the night to check the bird.  It’s all ready.  What takes weeks to plan and prepare is consumed in 15-20 minutes. Every family is different in what the favorites are and what is expected to be on the table, but what is central to most every Thanksgiving across our entire nation? TURKEY. God revealed to me that the church in the West is about the Turkey (Jesus), and all the fixins (programs, opportunities). I looked back at my own life, and we once picked a church because of the pagers they had for the nursery that made me feel safe. Lots of times, I had so much to pick from, I felt I had to do it all, be involved in it all, consume it all, just like that Thanksgiving meal.

Over the course of our life leading the Refuge, the question we get most often is “How’s the Refuge going?” Then quickly after that, the next question “How many do you have coming?” That has been such a difficult question to answer at times, because our measurement of growth has been and is different. Our truest heart for growth for the people of Refuge is “Are peoples hearts growing in Christ?”  From the beginning, it wasn’t about numbers or how many seats were filled. It was about knowing and loving one another well and nurturing each other’s hearts and spurring one another on to their best selves and gifts.

But somewhere along the way we lost ourselves.

A fellowship that was started with the simplicity of truly seeking to Love God and love others turned into constant discussions between Mike and me as to why Refuge wasn’t “growing” the way we desired. Why more people weren’t coming. Why our fellowship seemed transient.

God gave me an answer. Refuge doesn’t have fixins. We have the main course, turkey (Jesus) and amazing fellowship, but we don’t have programs.  We don’t have child care. We don’t have choices. The people who worship with us have to make their own choices as to how they are going to fit into this crazy world and somehow bring Jesus into it. It’s hard. It stretches you. We live in a performance based world that compares everything and measures your worth by what you DO. Our heart and resolve with the Refuge has always been to make it a safe place to come and gather and get a drink from this life that scorches, refresh souls, grow hearts, and then to send them back out again to make a difference for Jesus wherever they are.

Unfortunately, Mike and I lost our sight of that for a bit, but God gave us both a sweet nudge in the right direction, His direction, to remind us to head straight back to our “First Love.” His Name is Jesus. Only Jesus. He is enough.

So every single year, Mike and I ask one another the same question. “You still feeling led to Refuge?” Each year has been “yes.” We have never been ones to keep doing something that we’ve always been doing, so there are some things that we as a Body will have to pray through, but whether we meet in a building we rented or we gather around a fire or a pool, we know one of our purposes in this life is to lead people to a vibrant, on fire, never stop relationship with Jesus. We are the church. A name will never define us. Only Jesus.

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no more separation follow up

This week we went back to the day when the Christ released his spirit to Father. When he told the world tetelestai (“IT IS FINISHED”). In that moment, the curtain of the Temple came ripping down. Ripping in two, forever confirming that we too can enter the throne room of grace with confidence and boldness as we enter through our beLIeVING Jesus Christ.

No more separation!

The Curtain that was the entrance to the holy of holies, the dwelling place of God was now open and exposed. The way was now and forever through Christ. The resurrection is the final judgement on death and it has been rendered null and void for those who beLIeVE. We have been given abundant life through Christ.

Yet in Christendom today we make statements that would suggest that God does go away or that we fall away, or the ol’ southern slang of “backslidin.’”  I get what folks are saying when they go down this path of self-defeat. Heck, early in my learning I would constantly feed some of these statements – it was a form of humility so we are told. These statements are totally based on our behavior, or lack thereof. Ranging from the “things” we ought not do, to not doing the things we should do more. It’s a crazy endless cycle of trying to live up to your own self-created law or someone you admire handing down edits of what true Christianity must look like.

Those statements of shame do not empower us gang! He does. When does never mean never for us?

Jhn 14:16-18 NLT 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans–I will come to you.

Or the great commission in Matthew 28 where Jesus states “I am with you always…”

DANG DANG DANG “never leave,” “with you always…” be IN US!

God desired and desires a new holy of holies…that’s me and you!

1Co 6:19 NLT 19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself,

The first 3 words are the difference maker. When we realize that we are equipped with resurrection power, when we become fully aware, or understand clearly our place with God through Jesus, our lives begin to transform into HIS likeness…as Paul went on to say in his 2 letter to the Corinthians, that we will reflect the glory of God. When those who believe will have the veil (curtain, representing the Old Testament way) removed yet when we pick up the law or our old ways of unbelief, we are placing the curtain back up…

Thankful that we are fully aware, that we understand that never means never and we continue to think of ways to motivate and encourage others through the days together.

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Unknowns and Maybes

As the books are slowly but excitedly being closed and returned and the hallways are emptying out class by class, this roller coaster of a semester is close to being complete. I have seen the lonely and wishful moments of the cold winter to the excited eager laughs of the spring to everything in between. It has been a semester of reshaping and renewing and that often times can be harder and more exhausting than the sound of it.

Junior year is short a few days to being over which means growing up is just around the corner. From the endless hours researching for what’s next to overwhelmed meltdowns about not knowing my future, it has been a time of continuously (daily, maybe even hourly) relinquishing the control I so often think I have over my life. It has been a time of stopping and letting myself breathe for a moment and let go. That also has meant a lot of anxious days where my stomach feels like it’s going to explode with nerves if I don’t figure out every little detail of my life this second. The crazy thing is, I have yet to figure anything out and have yet to explode. Amazing really. So, if I had to put this semester in a sweet package with a curly bow attached and a carefree smile, I don’t think I could do it, it just wouldn’t fit. There were deadlines and interviews and stressful moments. There were times when I felt not present and overwhelmed. There were bad days when I was being stretched and the lies in my head were feeling like truths. However, with all of that came amazing times of too much laughter with the people I love most and not the least bit of studying. There were ice cream dates and long night drives with the music blaring and endless sleepovers. It was messy and wild with some crazy fun times and some “I need a bubble bath and some chocolate ASAP” times. But the crazy thing is, I am stronger for it.

I am stronger and I am learning about what it looks like to not have to have all the answers but still be okay. I am learning what it looks like to soak His plan and His purpose all the way up to my very bones and accept it. I am loved by a God who doesn’t see graduate schools or internships or grades as a success/fail type of situation but instead just sees me. I am learning what it looks like to settle into each and every relationship that He has given to me and know that He is not a God of anything broken but only of redeemed and new. I will define this semester only of glorious victory because anything else just will not do. The unknowns and maybes with question marks attached can just sit tight for a while. They will be answered and fulfilled in His time and in His manner. That is His character.

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Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

My heart has been preoccupied today. I just received word that a couple that I have admired over the last years is divorcing. My initial reaction was “NO! I thought their marriage was so strong, that they had a good balance of work, home, kids, and LIFE!” I didn’t want to believe it. I never want to believe it. It makes my heart sad to watch people’s lives and families be torn apart by divorce. I needed to talk to Jesus about it, well, pretty rant about it! I get pretty fired up when I watch the enemy ransack people’s lives.

So, I headed to one of my favorite places to get lost in my thoughts and chat with the only One who has all the details, knows all the truth, and all the wisdom to what I’m feeling. This tree was in my path. I love the beauty that winter gives. No pretense, just bare beauty waiting to be seen. What was interesting about this sight was that one side appeared healthy and whole, but when I looked on the other side, it was hollowed out by fire. It’s crazy, but I think

that’s how our lives are perceived by others. We gauge the “okayness” of marriages, families, and lives by “InstaImages”. We see a family on vacation, a couple celebrating a date night, laughter and fun, sports events and concerts, and assume that all is well with their lives. The outside shell may look pretty, the snap stories hilarious, but the inside may be hollow and burnt. We are deluded by the thinking that we are the most connected generation ever, but I believe we’re one of the most lonely, isolated, and unfulfilled generation. We have replaced face to face connection with snap chats throughout the day or the perfect picture with the best filter that captures the best light so what is hidden won’t be found out. So a question I have to ask myself is “Do I have a group of people in my life that I connect with on
a deep level, who truly know me, who know Mike and me, who know when we struggle, who know the hollowed places, the burnt places, and care about us enough to talk to us about blind spots they see or truth of what they see that we may be immune to? I know that the InstaImages we portray could honestly be a vice used to make us feel more isolated, because I couldn’t possibly admit that my marriage is suffering after I just posted that beautiful picture of us watching that sunset!

I want to know and be known by people who love me and are for what is the very best for me and my family. Do you have a quiver of people, both men and women who know you as an individual and you and your spouse as a couple? Ones who know the ugly beautiful that sometimes characterizes life? If you don’t have anyone, I encourage you to start by engaging one person, one couple to walk real life with you. It’s so important. We need one another. We need the community of one another. We need heart connection that go beyond kid talk and sleeping patterns. “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (Proverbs 27:17 NLT)

Our marriages are so worth it. They take a ton of work, and even more so when you’ve been married almost 28 years, because the temptation is that you know all about the other and you shouldn’t have to work as hard. Not true. Just as we continue to nurture our relationship with Christ until we go to live with Him forever, we have to make nurturing our relationships here on earth the same way. If we don’t, they will become hollow, burned out and of little use to us and more easy to discard.

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