We were made for community

This weekend has been so hard. I couldn’t even tell you a specific reason why other than Depression is a jerk. Saturday was my birthday so we had some family and friends over and it was such a great time! About halfway through the night, I had to excuse myself because I just abruptly felt like I was going to cry.

The next morning we had a Mother’s Day Omelette Brunch at Church, which should have been fantastic ended up making me feel even worse. I couldn’t sit still during the sermon, I couldn’t concentrate, I literally couldn’t even. So I did what any self-respecting person in my situation would do- I left.

Don’t freak out, I didn’t actually leave the building, but I did leave the worship center. I knew that I needed to spend some time pouring out my heart to God; I knew I needed a Jesus date. So I found an empty classroom at the back of the sanctuary and had my God time. I read through Psalms 77 (which is perfect for a pity-party that will end up putting you in your place) and just talked to God. I told Him how I was feeling, what was going through my mind, and eventually I just let my soul speak for me. I got to a place where I had no more words, but I was still hurting. I was still in the valley so I just sat, cried, and just was with God.

That helped so much, but if the story stopped there it wouldn’t be about community. After that we went to lunch at my Gma’s, got to play with my sweet little ornery cousin, came home, and had some time to relax before heading back to church for a prayer meeting that night. If I’m being totally honest here, I did NOT want to go back to church. I didn’t want to deal with faking it anymore- I just wanted to drown out the noise in my head. But I went because I’m a control freak (working on that) and knew I was supposed to be there. Because it was Mother’s Day evening, there were very few people actually there so we split up into Men and Women and had a mini prayer group. (No we don’t split up every by gender every month, we try a new thing almost every month and this was what we did this month.)

We prayed through Colossians 1:9-20. We prayed specifically for what those verses are praying for then we took it a step further and prayed for our community, our church family, our community leaders and national leaders, persecuted Christians, and missionaries. We thanked God for what he has done for us based on the same verses and then thanked him for the Holy Spirit and His Holy Word. We acknowledged his characteristics from those same verses and tried to praise Him simply because He is God. Then when we were done going through the verses, our Pastor’s wife Toni asked if there was any specific prayer requests happening in our lives that we could pray over. We had a few specific ones that we prayed over right then and there. And then I felt the the need to tell them of the burden I’d been carrying all day. While having my Jesus time that morning helped tremendously, and I didn’t feel like I was drowning, I definitely still felt like I was treading water. And so I told them my struggles. I asked them specifically to pray for Tyler because he tends to get the brunt of my emotions. I told them how I had been struggling that weekend for no apparent reason. I shared my burden with them, and they cried with me. They covered me in prayer, shared their stories of their own seasons of depression and loved on me. I can not tell you how amazing it felt for these godly women to stand in the gap for me and fight for me in prayer. I can’t tell you what they prayed, or even many specifics of what anyone said afterwards, but I can tell you that when I shared my burden with my church family and let them lead me to God to lay it down on my behalf, I felt lighter. I felt like I was finally in the shallow water instead of treading in the deep.

God taught me a valuable lesson last Sunday night. We were made for community. We were made to spur each other on to good works, to sharpen each other as Iron sharpens Iron, to lift each other up in prayer, to encourage each other in our relationship with God, and to call each other out when we’re acting the fool.

Today I thank God for those 6 other women who allowed me to be open and honest about my struggles. I praise God for the impact that each of them has on my life and the spirit of love and genuine truth that I saw first hand. We were made for community. Because of Sunday night I see the church in a whole new way. Sure it has it’s issues, but it also is a very real way that God shows His love and cares for His people.

 

Galatians 6:2 says this “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

It’s time to get outside of ourselves and attempt vulnerability with the Bride of Christ. Be open and ready to go to the throne of God on behalf of your brothers and sister’s in Christ. Show love and fight on your knees. I believe that’s the sign of a true warrior.

Creation Groans.

With so much going on in America right now, my husband and I have been deeply concerned and convicted with how the Church is handling it. While we don’t have all (or even most) of the answers, we do have commands that come straight from God’s word. He alone is the authority and He alone give authority. Today while I am thankful for our government and those that God has placed in power, I cannot help but mourn those whose lives are being torn apart. I cannot help but remorse over the College students who are being detained at various airport all over the world because of their race or religion. Several students who have been ‘vetted’ and been approved are questioning whether they will get to continue their education simply because of where they were born. My heart is breaking for our neighbors who don’t know what will happen next.

Know that you are not alone. You are loved by the King of Kings. You have been created for a purpose. You are not alone.

 

The following is by Guest Author: Tyler Bowman.

I cannot reconcile my mind with this great fear that we American Christians have for our modern-day Samaritan neighbors. I cannot agree with the laughter, mockery, and derision that we show for those who are hurting and cry out on our nation’s streets for justice, regardless of whether I agree with them.

I am convicted by the rampant hypocrisy we show when we use the name of our Savior as a weapon to attack the positions of others but neglect to show His hope and love as we are called to do, yet then we cry oppression when the world pushes back against our hopeless rhetoric.

I am reminded with every protest, every strain and conflict in our nation, of Paul’s words in Romans 8, where “all creation groans” for the revelation of the sons of God and also for the renewal of all things. However we have come woefully short of showing people the hope that we have for that restoration. We force them to wander aimlessly and chase some ethereal, unknown sense of justice rather than show them the Light that we have been given, and then we laugh at them and torment them for not knowing.

So I ask you to pray for me to be more intentional with love for each other and for the world, as our Savior was and as I have struggled to be. I ask that you pray for God’s church in America, for there is a desperate need for us to be seen as reflections of Him and not as agents of hatred. And I will pray for you also.

 

HNY!

Well, here we are again at the break of a brand spanking new year. So full of potential, full of what if’s and full of I sure hope nots. Tonight as I was reflecting (daydreaming if you will) about what I hope this year brings, I decided to take a look back at my resolutions from last year and see how I did. Thankfully I wrote them all down last year, you can read the whole post by clicking here.

Let me start off by saying while I technically did keep a few of these resolutions, I did not always (read almost never) keep them well.

Resolved– To spend more time in prayer

  • I did spend more time in prayer this year! But I need to become more consistent and intentional with my prayers. I’ve become a little more comfortable with praying in groups, so I can definitely tell I’m growing- slowly yet surely!

Resolved– To study scripture for fun, not because I have to

  • Tyler and I started reading through the Bible when we got married, then we would get side tracked and busy. We’ve only made it through Numbers thus far, which isn’t great, but we’re still bug fixing and will hopefully be better about it this year. I did, however, just pick up my bible one day and start reading. I’ve read through ~4 books on my own (in the OT no less)! I know this isn’t huge, but it is a huge start for me. Even if I’m not studying it, I am reading it. Even if I’m not consistent in my reading it, I enjoy it. Small Victories are still Victories!

Resolved– To do whatever will bring the most glory to God

  • How do you even measure this?? Will add this to my list of questions  to ask when I get to Heaven one day. 🙂

Resolved– To treat my body and mind like a temple of God

  • Ehhhhh…. I’m still taking my anxiety/depression meds and have started figuring out what some of my triggers are. I still spend way too much time getting lost down the rabbit hole of social media, but I did read more last year! After a very frank discussion with my doctor about things, I have started eating better as well. It’s slow going, obviously, but I am starting to get healthier every day! I even started walking to work when it wasn’t quite so cold (although this week that I’ve been off it’s been in the 50s. Arkansas, what in the world??)

Resolved– To be a living sacrifice, to keep my eyes on God and not myself

  • Definitely still need to work on this one.

Resolved– To be a good example to the young ladies and gentlemen in my life

  • Sometimes I think I’m awesome at this, but the majority of the time I’m a hot mess and feel like such a failure. I do know that I have tried my best to show the kids in my life love and to make sure they know that I’m proud of them! So, still a work in progress I suppose.

Resolved– To walk through life with others and not keep them at arm’s distance

  • Getting a LOT better at this! I am so thankful for the many wonderful and godly friends that have been placed into my life over the last year (or many years). I have walked with them through Joy and Pain this year, and they have done the same for me. Special shout out to my church mom Shannon, she is just good for the soul and is  easy to talk to. Even about things I normally wouldn’t share with anyone. So thank you Shannon, for being my non-family person this last year!

Resolved– To not let the busyness of life get in the way of living

  • EPIC FAIL! I saw this great quote at a local eatery last week “Stop the Gratification of busy”. I’m adopting that as my new motto this year! Seriously though, I’m going to work on being the best steward of the time and gifts God has granted me, even if that means saying no sometimes.

 

“I pray that this year God continues to push me outside of my comfort zone and continues to make me rely on him. I pray that He allows me to share my story with others and to create authentic relationships. I pray that your resolutions go deeper than they ever have before. I pray that God uses me. I thank God for the struggles of the past year because I have never felt closer to Him. I will praise Him even when storms come because that is where Jesus shines through. I could never handle this on my own and I praise Him for being in the dark, stormy, valley with me.

I pray that in 2016 God’s love will shine and his grace and mercy will be apparent. I pray that you are changed even if it means wrestling with God. I pray we see 2016 as the best year yet no matter what happens- that we see God’s hand in everything, good and bad.”

 

  • Isn’t it funny how we pray things that sound nice but usually don’t actually mean them. God definitely answered last year’s new year prayer, in very big and not always happy ways.  2016 brought even more struggles and storms with it, but God also answered that his grace and mercy be apparent. I’m not sure how 2016 changed you, but I know it changed me, for better and for worse.

 

Now for 2017:

2017 has the potential to be a big year for the Bowman household! Tyler will (hopefully) graduate with his PhD, I’ll get to go on my first trip overseas to help with an English camp, we will probably be moving once Tyler gets a job, and Benson may just have a little brother or sister (if I can ever talk Tyler into that Mini Pig!) With all that and so much more on the horizon, I wanted my resolutions to be something attainable, but also something that I would still have to work at.

Resolved– To not let the busyness of life get in the way of living.

Resolved– To finish reading the Old Testament.

Resolved– To be more intentional in my relationships with others. To be a better friend and be more vulnerable and open with those in my circle of influence.

Resolved– To show God’s love on everyone I come in contact with (even the stupid ones).

Resolved– To look for opportunities to practice hospitality and show God’s loves in tangible ways.

Resolved– To treat my body and mind like it’s God’s temple.

Resolved– To have a specific time for prayer every week.

Resolved– To support Tyler in wherever he chooses to go next; To make a home there.

Resolved– To read more! (Goal= 20+ books!)

 

 

2017 ready or not, here we come!

 

*Shoutout to google images for the awesome banner!

Standing, Bowing, and Kneeling- what comes next?

Last night 6 basketball players from the University of Arkansas chose to take a knee during the National Anthem. These 6 ladies chose to take a stance on what they believe and I for one am very glad they did. When asked Sophomore Briunna Freeman said, “We just feel like a lot of things in society needs to change and one thing is police brutality…” (Article here

Briunna is right. I can’t say I know oppression- I’m a 23 year old white girl from Bible Belt USA. I’ve never been persecuted and to my knowledge have never been looked down on. But I do know people who have been oppressed. Even in the conversations surrounding this apparently devastating event (if you’re reading the facebook comments) hate and prejudice seep from every word. Even in my own friends and family the words that are being spoken are not coming from a place of love or even tollerance, but come from a place indifference. I use the word indifference because they are indifferenet to what our fellow Americans have gone through for the last 60 years and continue to go through today. Race is still an issue and until we (wake up White America) realize what our brothers and sisters are going through it will continue to be an issue. We have to realize that not everyone is treated equally even though we are all made equally. We can’t keep turning a blind eye to the issues of today. We have to step up. We have to care. 

Race will continue to be an issue as long as we keep pretending it isn’t an issue. Police Brutality has to stop. I realize that things just happen, but there should always be consequences for someones actions be them good or bad. 

These girls chose to kneel during the National Anthem at last nights basketball game, they still stayed on the court, they still looked to the flag. This was their way of saying there has to be a better way, and although I wasn’t at the game with them last night, I am kneeling with them today. 

Jeff Long and Coach Dykes, Thank you for supporting your players and allowing them a safe place to voice their opinions and protest what has gone on way too long. Players, thank you for standing up for what you believe in and showing courage in the face of hostility and rudeness. 

While oppression may not be as open and eye catching as it was in the 50’s and 60’s, it still exists And that is inexcusable. 

Aaron Kildow- the man, the myth, the legend

My life has been so enriched because I knew Aaron. I met Aaron in the Summer of 2009 (I think). Honestly I can’t even remember the year because it seems like I’ve always had the Kildows in my life. I met him one summer at church camp (he was still at Ramay at the time), and it was your typical church camp crush story. What most people don’t know is that with the exception of Bobby saving our cabin from terrifying raccoons the year before, Aaron was the first Kildow I met. God definitely has a funny sense of humor because what better way to get the attention of a teen girl than with a cute boy. So we met and we talked, we even went on a few dates- he introduced me to his family and over time our crush developed into a friendship. It helped that his sister and I are kindred spirits (which I think sometimes annoyed him since we would gang up on him, but he definitely got us back when we did).

Because of meeting Aaron that one week in 2009, my life was made better. If I had never met Aaron, I would’ve never met my best friend. If I had never met Hanna, I would’ve never attended ABS or Round Mountain. If I had never attended ABS, I never would’ve met Tyler. You see without Aaron in my life, I would not be the same person I am today. I thank God that he allowed Aaron to be a part of my story, even if was as unconventional as crushing on him first. 🙂

Let me just fill you in on some of my favorite memories of Aaron. -The very first day I met him I called him a liar and argued with him about how old he was. I just couldn’t believe that he was only 14 (or 15, I can’t remember the exact year). -Taking him an ice cream cake for his birthday while he was still at Ramay. -Telling him about my dad and his heart condition and that I had to pay my own way through college and him responded something along the lines of that he would help me pay for it (because that’s just the type of guy he was). -Him locking Hanna and I out of their house when we were running late and then mooning us through the window because he actually remembered to grab the spare key so we couldn’t use it. -Him telling me he surrendered to the ministry and how scared but excited he was. -Him talking about his family. He loved them so much. They drove him crazy, just like he drove them crazy, but oh how he loved them. -Him showing up late for his sister’s rehersal dinner because he had been noodling and had a HUGE scratch/bite/I don’t know what they call it on his arm from catching a big one. -All of his many stories (especially the noodling ones!) Man he could get worked up when he was telling stories, but that’s part of what made Aaron, well Aaron.

Today was Aaron’s funeral. I think Luke George said it best when he spoke of the way Aaron ministered to his friends. He had this beautiful way of holding people close to him, close enough to see the struggles and then point them to Jesus. I know there are people that came to Jesus because of Aaron and today over 250 people heard the Gospel and celebrated his life! (And quite honestly there were probably closer to 300+, the funeral home could seat 250 people and there was standing room only). What an amazing legacy to leave behind. Even in death, he is impacting people and I believe winning souls for Christ. I praise God for Aaron Jacob Kildow and will forever remember him as an amazing (but ornery) man with a huge heart that loved God.

And although I didn’t get the opportunity to know Kylee in this life, I am so thankful that I get to met her when I get to Heaven. Aaron found someone he loved that from what I hear gave him a run for his money at several things, fishing included. I am so thankful that they got to share life together and that they will spend eternity worshiping out Savior and King.

We haven’t lost Aaron, we know exactly where he is and that is at the feet of Jesus. Thank you God for you saving grace and drawing us to salvation in you. Tonight I pray that Aaron’s legacy will live on. I pray that everyone he touched would come to know you and that because of that his legacy will reach generations to come. I praise you for Aaron’s life and in his death because I know you are sovereign. I will praise you because I know you work things for good for those that love you and Aaron and the Kildow’s sure do love you. You can make good blossom out of this heartache. Finally I praise you because I know that “precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (psalms 116:15).

Thank you Jesus for Aaron Kildow and the impact he had on my life.

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Rain is a God thing

So after my week in a half of being way too deep in my own head I finally came to a point of utter done-ness. If you haven’t read my last blog and learned about my little freak out, I encourage you too- if nothing else you’ll probably get a good laugh.

Back to my moment of done-ness. First let me explain some things about me. 1) I am a ridiculously independent person. Tyler is one of the only people who has ever seen my full range of raw emotions, most people will think they’ve seen me mad, sad, or even happy but it’s usually a very tamed down version of my true emotions. 2) Even though Tyler has seen those emotions and is so good about helping me through them, the first thing I want to do is be alone. In fact, if he tries to comfort or talk to me, the emotions usually end up turning on him in a blaze of angry fire eyes. (love you honey!) 3) I am a control freak. As much as I try to “let go and let God”, “let it go”, and all the other needlepoint sayings about releasing, I just can’t. I’m working on it, but it’s definitely an uphill battle. Now that that’s covered, here we go:

So Tuesday night we have our ABS Bible study. We usually go from 7:30-9pm and have a really good time. This Tuesday night was a little different because instead of studying a specific topic, we decided to come with questions and discuss them. Not surprisingly, a lot of our questions had to do with the differences in denominations and why we believe what we believe. So 9 rolls around and Mama Carmen’s start shutting down, but we do not. We decide that what every person needs after Coffee and Jesus is Ice Cream and more Jesus, plus we’re still discussing so we head to Braum’s. Flash forward about an hour and most of the ABSer’s are gone with only a handful left when Michael asks me how my week’s been going. Word Vomit. That’s what comes out of my mouth, Word Vomit. I unload on this poor guy all my questions about concerns about living in the “But if not’s” (again see last post for clarification). And my awesome self does this in front of one of my bosses, my huzzyband, and a few other ABSer’s that I’m supposed to help lead. Neat. So they ask me about it. I explain that I’m great in the “but if not’s”, in fact, I tend to live there most of the time. I have an issue with believing God will do what he can do. It’s not that I don’t believe in miracles or that God has the power to work miracles, it’s just that in my experience the answers have been “but if not’s”. I’m stuck in this place of head knowing God can do it but not truly heart believing that He will.

Reminder, when I get like this I have to work problems out in my head, at least a little ways before I can discuss them with other people.

Tyler and I head home and he asks if I want to talk about it which I decline wholeheartedly. He goes off to do some work and I set up with my Harry Potter book and my Bible. Weird mix right? I switch back and forth reading for a few hours until it’s around 1am. I get ready for bed, Tyler tells me goodnight because he’s still working and then he asks if I want to pray. Y’all I said no. I just couldn’t. As silly as it is, the last thing I wanted to do was pray with this private school kid to a God that I felt like I was failing. So Tyler, being the kind and wonderful fellow he is says ok and that even though I don’t want to pray he wants me to know he has been and will continue to pray for me and he goes back to his office. What do I do next? I lock him out. Not because I was mad at him, but because I knew I needed some alone time with God to hash everything out and pour my soul out (super independent emotional remember?). I get in the floor because suddenly my bed felt uncomfortable, started praying, and flipped open my Bible. I knew I wanted to land in the Psalms, but had no idea where so I started flipping pages until something caught my eye:

I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I consider the days of old, the years long ago. I said,1 “Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.” Then my spirit made a diligent search: “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable? Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time? Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?” Selah
Then I said, “I will appeal to this, to the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
When the waters saw you, O God, when the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed, the deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flockby the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Psalms 77 was exactly what I needed to read. I don’t know if you caught the third paragraph, but notice “I will remember your wonders of old” and “You are the God who works wonders”. Ummm What?!?!? Now skip down to the 4th paragraph “yet your footprints were unseen”. I felt like God was flicking me in the forehead with this!

Confession Time: I ugly cried. Just me, myself, and God. With my Bible open, my door locked, and my face flat on the floor I cried and cried and begged God for a sign that He will work miracles. I specifically asked that He would send rain the next day. Rain is one of my absolute favorite things so it just made sense to ask for rain to be the sign, plus it’s been so hot lately. I wake up the next morning (yesterday), still asking for rain. I go about my day still asking for rain. Nothing happens. Well, things happened but no physical rain.

So tonight Tyler and I go to dinner. I haven’t told him about my cry fest yet, so we start talking about it over food. I explain what happened and how I’m not even that disappointed because I live in the “but if not’s”. I’m comfortable in them. And then he asks me something “If God had made it rain, would it have changed anything?” Honestly no, other then I would’ve felt better. I still believe that God is God and He is good. I still believe the Bible is truth. I still know that God can work miracles and has in the past. I just don’t expect him to. So we go on about our evening and I start cleaning the house. He takes a break from work to come take the trash out and when he comes back in he says he needs to show me something. I’m thinking someone has broken into our cars or the trash busted and we’re going to have to pick it all up. I walk outside and am met with flashes of light. At first I don’t get it, and then Tyler just looks at me and smiles and I get it. While it’s not quite rain, it’s lightening. It’s a sign of rain to come. Not 15 minutes later I’m sitting on my front porch watching it rain and laughing at myself because I remember what I asked for. I asked God “to make it rain tomorrow” as a sign He still moves and works miracles. I prayed that pray about 2:30am Wednesday Morning. It started raining Thursday evening. Tomorrow. Today. God showed up, even with me doubting.

While I will probably always live in the “but if not’s” and be comfortable there, I have assurance that God does rescue, He does save, and He does answer prayer. And just as a fun fact for you, Tyler wasn’t going to help me clean tonight, he was busy with a proposal for work. He just happened to decide to get to a pausing point to take a break and decided to see if I needed help cleaning. As we were cleaning, he just happened to take the trash out and see the lightening (because we could’ve waited until tomorrow to take it out). Because he had taken a break and helped me clean, we got done earlier so I just happened to decide to stay up for a bit and read. Because I was reading and not watching TV, I just happened to hear the rain start. Y’all, that’s a whole lotta coincidences in my “tomorrow”.

Tonight I am humbled by God’s love and provision. I praise Him because no matter how many times I pull away or try to fit Him into my god-box, He shows me who He really is and pulls me back to Him.

Tonight, I am praising God for rain.

Do I really?

Do I really believe God is who He says He is? Do I really believe God can do anything, and be everywhere, and save me? Do I believe that God is and does what He says He is and will do?

I know in my head that God is good, gracious, just, and merciful. I know in my head the attributes that make God, well, God.  But what I’m not sure about is do I really believe it. Do I live like I believe it?

Somewhere along the way, I seem to have gained a fairly good head knowledge of God but I’m lacking in the heart and hand knowledge. Please don’t mistake this, I know that God saved me many moons ago and that He is continuously drawing me closer to him. He is continuously refining me, chiseling off my rough edges bit by bit. Even when I’m in the middle of a mess, I am fully confident that God is molding me and preparing me for something (even if I don’t necessarily appreciate that). I know that. What I’ve come to realize though is that as much as I believe God can do anything in my head and say as much with my mouth, in the very darkest corners of my heart I’m not sure I believe He will.

I’ve lived through God’s not healing. I understand that sometimes that in and of itself is a greater testimony and answer to prayer than healing would be. But somewhere in the mix of my past experiences, I’ve stopped believing that God is in the business of miracles. I’ve pushed God down into a predictable little box that I can understand. Even when miracles do happen in my life and I say with my mouth that it’s God, in my heart of hearts I tend to lean toward luck or coincidence. Even though I know with my head that God’s fingerprints are all over so many miracles in our lives, (prime example: Tom’s Visa) there’s a block in my heart that keeps from believing it wholeheartedly.

Even though God answered my prayers and gave me the desires of my heart in meeting and marrying Tyler, I tend to wait for the rug to be pulled out beneath me.

I’ve been listening to some old If:Gathering messages (and they’re AWESOME btw), and maybe that’s what brought this all on, but I can’t help but see these amazing Christian Women who are so open, so real, and so raw on stage and I envy them.  How cool would it be to get to encourage and teach women about God for a living? And then I think “I could totally do that- I’m open about my issues, and my heartaches, and my life; I’m an open book!” And then I start thinking about how many times I’ve offered up this hand just so you wouldn’t look at that one. I am so open with some stories just so you never think to ask about others. I confess the flashy neon sins just so I never have to talk about the others. Sure I’ll go to the altar to pray during church, but I’m always aware that I can’t loose it because then I’ll have to walk back to my seat and I don’t want to have to answer question. I live in a constant illusion of taking off one mask and throwing it as far as I can just so you don’t look too closely at me.

In listening to these If:Gathering talks, Jennie Allen shared some insights from here book Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked my God and my Soul. Here’s a quick excerpt from it:

“If I was the devil, I’d tell you what I’d do.  I would try to deceive you and get you into error.  I would get you off base.  And if you still stayed true, I would try to disqualify you.  I would get you immoral, I would get you where no one would believe what came out of your mouth.  I would make you a tabloid, where nobody would believe you.  I would remove your confidence until you were afraid to speak because your life was a shamble.  I would get you into sin.  I would prowl like a roaring lion to devour you morally.

And if I couldn’t do that, I would try to make you successful.  And I would distract you if I couldn’t disqualify you.  I would get you busy.  I would get you so distracted to the gospel that no longer would your prayers be about holiness and souls.  They would only be about the bottom line in your business.  I would get you materialistic, and no longer concerned about the spiritual nature of life.  If I couldn’t do that, I would divide you.  If I couldn’t divide you, I’ve almost lost you.  You know what I’d do then?  I’d discourage you.  And then if I couldn’t discourage you, I’d try death.  I would try my best to kill you.  That’s what I would do to take you out.”

Not only is Jennie a fantastic speaker and author, she hit the nail on the head with this one. And now let me add one to it: “If I were the devil, I would make you think you believed God by giving you a god you can understand. A god that does things the way you would do them.” After all, that’s what most of expect. This is NOT God.

God is greater than anything we can imagine. He performs miracles all the time if only we would have eyes to see them. He gives us glimpses of his divine love and amazing nature through creation. Every single day He gives us little blips of joy and happiness straight from Him. But we don’t see it. I don’t see it, because I don’t look for it. I don’t ask for it. I don’t prepare for rain when I know God is more than capable of sending a downpour.

I don’t know what the answer is to this. Even as I write this I think of Elijah on Mt. Caramel with the prophets of Baal (1 King 18) and I can’t imagine being in his shoes. Not because of how amazing it would’ve been to see God take those fake prophets out, but because I doubt. Elijah went up against 450 prophets of Baal (PoB) to prove that God is God. To summarize, Elijah challenged the PoB to set up an alter with a bull on it and whichever God accepted the offering (by burning it) was the true God. For ~4 hours Elijah waited and watched as the PoB’s danced and prayed and begged their god to burn up the offering. In Elijah’s sassyness he tells them ,”Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” (Seriously E? He definitely had on his sassy pants!) So the PoB yell louder and end up cutting themselves to try to attract their god’s attention. Finally, it was Elijah’s turn. He built his altar and then commanded 4 big jars of water to be dumped on it. He then commanded the same to be done again and again a third time. There was so much water on the altar that it was soaked! It even filled the ditch around it with water.Remember, the sign of the true God was going to be if the offering burned up on the altar. So after Elijah douses his altar he prays. He prays that God would answer him so that the people would know God and have their hearts turned back to him. And BOOM! The fire of God consumed the offering, the altar, and all of the water that Elijah had dumped on it. So in a matter of seconds, a bull, an altar (made of stones, rocks, and wood), and 12 big jars of water that had drenched the aforementioned all burned up.

I can’t imagine being in Elijah’s shoes because I can’t imagine being that confident that God would come through. Oh and since I forgot to mention it, Elijah had a price on his head during this time so not only was his reputation on the line, his life was too considering he did this in front of King Ahab. If God chose to limit his power when Elijah asked, not only would the Israelite’s have turned even more from God, Elijah would’ve been killed. Talk about true faith!

So do I really have the kind of faith it takes to believe God. No. Do I have even an ounce of the kind of faith Elijah had? It sure doesn’t feel like it. Y’all I want to pray that God will continue molding me so that one day I’ll have that kind of faith, but if I’m being totally honest- I’m almost scared to say those words. Do I really want the kind of faith that demands action? Do I really want to be like Elijah and stand against the odds and face my own demise? Do I really want to change the world and win souls for Christ even if it wrecks my idea for my life? Or would I rather stay sitting on my couch in Fayetteville enjoying my favorite show on Netflix? Do I truly want to be moved to action or am I comfortable in complacency? Do I really want to surrender my entire will and my entire life or do I just want to give God pieces?

These are the questions that I have to answer with my heart. These are the questions that require a life change. I’m not sure I’m ready to try to answer them, but here they come whether I want them to or not. What’s your answer?

 

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Is aight wrong or right?

I’m doing an online Bible Study through LifeWay for the Armor of God. (It’s fab, check it out here. Not too late to join in!) Anyway, I’m just beginning Week 2 and am now learning about the Belt of Truth.

We’ve learned over the last week that the enemy is the devil (obvi) and that he is a tricky little feller. John 8:44 tells us that Satan is the father of lies. He is an illusionist giving us just enough truth to let our guards down. Then he pounces!

I was talking to a good friend a few nights ago and we got on the subject of Dave Ramsey. She was telling me about one of his illustrations using Cheetahs and Antelopes. Although Ramsey was using this illustration to show the dangers of Credit Cards, it also fits in pretty perfectly illustrating the devil. In essence, he says that although Cheetahs are much faster than Antelopes, the Antelopes still have a chance as long as they have their Cheetah tracker on. It seems that the Antelopes have discovered if they are alerted to a Cheetah in close proximity and bob and weave as they run away, they can survive! The Antelopes have figured out the Cheetah’s plan of attack and creates their own plan of survival. How cool would it be if instead of a Cheetah tracker alerting us to their proximity, we had a devil tracker. If we could know when he was getting ready to pounce, would we do things differently?

While we don’t have a neon sign letting us know when the devil gets near, we do have the belt of truth. You see, if we will start sifting our lives through truth (God’s word) we can tell when things don’t quite line up. For example, you meet this really awesome guy, he makes a ton of money, is handsome, is kind, and loves his momma. Awesome right? Then you find out he doesn’t love Jesus and you remember 2 Cor 6:14 about not being unequally yoked. You have a situation don’t you! Do you continue on ignoring the verse and hoping you can convert him or do you trust that God’s word, the truth, actually is truth?

I use this example because it’s the one that resonated with me best. Y’all, I was a pro at convincing myself that my way was right (still am, bless Tyler’s heart). But I used to be very good at explaining away the things I did that didn’t line up with God’s teaching. I still struggle with this all the time. Control is one of my biggest issues- don’t believe me, ask some of my High School Friends (Sorry again for being crazy pants guys!). There’s a difference in knowing the truth and girding your loins, or literally folding yourself, in truth.

gird-up-your-loins-2

You can wear the belt of truth all your life and never actually gird your loins with it. Just look at the illustration above, box 1 and box 6 make a huge difference in battle!

Which brings me to our bible characters for the day. Eve and Samson. I know I know, we all know about Eve and her epic failure. But when I was studying about the differences in right and wrong and right and almost right, I realized the devil has a lot more success using almost right then he does using wrong information. Let’s look at a part of Eve’s story found in Genesis 3:1-5.

 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

From the very beginning the devil has been crafty, little trickster. Do you see what he does? He asked a question that contained a half truth. The end of verse 1, read it again, I’ll wait……. He asks about any tree, not the one tree he knew to be off limits. And what does Eve do? She adds in her own stipulations. Oh not only can we not eat it, but we can’t even touch it or we’ll die. (Side not: They hadn’t even seen death yet, Adam and Even had no basis to know what death was so that’s kinda crazy pants!) The devil in his trickster ways responds with “Oh honey, surely you won’t die! I think God just got confused because all this does is let  you see good and evil just like Him. Unless that is why he doesn’t want you to be like him?” TRICKY TRICKY LITTLE SATAN MAN. Do you see how Satan never actually told her the wrong thing, he didn’t tell her the right thing, he just told her the aight thing. And he minimized the consequences in doing so.

Now on to Samson. Y’all, he used to be one of my favorite characters and until I actually read his whole story. He’s still a really cool guy, but he was kind of a turd head. You can read his whole story in Judges 13-16, but for now I’ll just paraphrase.

Samson meets this Philistine girl and falls in love with her (not Delilah). During his wedding week festivities, he gives the attendees a riddle that if they solve it he owes them clothes and if they don’t they all owe him clothes. After 3 days they still can’t solve this riddle so they go to his almost wife on the 4th day. They threaten her and her father by saying they’re going to burn them alive. So she goes to Samson and begs him to tell her. For the rest of the feast, she cries and begs and cries and begs and cries and begs until finally on the seventh day he caves. He tells her the answer to the riddle, so tells those he challenged with it, and before the night ends on the seventh day Samson is indebted to them for all those clothes! So he gets mad, storms off, and doesn’t end up marrying almost wife. Flash forward to Chapter 16 and here comes Delilah! He notices her, the Philistines notice him noticing her so they tell her to seduce him. “Oh little Delilah, how about you use your wily woman ways to figure out how we can beat him? He has to have an Achilles heel, just figure out what it is.” So she tries to. Three different times she asks and pleads just to have him tell her a lie and finally she nagged him enough that his soul was “vexed to death” and he tells her about his hair. Keep in mind that after each of the 3 false alarms he gave her, she sold him out. Every. Single. Time. Every time she would wake him up after having done whatever he told her would zap his strength to be met by Philistines. Surely Samson wasn’t a dumb man, but come on. 3 different times this woman tries to hurt you and what do you do? You tell her the truth, jeez- men! (jokes)

Y’all, sometimes the devil is like Delilah. He just keeps nagging and nagging and no matter how many times we try to bob and weave our way away from him he just catches back up and starts again. The only way we can wake up to his nagging and schemes is by using something outside of ourselves to judge. If Samson had a best guy friend, the friend probably would’ve told him how crazy Delilah was and to not get involved in the first place. Luckily for us, we have an unchanging, objective standard by which to judge whatever comes our way. If we judge whatever decision, problem, or life happening we have by what is in God’s Word, it can give us a clear perspective of ourselves. Are we letting our emotions run away with us like Samson? Are we letting our imagination get the best of us like Eve?

If we affirm the Word of God above our feelings, our desires, our fears, our hopes, our dreams, and ourselves, then we’ll be able to resist the lies, schemes, and tricks of the devil. He will have no foot hole into our lives. If we know truth, there will be no room for almost right. If we have what is right, we can pick out what is wrong and what is aight (almost right) and learn to stay away from them.

Have you come to the end of yourself?

So today has been my “How can I pray for you?” day. Every few weeks I get a wild hair and text random people in my phone that simple question. Nothing else, just “How can I pray for you?”

Today I decided that one of the people I would text is Tyler’s cousin Sarah. I had her number in my phone from a while ago (apparently) and didn’t realize she had gotten a new one. The response I got from ‘Sarah’ was simply “Who is this?” I responded and then got “Where u from?” and that’s when I thought “oh no….”

Sarah was not actually Sarah, but was a man named Chris. I admire Chris because without hesitation he told me that he needed prayer. He was facing the possibility of cancer and had recently had a biopsy done but didn’t have results yet. Y’all, I wish I could be more like Chris. Instead I hope and pray that no one responds asking how they can pray for me.

You see, there are things that I desperately want prayer for but they’re private. I can’t quite bring myself to open up about them, even to my closest friends and family. So I want to challenge myself {and you} to live and pray intentionally. I want us to break down the walls and have real relationships where we share the real hurts. So here it goes:

Tyler and I made the decision a little over a month ago that while we wouldn’t necessarily try to get pregnant, we also wouldn’t necessarily not try either. For those of you that know me, being a wife and momma has been my hearts desire for as long as I can remember. And because I know next to nothing about pregnancy, babies, anything of that nature, I started to research everything I could about it. And then I was late. Fear. Excitement. Terror. Joy. I had such mixed emotions because I really didn’t feel ready to have a baby, but I also yearned for one more than anything else. And then the test came back negative. Y’all, this crushed me. I had to tell Tyler right before a big meeting that I was in charge of that 1) I had taken a pregnancy test and 2) That it came back negative. I felt like such a weenie! But my mind immediately went to the what if’s. What if I end up having fertility issues? What if we never are able to get pregnant? What if we can’t adopt? What if? What if?

Needless to say I’ve been on the verge of tears for about a week now because my mind is bombarded with the fear and uncertainty of not being in control. Of not knowing what’s going to happen. I’m not pregnant, but I do need your prayers.

I need your prayers that I could let go of the death grip I have on this part of my life. That I would relinquish my control over to the Creator. That I could trust that His plan and timing is better than mine. That ultimately I could find contentment and peace in Him and nothing else.

Y’all, I need your help to break down these walls surrounding our hearts desires and our deepest hurts. I need your help to keep me accountable. Friend, we have to start being vulnerable with each other and letting God move in us. Let’s start today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Side note: Once again, I’m not pregnant. Please don’t ask when/if I or any other young married’s will get pregnant. When the time comes, if the time comes, we will let you know. Until then, hush your mouth 😉

 

Where do you start?

Over the past few days I’ve just been off. I’ve honestly felt like a big ‘ole faker. I feel like I there are so many things I should be doing, but the biggest things that I should be doing more of is 1) Praying and 2) Reading my bible. How much are you supposed to pray and read your bible? More than I am now.

I talk to my church girls about the importance of prayer and being in the Word, but do I really mean it? And if I do believe that it’s so important, why aren’t I making it a priority? Come on Amanda!

pull-yourself-together

That’s pretty much what I feel like God is doing.

But on a serious note, where do you begin when you don’t know where to start? Sure I have tons of bible studies, bookmarked blogs, unopened podcasts, even devotional emails delivered straight to me, but all of that is someone else’s filter on the Bible. And obviously I couldn’t start just reading the bible right? I mean, it’s way too big with too many big words and awkward names right? Maybe that is where I should start.

Recently I’ve been listening to Jen Wilken’s Podcast (look it up, its AMAZING!!) as white noise while I work, and she said something that made me stop and gasp. That women are illiterate when it comes to the Bible. Excuse me? I have had an above average reading level since forever. I am the epitome of being literate. But then when I actually listened to what she was saying- man my toes hurt. Her reasoning for using the term illiterate was because for all intents and purposes we are. You wouldn’t expect to learn Chemistry by opening up your Chem book and reading for 5 minutes every day (not to mention every week). If that’s how you tried to learn Chemistry, you would know less on the Final than you did on the first day of class! You would just be fooling yourself and wasting time on something that couldn’t possible help you. And yet, that’s how we approach bible study. Okay, maybe you don’t, but that’s definitely how I approach bible study. I’ve never read the minor prophets, the Old Testament doesn’t get much love, and when teaching, I tend to only stick with the “popular” stories. You know the ones, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, Noah and the Ark, Abraham, King David, etc.

So if I want to become literate when it comes to the Bible, where do I begin? Easy, at the beginning. I know, I know, creation is interesting, and some of Exodus, but then you get into Leviticus and all the rules, and then *gasp* Numbers. Not Numbers! Anything but Numbers! Maybe a little dramatic, but that’s how most of us feel when it comes to the Old Testament and specifically all of those “begat” chapters.

Now comes the tricky part, I have to start at the beginning right? Genesis 1, but then do I just read it as a book straight through, do I read it chapter by chapter, what do I do?!?!

I am of the opinion that God chose the authors and the audiences for a reason. Yes every book in the Bible has an application for today, but to truly understand that application we must start at 1) When the book was written, 2) who wrote the book, 3) Who was the book written for/to and 4) What was going on in History during the time it was written.

Fun fact: I just learned last week that Jeremiah and Daniel lived during the same time period (ish). I had no idea! I was studying Daniel for my girls class and that happened to be in my commentary, so I researched it. How cool is that?!

All of this to say we need each others help. It is so hard to stay consistent in anything if you don’t have someone checking in on your every now and then. I want to challenge you, dear heart, to start at the beginning and the read the Bible for what it is, the Bible. I’m challenging myself too here, don’t worry. But I also want to challenge you to be intentional with your relationships. Ask the hard questions. Forget “how was your day” and instead ask “How’s your relationship with Jesus this week?”. Make a point to encourage each other and intercede for one another in prayer.

After all, we are all in this fight together, might as well start working together.