Redeeming Death and Darkness

In our stores this month, death has been for sale. Have you seen it? People actually pay their hard earned cash, people actually spend REAL money… on death. I don’t get it. Here’s what I know about death – it stinks, it rots, it decomposes and it’s ugly. So why do we pay to display and dress up in it? At Goodwill recently, I ran across a statue of a vampire holding a head. The lovely piece of “Art” was on sale for $79. Yes, you read this correctly. It was once sold somewhere else, then donated, then re-sold at Goodwill, where everything is supposed to be ‘cheaper’ for $79.

We buy death. We decorate with death. We display death around our homes and neighborhoods. Halloween has become an opportunity for companies to make money off of selling items, which if portrayed in real life, people would be arrested for. One would be incarcerated if found dressed up and holding someones cut-off head. It is disgusting.

The United States of America is a very interesting place. In many other countries Halloween is not celebrated. We have friends who live in Austria where Halloween has only gained popularity in recent years. We are confusing our neighbors across the pond with our obsession with darkness, death, fear, scary costumes, gore, horror, and the list could go on and on. We spread it around our lawns and like this house I often go running by, we hang it from our treeeeeeeeeesssssssss.

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Yes, visiting our neighbors houses is fun. Collecting candy is fun. Decorating is fun. Costumes are fun. Games are fun. But glorifying darkness, death and fear? Not fun. And this goes beyond Halloween… What are we portraying day to day with our time, energy, actions and money? Life or death?

“Oh death, where is your sting? Oh death, where is your victory?” Jesus conquered death. We have no reason to fear. If we are Christ followers, we no longer live in darkness, we live as Children of the Light. We are called to walk as sons and daughters of God, as children of the Light. The same power that raised CHRIST from the dead LIVES within US!

Friends, this is our time to shine. Shine with the light of Christ. In a season where death is glorified and darkness overtakes our neighborhoods, we have an opportunity to shine as fierce as the sun! In the past our family has hibernated and hidden away from Halloween, and we’ve missed opportunities to talk with our neighbors. I’m not proud of this. A few years ago, we spent Halloween being a “fun house” on the block, and hosted a carnival style party where games, candy and fun spilled out of our house and driveway and onto our neighbors. At our house tonight, we are planning to shower our neighbors with friendship thru games, candy and fun as we shine the light of Christ thru our actions.

Perhaps nothing will change from this simple blog and these humble ideas. But perhaps… perhaps some of you will decide to do something different next year. My one suggestion would be – trash it. Don’t pack it up and donate it to Goodwill to be re-sold. Perhaps there will be a new generation of Halloween participants who will share light instead of darkness, fun instead of fear, and shower this world with the Light of Christ proclaiming LIFE over DEATH!

Thank you for reading and sharing in our journey! In Him, LRB

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Worship and Worry ~ A Tale of Two Sisters

Worship and Worry ~ A Tale of Two Sisters. Luke chapter 10:38-42  ~ The tale of Mary and Martha. One sister, Martha invited Jesus to her house. Yet, she is worried, distracted by many things.  Frustrated she has no help getting the meal ready, angry her sister Mary is doing ‘nothing’… Yet she is doing something… she is doing the one thing that matters. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to His teaching.

If I could walk in the sandals of these two women, I can see myself in both of them. I am not easily caught up in housework and fuss. I can easily let go of the daily tasks, to-do-lists and leave the house-mess. But. I am still easily caught up in the net of worry. I am distracted by many things. I might not be actively avoiding tasks for the sake of time with Jesus, but I am actively accomplishing much worry.

I am sitting at the feet of Jesus, yet immersed in worry while I’m there. I am actively sitting at His feet, but worry is looming while my soul is longing to be engaged. I am distracted by the many things I am not accomplishing while I am longing to hear the heartbeat of Jesus. This is not where Jesus wants me to be.

“It’s impossible to worship and to worry at the same time.”

I sang this phrase in worship over our church a while ago. This Truth saturated the room thru a lyric He stirred in my heart. I can not be fully in the presence of God, in worship, and worry at the same time. I must choose. 

I know the truth of both Mary and Martha. I have experienced both. I have been overcome by His presence, fully engaged in worship while doing the dishes and cleaning toilets. And I been embraced by His arms, settled in His love, simply Being with Him and doing nothing else. 

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Today I was given a gift of opportunity. I went running. walking. strutting… whatever you want to call it… huffing and puffing… I slow down. I see. She’s standing there. Beside her car, cigarette in one hand. Leaning back against the passenger door. I hear three words: Abused, hungry, rejected. “Hi” I greet her. She responds with a “hello” as well. This was a moment. God was opening a door to show His love to her. But I walk on…  I’m in a hurry. I am distracted by many things. I need to finish my run, walk, putter… I only have a set amount of time before I must be home. Before I need to pick up the kids from school. Pay the bills. Finish the chores… my mind is spinning.

I keep walking, 1 minute passes, maybe even less. Damn you, Time! And the lie I believe there is a lack of it. I turn around. Screw time restraints. Forget the rest of my putter… I stop. I turn back. I missed it! She’s gone. She’s driving away.

I won’t miss this gift again. I long to be in a routine of worship. I wrongly believed I was. It changed oh so subtly. I have been in a routine of worry. In worry I miss worship. In worry I miss Jesus. In worry I miss the gift to show His love. In worry I miss His presence. In one minute I missed her. 

God still loves me. This is not a beat myself over the head, I suck at following Jesus moment to bemoan and drive me into despair. This is a moment to listen. To learn. To sit at the feet of Jesus. In worship there is never a lack of time. In His presence, He fuels all that we need. In distraction and worry, everything can be stolen. This is a moment of repentance, humility and growth. I am learning ~ I never want to miss the One Thing again.

This is a moment to share. If this encourages you, pass it on! I am thankful for your reading.

In Him, Leslie

O Taste and See that the Lord is good {dispelling depression during the holidays}

Those moments come… and you hope they go. You hope they flee more quickly than they settled over your head, your heart, your soul. The darkness creeps in again and you find yourself lost inside your own thoughts… and numb. When in a season, meant to be \\Full\\ of \\Thanks\\ you find yourself struggling to be Thankful… You know it is not the TRUTH. You know the TRUTH will set you FREE but the lies have a hold and the desire to BE set FREE seems too far out of reach so you turn numb.

When His whisper sweeps over you softly and says ~ Speak up. Speak out. Speak Truth. Speak MY Name. The darkness will flee. MY light will overcome it.

Freedom comes, but with a price. What were meant to be Joy-Filled Memories are overshadowed by the lies that settled in. Regret becomes your default reaction. The JOY you have is being assaulted by a familiar enemy. Feelings of frustration, anger, disappointment and sorrow swell until your Truth is distorted, and the pattern repeats.

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This sounds depressing and it is. I have been here before. Depression had come to my door, let itself in, and settled down for a visit. At my table. In my heart. More times than I would like to admit. No one wants to be depressed during the season of Thanks, but there are some who are. There are some, like me. We know Truth. We know who He is. We know what we carry, and we fight. We fight for freedom. And we win, but not without a battle. Not without a cry. Not without a cost. Not without a sacrifice.

The way I see it the lies we believe are tailored to who (we know) we are. They are fiery darts, custom made to attack our very core and distort the Truth of our identity… You’re not good enough… You’ll never have enough time… You’ll never feel healthy again… Here you go again – feeling down for no real reason… What do you have to be depressed about anyway?

I see the faces set before me, the JOY set before me. My family, my friends, my Savior. Countless reasons to GIVE THANKS, Yet for a time it will not shake. But I will not be silent. When I speak HIS name, darkness flees. Freedom Comes. Truth remains. Forgiveness settles in.

The greatest threat to depression is a VOICE. When you speak out, it is no longer hidden. The light overwhelms the darkness. Peace overwhelms my soul. Our greatest weapon (to protect our souls) is our WORSHIP.  When I worship. When I sing. Psalm 30:11-12 “…You have turned my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.”

Joy has come and dispelled the depression once again. I have tasted and seen the Lords goodness. I have tasted and seen His love, His freedom, His peace, His forgiveness. I am grateful I can indulge in who He is this season. His love is better than any Thanksgiving Feast. Even better than the green bean casserole and apple crisp 🙂

Have you struggled with depression? Does it seem to settle in at your table during the Holidays? You are not alone and I would love to hear from you! Please share and know YOU ARE LOVED! In Him, Leslie

We need self-control even MORE than gun control {and no offense, Mr President, our Prayers ARE Enough}

For the moments when this world seems upside down…

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I have no experience with guns. I have never owned, used or even held a gun. I know very little about ‘gun control’… however I DO know those two words evoke a range of emotions from a range of people. This is not a debate on the pros and cons of gun control but rather a call for self-control.

I have a quick temper. I have wounded many people with my anger in the course of my 38 years, navigating thru this life. I, along with every other human, need self-control. I have clenched my jaw in frustration, raised my fists to bang on doors, cracked a car windshield with my feet, thrown my shoes at the walls, and slung my words in rage. I, along with every other human being on this earth, need Jesus.

We are all vulnerable and fragile people, in need of a Savior. We are crying out for salvation and yet… in the same moment, we are blind to recognize and acknowledge the gaping soul wounds we carry, which only He can mend. The reality of worlds brokenness is glaring at us. We do not have to look far to see the hopelessness and desperation our world operates in. We are scrambling to ‘get it together’… We are scrambling, grasping for control.

The tragedies we are facing daily in our nation are not rooted in gun control, but rather self-control. And with all due respect to President Obama, our PRAYERS ARE ENOUGH

Self control is rarely exalted. But losing control is. Let’s change this! Do we want to see things change? Or do we want to continue bemoaning the same issues with the focus constantly on ourselves? Adults — We need to get over ourselves! The world is not going to change with lawmakers and political discussions, throwing fits about who is right and wrong. The world is going to change with our KIDS. We need to PRAY over our kids!

I have the privilege of working with 200 elementary students, teaching Art and watching over them when they are at recess, in their classrooms and in the cafeteria. Part of my job is having eyes to see when issues arise with the kids, and address those issues before they grow into bigger issues. I support the teachers and help teach the students navigate their own self-control. I help them recognize the responsibility they have for their own choices, actions and emotions as they go thru their days, as they study and work in class, listen to their teachers, eat their lunches and play during recess. Kids have a lot to sort thru as they go about their days. They experience stress as much as adults do. Never cease in PRAYING for our kids. 

My heart along with many others breaks for the senseless tragedy at Umpqua Community College this week. We must honestly ask ourselves – Are we numb? Do we believe our prayers are enough? This is not just another mass shooting. We honor the 9 lives lost too soon. This is another moment in our lifetime to grieve, mourn and cry out on behalf of our nation, our world. To cry out and pray against future mass shootings. To pray for those contemplating using violence in any form to hurt the innocent. To pray for the souls of those who lack self-control and whose actions impact our nation with senseless shootings. To pray, pray, pray and PRAY some more. How are we responding?

If we merely see the surface of this and so many tragedies, we will only see the cracks caused by brokenness. But if you look further… you will see beyond the hopelessness and desperation. You will see beyond the rage of a gunman and see God working thru this tragedy. You will see people rise up in prayer and surrender to Jesus. You will see we have a choice. We can operate from a place of peace and self-control.

Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. “But the fruit of he Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such there is no law.” We are human, we are people born into sin, and we need to learn self-control. We need to PRAY for the fruits of the Spirit to invade our individual lives, and our world. We cry out for YOU, King Jesus, our Savior who is King of all the earth and King of self-control. Show us what it means to operate in the Fruits of Your Spirit, rather than our human sinful nature and terrible tendencies.

If you are a follower of Christ, this is not a time in our nations history to continue the ongoing political debates about gun control and what suit looks best on President Obama. This is a time to pour into prayer for change. To lift our voices for the next generation… for them to walk and RUN thru this earth, bearing every fruit of the Spirit!

It is time for more prayer and self-control. Thank you for reading, sharing and responding!

In Him, Leslie

Night of Worship

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One of my first experiences at a ‘Night of Worship’ was in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, led by the worship leader Dennis Jernigan. I was 16 years old and one of my best friends invited me to attend the Night of Worship with her. I was eager to go, and I had no idea what to expect. But God…

My heart was beating to know God more. I grew up in church and “knew God”, but the desire for more was unquenched. I hungered to know Him more deeply. I sought to understand Him more intimately. As a 16 year old, my thoughts we on homework, friendships, choir practices, a few boys … and God. I attended youth group with my friends, but there was always something missing. My soul was searching to know God personally, beyond what I learned from my parents, my youth group, my youth pastor, and thru friendships.

During the Night of Worship, I weaved between listening to the voices around me singing, observing expressions of worship I had never seen before, and participating in a realm of worship I had never experienced. At one point during the evening, Dennis gently said, “Lift your hands to the Lord” … and I did. I had never lifted my hands in worship before. The moment my hands were surrendered, heat filled my palms. The Holy Spirit touched my hands. I didn’t fully understand what I was experiencing, but after that moment, my life was forever changed.

My friends and I continued attending Nights of Worship with Dennis Jernigan. They were crazy and wild. We would worship for hours, dancing before the Lord. Every single time, we would leave the church drenched in sweat. Those sweet moments with the Lord began to build upon a foundation of worship I would grow in.

Twenty years later, and I am a changed Worshipper.

Worship is a force that changes people. When all our affection, our attention and adoration is focused on the worship of Jesus, everything changes. As we worship, He changes the atmosphere. I am forever changed in worship. I am changed when all my affection, my attention, my adoration is focused on Jesus. Worship is our response to Jesus. When we are surrendered in worship, we are surrendering to Jesus. His great love for us changes us. And our response is more worship of Him. 

Dennis Jernigan’s story is one of redemption and response. After experiencing the love of Jesus, he was redeemed from a homosexual lifestyle, and his response was worship. As his life was changed by Jesus, he began leading worship… leading others into response toward Jesus. His journey as a Worshipper has profoundly impacted mine. His songs spoke profound truths I would sing continuously, carrying the melodies beyond the Nights of Worship and into my daily life. One Night of Worship can change everything – Here is a quote from his testimony.

“Upon my graduation from OBU in 1981, God began to move in supernatural ways that even I couldn’t see! One of these instances was a simple music concert. A group called The Second Chapter of Acts was going to be in concert in Norman, Oklahoma, and I knew that I was supposed to go. By that time in my life I was looking for anybody who was real, someone who had a real walk with the Lord. Among Christian musicians, I was looking for more than entertainers. So, I went to their concert. I knew by the words they said and the music they sang that these people were genuine, and the message was born out of times of desperation in their own lives. I needed hope. As I listened to Annie Herring speak and sing I was overwhelmed by the love she spoke of. This was the love I had dreamed of but still couldn’t believe was available to me! So I listened very intently with great expectation–until she came to the song Mansion Builder. This song caught my deepest attention because of the simple phrase, “Why should I worry? Why should I fret? I’ve got a Mansion Builder Who ain’t through with me yet?”18 All of a sudden she just stopped in the middle of the song and said, “There are those of you here who are dealing with things that you have never told anyone and you are carrying those burdens and that’s wrong–that’s sin and you need to let those hurts go and give them to the Lord. We are going to sing the song again and I want you to lift your hands to the Lord–and all of those burdens that you are carrying, I want you to place them in your hands and lift your hurts to Him.” This was all new to me–worship and praise. I had always thought before that this was just an emotional response that didn’t really mean anything. But you know what it did for me? As I lifted my hands, God became more real to me than I had ever imagined! The lifting of my hands was more than a physical action. My hands were an extension of my heart! I realized that Jesus had lifted His hands for me–upon the cross. I realized that He truly was beside me and that He was willing to walk with me and carry me and just be honest with me. And I could be honest with Him! At that moment, I cried out to God and lifted those burdens to the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, I can’t change me or the mess I’ve gotten myself into–but you can!” And you know what? He did change me!”

Worship changes everything. Jesus’ love for us changes everything. Our response to Jesus changes everything.

Have you been changed in worship? I’d love to hear your story! Feel free to share and comment.

In Him ~ Leslie