Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Different Kind of Blog: Love and the Outcome Concert Review

I always love getting the opportunity to share with you the latest in Christian music. Today's post is a review on an up and coming band you might have heard on your local Christian radio station. "Love and the Outcome" is a band composed of Canadian husband and wife, Chris Rademaker and Jodi King.

 I had the privilege to attend one of their concerts in my new town, Washington , NC. It was sponsored by 98.3 the Bridge, our local Christian radio station here in the inner banks. What I love most about concerts is that you get to hear the story behind the songs and their passion for writing inspirational music. They were newlyweds and sold everything they owned to follow God's call on their life. Their heart was burdened to take their music as a message and uplift and inspire fans all over the country to follow Jesus and share His love with them. Their motto, "God is love and we are the outcome", rings true in all of their music. 

You might be most familiar with their tune "He is With Us" that currently plays on Christian radio, an upbeat song that will have you singing along quickly. My personal favorite is their new single, that I used in last week's blog, "The God I Know", that talks about letting go of perfection and laying everything we are, good and bad and imperfect at his feet and enjoying being in the presence of "The God I Know".  


(Sidenote: I have never seen a live show where the female lead sings, plays the drums and the keyboard all at the same time. Kudos, to her, that takes skill! )

 One of their most moving songs was written right after they moved away from Canada and found out that Chris's mom had cancer. They took a year off from music and touring to be there for her. Out of this situation birthed an amazing song called "The Story You're Building In Me". 

Attending a concert gives you a glimpse into the heart of these fantastic musicians, that you wouldn't have otherwise known. I am grateful I got the chance to hear their incredible music and their story. 

If you get a chance, I highly recommend you see this incredible couple in concert. Here are their tour dates. 

Here is the link to purchase their latest album!


Monday, June 6, 2016

Pharisee Double Life

"What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. 

So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily."
Galatians 2:19-21 (MSG)



Wow! Who knew that was in the Bible? I certainly didn't. 

Well I did, kinda...you might recognize it as "I have been crucified with Christ so I no longer live, but Christ lives in me..." as stated in the NIV. But there is something so special about reading your bible and then looking at it through different translation lenses.

I woke up this morning and the first thing I do before I get out of bed is open my YouVersion app and read the daily scripture. It does not replace my quiet time with God, but due to pressing demands on my time, this is the best way to get some Jesus in me before I get out of bed. 

This is what was on my screen as I groggily opened my eyes and the words of the screen jumped off my Iphone and right into my heart.

I can relate so much to this scripture. I have been a believer my whole life and always thought that doing, saying, wearing the right thing helped me be a "better" Christian. I have always been labeled a "good girl" although I secretly hated it, it did make me feel I was just a bit closer to heaven than those around me that still clung tightly to worldly things. 

Talk about a mirror into my Pharisee double life! That kind of attitude gets you no where fast! I have had to cut myself some slack and say "You know what? I am not going to get it all right and I am going to make mistakes and that is OK. It doesn't negate God's calling on my life. It doesn't make God mad at me and I am certainly not going to be condemned for slipping up every once in a while." 

Bringing my honest self to the Lord is the greatest sacrifice anyone could ever make...inadequacies and all. 

I have also had to cut other people slack too. God did not create us all the same! That's what is beautiful about this world. God created us with different temperaments, personalities, struggles, and victories so that not one of us would be identical. We need to embrace who God made us to be and give a lot more grace to other people who aren't like us. 

It's OK to step outside of your box and make friends with people who may not exactly be like you or think like you. Jesus took a smorgasbord of men from varying occupations and backgrounds and created 12 phenomenal disciples out of them. From stinky old fishermen to snooty tax collectors Jesus picked a lot of men who to a Pharisee's eyes had no chance at getting anywhere near close to the coming Messiah.

But what can be said about these men? 

"Now when the men of the Sanhedrin (Jewish High Court) saw the confidence and boldness of Peter and John, and grasped the fact that they were uneducated and untrained [ordinary] men, they were astounded, and began to recognize that they had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13 (AMP)

The important thing is not the cross around our necks, the bumper sticker on our cars, or the political party we are affiliated with,  but the fact that we have taken the time to spend with Jesus. What freedom falling into the arms of Jesus brings rather than falling into the trap of religion.

Don't let satan confuse conviction for condemnation. Yes God is good and He loves us as our Heavenly Father, but any good father will discipline and when we come under that discipline let it convict you and change you for the better. Condemnation brings with it heavy guilt that you feel you can't get out of. Guess what? When sins are forgiven they are also forgotten. Rest in that. 

What is hindering you from fully walking into the freedom Jesus offers in His Presence? I challenge you to take it to Him in prayer this morning- whether on your lunch break, waiting in the carpool line, or in the quietness of your bedroom before you drift off to sleep tonight- give it to Him. Whatever you are clinging onto too tightly- perfectionism, sin, fear of the unknown, whatever it is. Start walking in his freedom today!


If it was all about religion 
What to do What to say What to Wear
On a Sunday
All about perfection
Black and white Wrong or Right Never Grey
I'd never make it
I'd never be good enough   

Then I threw my hands up, worries down
I remember when he showed me how 
to break up with my doubt, once I was
lost but now I am found
No strings attached when he saved my soul
I want you to know the God I know  

The God I Know by Love and the Outcome 

 

Monday, May 16, 2016

2016 Summer Reading Book List


It's mid-May and time to start planning those vacations, road trips and weekend getaways. There is nothing I love more when waiting at an airport terminal or sitting on the beach underneath your umbrella, knowing a good book is close at hand.


 Or, if you are not going anywhere this summer, grab one of these books off my summer reading list and sit on the front porch with a glass of sweet tea and get lost for a couple of hours. 

 These are the books I have read just since January and I would be remiss to not share with you some of these incredible titles! How ironic that most of these books dealt with a current season I was facing in my own personal life. 

I am a huge fan of the Christian non-fiction genre and there is one nod in there to a Christian fiction book. So sit back, grab a highlighter (all of mine are covered in pink, blue and yellow highlight) and let's dive into each of these!

1.  The first book on top is The Girl's Still Got It: Take a Walk with Ruth and the God Who Rocked Her World by Liz Curtis Higgs. Liz is a well known author for both Christian fiction and non-fiction and has written many books! I actually got to meet her last Summer at a women's conference I attended. She is a hoot to hear speak and is an incredible story teller. This book journeys through the book of Ruth and breaks apart each verse explaining the significance behind the bond shared between Ruth and Naomi. She then explores the beautiful love story of Ruth and Boaz using a bit of a non fiction twist. Where the Bible leaves gaps, Liz does a fantastic job of transporting us there with details like sights, sounds and smells of what it was like during that time. I am currently reading through this book with a group of ladies as a bible study. This book also includes study guide questions for those who want a more in-depth look into the Story of Ruth.

 (Me and Liz Curtis Higgs-2015 SheSpeaks)

2. Next on the list is Come with Me: Discovering the Beauty of Following Where He Leads by Suzanne Eller. Get your highlighter ready for this one! Suzanne fills this book with incredible statements and profound personal experiences that bring her to a place of complete and utter trust in our invisible God. Sometimes we get excited when God says to go, but it takes a lot of grit, determination and prayer to stay in God's will instead of throwing your hands up in the air and telling God, "Nevermind, I was just kidding when I said, "Here I am , send me!"" Enduring a her own and her husband's cancer diagnosis and the strain of moving across states, Suzanne, takes us on a journey of complete and total dependence on a God who never failed her and reminds us that He will never fail us either. I can't recommend this book enough! Oh, and I got to meet this incredible lady at a writer's conference I attended last year also. (I hadn't even bought this book then!)

 (Micca Campbell, Me, and Suzanne Eller-SheSpeaks 2015)

3. The next book is 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn't Quit by Nicki Koziarz. Do you see a recurring theme here? Most of these ladies are all writers and speakers for Proverbs 31 ministries! If you haven't heard of Proverbs 31 ministries, check them out! Incredible ministry!!! So back to the book. 5 Habits is a book that also takes you through the book of Ruth. Author, Nicki, has a bad habit of quitting pretty much everything. So when God brings her to the book of Ruth she feels the Holy Spirit convicting her to stay the course in life, wherever God's will leads, and don't give up! Using personal reflection of past experiences and seeing how much she missed out on lights a fire under her to apply Ruth's tenacity and determination to her own life. This book will wreck you-but in all the best ways! 

4. I could not leave this incredible author and dynamic speaker out- Christine Caine. This is one of her older books, but incredibly powerful- Unstoppable: Running the Race You Were Born to Win. This book makes you look at life like a runner in the Olympics that pass the baton to each other. It makes you stop and think about the baton being handed to you in your own personal life and if you are running your race to meet your fullest potential living inside of you. It also gets you to think as a wife, mother, daughter, friend, etc...who might be getting the baton behind you. Sharing stories of those who work in her organization she founded, A21, that fights human trafficking, you will look at your life like, "I don't really have it all that bad". I love reading books that show me struggles going on all over this world. Sometimes living in my own little suburban bubble needs to be popped and books like this gets me to think from a much bigger kingdom perspective. Oh and grab your highlighter for this one too! (She has a brand new book out this month too called Unashamed. Oh, my Amazon wish list keeps getting bigger!)

 5. Next is Crash the Chatterbox: Hearing God's Voice Above All Others by Steven Furtick. I was lucky enough to actually get this book in Pastor Steven's church's bookstore near Charlotte, NC last year. I had never been to a mega church and honestly had negative preconceived notions when I arrived. But after hearing him speak, I could understand why he needed so many locations. He spoke truth- like honest, raw, get all up in your business truth that rivaled no other Pastor I had ever heard before.  His podcasts and books such as Crash the Chatterbox, made me feel like it was ok to be a hot mess and still be used and loved by God anyways! I had just finished writing a youth series delivered to the teenagers at my church called, Voices in My Head, so hearing that a well-renown pastor deals with the same issues, validated my craziness. Oh and let me just say again- HIGHLIGHTER! (Check out his new book Unqualified too!)

 (Hearing Pastor Steven preach at Elevation Church- Summer 2015)

6.  Ok all you fiction readers! I don't think there is a more powerful read than biblical fiction. Esther: Royal Beauty by Angela Hunt takes you on a journey with Esther and her uncle Mordecai. What a beautiful story that is brought to life using historical information from the time that makes all the characters all the more real. Humanizing King Xerxes and even telling the story from the perspective of one of the King's eunuchs, you see a perspective that even though isn't included in the bible, makes you wonder if it could have been.When a good Biblical fiction book makes me want to go read the Bible, you know Angela did a very good job! 

7. Last but not least is Glynnis Whitwer's book, Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day.  This book fell at the bottom of my to do list. Not because it wasn't good but because that is how bad, my to-do list got! She dives deep into the how's and why's we get overwhelmed- oh, that's right we all inherently have a procrastinator inside all of us! I didn't think I did, but was shocked at how many similarities I had with the ones described in the book...uh oh...GUILTY! So I kept reading and the last part of the book explains great practical advice on how to organize your to do list so that each day is very productive. She brought fresh, real and honest insight into this area of my life. Now I have a planner with things written down weekly and daily that I want to accomplish and being a better steward of my time opens up my schedule to say yes to more things I enjoy and whatever God wills. Also, I wanted to give a shout out to Glynnis! I met her last year at the same conference and she told me I was the first book she ever signed! Woot!! See? Here's proof! 
Well that's a wrap! I hope you check out these incredible resources. I have to put in a plug for my book too if you haven't gotten a copy yet: Arm Yourself: Equipping Ourselves with the Armor of God.There you go!!!

Be blessed and I am sending happy thoughts of beaches, mountains and summer fun your way!!!
 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Mary vs. Martha + Sweet Jesus Ministries

This post was originally written for a website called Sweet Jesus Ministries that I am a monthly contributor for. I hope you are blessed and encouraged to read this during your own season of transition.

 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!
There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.
Luke 10:41-42
 
So here I sit convicted… again.

Not of some great sin, or something I said or did. More like something I didn’t do. When we moved into this much bigger house in North Carolina from Texas, we bought the extra square footage for a reason. I had always hoped to be a hostess. A hostess for my friends and family when they came to visit me and a hostess for bible studies, ladies groups, or my friend’s kids. I wanted to be the house that everyone went to. The house that was warm and welcoming to anyone at anytime.

But the extra square footage meant extra cleaning. The 1970’s house didn’t have all the ugly wallpaper off yet. The brass fixtures were still everywhere you looked. The yard still needed help from someone with a much greener thumb than I had. Sure we had done a lot to the house since we moved in, all new floors, repainted several of the rooms downstairs and bought new furniture. But I felt like it wasn’t enough. I was afraid of being judged on the rooms still left to be remodeled and they would stick in their minds greater than the rooms that had been finished.
 
I know…I have issues...(Read more here)
 

Monday, May 2, 2016

BoyMom

Moms, Grandmas, Step- Moms, Mothers-in law...we celebrate you this week! It's not an easy job. I can say that now because I have been a momma now for 11 years. Wow! I feel old just saying that. Who would have thought that God would have chosen me to be the momma of two rambunctious little boys? Oh, that's right, God did! 

He looked at the little girl that played with Barbies until she was 14 years old, had bright pink furniture in her room her whole life, and enough bows to cover every little girl's head in a small village to be the mother of boys. 

I chuckle at God's sense of humor. Especially in moments when my son comes up to me and my husband before Karate class and says, "Can someone show me how to put on the cup? We start sparring tonight." HAHA! I looked at my husband and said, "Honey, you got this right?" 

Lord knows, I would have failed that mission! Thank goodness for husbands too in those moments! I grew up with an older brother but we were 4 years apart. Enough to where we each got our own time with the television. He had his time watching Ninja Turtles and playing Gran Turismo on the Playstation system. I had my time watching Punky Brewster and playing with My Little Ponies. 

But after being a mother of boys and being royally outnumbered I have had my fair share of boy education when one summer they caught me up on all the Back to the Future movies, Star Wars, and even the 1984 Transformers episodes (Oh, how I wish I had gotten back my hours watching that mess!)

I walk through the kids section in Target and my heart used to sink a bit when I looked at all the frills and lace on little girl's dresses. A part of me mourned not being able to buy those cute little outfits, but I made up for it by spoiling my cousin's little girls or my nieces on their birthdays. Anytime I was ever invited to a girl's party for a friend or family member, trust me I went all out! 

 
My husband says that if we had a little girl in the house, I would have had to share my "Princess" status. You know what? He's right. I look into the eyes of my little  boys and savor in the fact that at this present moment in time, I am the most important and favorite girl in their life! They all treat me like a queen. I relish the fact that I will always have my husband and two incredible sons to love me, look after me and take care of me the rest of my life. There is a special bond between a mother and a son that never fades, even with age.

Yes they will get married one day and their wives will take spot #1, but I would like to think I won't be far behind that spot. I look forward to helping them navigate their lives. I cherish our mommy/son dates, praying for them when they have had a bad day at school, and holding them when they have had a bad dream. Oh, and I plan to have one of those amazing mother/son dances at their weddings that goes viral on YouTube so be looking for that in the next 10 years or so! 

Those moments when your cool tween comes up to you and says, "I love you, mom" melts me every time, as well as when my snuggly 7 year old jumps in my lap and says "I wanna cuddle". Yes, God knew exactly what He was doing when He gave this momma boys. I am so proud and honored to be a BoyMom. I know writing this I am talking to a very specific niche here especially if you are the parent of boys and girls or just girls, but God knew what he was doing when he gave you those children, too.

He saw your personality, temperament, and even your comfort zone and stretched you and grew you with blessing you with those children. I know mamas we sometimes wonder, "God, why did you give me these kids?" Because He knew we would ask these questions. He wants us to come to Him for help, guidance and direction. If it was easy as pie, we wouldn't need to call out to Him. Calling out to Him in our parenting, especially in our weak moments of parenting, enables His strength to shine through us and into that situation for that specific child.

So I hope you are encouraged in your walk as BoyMom, GirlMom or both, that not only were these children chosen for you, you were chosen for those children. Not one of these babies were by accident or happenstance, they were planned whether you realized it or not- whether it was in your plans or not.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 
 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.  
Isaiah 55: 8-9

Comment below with what you are grateful for in being a parent to the children God gave you.

"Slow Down" by Nichole Nordeman

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Changing Seasons + Sweet Jesus Mnistries

This post was originally written for a website called Sweet Jesus Ministries that I am a monthly contributor for. I hope you are blessed and encouraged to read this during your own season of transition.

For everything there is a season…God has made everything beautiful for its own time.
Ecclesiates 3:1,11


 
It’ s spring! Finally glorious spring with its warmer days of sitting on the front porch reading a good book, and drinking a glass of sweet tea have come! The days of planning summer vacations, gardening, and getting outside more- soaking in those warm rays of sunshine- have me excited for this season too. 

Why? Because it has been a long, hard winter for me and my family. After moving to North Carolina last fall, we all went through a transitional period that was a lot more difficult than I thought. Homesickness settled in, financial difficulties, home renovations taking longer than expected and the kids being slow to make friends had us in fits at different times. But as we learned to lean on God through it all we also grew stronger as a family.  Read more here...

Monday, April 18, 2016

Lighten the Load

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. 
Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. 
I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. 
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. 
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly." 
Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

Some of you may have heard this verse before but perhaps not in this version. You may be more familiar with:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (NIV)


 How many times have we said "Lord, this feels way more than I can bear! You said you wouldn't do this to me." Well, I believe I have found the reason why we truly experience that at times life is more than we can bear. 

Because we are carrying too much...we need to lighten the load.


If you are carrying the emotional weight of your hormonal teenager adjusting to middle school, you're carrying too much. If you are carrying the weight of your finances for the whole family and it is causing you to endure chronic financial stress, you're carrying too much. If you are carrying the burden of an elderly parent that cannot care for themselves alone, you are carrying too much. If you are pulled in the middle of a friendship that is unraveling at the seams feeling like you're the link holding it together, you're carrying too much. If you feel the weight of exhaustion that comes from an overloaded schedule, you're carrying too much.

Do you feel it? It is heavy. It consumes our thoughts. It weighs us down spiritually, emotionally, physically...it is too much! You need to lighten the load.

How do we do that? By giving it to God.

When you pray about something, you are leaving it in God's hands. If you notice the weight of the stress burdening you like a ton of bricks pushing you into the floor, it's because you picked it back up.

That's right, you waltzed back into the throne room, picked up that situation that you had you laid down at his feet and said "I've got this God". Only you realized that much later that afternoon, you picked up way more than you could carry and you feel tired, burnt out, stressed out and at your wit's end.

Put it back! That is the great thing about the verse above. We need to learn God's "unforced rhythms of grace". What does that mean? Well imagine our life as a song. Every song has a beat or a rhythm that is slow or fast or just right. Now let's unpack grace. Grace is undeserved favor that rests on us as believers. The Lord knows this life is heavy and the rhythm of our life can get sped up by circumstances beyond our control and within our control. It pounds on our hearts and minds and becomes a burden to keep up with, if we let it.

But when we walk in God's undeserved favor, His open arms waiting to carry our burdens for us, then we are beginning to understand his "rhythm of grace". We begin to  realize that when life is more than we can handle it is because we weren't meant to carry it alone, we were meant to share it with God. We were meant to lay it down before his throne and let Him work it out on our behalf. 

Here is the best part of our loving God. This rhythm of grace He wants us to walk in is unforced. Just as a relationship with Him is. We don't have to accept the gift of this grace. We can continue to operate in our own strength and in our own power and allow the weight of our problems to crush us.

Or, we can operate in the "unforced rhythms of grace" and choose the lighter road. We can even remind ourselves several times throughout the day, week or month to put that problem, that situation, that person back down at God's feet. We will have several times throughout the day where we are tempted to pick those burdens back up, but where grace comes in is remembering that God doesn't want us to carry that alone. It's too big, it's too heavy. He wants us to walk in rest that God has got this situation under control. He wants us to trust that it will be resolved. He wants us to walk our everyday lives in freedom. Freedom from being bound to the heavy yokes that will ultimately trap us into the bondage of  stress that can cause anxiety, depression, or despair. We have the grace to put it back down when we see ourselves picking it back up.

 
Get away with me and you’ll recover your life...Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.

Oh those words are soothing to my soul. Let's recover our lives and live it to the promised abundant fullness! Let's walk with God and talk with Him. Let's cooperate with Him. Here is the best part- in the resting and trusting- we'll get a front row seat on how He will come through in our problem.

What are you carrying that feels too heavy? Have you laid it down in the throne room for God to take care of it?


Because When You Speak, When You Move. 
When You Do What Only You Can Do 
It Changes Us, It Changes What We See And What We Seek 

When You Come In The Room 
When You Do What Only You Can Do 
It Changes Us, It Changes What We See And What We Seek

These are the lyrics to a beautiful song, "Spirit of the Living God", by Vertical Church Band that can help you in your quiet time today to lay it ALL down.