One Word

With the new year coming, most of us already have things we want to change… to do differently… to start over on… we want a fresh clean slate and a new focus. I want to share with you an idea that has helped me so much the last few years, hoping it might help you too.

It’s the simple practice of choosing ONE WORD for the upcoming year. Not a phrase, not a statement, just a single word. In reality, it’s not choosing a word, but asking the Lord to reveal what one word HE wants to be your focus for 2019. Unlike New Year’s Resolutions, which are easy to fail at, a one-word focus can simplify your life, illuminate your path and bring direction and boundaries in all areas of your life.  

The first year I did this, I immediately knew what my word would be. 

BOLDNESS.  

This word was both exciting and terrifying to me, because I was timid to speak up, afraid to be in front of people, and more comfortable hiding in the background than leading out front. But God had put a desire for boldness inside of me, and I knew without it, I could never become who God meant for me to be. I just needed my Father to open my heart to where he was moving, and I needed to agree to walk hand in hand with him as he strategically put opportunities and challenges in front of me.  

Challenges that would draw boldness out of me.  

He gave me courage to say YES to speaking up with my thoughts and opinions, speaking in public (even in front of hundreds!), taking risks, praying big prayers, leading out front, and so much more. He showed me over and over what BOLDNESS looks like in me, and he did not let me fail at what I was fearful of.   

When you start asking the Lord for a word for 2019, the Holy Spirit will begin revealing a word that agrees with what your heart longs for. It could be a character trait, a discipline, a fruit of the Spirit, an attribute of God, a spiritual gift.  But it will take a relationship with the Lord to stay focused and listen and follow where he is leading. There will be highs and lows as God uses this word to light up your path, and also reveal things that need to change. But remember, the Lord is giving you this focus not to see you fail, but to help you succeed in the plans He has for you and His Kingdom. 

If you’re serious about this, you’ll come up against tough decisions and opposition. I suggest sharing your word with a few trusted friends so that when discouragement comes, or when you get distracted, they can help you re-focus. An important way to keep this word front and center in your life is to post it in places where you will see it often, like your car, your desk, or your bathroom mirror. I have a cute little 2×3 frame that sits on my desk and reminds me often of my word. I also love making these for my friends and encouraging them to stay the course throughout the year. See the attached photo above of the frames I made for my friends. Super simple.

This year my word has been TRUST. From a car wreck in February that could have ended my life, to unexpected challenges in health, leadership and relationships, the Lord has so much more deeply established my trust in Him. I’m pretty sure I already know what my word is for 2019, and as usual, it’s both exciting and scary!  

I wonder what your word will be?! If you ask God, I know he will show you and walk with you step by step to places you thought you could never go. Your word will be greater than yourself, but not greater than our powerful and loving Father GOD. 

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 109:105

“No dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14.

We would like to thank Jill Moudy for writing this post!

Worship is a Choice

I grew up in a traditional church with traditional worship. I love the theology of hymns and the memories that they stir up in my heart. Hymns like: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”, “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”, “The Old Rugged Cross”, “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”, “How Firm a Foundation”, just to name a few.

The words of these songs were written on my heart from a very young age. But to be honest, I really didn’t know what they were talking about, other than Jesus and God and the Cross. It wasn’t until I went to church camp in the 7thgrade that I experienced what we call “modern worship”. The worship team was cool and had long hair and played loud guitars and drums. I had never seen anything like this before. We rocked out to Dennis Jernigan and Vineyard worship songs. We sang lyrics like, “Lord prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true. With thanksgiving I’ll be a living sanctuary for You.”

I wasn’t just singing lyrics that I didn’t understand. I was entering into a relationship with a Loving Father, Who knew me, was pursuing me, and longed for me to surrender my heart and life to Him. So I did. I entered into this holy place of worship. From the depths of my soul, God became alive to me.

That was 30 years ago. I’ve learned so much since Jr. High. Worship is a choice. There have been times in my life where I’ve chosen not to worship. There have been other times that worshiping was all I longed to do. Being a worship leader has pushed me to go beyond what I can naturally do, see, and experience. Spending time in worship has made the Scriptures come alive.Worship has heightened my senses to Who God is what His plan is for me. It brings peace when everything else is falling apart.

Psalm 62:5-8 says, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

This is the kind of truth that comes from a heart of a worshiper.

After all these years of worshiping and going deeper in my relationship with God, I can go back to those precious hymns and hear the wisdom from worshipers of long ago.

“O for a thousand tongues to sing

My great Redeemer’s praise

The glories of my God and King

The triumphs of His grace.”

Yes! Let us be worshipers whose souls sing out from obedient hearts. Let us bring praise to God, Whose grace has triumphed over sin and death. Let us worship our great Redeemers, Whose love invites us into freedom and victory!

We would like to thank Allison House for writing this post!

It’s the Little Things

Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s the little things?”  These little things are unique to each one of us.  They refresh my soul day to day.  Unfortunately, I get stuck thinking about the BIG things.  When my focus is on the bigger, harder things of life, I get overwhelmed and the “little things” that keep me going, slip by.

Last week my husband and I bought our first home together.  I found myself focused on the BIG and forgetting to appreciate the little.  With it being summertime, there is an abundance of weddings, family gatherings, and traveling.  These things normally feel refreshing, but I quickly became overwhelmed trying to move and yet still do things that give me life.

The big picture said I’m not doing enough, I’m lacking in certain areas.  I was physically present, but emotionally I was stressed out and not living my best life. The enemy wants to rob us of our joy and make us victims of our circumstances.  Once I got my focus back on the little things, I was quickly reminded by God that He supplies everything we need according to His plans, His riches.

During these last few months, if I had focused on the little instead of the big, I might have noticed that…

  • The mountains displayed God’s Glory.
  • The graduate needed encouragement.
  • My husband is feeling blue.
  • God speaking to me, “Child, get up and pray.”
  • A song on the radio that could have healed a hurting place in me.
  •  Sometimes I need to cry.
  • Sometimes I need a hug.

God also has a way of refreshing my soul by speaking to me at unexpected times.  Like when I am on my way to work or home and the perfect worship song comes on.  One that will bring me to tears, exposing my heart, my fears, my thoughts, and bringing attention to my vulnerabilities and the power of God.

God is a God of details.  The instructions God gave the Israelites were very small and intricate.  David used five stones to take down Goliath.  Jesus used mud, five barley loaves. and two fish.  His disciples were deemed small in this world.  The small things of life seem so insignificant, unless we look at them with God’s perspective.

It just takes slowing down and intentionally recognizing and appreciating the moments that refresh your soul.  I can easily slip into negative thinking and allow my circumstances to dictate my feelings.  In those moments, I should be intentional in my thinking and ask God, “Where are you in this moment?”  When I focus on Him and what He is doing, my soul is refreshed.

Finally, brothers (and sisters), whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  Philippians 4:8-9

We would like to thank Vanessa Talmadge for writing this blog!

Slacken

Editor’s note: This semester we’ve asked different women from our three campuses to share something God showed them through the scriptures of Titus 2. We believe God’s Word has the power to impact our lives no matter our circumstance or season. May you be encouraged and empowered to respond to God’s voice as you read through the wisdom these women are sharing with each of us.

Busyness is such a norm in our lives. Everywhere we look, people are frantically trying to balance their professional lives, personal lives, health, finances, etc. Do you ever feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day?  If I’m being honest, I have felt that way frequently. What would our lives look like if we valued the importance of pursuing God’s presence first and let everything else fall into place? Recently, I felt the Lord speak specifically to this in my own life through one word:

Slacken

Let me explain….

What does it mean to “be still and know that He is God” (Ps. 46:10)? Rarely do we make it to the “be still” part to find out! We go until we can’t go anymore and then collapse and call that being still before Him…but really, we just fell over in exhaustion. Stillness is intentional and purposeful. A holy (set apart) moment where you stop and say THIS is of value and worthy of my time. My favorite illustration of this came from a recent conference. The speaker compared our lives to a rubber band and demonstrated that we pull and pull until life snaps us down, stretched thin and exhausted. We are actually meant to gradually release the tension and quiet our hearts before the Lord like a rubber band that is eased until it completely slackens.

Slacken:  Slow down, ease up, to make something less tight.

Slacken almost sounds like a bad word, as if it represents laziness, but actually it only occurs in intentionality.

Quiet yourself before the Lord. Let Him speak to your heart and establish you in His loving kindness. Let your soul be watered by Holy Spirit drawing you ever nearer. He’s speaking to you, even now!

“Beloved, I’m still here. I’m reminding you of your name and true nature. Dear one, you are safe in my arms.” 

Let your roots go deep in His faithfulness and your life will flow out of this established heart. From this place, you are empowered to correct those under your leadership without shaming them because you no longer believe that their imperfections undermine your value as a leader. You can forgive yourself and others because you realize Jesus died so you could make mistakes without the mistakes making you. You can honor people when they speak hurtful things which demean your character, because you recognize that God is your defender and you’ve spoken wrongfully before, too. Your health is a natural priority because you understand your worth and that real comfort only comes from Him, not an emotional satisfaction from one more piece of chocolate. You can trust Him to provide even if your bank account disagrees, because He is the provider who has abundant resources for your needs AND your dreams.

You are free to love well. The love poured so generously over your life can’t help but overflow onto others. He is always speaking; we need only slow down to listen. Slacken. Make time. Let’s worry less about “doing enough” and allow ourselves to just BE with Him. He is worthy, and He never disappoints.

Shonda McCay contributed this post. To learn more about her, please follow this link.

Connecting with God in the Midst of Every Day

Hi Ladies,

Contrary to popular belief, not all pastors’ wives rise before dawn and roll out of bed into the Holy of Holies when they give the first of their day to the Lord. Frankly, I’m in a stupor when I get up and I quite agree with the Folger’s commercial, “The best part of waking up, is [coffee] in your cup.” Many times I leave my morning “quiet time” feeling like that time wasn’t what it was meant to be, which is time actually spent with the Lord. I may have read the Word, but did it penetrate my heart? Did I actually have heart to heart conversation with the Lord? Thankfully, our time with Jesus doesn’t have to look like the pastor’s or a serious Bible scholar’s.

I have a few favorite ways to connect with God. The first is playing a worship song and turning it into a prayer. Holy Spirit by Brian and Katie Torwalt is fantastic. “Holy Spirit you are welcome here. .. I’ve tasted and seen of the sweetest of loves, where my heart becomes free and my shame is undone….” Another favorite is David Crowder’s, Here’s My Heart. I concentrate on His presence and the meaning of the worship/prayer. Often I try to extend my quiet time into my “exercise” time by walking in front of the house while the kids sleep, worship music blaring from my phone. This wakes up my mind, and works great for praying over personal concerns and for others.

A simple thing that I sometimes do in a brief moment is to just stop and say, “Thank you, Holy Spirit.” I acknowledge His presence and it is powerful.

I hesitate to share this next thing because it is very personal and precious to me. However, I’m probably not the only one who struggles with a wandering mind and this helps me to just be with God. I have a picture in my mind as I rest in Him. In my mind’s eye, I am perched on a rock on a high place. God is a huge bird: warm, comforting, protective, strong. His wing is around me and I lean against his chest. We are looking out over a valley together. I think about this image and stay in His presence. In His presence is peace. Psalm 91 (KJV) says,

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty….He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust.

The Scriptures are full of imagery revealing God’s nature. I’m not a very visual person, so if God can give me this image, I know that He will give you a picture of your own if you ask Him.

Finally, sometimes I just spend time meditating on a scripture God has highlighted for the season I’m in. Doing that gives me confidence in Him and peace.

May your times spent with Jesus be precious,

Erin Smart

This post was written by Erin Smart. To read more about her, click here

The Birth of Peace

Five years ago, after three years of trying, we became pregnant with our sweet miracle Jude. From the very beginning we had complications with the pregnancy. I was always in a constant state of fear. We waited so long for this baby and our hearts ached for him.

At 34 weeks, my placenta ruptured. I found myself in the middle of the floor, and Bret called 911.  I started to replay my night. Did I feel him move last night? Fear crept in. I started to doubt, thinking, Did we make it all this way, and we are going to lose this baby?

The ambulance arrived within minutes. I was put under anesthesia and rushed for an emergency C-section. When I woke up I had an empty belly and a 6″ incision. As I waited to see Jude, anxiety and fear overwhelmed me, crippling me into multiple anxiety attacks. That anxiety and fear basically became a part of me and ruled the next year.  I would be so distraught with Bret leaving the house or simple day-to-day tasks. It took many months of constantly calling that fear out before I felt “normal” again. There was no way I was going to have another baby. Why would I knowingly put myself or my family through all of those emotions of another pregnancy?

Fast forward to almost a year ago. I said that the only way I was going to get pregnant was if we had a “Mary” kind of moment, where she wasn’t planning on having a baby but God had better plans. There was still so much fear that surrounded being pregnant, anxiousness for whether we would have the same pregnancy with bed rest, or if we would have an early baby, or an awful post-partum that included emotional and physical stress in our marriage.

At the beginning of January, I was in such denial that I could be pregnant that it took a friend coming over with a test and a Starbucks to actually confirm I was pregnant. I took the test(s) and…  No fear, no stress, no anxiety. Peace. God gave me this immediate and overwhelming peace over the pregnancy.

At 32 weeks Bret and I hit our knees in prayer about home birth. In my mind, I thought I was crazy for even pondering the idea of giving birth at home, but it was around this time I had a dream. The dream took place in our home with worship music in the background, and during each contraction I was on my knees with my hands lifted high, giving glory to God. It was after that dream that each time I thought of having Scarlett at home, I thought of that God-given word… peace.

The night that Scarlett came the lights were dimmed. Worship music was blaring in the background. As each contraction passed Bret would pray and proclaim over the labor, me, and Scarlett. We sang worship songs through contractions, words like “It’s your breath in our lungs.”

Not an ounce of fear ever swept in. That spirit of fear was replaced with boldness and peace. Scarlett made such a fast appearance it was unreal. This baby girl took her first breath in the most peaceful, spirit-filled way I could have imagined. The Holy Spirit was undeniably there. He transformed a birth that was surrounded by fear and anxiousness into a birth of peace and boldness.

I pray that by sharing our story, it can bring someone hope during the trials. God is eagerly ready to release us from whatever it is, fear, anxiety, or shame.  He hears our prayers and truly wants to give us our heart’s desire by giving us power through His Holy Spirit.

Isaiah 41:10 –

So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Romans 15:13 –

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This post was written by Kendra Huey. To read more about her, click here. 

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In a Moment’s Time

father-daughterMoments are what truly make up the fabric of my time these days. With a toddler in tow, anything and everything can change in a moments time. Peace can turn to chaos, to-do lists float out the window to the sweet land of “Mañana” (Where nothing ever really gets done ‘Tomorrow’), and a moment to myself translates into little fingers creeping under the bathroom door. So for me, it is easy to let moments tic-tock right out of my memory and go by unnoticed while the next moment of my day begins.

However, I did have a moment with God that did take up residence. My husband and I have been on a financial roller coaster these past couple of years, and God has provided more abundantly than I could have thought possible. In January, God even provided my husband with a new job.  I thought that with this transition my heart would brim over with joy. Instead, I went into complete task mode. All of my focus and attention went into our budget: Shoring up the last year and trying to “get ahead.” I found myself getting stressed and worried on how to get it all accomplished.

It was then that God took a moment with me and revealed that I had applied a cultural norm from our society onto him and his kingdom. Traditionally, and in some ways even biblically, when a person either turns a certain age, gets a “big person job” or even gets married, they are to leave their parents’ home, authority and provision. The parents, in essence, have given their child the tools needed to fully provide for themselves. I had believed that since God blessed Derek with this job, that it was fully up to us to provide for all our needs. God had given Derek a big boy job and we were on our own. It was then that God spoke:

“Your age, marital status or income doesn’t determine my character and how I relate to you. You will always be my daughter, and I will always relate to you as your Father. Nothing can remove you from my Kingdom, you are forever in my home and under my provision.”

So I leave you with this passage from Matthew 6:30-33 (MSG)

What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Love you all!

Abbie

This post was written by Abbie Kellum. To read more about her, click here.