In which a spider reminded me of the battle…

I hate spiders, so much to my dismay when I saw one the size of a nickel navigating it’s way across my den’s ceiling with Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible-esque stealth during my time with the Lord, I freaked out. I gasped and told Tucker (a cocker spaniel), “Ew! Look! He’s huge!”  I jumped up and thought many a thoughts, most of which were, “Lauren just got back from camping; that’s a wilderness spider which means it’s more likely to be poisonous [not true]; it’s going to attack me now or when I’m asleep.”  All highly rational thoughts…

Fight or flight, baby. 

I stood up and thought, “This has gone poorly for me before, but I have to do something!” How many of you have ever tried to kill a bug on the ceiling? How many of you also know from experience that doing so is almost always like painting a ceiling? You end up with it on your face. There ain’t no way in Satan’s promised land that I’m allowing a spider to fall anywhere near my face. I hastily grabbed the closest thing that could spray him to his impending death. That thing was Lauren’s Off brand bug spray. It repells them right? So if I just douse it in spray, he’ll die right? RIGHT.

Beyoncé’s Drunk In Love had nothing on that spider. Drunk on insecticides was what he was singing. He got near enough to the ground, hanging by a thread [literally] and I knocked him with my sisters shoe to the ground and stepped on him. Naturally, my 4″ wedges were available to get him real good, but why use my shoes when I can use hers? [Sorry not sorry, Lo.]

As I sat back down, obviously super enthralled with myself that I just made that mission impossible for him, I thought, “man, what if that were how I interacted with sin in my heart and in my life?”

I recently began a John Piper sermon on suffering with Christ and had to stop it 20 minutes in because REAL TALK: It’s John Piper. I could spend a year reflecting on one 55 minute long sermon about my wicked and deceitful self in light of God’s glory. But the first 20 minutes of that sermon where on the “if you’re continuing in the faith…” John Piper talked about how we can know if we’re continuing in the faith by asking ourselves, “Do we hate our sin? Have we made peace with it or are we actively trying to kill our sin in faith and power of the Holy Spirit?”

I wrestled with that idea this morning because I’ve seen a few sin issues pop up in my heart: unforgiveness, comparison, people pleasing which is idolatry. And can I confess something? I haven’t sought an ounce as hard to put to death some of those “prettier sins” like I killed that spider earlier today. And you know what? That’s ugly.

That’s allowing the deceitfulness of sin to creep into my life and not take a stand against evil, darkness, and welcoming strain in my relationship with God. Hashtag ew. I, as a child of God, am to live redeemed, free from the bondage of sin. I am called to forsake my desires and ask God to fill me with His. I am to love my enemies, forgive graciously and abundantly when wronged. I am to walk in and out of everyday by His power and His Spirit. I am called to put to death the things of the flesh and shed light on sin because it has no place in God’s holy, righteous and glorious kingdom. Allowing it room in the corner of my heart to grow is submitting again to a yoke of slavery. And performance/people pleasing has got to be the heaviest yoke of all people.

I sat back down and continued journaling thanking God for that illustration (sorry PETA), confessing sin and asking God to help spur me on in continuing with him in the faith. Luckily, God has me in the book of Hebrews this season so I got a good scare (LOLZ) and really good application on how I can continue to be spurred on in my walk with him. I made a list of things I read today that I want to dive into in order to understand and know God more. Here’s that list!

  • Learn more about God through studying the life of Jesus. Hebrews 1:3, “Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”
  • Ask God to reveal where I have drifted in my heart from the foundational truths of the gospel and preach the gospel to myself daily. Hebrews 2:1, “Therefore we must pay close attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.”
  • Submit all things under His lordship so that He can get glory and I can experience deeper trust in Him and greater freedom knowing He is in control. Hebrews 2:8, “…now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.”
  • Ask God to search my heart to see where I am not trusting or believing God for His promises. Hebrews 3:12, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an unbelieving heart.”
  • Abide in the word and allow it to pierce my heart where needed; it is living and active. Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
  • Learn more about suffering and temptations of Christ to see better a Great High Priest who sympathizes with me and offers mercy and grace in my time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

That’s about it! Remembering that the battle against the flesh and sin will be until the day I die. It’s kind of a bummer knowing that the struggle is real, but it’s also kind of hopeful knowing who is on my side and that Christ partners with us. Putting to death sin cannot be done in my own strength. He gives us the Holy Spirit and the body to help us in combat. And for that I am thankful.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:13

MOO Business Cards

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I was sitting in a meeting with about 23 professionals this week when I realized, “Oh, this is real life networking, and I probably should have business cards for this.” #Millenials #LinkedInWasMyBusinessCard.

I had some down time today after speaking at group meeting and decided to finally get those business cards made. I wanted something eye-catching, yet professional and gave the rustic-industrial feel to Detroit. I landed upon Moo.com’s website {sidenote: Why is it called Moo?}. They have a very large selection of fun designs and a ton of do-it-yourself options.

I chose to order 200 square business cards in the Frame It design. Here’s what I like about these designs: most come with different options for the back, so you’re essentially getting more than one design per pack. For example… I ordered one pack and was able to choose from five designs in the Frame It design. I could have 40 of each, or I could delete two designs and have 60 something of each three designs. Here’s the options I had:

I picked 2, 3, and 5.
I picked 2, 3, and 5.

Also, I really like that you can change the text layout for the front of your cards look however you want it to. Here’s a screenshot of some of the options I had:

You can change the font, size, color, background color, add a picture. There's a ton of variation that's doable.
You can change the font, size, color, background color, add a picture. There’s a ton of variation that’s doable.

For level of ease on Moo.com, I would give it a 9. There were a few kinks in regards to being able to position in my own photos and wishing there were more options, but overall it was super simple and easy to use.

Options: 10++++. Really, really great options.

Pricing: 6.5? It was a little on the high side for me, and there are not too many valid promo codes for Moo.com online to help with that. It ultimately became worth it because they were memorable. Really, who has a square business card? So unique! I did get a first time customer discount. With your first purchase, you save 10% on your order. You can click here to get that discount

I’ll let you know how I feel about them once they are here on March 2nd, ish.

Southern Style Snowstorms and 10 Silly Things “We” Do

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Winter Storm Warning Season is upon us all which means family bonding time/trying not to kill each other, making creative dinners from whatever you can find in your pantry, and preparing for the icy road conditions. Now, I know all the “Northern Folk” are like, “Y’all oops, YOUS GUYS get two inches of snow and people are stranded in Atlanta for days…” Okay yous guys, that happened ONE TIME. I decided today to write a little blog about some amusing things I saw while grocery shopping in Memphis in preparation for tonight’s winter storm that will more than likely leave me on house arrest for a few days. Thanks to some Facebook friends for sending in some of their winter weather preparation traditions.

1. Where are all the shopping carts?

And they were wet.
And they were wet.

Is this for real? I love that everyone in our neighborhood hit the store all at the same time. Now, I’m just gonna say… I cannot judge on this one. I’m a horrible planner. Going to the store last night was an option. I could have beat the crowds, but ew. Who wants to carve out time in advance when you can let the anticipation build and go one hour before the storm is supposed to start? Live life on the edge, folks…

2. “Grab the bread and milk!”

This will be about 95% of our responses, unless you have a gluten allergy + lactose problem. I’ve seen so many “milk sandwiches” jokes on Facebook, but maybe this is my 22% Northern-ness speaking, I don’t get it. As I was telling my mom about this blog she said, “Make sure you have milk and bread!”

PhotoFromZeroHedge.Com

I forgot to get a picture at the Kroger of the bread aisle, but this is pretty much what the Wonder Bread section looked like. Thanks ZeroHedge.com for the picture!

3. No need for real food, just grab the Little Debbies.

Here’s your contrast. Now, I’m not a food snob. I love Ho-Hos just as much as the next girl, but this was just too funny! Is it anyone else’s tradition too to stock up on clementines too when a snow storm comes through? We’ve always done that, but I refrained this time.

I need to buy Little Debbie stocks in November and sell them in April. Every year.
I need to buy Little Debbie stocks in November and sell them in April. Every year.
When all other food runs out, rest assured. You can always eat your veggies!
When all other food runs out, rest assured. You can always eat your veggies!

4. Grab the clothes hamper, kayak (or if you’re real fancy you’ll have a sled) and prepare to hit the snow/ice! (Thanks Ivorie!)

I’ve never owned a sled (ahem, birthday present idea) and I’ve only been sledding twice. Once in a neighbors backyard and once in Chicago at an actual hill built for sledding. Maury, Aimee and I (California Ave. girls) hit the slope* with a kayak when we were stuck in the house for a week! Luckily, there was plenty of snow and a Save-A-Lot down the road to buy clementines.

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5. Help your neighbors out by clearing the roads with your four wheeler.

Let me just add, salt trucks and snow plows don’t go down the majority of our roads. So, once the sun comes out and melts a lot of the snow, overnight it turns into sheets of ice. Mix that with roads that get little sunlight due to hills/mountains, and windy roads, and you’re in for a pretty dangerous combination of black ice and snow.

Thank you to the guy who rides up and down our road in Memphis (which is a city, y’all) with his four wheeler to ensure our roads are clear.

6. “Oh? It’s going to snow next week? Schools cancelled.” (Thanks Jules!)

“They cancel school because of the possibility of inclement weather.”- Lauren, 6th grade teacher.

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My cousin is cool.

I like this one a lot. My first year in Illinois it snowed ( I say 4 feet my sister remembers it being 12”), let’s just say it snowed a lot and we still had school… on time! Have you no heart Cook County superintendents? Here we have the opposite problem. We think there’s gonna be snow and we live by the motto (on this one, only) better safe than sorry! Snow days for daysss….

7. Help the little ole ladies with the hair caps at the grocery. 

My Nina used to to get her hair permed and whenever she would go outside in the rain, she’d put one of these caps on to protect her hair. Now, you know if you live in the south you see this. And they are precious. And the more precious thing, the staff at the groceries help them load their groceries in their car.

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8. Spy on the neighbors and judge them when they do things like…

Scrape the ice/snow off their windshield with metal spatulas…

Spell their name in the snow…

Don’t let their dogs inside (this may or may not have been why we “rescued” our neighbors dog and then they knocked on our door to ask for him back…)

Scrape their windshields with a CD case… (TRUE STORY)

Hang their recently shot & skinned deer from their carport since it’s pretty much a freezer outside anyway (also true story)

9. Prepare like it’s the apocalypse. 

Snow’s coming, and heaven forbid it’s like the ice storm of ’94. Everyone remembers that ice storm. In ’94, I was six years old and we lived in a two story home in Memphis. I remember waking up to a loud thud and the oak tree had fallen in between our house and our neighbors and crushed our fence. Mom says it missed our house; dad says it fell on the house. I can’t remember. Branches were falling all over the city due to the weight of the ice, so nearly the whole city was without power. We lost electricity too and one of the only places around us that had it’s own generator was my mom’s office. So, we packed up our bags and slept at my mom’s office for a few days.

Here’s a few survival skills from some friends on Facebook (Thanks Marty and Sharon!):

Have plenty of candles and matches, make sure all your blankets are clean (no dog smells please), salt the driveway, park on the street, get vanilla extract for snow creme (I have yet to try this), get extra animal food, get gas (oops!), make sure your flashlights/lanterns have batteries, stock up on chocolate… and for the love of everything millennial, charge your electronics (Thanks for the reminder Catherine!!).

10. Have so much fun in your 12” or less of snow and celebrate that you have a day off! 

It’s not often that we get to play in the snow, so enjoy it while you can! Take it as an enforced pause in life and enjoy the stillness. And really, is there anything more beautiful than the countryside covered in snow? I heart you East Tennessee.

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**As per Andy H.’s request I need to put a disclaimer on this blog. I 100% claim to be a southerner. I might not be Alabama southerner (you know the chevron, monogramed and Simply Southern ladies, LOVE them), but to simplify my already woefully complicated life, I claim the title. I dread the question, “So, where are you from?” in group encounters and skirt around it and want to just say, “I’m a mud blood, but I claim Tennessee.”  So, just so all the pure breeds know, I claim you as my own. Sorry Illinois, you’ll get ’em next time. And Sorry Senegal, I clearly don’t look like I belong to you either.

Human Desire and How 50 Shades of Grey Makes Sense

You’re probably thinking one of two things: “another blog post about 50 Shades of Grey where the author is going to tell me that I’m such a heathen for seeing the film?”  -OR- “Is she a Christian anymore?” I’m not going to tell you whether or not you should see the film, here. Those of you who know me probably know where I stand, but I don’t really care to discuss that here, right now. And yes, I very much love and follow Jesus. What I do want to talk about is human desire, what truly satisfies and how 50 Shades of Grey makes sense.

I think we can objectively look at our culture and see where the majority of our hearts are by the response to the books and the film. We can see that lust, escapism, “adventure”, and passion is something that sells. If we just think about the basic structure of supply and demand, we can see that this movie will sell on those premises because there’s a demand. That’s the reality of where a lot of these women’s hearts (and men’s hearts) are at. There is a deep rooted heart-craving for “something other than what is.” In that telling sense, the international phenomenon is for a lack of better words fascinating.

Isn’t that so weird (another lack of better words) that this movie is predicted to be the 4th most successful film worldwide for 2015? (imdb.com) Now let’s just think real quick, it’s 4th to The Avengers, Jurassic World, and Fantastic Four. Those are movies you have to buy multiple tickets for (you, your spouse, Timmy, Johnny, and little Becky) and have a wider range of audience. This narrow targeted audience will be number four in ticket sales worldwide. 50 Shades fans aren’t just some off-set, marginalized group in America. This is worldwide. And in large numbers, people will be flocking to watch a sadomasochistic love story where the lines of kinky sex and abuse are blurred. (I can’t believe I just wrote “kinky sex”. Gross, sorry mom).

Are you seeing here with me that globally, there is a core-heart issue? Whether you think the heart issue is a legitimate problem or not, I think everyone can agree that people want to see this film because there is a desire for something more-whether that’s a rush, some new ideas, a spicier sex life or because their friends are seeing it-50 Shades of Grey is more than just a movie. And people read books, see films, do life for heart motivated reasons. We do things out of desire.

So, let’s deal with the heart. 

Jonathan Edwards, probably the greatest ever American theologian, expounds upon the fullness that Christ offers His creation in his sermon Safety, Fullness, and Refreshment in Christ. He first states that we are creatures that thirst. Our souls crave something more than what this temporal world offers us. We are truly in pursuit of it.

Edwards says, “First, the soul of every man craves happiness…” He says that this craving is innate. It’s something that every person on every continent wants. We pursue it in different ways. Edwards then goes on to say that some find their happiness in money, honor, or respect, but at the end of the day, they are still left with want because there is more money, more honor and more respect to be had. I can see this pursuit in my own life.

Edwards continues in point 4, “There is in Christ Jesus provision for the full satisfaction and contentment…”  That’s amazing. Full satisfaction. Full contentment. Better than happiness, Christ offers joy. Here’s a very large, but beautiful excerpt from his sermon,

“First. The excellency of Christ is such, that the discovery of it is exceedingly contenting and satisfying to the soul. The inquiry of the soul is after that which is most excellent. The carnal soul imagines that earthly things are excellent; one thinks riches most excellent, another has the highest esteem of honour, and to another carnal pleasure appears the most excellent; but the soul cannot find contentment in any of these things, because it soon finds an end to their excellency. Worldly men imagine, that there is true excellency and true happiness in those things which they are pursuing. They think that if they could but obtain them, they should be happy; and when they obtain them, and cannot find happiness, they look for happiness in something else, and are still upon the pursuit.

But Christ Jesus has true excellency, and so great excellency, that when they come to see it they look no further, but the mind rests there. It sees a transcendent glory and an ineffable sweetness in him; it sees that till now it has been pursuing shadows, but that now it has found the substance; that before it had been seeking happiness in the stream, but that now it has found the ocean.

The excellency of Christ is an object adequate to the natural cravings of the soul, and is sufficient to fill the capacity. It is an infinite excellency, such an one as the mind desires, in which it can find no bounds; and the more the mind is used to it, the more excellent it appears. Every new discovery makes this beauty appear more ravishing, and the mind sees no end; here is room enough for the mind to go deeper and deeper, and never come to the bottom.

The soul is exceedingly ravished when it first looks on this beauty, and it is never weary of it. The mind never has any satiety, but Christ’s excellency is always fresh and new, and tends as much to delight, after it has been seen a thousand or ten thousand years, as when it was seen the first moment. The excellency of Christ is an object suited to the superior faculties of man, it is suited to entertain the faculty of reason and understanding, and there is nothing so worthy about which the understanding can be employed as this excellency; no other object is so great, noble, and exalted.”

I love that this 300-year-old sermon still holds relevant. Edwards, a very formal puritan, saw these same things we see in our society. This has been a heart-issue since Adam and Eve. This will always be a problem until everything is made right in the world.

The “remedies” around us change throughout the ages, but the condition of the heart doesn’t. We are all in the same boat together with our condition that seeks happiness and contentment. The only difference is the world will sell us billions of things that will “satisfy” and cure the loneliness, self-esteem issues, depression, etc. The world will profit off of temporarily curing symptoms while never showing any attention to the source of the problem.

And that’s where Christ is different.

He does not profit from you walking around with bandaids, chasing aimlessly one thing after another. He enjoys and gets glory from healing the deepest wounds.

The 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon shouldn’t be fascinating. It’s normal. Not the whole “beat up your girlfriend and call it love thing;” that’s definitely not normal. I mean the whole this-doesn’t-satisfy-let-me-go-to-more-extremes-to-see-what-will-lead-me-to-satisfaction thing. Right? This Victoria’s Secret Magazine isn’t hitting the spot… Let me go to PlayBoy Magazines. That’s not enough, so the progression continues to porn websites. Right? This is the human heart, is it not? It searches and searches for more and more to satisfy it, but let me ask you this: How’s that working for you? Are you ever fully content and satisfied? If so, for how long?

Friend, I hear your struggle. I see the exhaustion of nothing ever quite being enough. Jesus is enough. And He is for you.

Christians, let us remember that place where we were before Christ was the satisfier of our souls. Let us also remember that we did not save ourselves. It was Christ that called us out of darkness and into His glorious light. So, when we have conversations with non-Christians or even young Christians about the Ultimate Satisfier, let us do so with speech that is graceful and seasoned with salt. It makes sense that people still under the domain of darkness walk in darkness. It makes sense that people exhaust all that the world declares to be a remedy. It also should make sense that we can be used by God to bring healing and restoration to a broken world.

The Undoing of The Tower of Babel

I love how intricately precise our God is in His redemptive plan. I cannot doubt the love He has for me knowing all the things and people He aligned in order for me to know Him. God is the redeemer of all the things that have gone awry through the fall. Here’s a few things I’ve been learning through the book of Acts and how it coincides with  Genesis 11.

And while staying with them he [Jesus] ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with  the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Acts 1:4-8

From my New Testament Survey class, I remembered to be looking for Acts 1:8 as a theme for the rest of the book.  One of the ways you can divide up Acts is geographically- Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the rest of the world. We can see the expansion of the Church by where it began to spread, through whom, and how.

I continued reading and got to the Day of Pentecost. This was what the apostles were waiting for. Jesus, essentially, said, “Go back to Jerusalem, wait for this promised Holy Spirit that the Father is sending…” Now, I know this story. They were all together, hanging out, probably praying. Then this storm from Heaven came in through the room and everyone had the Holy Spirit fall on them and then they could speak in tongues. Cool. End of story.

Nope. Not even close.

As I was re-reading this, I saw a couple really cool things stick out that I wanted to share because it literally blew my mind.

1. God will plan an outreach without your foreknowledge and do it better than you would have.

The apostles + others just received the Holy Spirit and were uttering in these different languages. They created quite the stir and people from other countries that were in Jerusalem were drawn in. They heard the apostles and other Christians speaking in their native languages.  Now, before you’re like, “Maybe some of them were bilingual…”, from what I counted there were 11 nationalities represented. Eleven. I don’t even know what that would be.. Octolingual+1?

Not only are the apostles and other Christians speaking it, they are declaring the glory of God to them. They are preaching the Gospel to people of other languages  for the first time. Obviously Romans was written after this, but we see that faith comes through hearing. God’s heart is huge for the nations and for the people in your town, next door and the nations.

Y’all. This was the first international ministry outreach and it wasn’t even done on purpose. Well, God knew and planned it, but it wasn’t planned by the apostles. Peter stands up, preaches the gospel, and 3,000+ are saved.

2. The fact that “speaking in tongues” was the first thing the Holy Spirit did when He came to live in Christians is of great importance in showing the missional heart of our God.

Let’s remember, Genesis 11 and the Tower of Babel. Synopsis: man wanted to make a name for themselves, so they all rallied together to build a city and tower that took them up to Heaven. They essentially, wanted to be gods and make a path to Heaven for themselves. So, God did the only loving thing a Heavenly Father would do and caused them to all speak different languages.

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.  And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”  And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come,let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.”  So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Genesis 11:1-9

Here’s the cool thing: God cares about all the nations. He cares about the people that you and I can’t communicate with because of this barrier. As He gave the first church this gift of speaking in tongues as the first gift, we see here that He is undoing the Tower of Babel. The people who built the tower of Babel were trying to make a way to Heaven. It was an unsuccessful one. God has given us a way through Jesus.

The apostles had this message of Hope, but they only had it in like Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew [I think.]. God gave them the gift of tongues to be able to share the way to Heaven and share the hope offered in Jesus. That’s really cool right? I mean, it could have been anything that God did, but what better way to advance the kingdom than the ability to proclaim it in all the world’s languages?

I love finding more and more glimpses of God’s heart for the nations, but also I love seeing how He loves to invite us into partnership with Him. It wasn’t the apostles that could have advanced the Gospel. It’s His Spirit that causes us to love Him. It’s His Spirit that moves in us and through us. God can redeem the whole world without us, but He chooses to involve us in His work. I am just so amazed at how awesome that is.

It’s late, so I probably could have done a better job explaining that. Thanks for sticking with me to the end if you’ve gotten this far. :) Please comment below with your thoughts and if this post encouraged you, please share the link on Facebook! :)

DISCLAIMER: I’m not taking a stand for or against modern day use of speaking in tongues, by the way. I am just sharing thoughts on what’s in the Bible. So. Yep.

How God May Use You: Senegal Edition

IMG_2257 Besides the terrible heartburn I’m feeling from the onions and tomatoes in my Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, I cannot imagine tonight to have been any better. Literally, I’m on cloud 9. This is a long-ish story, so I’ll try to condense it.

My friend, Joe, lives in Memphis right now. I met Joe through my sister. They met at a Muscular Dystrophy Camp back in 2011 or 2012? When I was back in the states in between my two years in Africa [reference: Summer from Hades], my sister suggested I meet with Joe to share about my ministry and invite him to partner with me.

You’ve heard John Piper say there’s only three responses to missions: Pray. Give. or Go. right? Well, I never really expected that in one of these meetings that someone would actually GO with us.

My memory is a little fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure Joe was telling me about his medical experience and had mentioned having some time in between med school and what it was he was doing at the moment. I told him, “Well, there’s a lady in Senegal that runs a Talibe center and does some medical things with the kids. I’m sure you can serve with her. She’d love to have you.” So I got her email for him thinking, “That’d be cool if he came, but oftentimes mission organizations take forever with this stuff.” [MY LIFE].

Fast forward seven months, I’m in Senegal and I get a text message, “Hey Mary. It’s Joe. I’m in Senegal.” WHAT. Joe, seriously as I get to know him more, the most determined and responsible person is in Senegal working with (one of my favorites) Jane at the Talibe center. Hilarious. 1070109_10201064165824776_1220957101_n Let me just tell you… our guys LOVED having Joe around. There were 5 girls on our STINT team and 2 guys. :) That’s a lot of estrogen. Joe’s Wolof is very impressive too, so that was nice to make it seem like we were real Senegalese. I mean, we totally looked it, right?

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Ryan and JMTK rockin the BouBous
Trouble. Every single one of us.
Trouble. Every single one of us.

Let’s really fast forward. I’m in Memphis meeting with people to share about my ministry with Cru. Tonight, I didn’t meet with Joe again. I met with his friend, Sarah. Sarah, literally a new soul sister, is a teacher from Memphis. Last summer,  she really wanted to serve the Lord overseas before she got married and started her career.

Adorbs.
Adorbs.

She looked into some options and got a chance to talk to Joe about it. He encouraged her to go to Senegal. She talked to her parents, who then talked to the missionary with IMB there, and she went! Y’all. I GOT TO MEET WITH A GIRL THAT SERVED IN SENEGAL.

It's a chicken on a leash. :) No funny business here. Just normal life.
It’s a chicken on a leash. :) No funny business here. Just normal life.

And. Mind blown: I took a step of faith 3 years ago, called a guy named Joe that I didn’t know, asked him to join my team. He moved to Senegal for several months, came back to America and then challenged Sarah to go serve Jesus in Senegal. She went, and is now sitting across the table sharing with me her stories of being in a 99% Muslim village getting to tell people about Jesus.

You guys. My heart is going to explode!

And, she’s now getting to share her experience and challenge more girls to go. I never would have imagined that a season of “support raising” or Ministry Partner Development would ever yield fruit like this. Because of a step of faith, God has moved all over Senegal. I am just so amazed at His domino affect.

What I want to point out in this blog is, God has given me a unique opportunity to invite others into His work. He’s invited me, and I’m inviting others to pray, give, or go. Oftentimes, I can get so sheepish about inviting people into this partnership. Dude. I’m over that.

Tonight was such a sweet blessing and a reminder that this phase of cultivating relationships and developing a team of people that go with me to reach students for Christ, all of this is so much bigger than me. It’s bigger than Cru. It’s bigger than America. It’s God’s heart for His lost sons and daughters that He is bringing home.

For those of us in the MPD process, keep going. God’s got great plans for you and wants to use you. You may find out how in six months or in three years, but He’s going to use every single appointment for His glory.

For those of you who are a part of my team in some way, thank y’all for entering into kingdom work with me. It takes time, sacrifice, and obedience to Christ and I thank you for your willingness to lay down the temporal life for an investment in the eternal. Y’all are the bomb diggs.

Facing Fear With Inspiration From Joseph’s Obedience

Dont Be Afraid To

Matthew 2:20-21; 2:24

“But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins’… When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary as his wife.”

Dont Be Afraid To

Most people wouldn’t think it, but I am actually quite a fearful person. I have moved around a bit so I’ve adapted to the social norms of “jumping right in” with friend groups. I’m not awkward, well, I’m not awkward all the time, so I can come across as bold, daring, and fearless. Over the past few years, I’ve seen more and more anxiety arise in my heart and mind to the point of several panic attacks a week at my worst.

I’m anxious, y’all. Over lots of things. Life. Dialing the phone to set up meetings. People pleasing. Support. Support. Support. Something I can’t mention now but will soon, I promise! Conflict. Conflict resolution. All kinds of things.

I was reading this passage of Jesus’ genealogy and truthfully, starting out I was like, “Man, I always have such a hard time reading the list of names all the way back from Abraham. I never get anything out of that.” I’m not the only one, right?  [THE BOOK OF NUMBERS DOE.] As I was reading, I was really encouraged in this passage of scripture. And for the purpose of not filling up your whole screen, I simplified it. Read it in it’s entirety here.

My greatest anxiety has to do with what God has called me to do. It seems like an impossible task before me. Go and win people to Christ in a city (and state) you’ve never lived in, with people you don’t know, 12 hours from home. Okay. Cool. But what I enjoyed about this passage was how specifically and how oddly it resembled where I was at.

The angel appeared to Joseph with specific instructions on what Joseph was supposed to do. First, did you notice that the angel doesn’t say, “Don’t be afraid of me?” Normally, when angels appeared anywhere they had to say, “DUDE CALM DOWN. I’M HERE TO CHAT. YOU’RE GONNA BE ALRIGHT.” And maybe it was because this one appeared in a dream and not in the temple like with Elizabeth’s husband (you know his name… Zechariah? Something like that.), but I just thought it was interesting that the angel said, “Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” IE: Don’t be afraid to do what God’s asking you to do.

I love that the angel gives an explanation for what’s going on. He tells Joseph what to do and then explains where the kid came from and what’s going to happen. Honestly, after I read this I prayed, “Lord, you can send an angel my way anytime you want.” But, really do I need that? I have all the answers I need on why God’s called me to full-time evangelistic ministry: to share Christ here and now so that they may spend an eternity with Him there and then. That’s enough. His glory, His kingdom and kingship on display across the nations is reason enough.

Joseph’s response was the best: When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary as his wife.”

Welp. Way to set the precedence, Joseph. But really though. Who wouldn’t love a heart that is so obedient to the Lord’s commands? Whether that is marrying someone that’s knocked up and it ain’t your baby or following Him into deep reconciliation between you and your spouse, shouldn’t our hearts ache to be so deeply trusting of the Lord’s goodness that we respond like Joseph?

I was so encouraged by this passage to throw off my anxiety that reeks of self-reliance and embrace the Sovereign Lord and submit to His kingship in my life, one day at a time, and sometimes even hourly, bless my heart. So here we go, Holy Spirit, we’re gonna have faith that can move mountains instead of fear that hides in them. And of course, we’ll do it with our T.Swift colored lips. Amen.

As I journaled about these verses I thought of some general heart questions to reflect on. I thought I’d share them with you so you can begin to think on them. :)

  • Where is fear prohibiting obedience in my life?
  • What fears am I most prone to act out of?
  • How can I take steps to kill the sin of unrighteous fear and submit myself to the Lord?
  • What am I believing about God and His character in those fears?
  • What steps of obedience and faith is God calling me to today?
  • Where have I not obeyed like Joseph? Where have I? (Let’s not get all negative nancy, praise God for the times we were quick to obey!)

Comment below or on the Facebook link on something you’re excited to follow the Lord into!