Carrie Prouse

I am a “C”

By February 1, 2018 Discipleship

I am a C
I am a C-H
I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N
And I will L-O-V-E, love Him
Till the day I D-I-E
Cause I have J-E-S-U-S
In my H-E-A-R-T
Repeat 10,000 xs

Am I really?

So many people when asked if they are a follower of Christ answer, “Yes, I am a Christian.”

However merely saying “I am a Christian” doesn’t actually make anyone a Christian.

I could identify myself as a professional athlete. My pastor seems to really like a specific team, so I’ll go ahead and claim that I’m a Dallas Cowboy. I could purchase a Dallas Cowboy jersey. I could even buy a Dallas Cowboy jersey and have my name printed on the back, but if I showed up for practice, wherever the Cowboys actually practice, I’m pretty sure that someone would escort me out the door. Quickly.

They would probably ask me, “Who are you?” I would quickly reply, “Don’t you remember me? I’m Carrie Prouse. I am a Dallas Cowboy.” To which they would say, “Who? Carrie Prouse?? Never heard of you.” And that would be that. My claimed career as a Dallas Cowboy would end before it truly ever began.

It sounds so silly. Delusional, really. Sadly, though, that’s how many of us are with our faith.

We own a Bible. It may even have our name engraved in gold or silver foil on the cover, but that doesn’t make us a Christian anymore than having our name printed on the back of a Dallas Cowboy jersey makes us a professional football player.

To be a professional athlete in any sport, it takes time. It takes hours and hours of practice — blood,  sweat, tears, and years of practice. Professional athletes have to spend countless hours training, working out in the gym, and I’m guessing most of them have a very strict diet. Repeatedly in practices, they have to take hit after hit — no pain, no gain. I cannot fathom the physical endurance you have to have to make it to the big leagues. There is no telling what goes into being a professional athlete that my feeble, little, non-athletic mind knows nothing about!

To truly be a Christian…let’s scratch that title first. To truly be a Christ-follower, we have to do just that. We have to follow Christ. How can we follow Him if we know absolutely nothing about Him other than being able to say we believe He is the Son of God?

To follow Him we have to put in a lot of time. I don’t mean spend a lot of time at church. Being inside a church building doesn’t make us a follower of Christ. What I’m talking about is hours upon hours of reading, studying, and meditating on the Word of God.

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty.”     Jeremiah 15:16

According to this verse, it takes a special diet to know Christ intimately. It also takes time and effort on our part — time in prayer, communicating with our Heavenly Father. Being a Christ-follower takes blood, sweat, and tears. It takes years upon years to grow in your relationship with Christ, becoming a more spiritually mature disciple or student, as you grow in your knowledge of Him and His Word.

It isn’t always easy follow Christ. Sometimes you feel like you’re wearing a target, constantly feeling defeated, isolated, misunderstood, ridiculed, and judged harshly by others because of the claim you make to follow Jesus. Those hits sometimes hurt more than being physically knocked down.

My hope is, one day, when my time here on earth is done, when I meet my Father face-to-face, He will lovingly put His arm around my shoulder and say to me “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21, 23)

Sadly, there are so many people who wear the title “Christian,” but they poorly represent Christ and give other actual Christ-followers a bad name.

My fear is that many who claim to be a Christian will meet Him face-to-face, and He will say, “Who are you? _______ ______?” “I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23) Many who claim to be a Christian haven’t put in the time and effort: the blood sweat, and tears it takes to really know Him intimately. They never open their beautifully engraved Bible, but instead leave it sitting on a shelf.

If you feel like this is you, you claim to be a Christian, but you’re realizing you have a lot of work to do in your life to actually follow Christ, I encourage you to find a healthy church to be a part of. If you need help with this, I would be honored to help in any way I can. The best place to start is in prayer. I believe if someone humbles himself/herself before God and asks Him with a pure heart and pure intentions, He will lead and guide you in the right direction. It will take time, because nothing with God is instantaneous, but over time God will guide you to exactly where you were meant to be.

In Bed with A Never

By December 18, 2017 Marriage

When my oldest daughter was 4 years old, she wanted nothing more than a baby brother. One day we were both home because she was sick with strep throat. She came  into my room and point blank asked me, “When are you going to have my baby brother?”

I quickly explained to her that I couldn’t have her baby brother until I was married. Her dad and I had separated when she was only three weeks old, so for me, as a Christian trying to live a life of obedience, a baby wasn’t an option at the time.

That day she came into my room several times with suggestions of men we knew who she apparently thought would make great husbands for me. Her first two suggestions were guys from our church who were  fourteen years younger than me and at the time were college students at Texas A & M. I assured her that young men in college want nothing to do with single moms in their 30s! Her next suggestion was one of her great-uncles; yes, that would be my uncle, and I told her that was against the law. Next she suggested her G-Dad, who is my dad! I explained again that that is also against the law, creepy, and just downright gross to even suggest. She left me alone for a while. I thought her match-making attempt was complete, but then a little while later, she came be-bopping back into my room with a gleam in her eye as she proudly proclaimed, “Mom, you are married! You’re married to my dad!” I immediately replied, “No, your dad and I are divorced. We will never be married again, and I can promise you without a shadow of a doubt, we will NEVER have another baby together.”

This is a classic example of a never-say-never situation.

I do not in any way, shape, or form think that my daughter made a prophetic statement about my remarriage to my ex-husband. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m just pointing out that sometimes what we least expect in life is exactly what God knows we need the most.

Sometimes what we least expect in life is exactly what God knows we need the most!

I never expected to remarry Chad. I didn’t pray for it. I didn’t desire it. I didn’t think about it. To me, remarrying Chad was an impossibility. One of those things that would happen if hell froze over or pigs started miraculously flying!

However, on May 25, 2012, exactly seven years after our separation, I once again stood at an altar. Surrounded by family and friends, with seven-year-old Sadie by my side, I did exactly what I said I would never do. I married my ex-husband.

Can you guess what’s next? You guessed it! On May 12, 2013, I had another baby with Chad. Her name is Sophia.

Two things I said I would never do happened, within one year of each other!

I think God woke me up tonight. I normally sleep like a rock and rarely ever wake up before my alarm. However, tonight for whatever reason: God, tiny bladder, rain against the window…whatever it was, I woke up and looked over to see my sweet Sophia beside me in the bed. She literally looks like an angel when she’s sleeping. Immediately the thought popped into my head: I’m in bed with a never!

I never imagined that Chad and I could work through all of the hurts we caused each other: all of the differences, the struggles, the words, the disappointments, the years of bitterness, or the heartache, but God knew. God knew that my “never” statement was just that, a statement.

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)

Chad and I have now been remarried for 5 1/2 years. Our marriage is far from perfect because we are and will always be two imperfect people, living in an imperfect world, but I love my husband. I love our life together. I love Sadie, and I love Sophia, the child I said I would never have. I cannot imagine my life without the three other Prouses I call mine.

I don’t know what “never” statements you’re living right now, but I do know that God knows exactly what we need, when we need it. If we are faithful to Him, He will never let us down. His timing and His plan are impeccable, and His way of providentially orchestrating what can only be described as a miracle never ceases to amaze me.

If you have a personal never-say-never story, please share it in the comments below!

Ready. Set. Rest.

By September 9, 2016 Discipleship

I am a busybody. There. I said it. If admitting you have a problem is the first step on the road to recovery, then I have one foot on the path!

Last night I woke up from a dead sleep at 10:45 with my head full of thoughts about rest. Sounds ironic huh?

Visions of rest in my head as I sleep are not the norm. Visions of sugarplums, yes…I was a ballet dancer growing up so dancing in my sleep has been normal for me for the past 30 years. Someone who dances in their sleep, now that’s a true busybody right there.

Four months ago I told myself I have to Sabbath. I visited the Holy Land for twelve days on a Bible study tour at the end of May and my life changed in more ways than one. God began stirring some things inside of me on that trip that I still have not been able to fully piece together, but when I witnessed Jewish families enjoying an Erev Shabbat, or Sabbath Evening, on a beach of the Sea of Galilee my heart began to yearn for this thing called rest that I know nothing about.

I’m not crazy. I know all about naps. I mastered power naps in my mid-twenties. This rest I am talking about has nothing to do with extra sleep. I am talking about God’s design for Sabbath. A wide-awake, completely conscious ability to stop. Revive. Rejuvenate. Recharge. Reconnect.

It sounds so easy. Guess again.

Two months after vowing to Sabbath, a vow I had ignored for the two months after the return from my trip, I was reconvicted. I was at a conference at Chris Hodges church in Birmingham, Alabama. At this conference during one of the main sessions Pastor Chris began stressing the need and importance of rest.

I have a friend named Gina who is a wonderful accountability partner. You know the kind of accountability partner you want to tell to shut up about once a week when they point out you are not sticking to your plan or your promises?

Occasionally Gina sends me this picture she took of me at the GROW conference as a reminder when I refuse to rest.

IMG_0408

Why do I make faces like that? No filter in the world could clean that up and make it pretty, but it’s a great reminder.

It took another two months but I am happy to announce that three weeks ago I finally set aside time for a Sabbath.

I’ll be the first to say it was a weak attempt. But I did it. Now I busted my rear the day before preparing to Sabbath, but I made it.

I told my eleven year old daughter, who is almost as good of an accountability partner as Gina, that my plan was to Sabbath beginning Friday afternoons or evenings, depending on what our family has going on, until 24 hours later on Saturday. Sunday Sabbath’s are not possible for me. I am on staff at my church as the children’s pastor and by the time I am at the church for 4-5 hours on a Sunday morning “rest” is not a word in my vocabulary!

Side note: If you have a preteen and you want them to hold you accountable just let them know. They love having permission to point out things we do wrong!

This evening and tomorrow during the day I will Sabbath for the third time.

I don’t want to be legalistic about it. I don’t want to set up rules and guidelines that are unrealistic for me. I don’t want to feel like a failure or make anyone else feel like they are failing. I just want to know this rest that God has given as a commandment but also as a gift to His children. I feel like Sabbath rest is similar to sexual purity: it is a gift given and blessed by God, but too many people, Christians included, refuse to acknowledge and open the gift.

I haven’t perfected it. I haven’t studied all I want to about the significance and the tradition that goes hand in hand with God’s design for Sabbath rest. I’m sure I’ll stumble. I’m sure there will be weeks I will totally blow it, but for now I am charging forward into this unknown and unexplored, at least by me anyways, realm of rest that I am intrigued by.

If God says we need this rest, how can we say we fully trust Him if we ignore our God ordained need to Sabbath?

Ready. Set. Rest.

Who is with me? If this is something you practice regularly, have considered attempting in the past, or are interested in I would love to hear your thoughts!

Identity Theft

By April 22, 2016 Discipleship

This past weekend I watched Disney’s Tangled with my daughters. Tangled is the story of Rapunzel, a very different version than the original Brothers Grimm folk tale, but the same long hair.

In the movie, Rapunzel’s golden locks possess magical powers to heal. As a baby Rapunzel is kidnapped from the kingdom of Corona by Mother Gothel. Mother Gothel needs Rapunzel’s magical hair to keep from aging. She raises Rapunzel as her own, hiding her safely in a tower far, far away from the kingdom. Rapunzel grows up not knowing her true identity. She has no clue that she is royalty, the lost princess. After a series of events and a great adventure where Rapunzel finally escapes the tower and makes it to the kingdom of Corona, she finds herself once again believing the lies of Mother Gothel and willingly returns to their home. Upon returning to the safety of the tower, Rapunzel collapses on her bed attempting to sort her thoughts. As she scans her own artwork on the walls and ceiling of her bedroom the pieces of her puzzling past begin to fall into place. She is the lost princess. She is royalty. The person she has believed to be her mother for eighteen years is no mother at all. In fact, Mother Gothel is her enemy, her adversary, the person who has destroyed her life and stolen her true identity.  In an instant Rapunzel realized her entire life was a lie.

As I watched Rapunzel unravel her true identity, I realized that’s what the enemy does to us. He destroys who we were created to be with his lies. Berating us and wearing us down nonstop so that we believe we are nothing. He constantly whispers how worthless we are. He repeatedly reminds us that our lives were meant to be meaningless, mediocre at best, that this life is all there is, and then we die. He fills our minds and our hearts with false beliefs of why we are here on this earth. He knows that if he can keep us from discovering our true identity in Christ, he can keep us from the greatness that God has planned for us.


We have an enemy. Peter refers to him as a “roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8b). Our enemy uses a variety of schemes against us, but you can be sure this roaring lion’s main agenda is “to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

Lions are fascinating animals. They are fierce, intimidating, powerful, ruthless, and beautiful creatures.

The only times I have ever seen lions in person was at lion exhibits at various zoos. Lions in captivity appear lethargic and docile. Anytime I have visited a lion exhibit at any zoo there were crowds of people gathered. Intrigued by the beauty of this exotic animal, adults and children of all ages eagerly wait to see the lion spring into action, but nothing ever happens. Normally the lions are napping in their man-made, African, savannah-like habitat. If it weren’t for the rising and falling of their mid-section on-lookers would guess the lions were not alive.

Peter wasn’t referring to zoo lions when he compared our enemy to a roaring lion.

Lions in the wild are a completely different story. While they still sleep 10-12 hours most days, they are dangerous predators. They attack unsuspecting prey, pouncing with their razor sharp claws, their gruesome teeth tearing into the flesh of their catch. If the animal is small it is consumed on-site, but if it is a larger animal they will drag the corpse to their territory where it will be shared by the members of the pride.


Any plan, purpose, or potential that God has created, our enemy will do anything he possibly can to put an end to it. The greater the plan, the larger the purpose, the bigger the potential – the more inconceivable are the plans of the enemy to destroy.

Last week my blog was about Gideon being greatly used by God and how God plans to use each of us greatly.

Our enemy wants to steal our true identity and force us to believe we are someone we were not created to be.

One of his favorite tactics to keep the children of God from being greatly used is replacing God’s truth with his lies, stealing our true identity.

He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44b)

The truth is we are all children of the King. We are royalty. Everyone who is born again, who has accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior, is adopted as sons and daughters into the family of God and we become royalty.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9)

What lies has the enemy infiltrated into your mind? You don’t have to believe his lies any longer. It is time to find out who you were created to be. It is time to learn your true identity.

 

God’s Call to Greatness

By April 15, 2016 Faith

In two months I turn 40 and I am still wondering what I will do when I grow up.

I’m an adult. I adult every day whether I feel like it or not. I have a bachelor’s degree, several masters’ level theology courses under my belt and I am currently a children’s pastor. I LOVE being on staff at my church, but I know I haven’t reached my final step on God’s career ladder.

One of the daily devotionals I love, Our Daily Bread, was recently about Gideon. The devotional only used a small portion of Gideon’s story. That tiny bit, nine verses to be exact, had me intrigued. Gideon is a name I have heard and read about in passing, but I never really dug deep into the life of Jerub-Baal. Oh, “Who’s that?” you ask. Poor Gideon, that’s the nickname the idol worshipping Israelites gave him after his first act of obedience to the Lord.

There are many lessons we could learn from Gideon in the three chapters of Judges (Judges 6-8) where his story is found!

Gideon was a chicken farmer. Not a farmer who raised chickens, but a farmer who was scared and afraid. I mean, he had valid reasons to be scared and afraid, but it’s important for us to know he was chicken when his story in Scripture began.

The Midianites (Midian means “strife”) caused the Israelites all kinds of problems. The Midianites continuously destroyed the Israelites’ land, their crops, and their herds. For seven years the Lord allowed this to continue because the Israelites had gone back to their old ways of worshipping idols and forsaking their God.

Gideon was doing what he did. He was a farmer, and when the angel of the Lord found him he was threshing wheat. Because of the threat of the Midianites, Gideon had to improvise. Normally threshing wheat was the sort of thing you did out in the open on a mountain or a hill so that the wind would blow the chaff, or extra stuff, away from the beaten wheat. Gideon couldn’t thresh his wheat out in the open because that would attract the Midianite enemies who might confiscate Gideon’s crops. So instead, when the angel of the Lord found Gideon, he was threshing his wheat down in a wine press.

Just in case you missed it, a wine press is for pressing grapes not threshing wheat. Gideon was in an enclosed space where there was no wind to blow the chaff away. Even though Gideon was found in a less than ideal environment, he continued doing what he did: farming and providing for himself and his family.

Then the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said, and I love this, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12). I can just see Gideon looking over both shoulders for a mighty warrior knowing good and well there was no way the angel was talking to him!

Immediately Gideon had two “pardon me” responses for the angel before he made a couple of demands.

Pardon me #1 – Where has God been while the Midianites have been ravaging our land? (Judges 6:13)

Pardon me #2 – If I am the weakest in my family, which is the weakest clan in all Israel, how am I supposed to save God’s people? (Judges 6:15)

Demand #1 – Give me a sign you that I’m your man. (Judges 6:17)

Demand #2 – Wait right here while I prepare an offering. (Judges 6:18)

That Gideon has got some nerve.

Oh wait, I do the exact same thing to God all the time. Please tell me I am not the only one!

I know I’m not the only one. Time after time throughout God’s Word He calls someone to do something great and that someone immediately questions God, questions their own ability, makes demands, and often makes every excuse possible to get out of their God-designed calling.

Like Gideon, God has put greatness in each of us. Not greatness for the sake of fame and fortune, but greatness for His purposes, His Kingdom and His glory. Most days I don’t feel great much less do I feel like I can do something great, but I know that God has put greatness in me. Before I knew God I had no clue that my ability to teach, create a schedule, and the fact that I was an extrovert, were all part of my God-designed calling. I was just doing what I do.

Back to Gideon. Gideon the farmer was called a mighty warrior by the angel of the Lord (Judges 6:12). When the Spirit of the Lord came on Gideon, he instantly transformed from a scared wheat farmer to a fearless army general. He blew a trumpet and began gathering his troops for battle (Judges 6:34-35). Gideon’s army originally consisted of 32,000 men until God dwindled the Israelite army down to 300.

God used what Gideon was doing when He called him, Gideon’s ability to improvise, along with 300 men armed with clay jars, trumpets, and torches as their weapons, to defeat 15,000 Midianites. Sounds impossible, I know. God wanted Israel to have no doubt that their victory was because of Him, not because of their own strength and number.

God calls regular people like you, me and Gideon to greatness. He takes the unlikely, unable, unrecognized, unsuspecting, unqualified, unknown, untrained, unwilling people and transforms them. He takes all of those “un” prefixes, which mean “not”, and replaces them with the word “most”. Most likely, most able, most recognized, most suspecting, most qualified, most known, most trained, most willing. And sadly, most of us will miss it. Because we question God, question our abilities, make demands, and make excuses, we miss out on being greatly used by God.

Here are three things we can take away from Gideon’s story:

  1. Like Gideon we need to be doers.

We cannot sit around idly waiting for God to use us. We need to be doers. God will find us in the midst of our mundane and call us to do something seemingly impossible.

  1. We must allow God to transform us.

God transformed Gideon from a wheat farmer to a mighty warrior. We must be willing participants when God calls us to a certain task. If we allow Him, God will transform the unusable to do the unimaginable.

  1. God has not forgotten you.

It is easy to believe God could never use you. But in reality God wants to take you from hiding in the wine press and put you on His front line.

Unknowing

By March 26, 2016 Faith

I witnessed a miracle.

My mom walked 37 feet. Yes she was using a walker, and yes she had two physical therapists assisting her, but she did it.

My mom walking 37 feet down a hallway may not seem worthy of the term “miracle” to most people, but to me it was one of the most miraculous things I’ve ever witnessed in person.

Six weeks ago, in the beginning of February, my mom was on life support. A ventilator had to breathe for her, pushing oxygen into her lifeless body, keeping her alive while antibiotics fought off her pneumonia. For eight days my dad, my sister and I were on a roller coaster of emotions. Sleep deprived, emotionally drained, displaced in an ICU waiting room, we sat day after day eagerly awaiting a team of doctors and the news they would bring. We never knew the exact time they would come or if their report would be cheer-worthy or heart-wrenching.

I was scared we were going to lose her, and I could not imagine life without my mom, my best friend. I know that one day my mom will leave this earth, but I was hoping it would be when I am 79 not 39. I am not ready for my mom to be gone.

At the start of this year I specifically asked God for a word. I had heard of people having a word that was a theme for their year. I had never had the desire to ask before, but this year was different. I needed to hear from God concerning my mom. Nothing big, just one word I could hold onto.

Hope.

That’s all I heard and it was all I needed. At the beginning of this year my mom had been displaced two hours from home for five long months. For five months she was moved from one hospital-like facility to another in the Houston Medical Center. She was constantly encountering new problems, new setbacks, new infections; every day seeming dimmer than the day before. It appeared my mom would never make it home again, and I wondered if she was going to make it period.

Yes, hope was exactly the word I needed.

In mid-March my mom finally began making strides in the right direction. Now that her health is improving I can reflect on her eight days of life support. Monitors flashing and beeping, nurses and doctors in and out, text messages and social media pleas for prayer, coffee being poured, attempts at sleep in some of the most uncomfortable chairs known to man, puffy eyes, oily hair, wrinkled clothing, anointing oil, many, many tears…and all the while unknowing. Completely unaware of the miracle God was orchestrating.

At that time my hope was lost. My attempts to pray would fail. All I could do was cry thinking to myself how glad I am God’s Word says “the Spirit helps us in our weakness…the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).

This Sunday is Easter. This week always gets me. From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday I am constantly reminded, year after year, of how amazing God’s love is. I love to read the accounts from the four Gospels – in case you don’t know Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all tell the Good News about Jesus’ life from His birth to His death on the cross, burial, resurrection and ascension to heaven. Like a flashing marquee, every year different things from these accounts stand out to me. It’s amazing how alive God’s Word truly is.

This week I realized that, like me, the disciples were unknowing.

For three years they had devoted their lives to Jesus, following Him where ever He went. They loved Him, respected Him, were amazed by Him and now He was saying things they did not want to hear.

My children, I will be with you only a little longer” (John 13:33).

Jesus had been dropping hints here and there that His stay on this earth was temporary and that soon He would die. But like me with my mom the disciples ignored the inevitable, one day He would be gone.

Then it began. Everything He said would happen as they shared their last meal was set in motion in the garden. Jesus was arrested, abandoned, denied, beaten, mocked, tried, and crucified.

Those who said they would go anywhere with Him and die with Him were gone.

I can’t imagine the thoughts that must have ran rampant in the disciples’ minds during this time. Every word they had heard Jesus teach, every miracle they witnesses Him perform; none of it made any sense now. Jesus said He was setting up His Kingdom and now He was gone. Every hint of hope hung on that cross.

But God.

I love that phrase. Spell check does not love it, but I do. Don’t you? In the darkest of circumstances there can still be a “But God” moment. He loves to show off and show He is still in control when things seem to be void of hope. He does this so that we will be reminded of His goodness, His sovereignty, His great love for us, but most importantly, He does this so that He will be glorified.

The disciples had scattered. They hid unknowing. Completely unaware of the miracle God was orchestrating.

On the third day two men in gleaming clothes announced to the women who had come to prepare the body of Jesus, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how he told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” (Luke 24:5b-7)

The women ran to tell the 11 disciples, but the disciples could not understand what the women were saying. It made no sense to them. Peter took off running. He ran to the empty tomb, took a good look at the strips of linen that had been left behind, and he walked away wondering what had happened.

Time passed, the disciples were still confused and scared. They were together, doors locked for fear of the Jews, and it happened. They witnessed a miracle. Jesus was standing there with them.

I cannot imagine their reactions. They probably all had teary eyes, racing pulses and the most shocked expressions on their faces.

Again Jesus had to explain everything to them. He explained that what was written about Him had to be fulfilled. He had to die and rise again on the third day. This time was different though. Seeing was believing, and now they understood. What they unknowingly thought was dark and hopeless ended up being the greatest miracle known to man. Jesus was alive!

So often, circumstances occur in our lives where we cannot imagine anthing good coming from our situation. The sudden loss of a loved one, separation or divorce that is not on our terms, a diagnosis that is terminal, an unplanned pregnancy, termination from employment, the list is endless. But God often takes those hopeless situations and uses them to grow us and strengthen our faith. Down the road we can look back and see that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28a).

If you have a story of a time you were unknowing and God was orchestrating a miracle I would love for you to share in the comments below.

Obstacles

By March 18, 2016 Discipleship

This past Saturday I ran a Spartan race.

Spartan races vary in length and the number of obstacles you must complete. There are four different types of Spartan races: sprint, super, beast and ultra-beast. The race I participated in was a Spartan Sprint. It was 4.4 miles in thick, deep mud, with 23 obstacles to complete. The mud was an added bonus from the flooding rains that took place over most of Texas the week before the race.

It was awful. I have never in my almost 40 years been as dirty as I was after this race. My hair, caked with mud, may never be the same. The clothes I wore still have a sandy hue after washing them twice. Not to mention the fact that I had to vacuum out my washing machine afterwards. The shoes I wore were beyond saving and had to be tossed.

As I ran the race with one of my closest friends I constantly reminded her, “This is my last Spartan race. No more.” But as we finished the race and jumped over the grand finale of obstacles, a burning fire pit, there was an exhilaration that, I’m not going to lie, makes me want to sign up for the next race.

me and carrie mud wall                                                       fire pit landing

I have scraps, bruises, sore muscles and ruined clothes from the race, but there is something about running around like a ninny – and yes, I am sure I looked more like a ninny than a beast – that made this aging woman feel childlike. And I loved it.

Paul references persevering in the race of life and completing the race with our eye on the prize: eternity. Many people use Paul’s race references in sermons and devotionals, but recently I read Luke’s account of Zacchaeus. Something about Zacchaeus’ story stood out to me that I had never taken into account before, probably because I had just ran in an obstacle race. Many have heard of Zacchaeus. He was short and had to climb a tree to get a good look at Jesus. There’s a song about him that many of us sang as children in Sunday school. If you know the song you are singing it in your head right now. I’m singing it too!

Zacchaeus was a wee little man – who had a very meaningful childlike experience: he climbed a tree.

The second verse of Luke 19 gives us some background information on Zacchaeus that doesn’t always jump off the page when we read it, but back in Jesus’ day anyone who read, heard or witnessed this account knew a lot about Zacchaeus.

He was a chief tax collector and was wealthy” (Luke 19:2b).

Chief tax collectors were horrible people. In fact, in Matthew 21:32 Jesus placed tax collectors in the same category as prostitutes. Not only was Zacchaeus a tax collector, but he was a “chief” tax collector which meant he was a high ranking tax collector. He was wealthy. Tax collectors often added a personal commission to the taxes they collected for their own financial gain. And he was short. He could have possibly had short man complex, also known as Napoleon complex. Both of these are informal terms that describe those, mostly men, who have a tendency to overcompensate by being overly-aggressive and seeking power to make up for their lack of height.

So picture a short, wealthy, disliked by many, man running through the dusty streets of Jericho and climbing a tree like a child. Not a very dignified image if you ask me.

Why would Zacchaeus, a wealthy chief tax collector, act so undignified in public? Verse 3 paints a beautiful picture for us,

He wanted to see who Jesus was.”

Zacchaeus heard what was being said about this man named Jesus. Rumor had it Jesus was performing miracles and healing people everywhere He went. Some said Jesus told His disciples, “Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17). He had told a rich ruler to follow Him. To sell everything he had and give it to the poor so he would receive treasure in heaven (Luke 18:22). Jesus had also told the crowd “What is impossible with men is possible with God (Luke 18:27). And Jesus had told a story about a tax collector who prayed in the temple and left justified by God (Luke 18:10-14). A tax collector.

Who was this man named Jesus? Zacchaeus had to know. He had to get a good look at him. So all of his prestige, his title, his wealth, everything went out the window as Zacchaeus took off, like a child, running through the streets ahead of the crowd. Throwing caution to the wind and attempting whatever obstacle was ahead of him so that he could see this man Jesus face to face. And like a child, he climbed up in a sycamore tree. In that tree Zacchaeus’ life changed.

He probably thought, with a crowd surrounding Jesus, he would go unnoticed. But Jesus had this way, and He still does, of finding the most unlikely in a crowd and calling them by name. “Zacchaeaus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today (Luke 19:5b).

Zacchaeus welcomed Him gladly. He instantly welcomed Jesus to his home with joy. He didn’t make excuses like most of us would have. “My house is a good distance from here. I haven’t swept the dirt off my floors in days. My cupboards are bare. There’s nothing to eat at my house.”

Zacchaeus is known for several things, but making excuses isn’t one of them.

His life change happened so fast when he saw Jesus face to face that without being asked or prompted Zacchaeus announced he was giving half of his possessions to the poor and paying back four times the amount he had cheated anyone in the past (Luke 19:8). Jesus didn’t tell him he had to. He didn’t have to. Jesus came to seek and save what was lost. Zacchaeus was lost before his tree climbing adventure. Then he got a good look at Jesus, welcomed Him gladly, and just like that he was a changed man. The old was gone.

Zacchaeus took the fast track when it came to life change. For some of us it’s not that easy. After meeting Jesus face to face we can make excuses all day every day for days until we forget what Jesus looked like.

When I met Jesus, truly met Him face to face, I didn’t climb a tree. I knelt beside my bed. Like a child, on my knees, with puddles of tears flooding the carpet, Jesus called my name. He didn’t tell me to stop making excuses. He didn’t have to. I knew then and there my life was never going to be the same. I still looked the same, still had the same occupation, lived at the same address, but the old me was gone. Like Zacchaeus, I welcomed Jesus gladly, and took the fast track when it came to life change.

An encounter with Jesus brings change.

It’s almost been ten years for me. A decade. I have not done everything perfectly. Daily I still make a mess of things, but in ten years I have never wanted to go back to my old way of life.

So what about you? What excuses have you been making? Where were you when you first saw Jesus face to face?

Comment below, I would love to hear your story.

My Name

By March 11, 2016 Faith

I was listening to the radio, halfway tuned in. They were having people call in to say what they hoped they would be remembered for. Immediately I felt flushed. Heat was rising from the knot in my stomach to my cheeks that were glowing red. In a flash I was reminded of all of the disgraceful things I have done. I have a shameful past. A past that I fear will haunt me for the rest of my life.

My past is not what defines me.

According to God’s Word I am a new creation. There are days that I cling to 2 Corinthians 5:17 with a white knuckle grip. I hate days like that, but they happen.

I live in a very small town. And it’s the same small town that I grew up in. Small towns are great for many things. I know most of the teachers my oldest daughter has had in school. If I didn’t know them directly, there’s a good chance I know one of their relatives. I know a lot of the parents of my daughter’s friends. That’s just how it is here.

But one thing that is unfortunate about living in this same small town where I know a lot of people, at least to me it is unfortunate, is that those same people know me. They know my past. They know I threw words around with no remorse, filthy words. They know I went places I shouldn’t have gone, with people I shouldn’t have been around, and did things I shouldn’t have done.

What they might not know about me is that’s not who I am anymore. And that’s one thing that scares me. One of my greatest fears is that my past, to some people, will always be what defines me. When I see them at the grocery store, at my daughter’s school functions, sometimes at my church, I wonder if they are remembering the old me or if they know I’ve been made new.

God’s Word encourages me. There are plenty of people in His holy Word who did some pretty awful things. Despite their awfulness, He still allowed their name to be recorded in Scripture.

Jacob, for example, came out of the womb with a name that means “heel grabber” but it also meant “deceiver”. And he lived up, or down, to that name. He was deceptive. He deceived his brother and his dying father, but then something changed Jacob. He wrestled with God and God changed his name from Jacob the deceiver to Israel which means “God fights.” And He would. God’s chosen people came from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The nation of Israel, who God fights for, came from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the deceiver who wrestled with God and was given a new name by God because God changed Jacob. His past did not define him. His past, although it is recorded, is not what he is mostly remembered for.

I could totally chase a rabbit here and go on and on about Jacob for days but that’s not the point I want to make. What I am seeing and I hope you see it too, is that the names we have been called in our past are not the names we have to be remembered for. We don’t have to continue living down to those names.

God changed me. He wrestled with me for years. And for years I ran. I lived down to the names I had been called until life knocked the breath out of me. I had nothing left in me. My heart was broken into a million pieces and in the dark of it all I wrestled with God. Quite honestly, I didn’t want Him to win. I didn’t want to have to change. I wanted to continue living the way I always had. Why should I have to change?

Then, one day as I looked at myself in the mirror I thought, “Who are you? You aren’t a Christian. You aren’t godly. You are ______, and _______, and ________.” All the names I had been living down to seemed stamped across my face. But there was a faint whisper telling me “Not anymore. You are new. You are beautiful. You are precious. You are flawless. You are pure. You are called. You are redeemed. You are restored. You are MINE.”

Just like that.

The names I had been called in the past were gone. Erased. He renamed me. Names that I wanted to live up to. Names that I wanted to define me.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

A Time and Place

By March 4, 2016 Faith

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14

 

Reverence isn’t a word you hear every day. However it is a word that has been stuck in my head for over a week. When I first heard it I wrote it down on an index card. I didn’t audibly hear the word “reverence” but it very abruptly popped into my mind out of nowhere. Normally when things like that happen I realize God is speaking to me.

So I looked up the definition of reverence. I knew what it meant, but I didn’t have a working definition of the word. Reverence is “respect or honor paid to a worthy object” (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary).

As this word reverence has been swirling around in my mind for several days, it has made me think of my attitude towards God. Do I always show reverence to God and revere His name?

I want to. I try to. But I am pretty sure I don’t always.

When I read the Scriptures that were supposed to use the word reverence in the Old and New Testaments I discovered something. In the Old Testament, the actual word “reverence” was only used 2 out of the 10 times where the word should have appeared. The other 8 places that I should have found the word reverence I found phrases instead. Phrases that signified bowing down low to pay someone honor and respect and phrases about fearing God, worshipping Him, lifting up hands to Him and upholding His holiness.

In that moment I realized, pat on the back, I do that! When I have my quiet time in the mornings I do kneel down on the floor when I pray. I worship God throughout my normal days and when I am at church during weekly worship services. When I feel God’s presence I lift my hands to Him, sometimes while I’m driving! I do fear God.  I uphold His holiness.

Most of the time. I uphold His holiness most of the time.

This is where conviction enters the scene.

I have a tendency to be silly.

I am a children’s pastor at my church which means part of my job requires silliness.  Children love silly. So I am not saying that being silly is necessarily a bad thing, but I do feel like there is an appropriate time and place for everything.

And God “created my inmost being” (Psalm 139:13a, NIV) so He knows I’m silly. He made me this way. But I don’t want to be silly when it comes to Him.

My silliness sometimes causes me to let God’s holiness fall by the wayside and I don’t want to be that person. Ever.

I don’t want my words to mock God.

I don’t want the words that come out of my mouth make someone question my love for God.

But I can see where sometimes, when I am being silly and trying to lighten the mood or sound funny, my words may make others think my love for God is shallow and insincere.

Starting now, this week, I am going to make a conscious effort to save my silliness for the appropriate time and place and try to be intentional about showing reverence to God in my thoughts, my words and my actions.

I know that this new effort will be a work in progress for me. Just last night I had to repent because I caught myself saying things that I shouldn’t have. I didn’t say anything that was necessarily bad. But I did let a few “oh Lawd”s and “thank you Jesus”s, that are not phrases that revere my God and Savior, slip out. And it must stop. I must stop.

Luckily I am not in this on my own. Yes, this is a weakness for me, but Romans 8:26 says, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” I am so thankful that God has provided a way, a person, a helper…the Holy Spirit, to see me through and assist me in this effort to change my thoughts, my words and my actions so that I can show God the reverence He deserves at  all times.

Get Connected

By February 26, 2016 Discipleship

I do not have a green thumb.

My mom was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, in July of 2015. She has been in some type of hospital or nursing home facility for about seven months now. During these seven months she has received several house plants. Unfortunately my mom cannot care for these plants because she has been on bed rest all this time.

Since my mom cannot care for the plants they have been given a life sentence. They have been sent home with me. Poor plants.

Now, I like plants, but I don’t have what you call a green thumb. I have the opposite of a green thumb – the thumb of death.

The day I brought the plants home with me, my parents told me, “All you have to do is water them once a week.” Sounds easy enough.

But yall, I’m a busy person. And now, with at least one day a week being spent in Houston, two hours away from home with my mom, I am more busy than normal. Some days I look at those poor wilting plants and think, “I have to water them.” Then three or four days later, when I still haven’t watered them, the plants look like they are dying of thirst. Eventually I force myself to water them in the five minutes it takes, and viola, they spring back to life. It’s amazing what a little water can do for a plant!

A couple of months ago I was preparing to speak to a group of middle school students and it hit me. Most of the time all we need is a little water too!

The illustration I gave the group of middle schoolers was a pitiful plant and a bottle of water. I actually brought one of the super wilty orchids from home and asked what it needed. Their reply was, “water!” Then I set a bottle of water next to the plant and asked if that would help…of course the bottle of refreshing, life-giving water NEXT to the plant would not help one bit! The plant needs the water on the inside, not just all around it!

In John 15:1 Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the gardener.” Then He goes on to say in verses 5-8, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.”

How? How do we do this? How do we, “remain in Him”? We have to get Him on the inside of us, not just all around us!

If I were to ask your friends if you were a disciple of Christ how would they respond?

In case you are wondering, here’s a definition:

Christian disciple – a follower of Jesus, who becomes more and more like Jesus through a life of faith and obedience

Wait a minute, so being a Christian disciple doesn’t mean all we have to do is go to church?

The answer is no.

Going to church is great, but that’s not what makes a Christian more like Christ.

To become like Christ we have to do just that, become like Christ.

What are things we do when we hang out with our closest friends? Those are the exact same things we need to do with Jesus. Because like it or not, we become more and more like those we spend our time with. If we want a refreshing, life-giving dose of Jesus in our life, we need to have a relationship with Him.

If one of my closest friends stops by my house, I try my hardest to give them my undivided attention. If they stopped by to tell me a story or to tell me what is going on in their life, I listen. If they came by to check on me because I have been out of pocket or I just haven’t been myself lately, I open up and tell them what is going on. We spend time together. It would be crazy if one of my closest friends came to my house and we ignored each other the whole time we were together! But often that’s how we treat Jesus.

We take our relationship with our Savior for granted. We don’t spend good quality time with Him. We ignore Him. When He wants to talk to us, we are too busy. We have things on our heart that we never share with Him. Our relationship with Jesus should be our top priority, but instead it gets pushed to the side or ignored altogether.

How that must break God’s heart.

The good news is that if this sounds like you, if you have not been making your relationship with Jesus a priority, it’s not too late. Stop making excuses. Turn off the TV, shut down the iPad or computer, put your phone down. Set your alarm to go off a few minutes earlier then normal during the week. Wake up early on Sunday mornings to get you and your family ready for church. Do whatever you need to do so that Jesus gets inside of you and isn’t just all around you. Get connected!

I realize that for some of you this getting connected thing is a foreign concept. Here is a quick list of three things that will benefit anyone wanting a deeper relationship with Jesus:

  • Find a healthy church to attend regularly and get involved. Sign up for a small group (sometimes referred to as a life group). Volunteer to serve on a ministry team. Form friendships with other like-minded individuals who desire to have a relationship with Jesus.
  • Read in your Bible daily. Not all day/every day, but read in your Bible every day.  There are lots and lots of various resources out there to help you get into God’s Word: study Bibles, Bible studies, devotionals, on-line devotionals. Find a Bible bookstore near you or search online (lifeway.com or christianbook.com are great places to start). You can also search the app store on your smartphone. You will be amazed at the resources you have at your fingertips!
  • Pray every day. This seems to be difficult for so many people. You cannot imagine how many times people have told me they don’t pray because they don’t pray well. When you pray you’re talking to God. He doesn’t expect big, fancy, religious words. He just wants to hear what is on your heart, in your mind, and quite honestly, He’s God so He already knows, but He loves hearing it from you personally. So talk to Him. Talk His ear off!