Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Time for Freedom

It’s that time.

Time for matching bedspreads, welcoming free food, nervous sorority girls, & wandering freshmen.

Time to embrace your freedom! Freedom to… choose your friends, your major, your budget, your diet, your curfew, your boyfriend, your schedule, and your priorities.

Freedom that’s been luring you, complete with anxiety & thrill, those last few years of high school.

Freedom? My “freedom” led me straight to the strongest bondage of slavery I’ve ever experienced. I based my new found freedom in college on the promises of this world. Which friends promise the wildest time? Which major promises the most money? Which budget promises the most new clothes? What diet promises the skinniest figure? Which boyfriend promises that he loves me? Which schedule promises the most time for laziness?

I viewed freedom so narrowly that I allowed it to lead me down the path of destruction. “Professing to be wise, I became a fool, and exchanged the glory of God for an image in the form of corruptible man... I exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Romans 1:22-25 The things of God slowly faded. Eighteen years of showing up and sitting in the pew proved to be a weak defense for my rapidly deteriorating “good character.” The freedom I’d longed for left me bitter, disappointed, sad, disgusted, and angry all at once.

“You are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness.” Romans 6:16

God found me, came to death, and pulled me out – a sad, despicable creature. He made me lovely. He showed me grace. He cleaned the stains that a warped idea of freedom had covered me in. “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.” Romans 6:22 God replaced my thoughts with His and led me to an understanding of freedom in newness of life that is unattainable without His Spirit of revelation.

Freedom to hope in goodness, to love purely, to live innocently, to be guiltless & shameless, to be passionate & humbled by a purpose far greater than mankind can fathom. Freedom based solely on the promises of God. That is the only faithful, unchanging promise I’ve discovered in a world where everything is promised to change.

As you walk down the hallways of your dorm, pray for grace and boldness to attack the demons that rule in deception in the rooms of your peers, dashing their lives with the disappointment of a false freedom. Those who are choosing their freedoms based on the promises of this fading world DO have a sense of hopelessness & a desire for something they can’t quite put their finger on. In God’s strength and will, help them understand. Give them the opportunity to accept a freedom that releases them from the bondage of sin’s freedom.

Is she crying herself to sleep? Is he lost in porn? Is the guy upstairs punching his fist through the wall? Is the cheerful girl across the hall throwing up her dinner? Are they cutting? Is he worshipping Satan? Is she dealing? Ask the questions that are easier to be swept under the rug. Show love by showing interest.

Find courage in the power of Jesus Christ who saved all us wretches:)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

BIG God in the BIG Easy

“The Cloud of the Lord”

In Exodus 40:34-38, Moses describes the cloud that God used to reveal His glory throughout the Israelite’s entire journey to the Promised Land. Over the last month, I’ve grown to understand the significance of the blessing of the cloud of the Lord.

God has given me and Ben wisdom and passion to follow Him step by step, one day at a time, through the largest transitional time of our lives thus far. What could have been months consumed by anxiety and fear were months spent pursuing and focusing on God one day at a time. As simple as this sounds, no where in my fleshly thoughts and emotions can I fathom being able to coast on short term focus for so long. God covered our minds’ eyes with His protective cloud, rescuing us from drowning in fear of the unknown.

One clue at a time, God has slowly led us to where we sit today, in awe of His timing that is actively revealing the way to us. Since August we’ve known that Ben was headed for seminary and that the ministry God has been equipping us for is one of unity in marriage. Since October we’ve known that New Orleans would be our new home, and since November, we’ve been planning for my enrollment in seminary as well. Throughout the spring, God affirmed our relationship, our ministry, and our purpose to Him through several friendships, trials, teachings, and opportunities. With the exception of a few “panic” days, God strengthened us to remain focused on His guidance and to stop and go as He led. A large majority of the semester was spent at a “stop,” diligently committing to the work at hand while keeping our gaze on the Lord.

With a much more intimate understanding of God as our Provider and Protector, I read about the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt with a far greater appreciation for God’s faithfulness in dealing with the details. I feel as though God removed our mental ability to over think the future, keeping us from fretting over how in the world we would survive in the city I had asked God to please not put us in. I wonder if, as He laughed at my request, He gently and lovingly provided His cloud over our thoughts to keep us focused on Him alone as He built our passion for New Orleans and the mission at hand.

All in His perfect (and humorous) timing, He has provided for us. Through roundabout ways, mine and Ben’s resumes have made it into the right hands. I was offered an accounting job the Monday before the wedding, which is one of those desires that God only began focusing my thoughts on over the last month. That Tuesday, with the U-Haul loaded to move to an off-campus apartment in East New Orleans the very next day, we received a call extending us the offer to move on campus, removing a security and financial burden. Friday, Ben was contacted about working as a youth minister, a passion God has been developing since last summer. We became one on Saturday, and here we sit a week and half later.

I was lying in bed last night next to my husband on a seminary campus in the middle of New Orleans a million miles from where my plan would have ever taken me, simply humbled in thankfulness for the magnitude of the God we serve. He is a big God, yet He cares deeply for His individual creations. His cloud remains, protecting us from our sinful, fretful nature, as He guides us throughout our entire journey. Praises be to God, the glorious and righteous One!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Prepared in God’s Fortress of Protection

"The LORD is My Rock, and My Fortress, and My Deliverer; My God, My Strength, in Whom I will trust; My Buckler, and the Horn of My Salvation, and My High Tower" Psalm 18:2

A recurring conversation I’ve had with college women focuses on their desire to find contentment in singleness. While I was talking to one particular friend last night about her longing to have a boyfriend, she came around to the conclusion that she simply desires to be pursued. The lack of physical pursuit in her life has led her to pick herself apart and question why she “isn’t good enough”.

As that sentence was coming out of Alyssa’s mouth, God gave me a glimpse of her from His vision. I imagined her physically being pulled close to the chest of God, Him clinging to her as He squeezed His daughter in His arms, calmly whispering His truths into her heart.

My friend, along with most of us women, battles the devil daily with self esteem issues as her spirit longs to please her Lord and live a life set apart from our cultural norm. Her flesh, however, often confuses contentment in college for the lifestyle of the “typical sorority girl who has it all together”. Taking her battles with the devil’s lies, along with her desire to be pursued by a man into account, God revealed Himself to me last night as our Protector.

In the depths of Alyssa’s soul, she desires to love God with all her heart and to find her contentment in Him alone. Though her flesh battles with the desires of the world, she is still a precious daughter of our Heavenly Father, and He has surrounded her in His mighty fortress. Alyssa is weak in her self image, but God pursues and draws His creation near to Him as He affirms her identity as His child with all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that she will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord. God is building Alyssa up to be a woman of God, set apart from the ways of our culture, full of purpose and passion, with eager desire to give every ounce of her life over to His Lordship. God has begun a transformation in Alyssa, and His power is working in her to strengthen her in His Spirit alone.

Until God has completed Alyssa's initial preparations for the path she will take with or without a man of God alongside her, He is revealing Himself as Metsuda (me-tsu-DAH), a fortress, providing Alyssa rest and preparation in the safety of His protection.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most high will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2

Friday, January 22, 2010

How? Why?

As my journey to the heart of God began, there were two questions that consistently moved me forward. Sometimes the questions drove me five different directions, but regardless, the questions always seemed to draw me intoxicatingly close to Truth. The initial step on this journey began with the simple questions: How & Why?

How does God hear someone as insignificant as me?
How do all my missteps lead back to God?
How do I allow God to build faith that moves mountains in me?
How do I study scripture?
How do I commit my ways to Him?
How do I live out righteousness?
How do I love a man of God?
How do I live a life of purpose?
How was I created?
Why was I created?
Why am I gifted with this particular gift?
Why am I connected to specific people?
Why do I struggle with a particular sin?
Why is my heart burdened for this?

Every “how” & “why” I have about myself has been answered with one simple statement: “My daughter, the answer is found in Me, your Father, Creator, Lord, and Savior. Seek me, and you will find yourself.”

While the questions still draw me ever closer to the Lord, it has been interesting to see that the deeper I am drawn into His love, the more my thoughts have been transformed to seek understanding about how to give this life up for His glory alone.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Seek & You Will Find

Meander through life lazily content.
Awake. Sleep. Another day spent.
Easier not to ask and never to wonder.
The last day look back at a life of blunder.

Boldly refuse to accept status quo.
Ask. Seek. Study. Allow Truth to flow.
Man finds purpose within his Creator.
The last day look forward to life far greater.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." Matthew 7: 7-8

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Power of Simple Words

The lyrics to a song from children’s choir about walking in someone else’s shoes were molded into my mind in elementary school. Growing up, God reminded me of that song time and again as He began developing compassion and grace within my heart.
Thank you, Mrs. Patricia Ethridge, for letting God use you to mold the thoughts of His child.

“God has a reason,”
were sincere, deeply moving words spoken by a woman as she told me about her miscarriage. Her unwavering faith was a testimony of God’s power at a time in my life when I was beginning to truly understand what faith really is. I still get an overwhelming sense of admiration and awe as I think about this woman and the truth she brought to life as she allowed God to work in her weakness.
Thank you, Heather Johnson, for letting God speak through you to strengthen my faith in His plan.

“Follow the desire God has put on your heart,” were encouraging words that brought new light to the role God created for men to fill. It wasn’t so much the words that stick with me, but it is the sense of support and devotion to following God’s plan that my fiancĂ© brought to life the night he suggested I pursue “the road less traveled.” From his simple push and affirmation, I understood the depth of joy found in submission to a man completely yielded to Christ.
Thank you, Ben Hutchison, for letting God speak through you day after day to give me courage.

“You may have to live on ramen noodles for a while, but you will make it.”
In the midst of utter uncertainty about where life was leading, a man devoted to the life God called him to spoke these words to me and my fiancé. He laughed as he said it, but the testimony of his life revealed the truth that God is consistent, and He will protect and provide for His children who follow Him.
Thank you, Dr. Allen Jackson, for letting God speak through you to bring comfort and peace.

A minister’s wife shared her purpose through the simple statement, “My ministry is to my husband.” As thoughts race in my head about the role of a wife submitted to God and her husband, God allowed this woman to bring me the basic truth that is to be the foundation of our marriage.
Thank you, Jan Hutchison, for letting God speak through you to organize and focus my purpose.

“I pray that God will wash away any words that He didn't need you to hear,”
were the humble parting words of my mentor after sharing her valuable wisdom and advice about life’s direction. On the flip side, the truths God has revealed through our conversations have resonated in my heart.
Thank you, Sandra Reynolds, for letting God use you to teach me a new prayer and to show me the importance of the words I speak.

“I’m proud of you.” Hearing these words when I do well is encouraging. But hearing them when I fail in my eyes and the eyes of those around me has painted a vivid picture of the grace God bestows on His children. These words have helped me grow up with complete confidence that my parents will love me unconditionally no matter what the circumstance, so how much more must God love me!
Thank you, Mom & Dad, for letting God use you to live out His grace and love.

"Uncertainty is adventure." These are words passed along by a couple who live faithfully devoted to God and who selflessly serve.
Thank you, Nathan & Ashley Taylor, for letting God use you to be an example for me & Ben in all aspects of life.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

COLLEGE: It Really Was the Time of My Life!

Walking across Mississippi State’s campus for the last time as an undergraduate I was humbled by a vision of myself over the last three & a half years in a condensed, “bigger picture” timeline. I was covered with goose bumps by the thought of what could have been, yet in the same moment, I was warmed by utter joyfulness because of what is. I felt like God allowed me to look in from His perspective to see the life of His daughter that He redeemed and brought purpose and perspective to. I saw a girl who was lost, fighting for any sense of belonging and purpose, trying to fill her “God hole” with anything and finding disappointment time after time. She was defeated, worn out, useless, and stuck. In this “bigger picture” vision, I didn’t see all the frustration and heartache that came when the ragged girl began trying to live for a righteous God. The details that I remember so vividly along the way were erased by the overwhelming sense of a life altered by faith and righteousness, given to the girl freely by the grace she finally accepted.

Throughout my years in college, God has taken my view of life and expanded it. He has taken my fear of death and given me hope for eternity. God has taken my own ideas, direction, and purpose and exchanged them for His. He has crushed my arrogance, taken my pride, and allowed me to depend on Him in humbleness. God has used my weaknesses to show His strength. He has lifted my burdens and my baggage so I can be yoked to Him alone. What was dead, He gave life to. What was purposeless, He gave purpose. What was full of wild passion, He channeled for His majestic, unfathomable, greater than this life plan of salvation, hope, and restoration. God accepted a prideful, conforming, self-righteous, stubborn smarty pants. He met me where I was and persistently picked up the pieces of my shattered life. In case you haven’t read the Bible, this is NOT the first time God has used a broken person. In fact, it is a broken person God always uses, and He graciously welcomes His children to be a part of what He is doing. Are you allowing yourself to be broken before Him so that you can be used by Him?