Sunday, January 31, 2016

One Thing is Needful: Week Five - Friends and Community

I had just gotten married and moved away from home for the first time.  I'd moved from Alabama to Louisiana and the only person I knew there was my husband.  We’d been living in Louisiana about 3 months when we visited a church and we were invited back to a deacon’s house for lunch.    We had a wonderful lunch with some precious people.  The next week I received a thank you note from the deacon’s wife thanking US for having lunch with THEM!  Inside the note she had this quote:

I loved it and still have the card today.  That simple gesture of inviting us over for lunch that day, completely changed my life for the next five years (and even beyond).  The families we had lunch with that day became some very close friends.  As a matter of fact, over the next five years they became our family!  I couldn’t imagine the time I spent in Louisiana without them.    

Fast forward about twelve years and six kids later and here we are at the beach this past summer with some of them!  I've often thought what if she hadn't taken the time and effort to open up her home and her family to us - strangers at that time.  How different our lives might have been!

I believe God puts friends in our lives at certain times to fulfill a purpose.  As I began to write this post, I looked back and can see how God placed certain people in my life.  During my school years, He gave me several friends a few of whom I still stay in touch.  Then as I was married and moved to Louisiana, the families I mentioned above were placed in our path.  Then came time to start our family and God placed directly in my path another friend He knew I needed during these crazy years!  
God doesn't intend for us to have to walk through this life alone.  He gives us friends to strengthen, encourage, and help us, and just to have some fun along the way! 
"A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly:  and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."  Proverbs 13:24
Christ wants to be our friend AND he wants us to have friends.  Our relationships with our friends are once again directly related to our friendship with Christ.   We're going to be looking at some scripture this week and discussing what type of friend Jesus was: loving, compassionate, humble, supporting, and willing to sacrifice, even to the point of death.  There is no better friend than Christ himself.  When we are as close to him as possible, then we have what we need to be a better friend to those around us.
Sometimes being a good friend means being selfless and laying aside some of our own desires to make time for those around us.  Especially, in the season of life where I am, it's easy to get so caught up in my immediate family and miss what's going on around me.  I love my husband and of course he is one of my dearest friends, but there are some things I'd just rather talk to a girl friend about!  I love my kids too, but one day they'll be grown and have their own friends and then where will that leave me? 
As we go throughout this week may we look at the ones God has placed in our paths.  Maybe they are old friends in which we need to reconnect.  Maybe they are new friends, we don't even know yet but God has placed them in our path for a purpose this very week.  May we draw closer to Him, slow down, and take the time to be friendly. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

One Thing is Needful: Week Four - Family

Confession:  I'm rather intimidated by the Proverbs 31 woman.  I mean, who wouldn't be?  She rises early and stays up late, she is strong and works with her own hands to provide for her family, she goes the distance to prepare their food, she thinks ahead and is prepared. She's strong, honorable, wise, kind, charitable...and the list goes on and on.  But perhaps nothing intimidates me more than the 28th verse: 
"Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her."   Proverbs 31:28
It's not even all the "stuff" she did but what her husband and children had to say at the end of it all!  Those that knew her best, those that lived with her day in and day out - once they were grown they called her blessed and praised her. 
Here's our most recent family picture: 
 Not bad, huh?  Everyone's smiling, looking in the direction of the camera, which really is a miracle in itself.  Now here's what our family actually looks like on a day to day basis:

Believe it or not, I'm not standing in the middle of a cotton field, clothes nicely coordinated with smiles on all of our faces.  We're in the middle of a beautiful, yet a little (sometimes a lot) messy house.  I don't have on any make-up, my hair is clipped up on top of my head.  I have one daughter running around in her leotard constantly flipping and jumping.  My other daughter has my lipstick smeared all over her face and wearing every piece of jewelry I own.  My son is in some mess and no matter what time of day it is, his shoes are on so he can be ready to run and create the next mess!  Maybe one of us is smiling, but chances are there's also one of us crying, one of us screaming, one of us laughing, and one of us trying to block it all out! 

And let me tell you in the middle of all this chaos, my children aren't calling me holy or sacred!  In fact, all I'm getting are calls of "Mom, I need you!"  or "Mom, look what Cooper is in now!"  But it's my response to those calls, the everyday moments that will determine the end result.  Nothing would be worse than to get to the end of this chaos and realize I missed the good part!  When this chapter of our life has ended and these little munchkins are ready to go out on their own, what will they and my husband have to say about me?   When Curt and I are sitting on the front porch reflecting on this time in the trenches- what will be the end result
Did I pour everything I had into our family?  Did I send Curt off to work feeling prepared for the day?  Did he look forward to coming home in the afternoon because that was his place of rest?  Did I pour all the love I could into my children so that they show compassion to others?  Did I prepare them to be the spouse that their future husband/wife needs?  Did I prepare them to be the parents they should be to my grandchildren?   

If we as Christians plan on being Christ's hand and feet to anyone on this earth - then it should begin in our own home and families.  I have no doubt that my greatest mission field is my own home.  God entrusted these little people and this wonderful man to me.  And as we all know, with great privilege comes great responsibility.  Yes, it's a FULL time job.  No, it's NOT an easy one.  But it is a worthwhile one.  In these everyday moments I am building lives and affecting eternity! 

So when we're at the breakfast table and someone spills milk, may I realize it's God providing me a way to teach mercy.
When I'm trying to finish my to-do list for the day and I feel someone poke me with a book wanting to sit down and read, may I show them that people are more important than any to-do list.
When I really just want to check Facebook one more time, may I look into those faces that really matter.
When I'm folding my umpteenth load of laundry for the week, may I pause and thank God for the ones that wear them.
When I've tried teaching how to tie a shoe 6 different ways, may I try one more time!
When I do lose my control may I have the humbleness to ask for forgiveness-because yes, it will happen and they need to see that too.
When I don't see things eye to eye with my husband and want to "put him in his place" may I remember that we are one so whatever place I put him in that's where I'll be too! 
When I'm too tired at the end of the day to make bath time fun, may I suck it up and break out the bath paints!
Satan wants my family and he would like nothing more than to distract me from what really matters.  To throw up little things to take away from my time with them or to use something trivial to separate me from the peace of God.  There's only one way that the Proverbs 31 woman was able to accomplish so much and only one way I will be able to as well - by staying at the feet of Jesus, soaking in all I can from him to pour out into the lives of others, beginning right in front of me.

Nope - My husband's not singing my praises and my children aren't calling me blessed - yet.  But our family is a work in progress and I have no doubt that if I keep at it diligently they will!  I hope that at the end of this mission both my husband and children say, much liked the Proverbs 31 family did:
"I knew her better than anyone else.  I saw her through the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And through it all she gave me all she had.  She made life fun!  She comforted me and was always a soft place to land.  She taught me to believe even when it didn't seem possible.  She gave me grace even when I didn't deserve it.  She loved me like Jesus."
Then, they will take that love, grace, peace, and joy and pass it on to the next generation.  All those cuddles in the middle of the night, cleaned up messes, calmness when I wanted to just scream and being fun when I just wanted to sleep, will outlast just these small moments and span into an eternity. 

This week as we go through our day to day rituals, let's not overlook those God has entrusted in our care.  Let's open our eyes to our mission field before us and serve them with our whole hearts!  Let it begin at home and let it begin with me.

Friday, January 22, 2016

One Thing is Needful: Week Three - A Journey with the Church

I'm super excited to announce my first guest blogger, Judy!!!  I had the privilege of attending church with Judy when we were both teenagers.  She is now in our GMG group and her testimony has really convicted and blessed me BIG this week as I reflected on what the church truly is.  Judy is the mom of 5 beautiful kids (4 through fostering) and works for Big Brothers/Big Sisters within two school systems.  Her past experiences and influence with the church have given her such a strong desire to lead others to Christ! 

Judy and her beautiful family!

I didn't grow up in church. I can remember my Momma taking me on and off as a child. I remember sitting in my seat looking at the two doors up on the stage just waiting for the kids to come out of those rooms. I always wondered what it would be like to get to go to Sunday school. I had imagined in my mind what it would be like. I watched the other kids coming and sitting with their parents with cute little crafts and smiles on their faces.

Every Saturday Mother cleaned the house from top to bottom. She took all the chairs out of the dining room and put them in the living room. I would arrange them and pretend I was in Sunday school and I would teach and then I would be the student. I would sing and preach, haha! I was always intrigued by church but never really understood it. My Mother was the absolute best, she loved me and provided for me but as a child I missed out on the good part.

I was taken to VBS every summer as long as I can remember by my Aunt Brenda. I got under conviction when I was about 9 during the week of VBS. That Sunday we went to church before she took me back home. I went to Sunday school. Wow, how cool was that! It was exactly what I had imagined. During altar call I thought I was going to die, literally. I didn't know what was wrong, I just wanted to leave and leave right then. One of the sweet ladies at church saw I was in trouble. She came over and asked if I was ok. I told her yes, she then asked if I needed to pray and I said no. Oh but I did, but just didn't know how or what to do. We often forget and think that everyone knows all about church and what to do to be saved. That is soooo not true.

Family was very important to my Mother. Sunday was family day. We always went back to where she grew up (Grandparents house) and her brothers and their kids met after church. She got there early and cooked for everyone. Also we farmed. If the hay needed to be done on Sunday, that’s just what we did. Sunday was just not what it was intended in my home. You see my Dad, who should have been the spiritual leader of the house, didn't go to church and is still lost to this day. 

My Aunt Dean and cousins Tina and Vickie took me to Wednesday night services when I was about 12 or 13. My Mother always made sure I was ready to go before they got there. One night they called and told me they were having revival and wanted to know if I wanted to come. I really didn’t, but Mother told me I needed to. That was the night Jesus saved my soul. I don’t remember the preacher or even what he preached. I do remember turning around looking at the back door thinking, "I’m getting out of here." My heart was about to beat out of my chest. I stared at the altar and then at all the people in the church and thought what in the world am I going to do. I turned and looked at my cousin and when I did I just fell to the floor between the benches and started praying right there. When I got up, I wasn’t the same. The devil used that to taunt me for years because I didn’t go the altar to get saved. I finally overcame that. The Lord showed me that it doesn’t matter where or when you are saved what matters is that He called and I answered and the blood was applied that night!

I remember going home that night telling my Mother, she cried and cried. I really think that was a turning point in her life. She was saved as a child but I think she just let things hinder her and never really got grounded in church. She started going to church pretty regularly after that, still no Sunday school though. When I told my Dad, he grunted and walked away. Talk about a deflated feeling. I didn’t really understand then why he acted the way he did. Looking back I see that it was probably condemning for him and he just didn’t want to hear about it.

About the time I was saved God placed some very dear people in my life. We visited at Harmony one Sunday, it just felt right. I had a lot of family there and there was a love in the church like I had never known. Shelly and Earl Harper began coming by every Sunday morning and brought me to church- yes Sunday school also!  It took me a really long time to join the church after I was saved.

Even though I went each Sunday morning, I still didn't have a true grasp on what the church should mean in my life. I was not dedicated at all. (I still let Satan get me down at times about that) I struggled because my family didn't teach me to love the church like I should. Even though I had a wonderful church family, going back home to that environment just tore down most everything that I thought I knew and understood. After I joined, I came during the morning services when I didn't have to work. (Piggly Wiggly) I never went on Sunday nights. I mean, isn't Sunday morning enough? Why in the world would you go back that evening? Some things happened that I didn't understand, I was angry about, I just wanted someone to tell me how things should be done. I knew NOTHING about church rules or doctrine. It was nobody’s fault but my own, but not having a man at home to guide me was really a HUGE struggle my early years as a Christian.

I married Josh, he thought he was saved but wasn't. He didn't have the desire that I did to go and I felt something was wrong in his life. Fast forward we joined at Fridays Crossing. Roy Puckett took us under his wing and really helped us. He was like the Daddy I wanted mine to be. He was so caring and had a way of teaching that made me want to know more. Josh was saved not long after we started going there. We visited in revival at Taits Gap one night when Brother Mark Jones was preaching.
That was the turning point for us. We truly began to grow spiritually after all of those years of being ON the church role and not truly IN the church. God showed us the true Church and what she was all about. We learned so much and truly became devoted!

We went every time the doors were open. The church was absolutely beautiful to us and still is to this day. I think we got a little too devoted for a lot of our family and friends and grew apart from them. But oh my, how many more have been put in my life. My church family is my true family. They are there every time I ever need them. They love me unconditionally and accept my faults and failures. They have laughed with me, cried with me, and prayed for me for years.

I said all of this to say though my journey was long; the church has truly been everything to me. Heather Pentecost wrote a song that says, "Jesus saved my soul but the church saved my life." This is very true for my family. I always want to be that person who welcomes you in to our church and makes you feel at home. I want to be that person who takes a special interest in a young couple or a struggling teen. I want to be that smiling face that you see when you get up from the altar.

This study has shown me so much about the church and how many responsibilities come along with it. Not everyone can be a teacher, preacher, or a singer but everyone has a spot. If it’s nothing more than the door greeter, I want to be the best one that I can be. I teach K-2nd grade in Sunday school and I count it such an honor. I may be able to make a difference in a child's life just like I had so many different ones make a difference in mine. My prayer is that I never get slack and always remember there are lives at stake. We may be that one encouraging person that helps keep someone out of hell. I had so many in my life and I thank God every day for that.

As a teen, I was kept out of so much trouble just by spending time with my Sunday school class on weekends. We played rook and other games until all hours of the night. They opened up their homes to us because they loved us and cared about our lives. The different Sunday school teachers I had, are true heroes in my life. Even though I was saved, not having a strong foundation at home, it would have been easy to get right back out into the world. I need to remember that more when someone misses a few Sundays. Maybe just a phone call is all they need to realize that someone really cares about them and loves them. Unfortunately, not everyone gets to grow up in a home where God and the church is the foundation. I wanted each of you to know what a difference the church can make in someone.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

One Thing is Needful: Week Three-The Church

I certainly couldn't imagine choosing the good part of life without the church!  Growing up church was always a priority in our lives.  And by priority I mean if the doors of the church were open and we weren't seriously sick - we were there.  I can remember getting so frustrated when I was younger and we went on vacations and I'd tell Daddy we still had a day left in the weekend.  Couldn't we just stay one more day?  I'd get a quick, "No, tomorrow is Sunday."  And no matter where we were, we left on Saturday and we were home and at church on Sunday. 

It became evident to me not just through his words, but through his actions, that church was more important to Daddy than work, a family vacation, or anything else.  He'd much rather miss a day of work, than church.  While it may have been frustrating to me when I was younger, the older I became the deeper of an understanding I had of why.  I began to learn what Daddy already knew - That there was no better place on earth; in fact, church is a little heaven on earth! 

The book of Hebrews describes it as this:
But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.  See that ye refuse not him that speaketh..."  (Hebrews 12:22-25, emphasis added):
I love waking up on Sunday morning and reading this passage as a reminder of where I'm headed that day!  The city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem!  He is there and we can feel his presence.  And to "an innumerable company of angels."  There are definitely angels among us. 

 Then here's where it gets really good - God the Judge of all is there.  And yes, I've felt condemnation at church too.  (In fact if you don't feel some condemnation at your church, I encourage you to find a church that preaches the entire gospel.)  Fortunately, there's someone there to help with that condemnation- Jesus, the mediator!  No longer do I have to approach a priest, but I can go directly to the throne!  When that condemnation is felt, there is also grace available!  Jesus is there to intercede on our behalf.  To plead with the Father for our every need. 

Besides, God, Jesus and the innumerable angels, there is also the spirits of just men made perfect.  No, we aren't perfect but the spirit within us is!  And when I come to church I can feel a connection between my church family that just isn't there with others out in the world.  That connection, that bond that binds - is Jesus!  I see people who God has placed in my life for a reason.  Many that have helped me through some difficult times in my life.  They prayed for my soul and they're praying for my life and now my children's souls!  I've been at some low points and received a card in the mail with some encouragement or a phone call just letting me know they were praying.  I've lost loved ones and they've been there to comfort me.  They have accepted, loved, and encouraged me throughout every stage of my life.

And while we are there "see that ye refuse not him that speaketh."  While we are there at church in His presence, among His people, let's do His will. 

So to bring it down and get even more personal, here's what church is to me:

  • The place where 28 years ago today, I was saved and began this journey with Christ.

  • The place where I go to worship Christ in spirit and truth.

  • A place of refuge-where I can forget the cares of the world for just awhile and focus on Christ.

  • A place of spiritual nourishment. God will provide through the music, testimonies, and message exactly what I need for the upcoming week. I can get a spiritual "fill up".

  • A place of fellowship.  I attend a smaller church and they truly are my family.  Jesus knew we needed fellowship with each other.  That's why he set up the church while he was here. 
    "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God." 
    Ever felt just out of place in the world through the week?  I hope you have!  Yet, for awhile I can gather with some like-hearted people.  People who get me because Christ lives in them too! 

Ever heard the saying, "God saved my soul, but the church saved my life."  To put it in a nutshell, that's what it has done for me.  That's what it can do for you.  It can give you that life "more abundantly."  There is no other entity in the world that does more good than the church.  What a privilege it is to be just a small part of that! 

As we go throughout this week sitting at His feet, reflecting on the church, I pray He'd give us a clearer picture of the beauty and power of it!   May we all commit ourselves to the body of Christ and follow where He leads.

Friday, January 15, 2016

One Thing is Needful: Week Two-Finding Him at the Bottom of the Barrel

I hope you've surrendered some things (laid down your Isaacs as we've been referring to them in our group) and drawn closer to Christ this week!  We've had some powerful testimonies in our group stemming from Tuesdays question, "Reflect back on a time when you put God before your own needs.  How did He come through for you?"  It never ceases to amaze me what God can do when we lay our lives at His feet.  But to truly know Him takes complete surrender and sometimes (often times) risk on our part.  I love the way Jennie Allen puts it in her book Anything:  
"The only exercise that works 100 percent of the time to draw one close to the real God is risk....To risk is to willingly place your life in the hand of an unseen God and an unknown future, then to watch him come through. He starts to get real when you live like that....It is a life fully surrendered to an invisible God whose agenda for my time here is contrary to my own, a life very different from the same, comfortable one I was creating."

I've never found it in my Bible where God says trust me with this one area of your life and I'll bless you.  It's all or nothing!  This week we studied about a widow woman who did just that.  She found herself in a drought with a young son to feed.  Elijah came to her asking that she bring him some bread.  Her response was she had nothing left but just a small amount of meal and oil.  She was about to make that for herself and her son and then they would die.  Elijah told her to make his first.  She followed God's will and the scripture tells us  
"And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Elijah."  (1 Kings 17:16)

There's not been enough times that I've trusted God completely with my life, but I wanted to share with you all how He came through for me when I did!  This almost empty cheeseball bucket is my barrel!

At the time our first daughter was born, I was our main source of income. My husband was working with his Dad when he could and working on building our home, but I was the one with the secure, insurance holding job. He had given up his job so that we could come back home and start a family.  Since I was working, he was the one at home with our daughter for the most part.  Then we received a phone call one day asking if he'd be interested in teaching science. At that time he was still looking for a job in meteorology, but to my surprise, he ended up taking the job. 

My husband and I had always felt my place was at home with our children while they were so young. Not only did I feel that way, but I truly felt that was God's will. I was a little disappointed when I realized the job God had sent was about 1/3 of the income we were hoping! I didn't see any way I would be able to stay at home. So as we discussed it, my husband said, "If you can come up with a budget that will work with my one salary then you can quit." Believe me I tried everything I could think of, even cutting luxuries like Direct TV and internet, and it still just didn't work. We barely had enough to cover the bills, much less buy groceries, gas and other necessary things. 

I prayed as much as I've ever prayed over anything and God just kept showing me in different ways where I needed to be-at home. It worried me because it wasn't just our lives we now had control over but another one to clothe and feed and I sure didn't want her to go without! But as I continued in prayer God showed me she didn't need cute clothes, or a ton of toys, she needed a Mom at home to nurture and care for her. My husband finally said if I really felt like that's what I needed to do, then go for it. So I went to my principal to turn in my notice. She was shocked and asked if I was sure. She ended up being very gracious and talking me into just taking a year off instead of quitting, just in case. Already I felt God was giving me some grace! 

I'm not going to say the next few months were easy, but they were such a blessing! There were days I can remember at the end of the months, my husband would need some gas money to get to work and I'd go to this bucket and there wouldn't be anymore than is in it now but there was always enough in it to get him to work! Sometimes when counting it out and taking it to him, my faith was weak and I'd think well that was all that! But then the next time I went to it, there it would be-just enough! After that had happened a few times, I began to KNOW it was going to be there! (The more we trust in God, the more He proves Himself to us, the easier it becomes.) It wasn't much longer after that God provided a way for me to make enough money from home for us to be able to live a little more comfortably. At the end of the year, I still didn't go back to work.  Now here we are 5 years later, 2 more kids and He's still providing! I've held on to this bucket as a reminder of how He always will!!

I can reflect back upon a couple more specific times I truly surrendered my life to God and I can tell you they have turned out to be the absolute, biggest blessings in my life!  I can't begin to imagine by life, had I of held onto my own selfish control and missed those parts!  Much like the widow woman, I'd rather live on His grace and miracles than my holding on to things any day!  I've come to realize that when we go as far as we can, that's where He picks up and really works in our lives.  And it's in that time of need and dependency that we truly come to know Him and trust Him more and more. 

What about you?  How has God come through for you when you fully surrendered?  I'd love to hear about it!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

One Thing is Needful: Week Two-Our Relationship with Christ

Saturday night was movie night with our family.  We set up the projector to watch War Room.  (Which is a MUST see!  Third time for my husband and I, but the first for our kids.)  We were about 15 minutes into the movie when my six-year-old looked at us and asked, "WHAT is wrong with that man?"  She was talking about Tony, the husband and dad in the movie.  He was angry with everyone, especially his family.  He was dissatisfied with his wife; ignoring his daughter; short with his friends; being dishonest with work; and just overall crabby and unhappy with life.  I looked at her and replied, "He needs some Jesus!  Just keep watching!"

Kind of sounds a little like Martha doesn't it- frustrated with her sister, not happy with work, running around anxious and "cumbered."  Kind of sounds a lot like me at times too.  

Jesus tells a parable in Luke 15 comparing himself to a vine and us to the branches.

"I am the vine, ye are the branches.  He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit:  for without me ye can do nothing."  Luke 15:5
The vine is the source of life for the branches.  It's where their nourishment and strength comes.  Without the vine, no fruit can be produced.  In the same way, Jesus is our source of life.  When we are abiding in Him, then we are spiritually nourished and we will see the fruits of the spirit in our own lives.  Love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, humbleness, and self-control are all products of being connected to Christ. 

I think JoAnna Weaver does a great job explaining our relationship to Christ in relation to the rest of our lives:

“The secret of balancing worship and work, devotion and service, love of God and love of people is maintaining our connection to Jesus Christ.  Our relationship with Him is the fulcrum, the anchor, the steadying point that makes balance possible in the first place.  And the deeper that relationship goes, the more stable the balance will be.” 

Ever want to know the secret to balancing it all? Well, there you have it!  It's all in maintaining our relationship with Christ.  Then everything else is put into perspective. 

So, as we go through this week and deeper into our relationship with Christ, put all you have into it.   Be completely honest and lay it all at His feet, because if you don't the rest of the weeks (the rest of the areas of our life)  aren't really going to matter.  If our relationship with Christ is not where it should be, then everything else is out of whack!  

My prayer is that we all will draw so close to Him, that there's not room for anything else in between.  That we, as branches, will grow deeper and deeper into the one true vine, Jesus Christ. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

One Thing is Needful: Week One Review and Accountability

Wow-what a great week this has been studying about Mary and Martha!  This study is very flexible and you can simply do it on your own, but I wanted to share a little with you about how powerful an accountability group (or even partner) can be!   

We (myself and 14 other ladies) have a facebook group where we check in with each other daily. Sometimes it will be to share our thoughts. Other times it may be just to like someone else's post or say we read that day. However, it's important for us to check in everyday-well, Monday-Friday anyway.  Knowing that others are expecting you to post helps keep me on track and in His word!  Besides the accountability, it's also such a HUGE blessing and encouragement to read their posts throughout the day.  We also share praise and prayer requests. 

Just to show you what I mean, here are some of the posts from our group this week:

  • When Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, she LISTENED to Him, she LINGERED with Him, and she LOVED Him.

  • She (Martha) had the right idea, she just got distracted & lost focus on what really mattered.

  • I am already seeing in this study that it may not be more that He wants from us, it could be less.

  • Good morning girls! Ok I'm blown away! I guess I knew this was the same Mary that anointed His feet at the Pharisees house and washed them with her tears and dried them with her hair but the Lord just really put it in perspective for me this morning! If you have a Thompson chain the reference 2261 really helped me this morning! She was found at Jesus' feet for instruction, worship, and comfort three times! She knew how special Jesus was and what He personally did for her by saving her even though she was "a sinner". (Luke 7:36) I believe Mary wanted to spend as much time as she could just being in His presence! She knew where her strength, comfort, and knowledge came from! Two words that really stuck out to me were "sat" and "heard". How many times do I just need to stop and listen and actually hear Him speak to me!!

  • Good morning girls! I think it was important for Mary to be at Jesus feet because she was as close as she could be and there wasn't room for distractions to come in between them.

  • My desire is to "sit" today & hear from Him. I've got a million things screaming for my attention so it's easy to be up, not listening. Lord help me to be still & listen to the only voice that matters...

  • "Heard HIS word" also stuck out to me. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Covey.I thought of this quote and how it's even applicable to Jesus and His word. He doesn't want our response, but he wants our hearts to truly HEAR Him.

  • I want to knock Martha more than myself because Jesus was actually sitting in her house but guess what? He LIVES in mine!!

  •  I am realizing that I had stress because I had everything backwards. Yesterday, I got up at 4 and did my Bible study before anything else. The rest of the day was great because I had a peace with me. My prayer this morning was for God to help me keep him first in my life everyday.

  • Luke used the word "cumbered", which means a hindrance, obstruction, or burden. Martha saw her serving as "cumbersome". God has called me to be a wife, mother, and nurse, among other things. But before all of that, He called me to be a Christian. So many days I gripe about having to do laundry, wash dishes, or go to work. Shame on me for letting my callings get in the way of my praise!

  • When I read this (Luke 10:41) I disected careful to mean hesitant and burdened. However, the Bible constantly reminds us to cast our cares on Him. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. I don't believe we are made to carry these burdens ourselves. When we turn them over to God, He takes them away and replaces them with peace. How wonderful is that! I am bad to worry over decisions and try to plan out every little move. My life would be a lot more enjoyable if I let Him take care of things and was just excited to see how He would work things out.

See what I mean?  Accountability, blessings, encouragement-I LOVE my GMG group!!  These ladies are awesome because they are allowing God to reveal things to them through His Word.  

So how do you go about having an accountability group?  The way I did it was simply sent out a FB message to some friends.   Honestly, some of them I didn't even know that well at the time, but felt God had led me to ask them if they wanted to start a Bible Study. I believe we started with around 6-8 ladies and now here we (and a few others) are about 6 years later, probably somewhere around our 10th study. These ladies are now some of my dearest friends!  

My suggestion is to keep the group smaller-I would say 4-8 is really about perfect, but no more than around 15 in one group. That way it's still small enough everyone feels accountable and open to share things.  Even if you don't have a group, then at least ask one other person to help hold you accountable. 

Once you have who you'll be doing the study with, then decide what's the best method for y'all to keep in touch:  Facebook, email, text, phone calls, etc.  Then encourage and equip each other daily!  

If you need any further help or have questions about starting a group on your own, I'd be glad to help.  I know if you've been sitting at His feet this week He has also revealed some things to you!  I'd love to hear about your group or what God has shown you individually this week!  

Sunday, January 3, 2016

One Thing is Needful: Week One

It's 5:30 am and my alarm on my phone is going off. It's time to wake up before the kids and get in my morning devotion time. My brain is awake even before my eyes though and a million things are already running through it - mostly my long to do list for the day. Anybody relate? 

I could go ahead and get a jump start on it before the kids wake up. It's SO much easier to accomplish things without 12 little hands and feet right around you. Then I remember Christ's words to Martha in Luke 10:41-42 and know they ring true for me too -

"Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." 

Just like us, Martha and Mary both woke up with choices for their day too. Jesus was coming and there was much to be done! Martha set to work in the house and continued serving even after Jesus' arrival. I can imagine all too well the things going through her mind (because they've went through mine and it wasn't even JESUS coming to my house!) Is the house clean enough for Him? Is their enough food ready? Will He be comfortable here? 

Mary, on the other hand, chose simply to sit at His feet and listen.

Martha wasn't doing anything particularly bad, in fact, most would have considered her to be doing what was right! She wasn't just sitting around, she was serving! Yet, she was doing it all wrong. Jesus didn't want her perfect house or delicious food - He wanted her to put away the distractions of life and enjoy being in His presence.

Satan knows exactly how to draw us away from Christ. And for many of us (My own hand going up here) it's through daily distractions. He keeps us so busy and wrapped up in our own little lives that Christ gets completely squeezed out. We, like Martha, may not necessarily be doing anything considered "bad" but if it's keeping us from Christ then it's sin. I wonder how many times Jesus has shook his head at me and said "Anna, Anna, just let some things go and sit at my feet for awhile!"

So as I go through this week with my own agenda and long to-do lists. I'm going to remember two things:

  1. "Only one thing is needful." Did you really get that earlier?  If not, just let it sink in a minute.  When your to do list is so long you don't even know where to start, or when you feel so overwhelmed by what lies ahead of you-THERE IS ONLY ONE THING NEEDFUL!  The ONLY thing that matters is whether or not we are in His presence today.
  2. The choice is mine. I can choose the chaos and care of the world, like Martha; or I can be more like Mary and choose the good part. The part that will matter for an eternity. Don't check off everything on your list today, and miss the one thing that actually mattered!

I'd love to hear from you this week as we lay our own life at His feet and dig deeper into Mary and Martha!  Are you more of a Mary or Martha? 

Below is our Reading Plan and challenges for the week, along with a little summary of the SOAP method.  If you are just seeing this and would like a pdf file of the journal we are using for this study, just comment with your email!

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