Monday, May 5, 2014

Proud To Wear A Uniform

 I enjoy wearing my softball uniform--a lot. It's not just one of the many baseball/softball shirts I own that supports another team or the sports in general. It's a uniform I wear because I am actually on a sports team--the M.C.E. Ambassadors, my church's adult co-ed slow pitch softball team. I remember how I always loved watching my brother play baseball while we were growing up, and how I always thought it would be cool to wear a sports uniform. (I didn't realize this in 2nd grade while playing softball, or even in middle school when playing my one year of soccer.)

To me, uniforms mean something. They mean you are identified with an organization of some kind; you are part of a team. The teams are numerous and can vary greatly. Uniforms are part of the military, some schools, jobs, bands, choirs, sports teams, girl scouts, boy scouts, support teams, etc. Involvement levels of teams vary, as well: spectator, wanna-be, fan club, boss, employee, student, bench, participant, coach. Some teams have different uniforms signifying those different ranks. And sometimes people wear partial uniforms when they are not a part of that team and they have no idea what the uniform represents--they just "like the shirt" or "got it for free". (I'm not condemning anyone in any category, just explaining.) 

The first time this really meant something to me was when I was a senior in high school and was in our audition-based show choir, Counterpoints. I wore my uniform--red dress or red polo and khakis--with pride. Not the I'm-better-than-you pride, but the I'm-so-thankful-to-be-part-of-this-team pride. I was amazed and so thankful to be a part of a group that I'd dreamed about being involved with, and a group that was a source of pride for our whole school. I was amazed that God allowed me to live a dream--not surprised, but totally amazed.

Some uniforms that mean a lot to many people are military uniforms, medical uniforms, police uniforms, fire fighter uniforms, etc. Especially military uniforms.* Why? Because these uniforms represent the people and teams who fight to protect and defend our country, and other countries. The uniforms represent some of the people who save lives. These uniforms represent something important. 

I am proud to wear my softball uniform not only because I actually play softball, but because of what the uniform represents.

This softball  uniform represents a mission team of our church whose mission field is any softball field we practice or play on. 

This uniform represents a team of brothers and sisters in Christ who are honored, amazed, and thankful that God allows us to play softball (something we enjoy) as a ministry. 

And above all, this softball uniform represents Jesus Christ.

Another uniform comes to mind, and it's something we wear every day (whether we realize it or not). Oh, it's not physical clothing, yet everyone can see it. This uniform is not tangible, yet it's the most important one. This uniform is not something you put on, per se; it's how you live. 

So, what uniform are you wearing? What does it represent? Do you have more than one uniform? Do you switch them, or wear them all at once? Do you care if others see your uniform? Or would you rather not wear it in public? 

The Uniform I wear? Well, it's something like this: 

This uniform represents Jesus Christ--Creator God, Lord of lords, King of kings, Savior. It's explained in Ephesians 6:10-18. And I pray that I wear this uniform--the one God gave me--and not my own uniform. Because my own uniform looks like this:

*Thank you so much to all who serve in our armed forces. And thanks to all those who also help save lives and protect them everyday who may be on a different "team".

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Like A Mighty Storm

"Like a mighty storm,
stir within my soul
Lord, have Your way
Lord, have Your way
In me"

When you think of a mighty storm, it may look and/or sound rather neat. However, mighty storms cause havoc and often leave paths of destruction. During a mighty storm, it can be rather scary. Or, although  we may not be scared, we often don't like them and we want them to be over. We want these mighty storms to pass because the longer they last, the more they mess things up. They take down dead branches, dead trees, trees with weak root systems. Mighty storms sometimes damage or destroy homes and other buildings. They also disrupt travel and other day-to-day things. Sometimes mighty storms even cause injury or death to animals and people. Yet, after the mighty storm, the sun shines and sometimes rainbows can be seen.

When we surrender ourselves to Christ, and truly allow Him to have His way in us, sometimes He does come in like a mighty storm. Sometimes we don't understand what He's doing; we're messed up and we don't like it. It's not comfortable--it hurts and it really feels like there's a storm going on inside of us. We just want it to be over. 

When this Mighty Storm stirs within our souls, He's clearing away the dead branches, the dead trees, the trees with weak roots. He's destroying the homes and buildings that shouldn't be there.This Mighty Storm doesn't seek to injure or destroy us; although we may feel injured or destroyed if we don't allow Him to finish His work. Although this Mighty Storm disrupts our lives, it is only for a season. During this time, this Mighty Storm never blocks the Son--however small the glimpse of Light may be--and He gives us rainbows to remind us of His Promise and promises. This Mighty Storm will see us though it; His grace is enough. When this Mighty Storm is finished messing us up, He doesn't leave a path of destruction. He leaves peace, clarity, joy, etc. He leaves us cleaner than we were; more beautiful. We may not understand what this Mighty Storm did, but when He finishes, we know there's been a change for the better.

Do you allow the Mighty Storm to stir within your soul?

Monday, December 2, 2013

HGHF 2013: 5th experience and counting

HGHF 2013: 5th experience and counting

Disclaimer: Some of you reading this may have no idea what I’m talking about, and that’s okay. I purposely wrote this blog post for 1) me, 2) the directors, cast, and crew, 3) our local church body, 4) Reality Outreach Ministries and all who have ever been involved with Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames, and 5) everyone who has yet to experience this amazing ministry tool. If you have never heard of this drama presentation, I encourage you find out where and when Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames will be near you, and I encourage you to go see it. It’s free. Or, you could purchase the DVD to watch, but seeing the presentation live is way better. If you ever get the opportunity to be involved in the cast of this drama, please do so with lots of prayer.

A little over a week ago we hosted Reality Outreach Ministries’ drama Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames at our church. As the blog title hints, I have been involved with this presentation five times. I’ve been a druggie in the party scene, an angel, the old lady, a drunk, and most recently a secretary.

Each year I’ve been involved with HGHF, the Holy Spirit has shown me something, and this year was no different. The first year I was thankful to be on stage again and thankful God used me on the stage. The second year I discovered how difficult being an angel can be (when it seems so simple) and yet how important it is to keep praying all throughout the drama.

The third year I was thankful to have a monologue and be in the first scene; I usually don’t like waiting when it comes to stage productions. Many times my body says I’m nervous when my mind says I’m not, and I live on adrenaline for however many days. I don’t like it. But once I’m on stage fulfilling the role I’ve been given, it’s all good. So, I was glad to get on stage at the beginning of the presentation so I could concentrate on praying during the rest of the drama. In addition, the role I had was perfect for me. As I read the script and learned my lines (with the help of the Holy Spirit), I thought, “This is me!” One of my lines had something to do with longing to see Jesus face to face, and in that scene I didn’t wear my glasses. I found it funny that I could not see the head angel when I got to “Heaven”, nor could I see “Jesus” once my name was confirmed to be in the “Book of Life”. I just knew Sister Pastor was at the top of those stairs as the head angel, and if I would have been able to see her, I could have used her as a cue. And I knew Les would be up there as “Jesus” to greet me with a big hug upon fully entering “Heaven.” And all I saw was bright lights and shiny gold mylar until I was about halfway up those stairs. The Holy Spirit brought to mind the verse “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). I couldn’t see “Jesus” clearly while I was on that stage, yet the closer I got to “Him”, the better I could see “Him”. Then once I got up those steps past the “gates” and into “Jesus’” arms, I could see “Him” clearly. The Holy Spirit used that old lady role without my glasses to make 1 Corinthians 13:12 real to me. And now I get even more excited about seeing Jesus clearly, face to face.

The forth year the Holy Spirit gave me the role of a drunk woman. Cast members came up to me and asked if I’d ever been drunk (NOT by anything other than the Holy Spirit, thank God) and/or said that I made a “good” drunk. Only the Holy Spirit can help me act like something I’ve never experienced, and He did help. He even allowed me to almost totally lose my voice (from screaming when going to “Hell” at the end of the scene in each rehearsal and performance), and He used that to cause me to sound like a more convincing, desperate, drunken woman who had almost lost everything because of her lifestyle and rejection of Christ. And although I have never been a drunk, without Christ I could have easily become that character or even worse. I admit, playing the drunk was a fun role on the surface (hey, who cares if you couldn’t remember your lines—you’re “drunk”! And you can come up with funny through-lines like “You know what? I had a dream last night about grandma…remember when she would take us deer hunting…”), but the reality of it wasn’t fun; it shouldn’t ever be fun. And interestingly enough, I was known as “the drunk” by cast, crew, and other church family for the rest of the year (until another sister in Christ got that role this time). Each time someone mentioned it, I thought, “I’m done with that role! I’m not a drunk! (And Jesus, thank You I’m not, because without You…well, I don’t want to know who I’d be).”

As with any time, this year I began praying for my 5th experience with HGHF. I began praying at the end of August after our annual church Hog Roast, which signaled the end of our co-ed softball season. I didn’t want a speaking part this year; not so much because of the nerves stuff, but more so because I wanted to simply pray for the whole thing. I also know I can act. I know that God has given me a gift of acting and learning lines. This time I wanted the Holy Spirit to use someone who didn’t think they could do it; I wanted to give up my position so God could blow someone else away in that role. As I kept praying, I knew I’d be more surprised if I didn’t get a speaking role. And, yes, the Holy Spirit gave me a speaking role. This time I was a secretary who had tried, tried, and kept trying to explain to a co-worker that knowing Christ is different than “having religion”, and that one day everyone will stand before God alone—just each of us alone with Him. My character never gave up in encouraging her secretary friend to give her life to Christ, even to just consider it. That friend thought she had plenty of time until the sudden reality of being stuck in that office elevator during a fire caused them both to die of smoke inhalation.

Again, this role was more like me. And the Holy Spirit encouraged me to never give up telling people about Him. Christ never gave up on me, so I should never give up on others.

The interesting thing about being involved in HGHF this year, though, was that I was not nervous—at all. I don’t remember a time where I have NOT been nervous before a performance of any kind (except for church choir, because that’s not a performance). I even sometimes get a tad nervous before softball games, which I think is dumb. It was different not begin nervous. I don’t usually ever worry about my lines, so that was nothing new. But I saw how I could have easily become lazy and gone on autopilot for most of those 5 days. And I didn’t want that. So I kept praying with purpose—for me, for the cast, for the crew, for all the Holy Spirit would draw to the presentation each night, for Christ to flow through us and to use us to draw people to Him. The Holy Spirit also directed me to the fact of how easy it would be to grow numb or calloused to each of the scenes after seeing and hearing them so many times, and if it would be easy for that cast and crew after only 5 days, think of how many times the directors have seen each of the scenes. The Holy Spirit reminded me of the importance of praying even more for each team of directors—that they stir themselves up, allow the Holy Spirit to stir them up, see each scene each time with new eyes and a heart that’s even closer to Christ. I don’t want our directors to ever grow numb to how God is using and can use HGHF. Praying for them is so important.

Finally, during the last two nights of the drama, while looking at all the gold and silver mylar on our platform, these lyrics played through my mind: “When the music fades / and all is stripped away / and I simply come…” These are from the song, “The Heart of Worship”, and they encapsulated what would happen after strike on that final night. Once all that shiny mylar was taken down, our roles for that year’s HGHF had been fulfilled, we would still need to come. We still need to come and worship our King with everything we are although it may not be through a big production or on a “stage”. It’s not about us, anyway. All that gold, silver, lights, sound, video clips, drama, acting, etc. is all about Him—not us. If it ever becomes about us, then we shouldn’t be involved in it. Now that the set is all stripped away, all the glitter is gone, now we can simply come. Simply come before our King as ourselves—not as a character facing Heaven or Hell, but as ourselves facing our Savior, our Lord, our Love, our Best Friend, our Father, our King.

He doesn’t want us to forget (we still may find some glitter, and I don’t know where the tape ball went [it always seems to disappear, but usually sometime during the summer…so much for adding to it each year…ah, well], and I still have the scrap of gold mylar I wore as a headband during much of set-up, and the number 6 will continue to have special meaning for me, as well as chocolate chip banana bars), but He’d rather have us live with Him in reality than dwell in remembering what He did in and through past performances.

And I’m already praying about HGHF #6.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Do You "Smell" Like Jesus?

There have been many times in the past couple months that I've wanted to post something, but I haven't gotten around to doing so. Tonight is another one of those "past couple months", yet I don't want to pass up this opportunity to share.

This past Sunday, my buddy Nick was in town and he preached at our church. When I say, "my buddy", I want you to understand what I mean by that. This guy, Nick "the Greek" Pirovolos, is the founder of Inside-Out Ministries, a prison ministry. And this guy knows what he's talking about; he's been there. If you read his book and then ever get a chance to meet him, or vice versa, you may not believe that it's the same guy. No joke. That's how awesome Jesus Christ is, and how He can change lives for the better. And, this guy, Nick "the Greek", is old enough to be my grandfather. And he's my buddy. I met him when I was in middle school, so I've known him for about 17 years or so. (Good gravy, that's a story there...) Nick's my brother in Christ, my friend, and definitely my buddy.

Okay, so now that you have a general understanding of who my buddy Nick is, I can continue.

Nick was in town Sunday, and preached at our church. I'm always so excited to see him, and this time was no exception. I only get to see him once or twice a year, so the few moments we get to say hi, give each other hugs, bug each other, and talk a bit are very precious. After each of these visits, I end up smelling like Nick.

Yeah, I know. You may be thinking something like, "What in the that a good thing?" or "That's weird." And, yes, it is a good thing. Whatever cologne Nick uses smells really good (at least in my opinion), and after hugging him, the shoulder of my shirt smells like it and so does my hair--and I smell like Nick for the rest of the day. It makes me smile.

Well, yesterday I woke up and my hair still smelled a bit like Nick. It made me smile. My hair didn't need washing yesterday, and this morning when I woke up, I was amazed; I still smelled faintly like Nick. I smiled and said, "Lord, are You serious? I still smell like Nick."

Although I don't smell like Nick anymore (yeah, I washed my hair today), the thought still makes me smile. And the best part of this whole thing is what the Holy Spirit showed me.

See, when I spend time with Nick, I end up smelling like him--and if people get close enough to me at that point, they may know I've spent time with Nick. When we spend time with Christ, we end up "smelling" like Him--and people know we've been with Him.

And I know I want to "smell" like Christ all the time. I want people to know I've been with the King--like how Moses' face shone when he'd been with God back in Exodus (34:27-35). That "smell" or "glow" can fade, however, but I sure don't want it to disappear. Just because the "smell" fades, doesn't mean it's gone; it just means it's more difficult to detect. Sometimes this goes with living our day-to-day lives. We're Christ's, and we're talking with Him (praying) and hopefully reading at least a bit of His Word every day, yet we may not be spending quality time with Him. Kind of like how I know Nick is my buddy and I e-mail him or write him a letter every once in a while (and have called him once or twice), yet I don't get to spend much time with him.

There's a difference, though. Although I can pretty much choose how often I e-mail, write, or call my buddy Nick, I don't have much control over when I get to spend time with him. With Christ, however, I can choose when, where, and how long to spend time with Him--and whether it's out of habit, because I should, or because I want to. In other words, I can choose whether I spend time with Christ, or spend quality time with Him. And it doesn't have to be hours and hours. Sometimes just a few moments with Christ is enough to make me "smell" like Him for a week--like how just a few moments with Nick caused me to smell like him for a couple days.

One of the best compliments that my youth pastor has said that she's received is, "You reek of Jesus!" I want to "smell" like King Jesus all the time. And not faintly, either. I want people to know I've been with my King.

Do you "smell" like Jesus? Do you want to?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Steppin' in Dog Poop and You Feel Fine?

I'm hanging out with my aunt and uncle's dog Sadie while watching America's Got Talent. I just watched Aaralyn (6?) and Izzy (10?). I didn't see them in the auditions or in the Vegas round--I've only been watching AGT this season occasionally. Anyway, the song Aaralyn and Izzy performed tonight seemed fun (Aaralyn wrote it), and maybe even a bit funny, yet I think it's ridiculous. Okay, so ridiculous in this case has positive and negative connotations. Positive: it was ridiculous in that it was (at first) a kind of stupid, funny song--the funny type of ridiculous. Negative: it was ridiculous in that it was stupid and NOT funny. Here are the lyrics:

Me and Izzy playing outside
Steppin' in dog poop
And we feel fine (or something like that)

Sounds like a kid-type of song, right, which is where the funny part comes in. Yet how many kids, or people in general, play outside and purposely step in dog poop just because they can? Okay, so they may feel fine, but they stink.

And this is where the Holy Spirit comes in. He showed me some things about this seemingly innocent kid song almost immediately after it was performed.

How many times do we play outside? Outside of God's Word, outside of His commands, outside of His will, outside of His covering? And we step in dog poop just because we can--we do things that aren't necessarily good for us to do, or that are NOT good for us to do, just because we can. We sin just because we can, and we feel fine. Of course we feel fine...sin is pleasurable for a season. We feel fine, and we STINK. When we play in crap, we're going to smell like crap. When we sin, we smell like sin to God. And just because we feel fine at the moment doesn't mean we're not going to have to deal with the crap on our shoe--the sin in our life. We'll either be proud of it and show it to everyone (sharing the stink), try to hide it (masking the smell unsuccessfully), try to throw it away (forgetting about the truth), or clean it up (going to Christ, admitting we sinned, and asking Him to take care of it).

Of course, when we step in dog poop one time, it's only going to stink for so long. Yet, when we keep stepping in that dog poop, we're going to continue to stink. As Jesus told the woman caught in the act of adultery, we need to "Go and sin no more."

My impromptu version of the song:

Me and my family
Playing inside
Seeking Christ's will
For we are His Bride

(What bride wants to stink for her bridegroom?)