The Army Seals

Written by: Rhonda Sue Page

Have you ever had a moment where you felt something boldly rise within you, like a fresh breath of purpose that stirred you to know you were created for more? Or maybe it was less dramatic, as in a series of days whereupon lifting your head from the chaos you fleetingly thought “There has to be more.”

Truthfully, I’ve had both. The former comes in a powerful wave and makes me believe anything is possible. The latter taunt is usually born of frustration and a touch of fear that maybe life is rushing passed me and I’m missing out. Interestingly enough, I find the cause and the cure are one and the same……..Time spent in His Presence always stirs a deep seated hunger to be more like Him and less like me.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t dislike me….it’s more that I just don’t trust me. All my life I’ve seemed to be this odd mix of amazing and disappointing wrapped up together….never sure at any given moment which would come spilling forth. And I’ve come far enough to realize that without cooperating with the Holy Spirit at work in me…….I’m doomed. I used to worry that this was some sort of sign that I was just wicked to my core. I’ve come to realize that’s not the case at all. I’m just weak to my core.

There’s a beautiful scripture that says it all:

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

This idea that Christians need to have it all together and have all the answers is pretty rotten. In fact, it reeks of pride, arrogance and self-sufficiency. What Christians need to have more of is humility and understanding for the fact that as humans we are in this brokenness together. Our enemy wants to wipe us all off the map and he could care less what symbol you happen to slap on your windshield or bumper. In fact he loves it when he can get one or more of us to run people off the road…….forgetting that it’s even there. Because those people would never want to darken the doorway of our church after that.

You and I are going to be tempted to behave badly. This isn’t about cleaning ourselves up to the point we can’t be tempted. This is about falling in love with the one we call “Lord” until becomes our actual…well, “Lord”. My desire to please Him and cry out for His help when I’m tempted is a behavior-changing force of nature after that.

We glorify God when we depend upon Him. It is an action that both acknowledges His existence and our need. We have need of a power source and He is that source. Just this simple act alone gives way to the revival of our spirits and the lifting of our heads…….and more days of believing that anything is possible.

Once that begins to happen the enemy gets nervous. A person who refuses to be discouraged is dangerous. The elite in the Army of God. (Kinda like the Navy Seals…….if they were in the Army……but they aren’t…….and my husband gets very irritated when I mention this.)
These Elite are willing to make whatever changes they have to in life to see the Kingdom of God advance. If that means letting someone cut us off of on FM359….so be it. “You know what?…..I preferred you to go ahead of me anyways Buddy!! Hooah! Simper Pie! Praise God!……….
…ooohhh, I’m suddenly hungry. Who’s up for Cracker Barrel after church kids?”

If I can trust Him that my best days are still out in front of me, It curbs the urge to fight and looses instead the freedom to let go and give. That’s the transforming power of Grace.

And don’t you dare go letting the enemy tell you that makes you a doormat. It takes huge amounts of courage and self control to not let others steal your joy. But it also happens to be the least stressed-out way to live when you’re not constantly handing over your God-given power to the enemy to torment you with. It makes you slippery……the devil can’t handle slippery people. I meant that figuratively……. but literally the visual makes me laugh too. (You’ve watched a mutton or greased-pig run before I hope.)

My prayer for you is that God infuses you with courage and the ability to dream big I don’t care how old (or young) you are. I want Him to give you eyes to see Him and Ears to hear Him and I want you to feel His manifested love toward you right where you are, just as you are.

Love Him with all your heart and do whatever you do to His glory……

Go be bold & slippery seals for Jesus!

…….Now excuse me while James once again explains the branches of the military and their mascots……oops, he’s scowling at me again.

Rhonda Sue

Branches need pruning

Written by: Vivian Wilson

I have a rose bush that lives in the flower bed close to my deck.  Many of you can say the same thing, in fact, you probably have more than one.  But this rose bush is special. We planted it in 1976, when we moved into this home.  It has survived two floods, and many hot, dry summers, a few snow falls, and many freezing days over the years.  Yet it survives.  In fact, it more than survives.  When pruned at the proper time in February, it produces many beautiful, fragrant yellow roses from May into the fall.

As I was reading one of my favorite passages of scripture recently, John 15:1-17, familiar verses about the Vine and the branches, I thought about my rose bush.  (I don’t have any grapevines.)  I was reminded that there are seasons of pruning in the life of every child of God.

According to Wikipedia: Pruning is the practice involving the selective removal of parts of a plant.  The practice entails removal of diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound or otherwise unwanted tissue from plants.  The reasons we prune are: 1. deadwood removal  2. shaping—by controlling or directing growth  3. improving or maintaining health  4. increasing the yield or quality of flowers and fruits.

This pruning process can be painful at times as God shines His light into the dark places of our hearts, illuminating the sin, failures, and weaknesses that try to hide there.  Then we are faced with a choice.  We can ignore or rationalize what God’s truth reveals, or we can acknowledge it, repent, and allow God to remove the things from our lives.

If we choose to reject the work of the “Gardener” we risk forfeiting our usefulness and the blessings that He has planned for us.  We also diminish our relationship with Him.  We cannot abide in Him because sin is a hindrance to our fellowship with Him.

To abide in Him is to keep in fellowship with Christ so that His life can work in and through us to produce fruit.

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But if we surrender to God and allow Him to prune us, we will first, be even more fruitful, John 15:2…while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.  And second, the Father will be glorified because others will see that we are disciples of Jesus, John 15:8 This is my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

I am grateful for this process because each time that God prunes me, I am closer to Him, I experience His love on a deeper level, and I can live a more godly life because He is building in me a more godly character.

When I allow God to prune me, I more than survive life, I am a useful servant who loves my Savior.  Like my rose bush when it is full of beautiful yellow blooms,  I pray that my life will reflect the beautiful presence and character of God.

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Still, and until He calls me home, a work in progress,

Vivian

 

What are you waiting for…?

Written by: Ms. O

Anticipation….is making me wait…it’s keeping me waiting. I wish there was a way to type out the sound out that word “waiting”…the way it was sung….so many years ago…by Carly Simon. The way she drew out that word….embodied the feeling of it.

Anticipation…

There is much to be said about anticipation….knowing that what is ahead is going to be good…very good…and your heart….well….is anticipating….what it knows is coming.

It never fails when I bake cookies that I will end up tasting the batter before I bake it into fruition. I just can’t help myself. I know the whole health department warnings about eating raw cookie dough…eating raw eggs….whatever they claim. If that was true, I would be standing here dead…many times over. That piece of cookie dough…lump of luscious…gives a hint of what is to come…a tiding over of the goodness ahead.

Before I take a vacation, the waiting is the hardest part. I have visions in my head of what to expect….according to the internet. The pictures they show make your heart long for relaxation….tempting food offerings…and plush accommodations.  It is a giddy welling up in my soul…as the countdown begins….knowing that a well needed respite is ahead.

When my kids were little, the anticipation of what they will “become” is like watching history unfold. The first time they pick up a bat/ball/club…..bring home that first masterpiece…..write their composition “What I want to be when I grow up”….gave me as a parent a sense of wonder….as in “I wonder what they will….be”.  Neither of my kids are doing what I thought they would be doing when my thoughts of their future unfolded…in elementary school…but each part of their life was part of who they are now. Each event in their life….was in anticipation…of what they have become…and continue to be.

I think of anticipation in my spiritual life…waiting for what I know is ahead…getting a foretaste in the here and now.

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see fact to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

There are key moments in the life of the church that give a vision of what awaits for us in Heaven. Baptisms….weddings…confirmations…graduations….give our hearts reasons to celebrate the milestones that bring joy.  Funerals…illness…loss of job/home/marriage…remind us that we are called to stick together…to help soften the blow of life’s harshness.

One day we will all gather again…the party will begin…with our Lord and Savior…and all the anticipation will be worth it. We live into today with anticipation of what tomorrow holds. Each day, God gives us a morsel to nibble on…so we get taste for the feast ahead. I know it keeps me coming to the table for more. Our time here is a poor reflection…like a website that can’t quite capture paradise because it is so awesome…but it is enough to keep me moving forward. Anticipation…it’s keeping me waiting…but I’m in good company.

Ms. O

 

 

 

 

 

…and I’m proud to be an American

Written by: Amy Dalke

Mere words written on this blog today cannot sufficiently honor the men and women who serve our country.

My prayer on this Memorial Day is that we will remember to not forget.

Gravestones decorated with U.S. flags to commemorate Memorial Da

Today, I will remember that brave soldiers have selflessly given their very lives for our freedom.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 27: Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, DC

I will not forget that we live in the home of the free and the brave…because of the men and women who have the courage to serve this country.

Ms. O's father, Jay Shaw
Ms. O’s father, Jay Shaw

And whether you are a Lee Greenwood fan…or not, this song chokes me up every time…because it reminds me why I am proud to be an American.

God Bless America, by Lee Greenwood

US Flag

America! America! God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

Amy

Laugh Our Way To Love

Written By:  Rhonda Sue Page

I’d like to just take this moment and give a huge “awesome weather” shout out to God. It’s an all-out answer to prayer. I’d go so far as to mention that it’s because He favors me, but some of you get up-in-my-grill-grumpy when I do that…..so I won’t. (Mention that I’m his favorite, that is. It won’t happen.) I will however raise my hand and high-five Him in praise.

Did that make you tense?

That whole raising your hands in church thing a bit over the top for you maybe?

That’s okay, we’re still friends. I have something that might help though. This is a link for one of my all-time favorite comedians – Tim Hawkins. He does an exceptional job of explaining the levels of hand-raising and making you laugh at the same time.

Let’s face it, we could all use more grace to laugh away the divisive thwarts of the enemy.

Hand-raising’s not my nemesis……but I do have them. Here’s just a few of the things that make me tense:

 

*Cooking. Yes, I said cooking. Let’s move on…..

*Children that curse. This freaks me out. I get soapy-mouth flashbacks from my sassy days.

*Running late. I cannot even describe the personality change I undergo.

*FB bikini profile photos. Now, I’m no prude, but I AM working hard to raise Godly men who will value more.

*Target Shopping ……………. in a hurry. That’s not even possible. James says that’s because I have a BS disease.

MOM…..PUT. THE. SOAP. DOWN! It’s not what you think. It stands for Bright/Shiny Disease. I get easily distracted.

 

 

Thanks in advance for not un-friending me.

The bible says that Love is the one thing that will clearly distinguish God’s children on Earth:

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.
John 13:35 NLT

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 1John 4:7 NLT

One of the many reasons my family was drawn to attend Faith is because of the undeniably strong sense of community and servanthood. This so pleases the heart of God, and we wanted to be a part of that.

I’m very thankful for you. I love being a part of your week and working alongside you. I appreciate hearing how you struggle and knowing I’m not alone in all that. I thrive on praying for you and agreeing with God that He has great things in store for you. I really love when we come together and make one another laugh with our crazy antics. You are such a joy to me. A joy that, in it’s own way, is every bit as valuable as my blood family is.

I especially love that it doesn’t matter how old you are, what gender you are, what you posses, or what talents you have……we need one another.
We need grace, forgiveness and room to grow. We also need the freedom to pray, worship and serve in any direction the Lord sends. You do all those things so very well!

So here’s a huge shout out to the Body of Faith UMC.

God favors you, and so do I.

But I’m still His favorite……
Rhonda Sue

p.s. Sorry, I really tried

p.s.s. Don’t forget to watch the link!

 

Remember

Written by: Vivian Wilson

I am at a loss for words this week. (Did I hear someone snicker?) Really, I am.

But there are a few words that are on my mind: Remember, failure, forgiveness, and grace.

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The purpose of The Living Room is to encourage and build one another up.  This week has been a difficult one for me and I have needed both encouragement and uplifting.  While God uses His children in this ministry, the ultimate source for encouragement is His Word.  So this week I will let scripture speak for me.

I was drawn to the book of Romans, chapter seven, starting in verse seven through chapter eight.  I will highlight a few verses that spoke to me, but I would encourage you to read them all.

Rom.7:15-25  I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do, and if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is not longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work: when I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  What a wretched man I am!

What if Paul stopped right there?  What if that is what I remembered all the time?  I would have no peace, no joy, and I would feel estranged from my Heavenly Father.  I would feel worthless and ashamed.

Scripture continues:  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our LORD!….Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death…..And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose…..Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness, or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our LORD.

Even the apostle Paul failed; he sinned but he did not let his mind get “stuck” on his failures and weaknesses.  Rather he received what Christ offers all of us, and that is grace, forgiveness, love and freedom from condemnation.

What we bring to mind, remember, affects our attitudes about ourselves and about life.  There is peace and joy when we remember whose we are and who we are in Him.  ALL THANKS AND PRAISE BE TO GOD, THE FATHER THOUGH JESUS CHRIST HIS SON!

Still a work in progress,

Vivian

 

When your plans are altered…

Written by: Ms. O

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated our graduating seniors…as they finish one chapter in their lives….and anticipate the next. The question that was posed to each of them was, “What’s next for you?”…which really made me think about myself…years…and years…ago.

When I was in middle school I had grandiose ideas of becoming an artist. I loved creating things….with paint…pottery…metal. There was nothing more appealing to me than a blank canvas to work with. I felt like the possibilities were endless…and totally in my control. In my heart I just knew that my future was set….somewhere….in between the paint tubes and charcoals.

We moved to Texas and the art department was not as specialized at it was in my previous high school…so I lost my focus. I did not fit in to what was there…so my interest waned. I lost my direction….my ambition…my drive to move forward. I felt like a fish out of water…with no direction in finding the next pond. All that I thought I knew was gone….and I had no clue what I was supposed to “do” next.

I am not sure why college was not an option for me. I made decent grades…most of my friends moved on to higher education…but I am sure a lot had to do with lack of funds. I never thought it was a possibility so why pursue it.

What I did end up doing…after graduation….at the ripe young age of 18…was to get married. Again I had hope…feeling as if this was something I could do. I learned how to cook…which in the south meant batter and deep fry it up….to do the laundry (after many mistakes of mixing up colors and whites…who knew?)…and take care of the house. I felt so grown up…so “adult like”…being married….settled…and yet at the same time I felt like I was “playing house”…not making a life.

After I had my kids I clung to pouring myself into my children. I strived to be a good mom…attending every sporting/cheer/band event put on….diving into volunteering at their schools…watching them grow up. There is absolutely nothing wrong about that…it is the greatest blessing God ever gave me….but it was later that my focus had left me….confused.

This might sound crazy…and after reading this…it won’t surprise me….to see you  enter my office with a straight jacket…but it is my heart. As my kids grew up, it was like I was watching it from a seat in a movie theater. My own life was a blur of mistakes and mishaps….to which I had blocked out a good part of. But as I watched my kids grow up…I could ponder…and do a lot of hindsight into my past.

I look back into the face of that 17 year old girl…fresh out of high school…and wonder when expectations of myself…..changed?

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How did the young girl with stars in her eyes…go to a woman whose soul existence was living day to day….trying to stay ahead of my mistakes…or inability to carry this…life in general…off without anyone noticing. I loved being a stay at home mom…it afforded me the blessing of being a central part of my kids lives…except those middle school years when kids pull off the farce that they were hatched and did not have parents. I got to see their daily triumphs….cry at their disappointments…and pray…a lot…for their day to day existence…and their future.

The day came when they left for college…and I stepped back into my now empty home…divorced…. alone…and wondered, “What am I to be now?” The quiet that I had begged for all those years had been granted to me…and I rallied against it….since my identity had changed too many times…and I wasn’t sure what….was…next.

I know it is an over used passage in the Bible…mainly because it speaks so well to the soul…a voice from Heaven to remind us all:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.,“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”…… (Jeremiah 29:13-14)

Okay God…I thought I had plans…a future…what is up with that? I use these words with my youth…to give them hope for their future…to let them know that the future is waiting for them….but for myself?….not so much.

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will see me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity…”

Then it occurred to me….an a-ha moment. During these lost years….as in not sure of the direction that I should take….I raised my kids. I prayed for them in earnest…begging God for the life He conceived in each of them….but did not see the relevance for myself.  I felt my life was set…the course mapped out…etched in stone. After my kids left I thought to myself…what is the point…now. I am over half way through my life…what is the point? As I speak these words…out loud…with heartbroken tears running down my cheeks…I hear my Father in Heaven speaking that promise to me again…adding….

“Linda…I want your whole heart…not what you are running from…or blindly reaching for into the future. I want you to earnestly search for me…and you will be found by me. The plans that I have for you?…they still pertain…some things never go away…they are merely waiting for you to search them out. Come to me Linda…I have the keys to Kingdom living…and it’s time you walk with me.”

So…here goes…(minus the stars in my eyes)…but more like a promise in my heart…Ms. O