Can I just say I’ve never seen a dog with smile lines. Maybe I just never noticed. This little rescue pup of ours has stolen my heart, and spending time caring for him has taught me such valuable lessons about worth, and how God sees us.

We’re rejected and abused, left alone, labeled “bad”, “broken” or “unteachable” before he adopts us into his family, too.

A child of God. What a treasured position to be in. 

We are so fortunate to have a God who wants to be a loving parent to us.

I’m reflecting on what our pastor Matt said on Sunday, “gratitude seals the provisions of God in to our hearts.” 

Each time I see my dog’s smile begin to curl around the corners of his mouth .. all because I speak to him, and spend time delighting in him… I feel Jesus’ warm smile over me. He says, “this is how I see you. I delight in you – not because you can do anything to add worth to yourself- but just because you are.”

More Lessons Learned From a Dog

I had a rough week. Like nothing crazy… I was just sick with the flu, we were both out straight busy, and my dog injured himself, got stitches.. and then tonight- he ripped out 1/3 of the stitches while we were out on a date. And it feels like it has been a really long time since we just went on a “real” date. Ugh. Have I mentioned how much I hate blood?

Sometimes small rough patches we go through can teach IMMENSE things about our inner self that God always intended for us to know. Kingdom things.

I grew up with a belief that God would punish me if I did anything wrong. Anything. I know… It’s silly when I think of it now, but somewhere, burnt onto the crust of the bottom of my heart- that belief still lies down there, and churns up from time to time.

After the week I’ve had- which again, I know is small-potatoes compared to real suffering.. I felt like I was drawing up empty. I wasn’t really connecting with God, or sharing my junk with Him. Deep down I thought maybe God was letting Rex get hurt, allowing me to be sick, some things I’d hoped for to fall through – all to get my attention. A lot of well-meaning folks have used that line before. “God is trying to get your attention, Brittany. That’s why these things keep happening.”

I know that God isn’t the author of sadness, pain, and confusion. I know that’s satan. I know satan hates worshipers of God. Yet from deep within an inner child hangs her head in shame and says, “God isn’t happy with me. If I had/ hadn’t done _____… then all of this wouldn’t have happened. It’s my fault.”

And satan’s lies are so believable aren’t they?

So back to my small-potatoes chaos. I was so mad at our dog for costing us over $1300 in one week… and so of course, being a mama’s boy, he hid his face from me. He can sense it when I’m upset with him. So an hour later or so, when Jonathan wasn’t around, I held the dog’s head in my hands and told him I was sorry. (Yes I talk to my dog like he can understand me. I’m a little crazy.) I told him, “Rex, it’s not your fault. You know I have always loved you, and I will always love you. There’s nothing you could do that would make me love you less--”

And I stopped. Healing tears began to fall. God was smiling and gently whispering, “that is how I view you, Brittany. Daughter. You don’t have to do or to be anything for me to love you. I always have, and I always will. And there’s nothing you could do or say that could make me love you less.”

I sat there looking at this bewildered, injured dog that I love so much… and God whispered to me “Oh Britt, how much more I love YOU.” He watched over this little accident-prone dog all the times he has been injured, and to boot, some unexpected money was deposited into our account tonight just as we were at the vet freaking out. God loves me enough to care for the things I love. Kind of different than how I started the night. Hm.

He’s showing me just how much he loves me this week. And let me tell you.. I have not been lovable. I have royally messed up more than anyone could count.. and even blamed God – like He was somehow the author of all this madness. 

He is protector during- and out of the madness. 

He loves me so much more than I am aware. And all those times I felt tormented and alone, He was there with me. He even shed a tear for me in my pain. 

He has always loved me- and He always will.

There is nothing I could do or say to gain His gaze upon me, His approval. His love. He is already smiling down upon me with love, as a father holds his newborn daughter. That tiny child is helpless to do anything to bring joy to her parents, yet the parents’ eyes are full of joy and love for that wee one. 

Even more than that – God loves me. God loves you.

{Coy Marlar.. when are you going to write your book, “Lessons Learned from a Dog”..?}

Homecoming Praise 

There’s something new and beautiful about a homecoming & yet a new beginning, all in one. Pathways are reopened in the heart with a new outlook, and beautiful memories lie and wait in the remembering… the walking down old roads as a completely new person, in Jesus. ūüíē

As I drive these old roads, ride the old trails, smell the old smells … something is different, and it’s me. 

I was afraid that living where I grew up would somehow make me feel small, like a child.. or remember things I wish I could have done differently- a widescreen video of the outtakes from my past life- footage of the  mistakes I’d made. 

Instead… I have nothing but worship in my heart for the God who enables me to remember all the sweet memories of what made me, “me”. 

We all have a journey and it’s rough, but Immanuel, Jesus, is God with us. He is awakening a new outlook on days gone by- because he is love, and light. He is rescuer, healer, friend. 

Today, I choose to not only love new seasons, but also to praise him for the ones I’ve already lived. 

The God of Moments & Movements

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I cannot believe it has already been one year since we took this photo. I’m just sitting here having a small praise-party. Let me tell you a little bit about why this photo– out of ALL¬†of my¬†photos– is so important.

In this photo, Jonathan and I had just come “home” for our once-a-year visit to¬†our families. I stared out the window on our¬†way into Bean Town and prayed, “God, please break my heart for what breaks your’s.”

So naturally, I was absolutely wrecked. Tear-stained insomniac. I lay awake several¬†nights crying for New England.¬†My own home. Jonathan and I both kept saying, “How have we just always come home to ‘visit’- like it’s a tourist attraction?” We knew our eyes had been¬†opened.

We felt a beautiful season in our lives coming to a close in Texas, but we had no idea how to go about it or what God wanted.

Jonathan encouraged me to pray for the things God had laid on our hearts. We began a process of laying those very thoughts and ideas God gave me- back at His feet.

I prayed for a church whose heart was broken for the things that break God’s heart. I pleaded with God to even let us get part time or full time jobs in¬†any field… just to¬†get back to New England to start sharing Jesus’ love!¬†

Kind of funny, how we bargain with God on the very desires he puts in our hearts, isn’t it?

Three months later, I found myself¬†online, and I just stumbled across a church right in Concord, near my hometown. It was called CenterPoint Church. I had never heard of it. I kept repeating the name – wondering why I didn’t know them. Turns out they were First Baptist Church of Concord, under a new name.

I really didn’t think anything of it, but I reached out to them- and the rest is such a blur!

We found ourselves the second week of March, back in New Hampshire, meeting CenterPointers, sharing meals, smiles and hugs. They grew on our hearts immediately. Here at CenterPoint there is buzz of conversation, topics such as:¬†“My life has been CHANGED since I met Jesus!” and “God’s spirit is really stirring here! He’s doing a new thing…” and my favorite:¬†“we long¬†to see the day when every man, woman, and child in New England has the repeated opportunity to hear the gospel.”

We just knew this was where God wanted us to serve.

One year ago today- I prayed a prayer that I was convinced would take years to be answered. See sometimes, God puts a desire on your heart long after a moment or movement has taken place, because that is the time when you are needed. Not before, not after. Right now.

Food For Thought- Stage Design

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http://thecreativepastor.com/how-to-create-big-stages-with-small-budgets/
I love the thoughts, here! Be sure to read comments, too. There are gems in there like this one from Jon Carlson:

“A newer look is with twine and nails created in to words/shapes which can make a great stage design. I have seen it on a large and small scale. I believe Passion or Catalyst did it this past year. All you need are some nails, or screws, thicker twine and plywood for the background. Add some nice lighting and it makes it look spectacular!”

Even when you’re tired, bring your best

Worship leader: Even when you’re tired, bring your best.

Find a friend who is a spiritual help for you- someone you can talk to about anything. Someone to confide in and who can also push you.

This will help fight burn out, and also hold you accountable to bring your A-game.

Because doesn’t God and His bride deserve a level of professionalism?

I write this because I’ve also been learning this.

It’s easy to feel like you know it all when you lead “Forever Reign” so many times you forget to stop and hear the lyrics.

It’s easy to be complacent when you have done this song and dance before.

Refresh your heart.

Psalm 19:7- The law of the Lord is perfect,  refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

Psalm 23:1-3- The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Take time to hone your craft.

Take lessons, warm up your voice, play scales on your piano or guitar.

Memorize your songs.

For me… I listened to other worship leaders like Meredith Andrews and Hillsong teams who say they write theirs on cards.

Mine’s a little worn on the front, but here’s my method to the madness:

Worship leader- the one from belly of Hell would try and steal your joy as a Christian and a leader of praises to God’s people. He will do whatever it takes to get you tired, complacent, or stir-crazy and unhappy.

So stand up and fight, with the power of Holy Spirit within you! It takes guys and courage… But educate yourself… Never stop learning and never stop trusting.

I John 4:4- You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.