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.”

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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. 💕

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. 

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!”

Discipleship Is Not Optional

 
Discipleship. Passing it on. Helping others grow into stronger faith and gifting.
That’s what “the Church” is all about.

I remember the “big songwriters” were people like Michael W. Smith, Darlene Zscech, Jeremy Riddle, Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin.

But the fun part is that these people taught others their craft– the art of songwriting. They rubbed shoulders with people, spent time with them. Invested in them. 

There’s an uprising of new songwriters today… Too numerous to count! Kari Jobe, Steffany Gretzinger, Kalley Heiligenthal, Amanda Cook, William Matthews, Leah Valenzuela, and so many more that would have never had the impact they do if people had not poured into them.

This is something I am learning from today… I really need to be better at putting this into practice! 

My past embraced || My sin forgiven

You delight in showing mercy
And mercy triumphs over judgement

My past embraced
My sin forgiven
I’m blameless in Your sight.
My history rewritten

Oh love, great love
Fear cannot be found in You
And there will never be a day
You’re uncertain of the ones You choose

So I will wake
And spend my days
Loving the One who has raised me up
From death to life
From wrong to right
You’re making all things beautiful

Being Brave in the New Year

 

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Interrupt Anxiety with Gratitude…
Philippians 4:6-8 (NLT)

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. THEN you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7. Some very key people in my life have needed me to open my mouth and to help them through some things. I grabbed God’s lifeline and for these various events, friends, gatherings, encouragement-sessions, what-have-you… I found the strength to speak out against what plagues me… because others were hurting, too.

Have you EVER met ONE Christian who can do all those things? I have not.

God has told me that every disease that plagues us doesn’t melt away instantly, although he is the Healer. Some, he uses to define you, shape you… so you’ll share with others.

I broke down and cried right in the middle of leading the congregation on Sunday. As my heart wept, my voice cracked and I backed away from the mic, down to a whisper in total weakness and brokenness. To me that’s not a failure… but a victory. I claim it as victory when the Holy Spirit moves on the hearts of his worshipers and whispers gently, I don’t love you in bits and pieces… but gave my life to save you. You’re everything to me… would you give everything back? Stop holding all your fear and anger and hurt inside. Let it out. It’s okay to let your guard down with me. I am the Lord your God.

I’ve definitely been walking through a season of dark depression and unexplainable anxiety.

The word cling in the dictionary means:
a : to hold together
b :  to adhere as if glued firmly
c :  to hold or hold on tightly or tenaciously
2a :  to have a strong emotional attachment or dependence
2b :  to remain or linger as if resisting complete dissipation or dispersal

I’ve written God’s word all around my home, office, and car- to encourage myself! This morning I spoke at a breakfast study. I encouraged the other ladies to do the same: posting encouraging scriptures all around them, to see God in every situation. That’s why I’m posting my thoughts from our study today.

See.. if you put good IN…. good will come OUT.

Max Lucado said, “God says don’t worry about your future. He is the author of your story and He’s already written the final chapter.”
If you recount God’s victories in your past, you can KNOW there’s triumph in your future, just like Moses and God’s people did in Deuteronomy 6:1-13 (NLT):

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. {Then… what will happen?} →
“{THEN}: The Lord your God will soon bring you into the land he swore to give you when he made a vow to your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is a land with large, prosperous cities that you did not build. The houses will be richly stocked with goods you did not produce. You will draw water from cisterns you did not dig, and you will eat from vineyards and olive trees you did not plant. When you have eaten your fill in this land, be careful not to forget the Lord, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. You must fear the Lord your God and serve him.

Being brave. “The giant in front of you is never bigger than the God inside of you.”

Like the nation of Israel was promised the Promised Land, and they feared the people that lived there… we sometimes fear the very things that God has promised we’d overcome. (Numbers 13)

Sometimes we make a habit of telling our all-powerful God how powerful our enemies are.

Yet we serve Jesus… who stared death in the face and won. We have nothing to be afraid of. We can take his power into our daily lives, with us. Whatever struggles come our way we can know God will protect us, sustain our energy to complete the task, and remove obstacles– in his way and in his time.

I’ve come to realize that in life: I have got to live inside my head, with my perspectives. If I worry about where my life is going, I’ll feel like it’s going nowhere. However, if I grab a hold of my my life like an overcomer, brave & courageous- know the Lord my GOD is with me wherever I go… I can do anything- through Christ who gives me strength.

That’s why I decided for my Christmas gift this year, I wanted to tattoo this scripture upon my left forearm.. the arm I see every time I play or hold a mic:
Exodus 14:14 (NIV)- “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
the lord fights for you
Even when you’re just not doing all right… you can cling; adhere as if glued firmly: to God and His promises. This will enable you to be brave.