Category Archives: Real Life With Friends

Michael and Malachi

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You know, my whole life I’ve wanted friends. True friends.

The kind you consider family even though you don’t share the same tree or bloodline. The kind you don’t hesitate to call or text at 2am. The ones you invite over whether your house is clean or not, who’ve seen you ugly cry and still love you. Those kind of friends.

Remember those “Best Friend Shirts” we made in the 80’s? A childhood friend and I had a set, which of course we wore with matching side-ponytails and armloads of plastic bracelets. Or maybe it was Swatches, I can’t remember. All I know is we were true blue BFF’s.

Until she moved 2 hours away.

Time has taught me the true friends I’ve described are like precious jewels: incredibly valuable and extremely hard to find. And the funny thing is, they’re usually not the ones sporting a matching t-shirt.

You never know who your dearest friends will be, where you’ll meet them or what circumstances will bring you together. Friendship is fun like that. Adventurous, even. It keeps life interesting.

Take for instance my dear friend Michael Powell. He and Stevie-P were college roommates…and polar opposites! Though they shared a call to ministry, these two guys couldn’t be more different. And yet, they were the greatest of friends. They balanced each other.

After graduation Michael married his sweetheart, Mandy. Then just weeks later, he performed a portion of our wedding. We lived in the same town and hung out often, even went on a couple of foreign mission trips together. Good times for sure.

But then, they moved.

Distance may have changed our physical proximity and much has happened over the years since, but I’m blessed to say our friendship is still just that. A true friendship.

And, I’m excited to introduce you to Michael today, not just as our friend but as an incredible evangelist and author. His first book, Moments with Malachi, will be available on Amazon tomorrow– January 19, 2016!

This book is also like a good friend– it is one of my favorite reads. It’s challenging and insightful; really makes me evaluate my love for God as well as my response to His love for me.

I’ve used it for personal study as well as with a group. It’s great teaching delivered in a way only Michael Powell can offer!

Check out this excerpt:

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One of the greatest worship services my church ever experienced was at a wedding. Many of us drove over three hours to celebrate the union of Chris and Cassidy. I can’t think of a time when I have been so proud to be a pastor.
The event symbolized well the nature of our church. We celebrated romance during the wedding. We celebrated community at the reception. We celebrated dependency afterwards as five cars caravanned back at three in the morning. We celebrated Christ all along the way.

Malachi would have enjoyed the event. His book pleads for genuine romance to replace neglect and adultery. He begs for community during horrible struggles for power. He invites dependence upon the LORD, but is rejected and scorned.

The message of Malachi is easy to read and understand. Just do the opposite of what those who first heard the words of Malachi were doing. Malachi is a prophetic book written not because the people were failing to worship or offer sacrifices, but because the people weren’t interested in God anymore.

Those Malachi addressed were not great active sinners; they were great passive sinners. They weren’t running towards evil. They just weren’t running towards righteousness and God. They were minimalists asking, “What does God require?” and then making sure they didn’t do one thing more than what the letter of the law said to do.

Written around 400 BC, the temple and city wall had been rebuilt, but the Jews had failed to rebuild their own souls. They weren’t interested in God. The heartbeat of Malachi and the purpose of this devotional are to stimulate your interest in God. You may be interested enough to begin reading this book, but Malachi will soon show that often our standard of interest may fall far short of God’s. May God draw you nearer to His standard and closer to His heart as you read!

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If you’re like me, when you think of Malachi you immediately think of tithing. (LOL!) But as Michael makes evident, Malachi offers so much more.

Starting tomorrow, you can purchase a print copy of Moments with Malachi on Amazon for $11.99! It will also be available in any bookstore in the country within 4-6 weeks.

The audio version is FREE! and available on Michael’s blog. Visit www.upandoutpublishing.com to check it out. And while you’re there, sign up for Michael’s weekly newsletter.

I hope you’ll get a copy of Moments with Malachi and visit Michael’s blog for more insight and teaching. I think you’ll agree– they both make great friends!

~Jessie
“How natural it is that I should feel as I do about you, for you have a very special place in my heart. We have shared together the blessings of God…”  ~Philippians 1:7

P.S.  I’d like to give a giant-Thank You-hug to the friends who have loved our family as we grieve.  It is precisely those 2am calls and texts and dirty-house visits that have carried us through.  The Holy Spirit has without a doubt shown up in your hugs, tears, words and work.  We love you to the moon and praise God for our friendship.

One Night After A Long Day At Work

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This is one of those rare occasions when my words are few.

Two nights ago, one of our newest brothers in Christ went Home.

As only God could orchestrate, this sweet friend gave his heart and life to Jesus merely weeks ago. Now, he’s resting in Jesus’ arms. How grateful I am for God’s impeccable timing.

Last night, our little community of friends and family sat around my living room and reminisced of our friend. His sense of humor…his sense of accomplishment, even on the little things…the way he could brighten anyone’s day…his uncanny ability to grow a beard…

Tears flowed as memories flooded our minds; gentle laughter and sweet smiles buoyed us all. We only knew him a short time, at most 18 months, but this brother of ours clearly impacted our lives.

He was always smiling.

He always said whatever was on his heart.

He celebrated the small stuff.

He always did what he said he would.

We all agreed we want to be more like he was. Honest. Dependable. Loving. Helpful. A real person and a loyal friend.

As I listened to the tales of his days, I realized how even the littlest things have such a huge impact on those around us.

…A smile and jolly spirit truly can lighten someone’s load on a lonely, tiresome day, even if for a moment.

…A warm muffin and a cup of coffee can lead to good conversation, friendship, and a deeper relationship with Jesus.

…Late-night leftovers and video games can encourage candid discussion and evaluation of life choices.

…Giving up private family time so a burdened friend can stop by to talk can lead to salvation.

Every action has eternal implications. Even when the house is messy and the timing inconvenient. Even when I feel inadequate to help. Everything I do, even in my imperfection, can be the catalyst for someone’s salvation.

Oh how I should never take the little things for granted or fuss because I feel overworked. I am convicted and reminded that everything I do has eternal merit when I do it unto The Lord.

Tucked away in my heart I know this, but the recent salvation and loss of this friend pulls that reasoning out of its neatly folded resting place and back into perspective.

Friend, if you find your service wearisome or if you’re merely going through the motions, may I kindly ask you to just stop for a minute? Think about every single thing you do and WHY you do it. Slow down a bit, notice a simple pleasure and find contentment in it. Realize that even the smallest things can convey the love of Christ in all of its magnitude.

Know that it is He who made us and not we ourselves. It is in Him that we live and move and have our being. It is He who chose us to go and bear fruit that will last.

We are here but for a moment and then, Eternity. Fellow believer, we have the opportunity to be part of the greatest story ever told; we get the chance to leave a mark on the pages of Eternity. Let us not squander our chapter because we’re too busy or too burdened with our own selves.

May our love for Jesus be so full and our hope so overflowing that is spills onto everyone around us—no matter what we’re doing.

Let all that is said and done by God’s people be done for His glory, to display evidence of Him and His love for us all—at all times.

May we live every day with a sense of urgency to share the hope of The Gospel, for we never know whose last chance it could be to hear it.

We loved our friend and he loved us. How do I know? Because we told one another. Because we took time for one another. Because we were active in each others lives.

When he asked for help moving, we helped. When he asked for extra cinnamon and sugar on his coffee, he got it. And when he asked how he could know Jesus, we told him.
One night, after a long day at work.

ALL for Him,

Jessie

“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” ~ 1 Peter 4:11

“Know that The Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” ~ Psalm 100:3

“For in Him we live and move and have our being.” ~ Acts 17:28

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit–fruit that will last–and so that whatever you ask in my name The Father will give you.” ~John 15:16

Confessions of a Middle-Aged Drama Queen

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I think writing is sometimes as therapeutic for me as a good cry or a hearty laugh with an old friend. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I tend to confess things to y’all. I don’t mean to, it just happens. My purpose is to be honest and real in the hopes that there are other women like me in the world. I think I’m pretty normal…?

Today, I have yet another confession.

Hi, my name is Jessie and I am a Drama Queen.

There. I said it.

I tend to “idle high”, as Jen Hatmaker once put it, and for no apparent reason. Sometimes I just find myself in a tizzy over, well, nothing. I think being the mom of little ones has a lot to do with it these days, but if I’m honest, I’ve been this way my entire life.

Here’s a bit of proof…

• When I was in junior high, I coined the phrase, “I have tender bones!” after finding myself at the bottom of the pile while bouncing on a trampoline with friends.

• The Hubs says I turn into Judge Judy when I’m tired…or hungry.

• I once sent an e-card to The Hubs and Momma that read, “I’m sorry for what I said when I was hungry.” (See previous bullet point.)

• I’m usually in a bad mood every Monday morning.

• I make myself a pretty cup of coffee when I feel down.

• The blinds and curtains MUST stay open during daylight hours.

• My house usually seems clean, but like Monica Gellar, there’s a mystery closet somewhere that you DO NOT want to open.

• When I was a kid, I would never let anyone listen to me practice my vocals for fear of messing up in front of them. (Duh? Isn’t that why it’s called “practice”?!)

• I subconsciously lean heavily toward pessimism and perfectionism, although I consciously refuse to be either.

Anyone else out there, or is it just me?

I’ve recently written a lot about contentment and joy, because I find myself desperately wanting both. You probably think I already possess those qualities… Think again. I’m a great cheerleader and encourager for you, but for myself, not so much. I’m not always this happy, perky, “sparkly” person everyone sees. I wear my Cranky Pants way too often and my Drama Crown stays on standby. Today, I feel I need to confess that. I’m a grouch. I complain. I cry. I expect too much of myself and others and it leaves me (and those around me) feeling discouraged.

I so want the Lord to remove the layers of my heart where impatience and discontent and frustration lie. I don’t have time for those things, not if I want Him to use me to share His love and hope with others. I don’t want to be the thorny soil spoken of in Luke 8.

“Other seed landed in the thistle patches and the young grain stalks were soon choked out…The seed among the thorns represents those who listen and believe God’s words, but whose faith afterwards is choked out by worry and riches and the responsibilities and pleasures of life. And so they are never able to help anyone else to believe the Good News.” ~ Luke 8: 7,14 (Living)

I want to be the good soil…

“Still, the other fell on fertile soil; this seed grew and produced a crop one hundred times as large as he had planted…But the good soil represents honest, goodhearted people. They listen to God’s words and cling to them and steadily spread them to others who also soon believe.” ~Luke 8:8,15 (Living)

I’ve seen God do some truly AWE-inspiring things over the past couple of weeks. He’s proven His love and provided in ways beyond my imagination. I’m humbled to say He’s even used me in the process. Yet, even in the midst of such goodness, I find myself frazzled. All the little things and small stuff of life tend to choke out The Seed and keep me from rejoicing in the harvest He’s given.

So, I’ve been racking my brain. How do I beat this? How do I get this thing back on the rails?

Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again, rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

~ Philippians 4:4-6 (NIV)

Rejoice. Be gentle. Pray. Give thanks.

God promises, “If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:7 (Living)

So today, I’m going to rejoice, be gentle, pray and give thanks. For everything, in every situation. Even though it’s Monday. Even though it’s December 2nd AND Cyber Monday, and I’ve not purchased the first Christmas gift or hung the first decoration. Even though I’m sleep deprived, as my toddler-son hasn’t slept through the night in almost three weeks. Even though I can find multiple things to be in a tizzy about, I’m going to choose differently today. Stop the madness. Dial it down a few.  Ease up, Turbo! (Shelbea, that was for you.) Trust in The Truth and expect “His peace” to keep my heart “quiet and at rest.”

I’m going to take my tiara off today. Won’t you join me? Maybe I’m the only Queen on her throne today, but seeing as there are only 24 more shopping days until Christmas, I’m willing to bet I’m not alone. We Drama Queens tend to keep our tiaras pretty handy this time of year. So, whaddya say we give our crowns a rest and have us a cup of pretty coffee?

Cheers.

Jessie

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To Boo or Not to Boo, That is The Question

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Some of us need to agree to disagree, right outta the gate today.  There’s my disclaimer.

There’s a lot of debate among believers this time of year. Is it okay to recognize Halloween and participate in related activities? How can I show the love of Jesus and still keep Halloween fun for my kids?  How would Jesus approach Halloween?

Over the years, I’ve had this conversation with many a believer AND non-believer.  And let me just say, I’ve yet to win anyone to Christ by staunchly avoiding Halloween.  This is not that big of a deal, people. Realizing this, I am not seeking to persuade you to think like I do on the subject; I simply want to offer some food–or should I say candy–for thought.

Here’s how I operate. I love Fall. Like Lorelai Gilmore and Snow, Fall and I have a relationship. It’s not so much about Halloween as it is the season. I love everything about it: the weather, the colors, the smells, pumpkin-flavored anything.  I dress up and so do my kids. Our Bible study group even has an annual costume party.  We trick-or-treat. We eat candy, and we usually attend at least one Fall Festival at a local church, if not our own.

The way I see it is, I love Jesus. I tell others I love Him. My husband and kids love Jesus and as a family, we strive to serve Him. If my life, my actions, my words, my family’s values and priorities clearly convey true love for Jesus throughout the other 364 days in the year, then I don’t think a fun costume or jack-o-lantern on my porch one night is going to ruin all that.

I haven’t always thought this way, though.  I’ve been known as one to avoid the Halloween hullabaloo.  And unfortunately, I sometimes tend to come across to people as “holier than thou” or as a “goodie two shoes.”  This saddens me because nothing could be further from the truth.  I’m a mess, y’all.  Jessie, without the control of the Holy Spirit, is SOME-thing else.  I know this about myself and, with His help, I’m trying to grow past it.

I was recently reminded of this ugly little fact when I was told that a non-believer acquaintance of mine was shocked that I dress up for Halloween.  She couldn’t believe “little miss perfect” celebrated Halloween.  Really?  In my walk and talk, do I make others feel like my life and my beliefs are THAT unattainable?  Do I make myself or my Jesus seem THAT unapproachable?

I don’t want people to think I’m perfect, I want them to think I’m real.  So if putting on a  costume will make my love affair with Jesus more attractive, or make my walk and life seem more attainable; if it will make me “real” to people, then dress me up, Scotty!  As long as my costume is not immodest or offensive or just pure evil, I’m totally down with that.

So WWJD with Halloween?  Would he make people feel despised for donning a costume?  Would he turn over their candy buckets and run them out of the Fall Fest?  I don’t think so.

Jesus was all about doing things differently.  His teachings seemed to always go against the traditions and religious customs of the day.  He came to show us a new way, a different way than the ones we, as dirt-made humans, had devised.  He did crazy things like touch lepers and eat meals with sinful tax collectors.  He even traveled with his disciple posse to forsaken places like Samaria, where he even dared to speak to the woman at the well.

I believe Jesus is gracious and loving and powerful.  I believe He can use anything–anything–for His glory and to further His Kingdom. 

I believe He can use a jack-o-lantern for His glory.  As a family, we choose and carve a pumpkin while telling The Pumpkin Parable.  It’s a fun and easy way to share the love of Jesus and His salvation with kids.  Check out http://www.creativebiblestudy.com/christianobjectlesson-pumpkin.html to learn more about how to do this or Google “Pumpkin Patch Parable” to order a cute book to use along with your carving time.

I believe He can use fear for His purposes and our benefit.  In my post on 9/11, “12 Years Ago Today”, I said I believe God can use fear to draw us to Him.  Transfer that to Halloween.  Every year my husband, a youth pastor, takes our youth group to Hell House.  If you’ve never heard of or been to this, it’s a ministry tool like none other.  It’s similar to a spook house but the spooks are actually dramatic reenactments of scenes from real life.  Things like suicide, drug addiction, abortion.  People pass through rooms and witness the staged but real horror of these things.  Then, they take a trip to “hell”.  Our local Hell House puts you and one other person in a vertical “coffin” and closes the door.  It’s pitch black.  It’s hot.  It’s noisy with the sounds of demons screeching and people screaming.  It truly is hell, especially if you’re border-line claustrophobic like me.  You enter in one side of the coffin, after passing through a scary, hell-inspired room.  When you exit, you exit through the opposite door into a room where you see Jesus.

He’s there.  He’s bound to a pole and he’s being beaten for your sin.

After a scene portraying his death, burial and resurrection, you’re escorted by angels to The Throne Room.  And there’s Jesus again, only this time He’s in His rightful place on the throne.

Upon exiting, each group is clearly presented with The Gospel and given the opportunity to visit with a counselor.  I cannot tell you how many young people I’ve seen get their lives right with Christ after witnessing this.  I truly don’t know that I could count them all.  What I know is that if we avoided Halloween altogether, if we turned a blind eye to the season, multiple souls would miss an opportunity to make a decision of faith.

The truth is, The World is going to celebrate Halloween whether we as believers avoid it or not.  The World cannot wait to get its hands on our kids and teach them Its ways.  I want to combat that and teach our kids God’s ways, using whatever means I can.  I want what happens in my home to change the world, not the other way around. 

As long as I’m not seeking to promote evil or disrespect my Lord, I’m not sinning by participating in Halloween activities.  If I see no problem with the fun Halloween offers, if I’m not convicted by the Holy Spirit within me, then scripture says it’s okay for me to participate. In contrast, if I choose not to participate in any form of Halloween activity, that does not make me holier or more obedient than you, and I cannot judge other believers who do not share my convictions. That would be sin. (Read the Book of Romans, chapters 14-15.)

Regardless of your convictions, just love Jesus.  Love Him like crazy and the world will know where you stand.  Love your neighbor as  yourself.  Don’t get bogged down in the debate of Halloween, or Christmas trees or Easter eggs.  Just love Jesus and love people.  He’s big enough to take care of the rest.

Here’s my costume from last night’s party…

I was “A Stick in the Mud.” 😉

Happy Halloween!

Jessie

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

~ Romans 15:5-6