#TAPIN series #4 – {I}NDULGE

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I have a sweet tooth out of this world.

Cake. Cookies. Cobbler. Sweet Tea.
Give me all of it. 😀

When I have time out with my husband, a friend, or myself , I really enjoy going to one of my favorite restaurants & having an appetizer, entree AND dessert. Rarely can I finish it all, but add good conversation and laughs = perfect.

Believe it or not, I have a love for the Word of God that is just as relentless as my sweet tooth. I could spend hours studying the scriptures. But, as a wife of a busy husband and a mom to 3 kiddos, studying for hours is a luxury I don’t get often.

A few years ago I heard a young woman speak at a women’s retreat. She’s a wife , mother and also a youth minister, so her plate is always full. Yet and still, she’s set a specific time for prayer and bible study in the morning and 2 days a week at 4 pm she has a sitter come to the house so she can {I}NDULGE in God’s presence.

See, in the morning she seeks Him out of commitment and discipline. But, two days out of the week for 1 hour…she just sits in His presence with no agenda, no prayer requests or complaints…just an open heart and spirit ready to {I}NDULGE in the pleasure of God’s company.

Think about the last time you really took pleasure in spending time with God. Not in a regimented, obligatory way. When is the last time you sought God with no intention other than to be with Him?

I am an advocate for personal bible study. I think it’s a fundamental part of growing as Christ followers. How can we truly know God’s ways & our history as believers if we never read and ponder on the Word of God?

Even more than the written word of God, I believe we should constantly be in pursuit of knowing God through experience and presence. Every scripture leads to a person…the person of Jesus. It would be silly to know more facts & stories about God with little to no experience WITH Him on a personal level.

Before my husband and I got married, my mother in law showed me some old pictures of him growing up. She shared stories with me about some of the mischief he got into as a tween , and more stories of him as a teenager giving her a hard time every morning when getting up for school. She told me many things that helped me grow in my knowledge of him.

But, she couldn’t tell me how he would respond when had our children …. how his eyes would light up the first time he held them.
She couldn’t tell me how his silence would be deafening when he experienced a deep hurt from a mentor.
She had no facts to share with me about how his laugh would pull me out of discouragement late at night while lying in bed.

I had to experience these things for myself.
I had to experience him.

So it is with our relationship with God. He’s more than the words written on pages translated over thousands of years with varying interpretations . He’s more than a bible story.

He is Jesus. He is a person and He is to be experienced.

Today, don’t just seek Him out of habit. Allow yourself to {I}NDULGE in the joy of His presence & company. He is all consuming and He is worth the seeking.

TAP IN – #3 {P}RAYER

When I was in college I went through a very difficult season. I wanted to be a faithful follower of Jesus, but there were so many things drawing me into the world. I wanted to know God’s word & be an effective witness, but I also wanted to go to parties, drink & indulge in the attention of men. {boys if we’re being honest. We think we’re adults at 19 & 20, but truthfully we’re just kids learning to adult things} .

I confided in a mentor about the struggle I was having. I asked her for practical advice to help me .
“This is going to sound very simple and maybe even a little crazy. But, no matter what, ALWAYS {P}RAY. I don’t care if you’ve fallen into temptation and you find yourself drunk or at a party with someone you have no business being with. ALWAYS {P}RAY.”

I didn’t understand at that time how {P}rayer would often create just enough time for me to think in my mind , “I don’t really want to do this.” Sometimes {P}rayer would stop me before I even left the house to meet up with someone. Sometimes {P}rayer was the reason I had the courage to witness to a guy who was interested in me instead of flirting or having useless small talk.

{P}rayer is what cultivated my relationship with God even before I had a desire to read His Word. I started {p}raying about everything . Not in a spiritual or mystical way, but a conversation. “God, I know I really shouldn’t be doing this”, turned into , “God, I want to know you more.” Before I knew it, I had a {p}rayer life. I used to spend HOURS {p}raying. What began as an identity crisis turned into the years that formed my relationship with God.

As a wife, mother and a woman who’s experienced a lot since 20 years old, {p}rayer is often lost in the shuffle. I don’t have hours to myself to {p}ray. And truthfully, when I’m going through difficult times {p}rayer is the hardest thing to do. But, it is the very element to knowing God and His voice that often brings breakthrough, clarity or simply a renewal that comes simply from spending time with God.

Imagine if your spouse raved about you in public – told people how incredible you are and all the wonderful things you do. But, in private never had a conversation with you unless they needed something from you. Absurd, right? Yet, sadly – that’s how many of us do God. We’ll sing songs about him at church and say all the right things when talking about Him so that we appear to know Him well. But in our private time rarely do we seek Him & spend time with Him unless we need something. Truthfully, we don’t really know Him.

If you’re going through a difficult season like me , maybe prayer is hard because you’re struggling to believe God will deliver you. I’m right there with you friend. I encourage you to not only {P}Ray but, {P}RAY the Word of God in your situation. Search the scriptures and ask the Lord to speak to you through His Word. Then find 3 or 4 scriptures to confess over and pray through your situation. This will be especially helpful on the days when you don’t feel like praying and can’t find the words to pray.

If you’re not comfortable praying out loud, keep a {p}rayer journal . I sometimes write out my prayers and end up praying for 4-5 pages. It’s also a great way to look back and see the times you’ve prayed and how God has answered. It will not only boost the amount of time you pray, but it’ll boost your faith to see God’s faithfulness expressed in times past.

If you haven’t already, find some time to {P}RAY today. It is the lifeline to your relationship with God. He’s waiting to hear from you.

TAP IN #2 – {A}CCOUNTABILITY

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When I was little there were times my parents would send me to bed , and I snuggled down into my fluffy covers…my eyes would POP open at the sound of them up laughing or watching television.

Sometimes the following morning, I’d see empty Pepsi cans lined up on the kitchen counter for recycling & snack chip bags in the trash. It would be obvious they’d had a good time without me.

I’d think to myself, “When I’m a grown up I’m going to do WHATEVER I want to.”

Isn’t that how it goes? We spend a lot of time as children & teens wishing we were adults or at least “out of our parents house”, so we can do what we want.

Interestingly enough, I’ve found that while I’m an adult & can do “what I want”, when it comes to my pursuit of Christ, I thrive much more when I’m connected to others in fellowship and (A)CCOUNTABILITY.

I know it’s the “Christian girl” stigma to post pictures of an open bible & coffee cup on social media. To some it seems contrived and monotonous. For me , it’s a way to be (A)ccountable.

If I claim to be a believer & Christ follower , my pictures and posts should at some point testify of that. If I look over my posts and there’s been no mention of Jesus, devotions, the Word, or some other attribute birthed from a relationship with Christ; it’s a wake up call to get back to what matters.

The danger of posting on social media is doing so with the wrong motive….the intention to “look” spiritual or as a result of comparing yourself to someone else. If this is an area in which you struggle, find someone in real life to whom you can be (A)ccountable. Someone who considers SEEKING God {not just knowing ABOUT God} just as important as you do. Share your desire to be intentional about studying the Word of God & check in with them weekly to share your progress or something you learned while searching the scriptures.

Hebrews 10:24 even admonishes us to “stimulate” or activate one another to do good deeds. You’ll notice the more you’re in fellowship with God through His Word & community with like minded people, your behavior will be more Christlike. The things that concern God will begin to concern you. You’ll give more, you’ll share more, you’ll be more effective, because you’re in continual communion with God.

Start today.

Find someone online or in real life that compels you towards (A)ccountability. This may prove to be a task harder than expected. It is our natural sin nature to be self-sufficient & absorbed. Interestingly enough, (A)ccountability will build community, and as a kingdom and body of believers, that in and of itself pleases God.

TAP IN — #1 (T)IME

**OVER THE NEXT WEEK I’LL BE SHARING A 5 PART SERIES CALLED “TAP IN”. THIS DEVOTIONAL SERIES IS DESIGNED TO RE-IGNITE YOUR DESIRE TO SEEK GOD CONSISTENTLY AND INTENTIONALLY.
BY USING EACH LETTER IN THE PHRASE “TAP IN”, WE’LL TAKE A LOOK AT VARYING ELEMENTS THAT PLAY A KEY PART IN EVALUATING WHERE WE STAND IN OUR PERSONAL PURSUIT OF KNOWING JESUS.
AFTER READING EACH POST AND IMPLEMENTING EACH ELEMENT, FEEL FREE TO POST ON INSTAGRAM WITH THE HASHTAG #TAPIN AND CONNECT WITH OTHERS WHO ARE MAKING A DECISION TO GET REALIGNED WITH CHRIST, INCREASE THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF THE WORD, OR ACTIVATE THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS BY TAKING THIS CHALLENGE. **
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One of the things I have to be willing to admit is that while I love to read – the older I get and the more I have on my mind , the harder it is to comprehend.

As I look back over the last 2 years, the things that have stuck with me, the things that have taken root in my spirit and transformed my perspective or understanding have been the things that I studied instead of just reading.

I read “Scary Close” by Donald Miller earlier this year. It was an incredible book! In fact , I sent a text to no less than 10 people after reading it declaring, “This is the best book I’ve read in years.”

And it was….it was a great book, with so many “aha” moments and opportunities to reflect and confront my own inconsistencies when it comes to relating to others. The sad part is I can only remember a few points from the book, and most of what I remember is a general theme, not specific points.

I read Toni Braxton’s memoir just 3 weeks ago and I can spout of facts about her life like an excerpt from wikipedia. I like Toni Braxton, but I’m not a super fan or fanatic. So what about Toni’s life story made it easier for me to comprehend and carry with me when Donald’s book was actually the better book?

(T)IME.

I read Toni’s memoir in less than 2 days. I didn’t put it down until I finished. I made time to read it. I allowed the story of her rise and fall to captivate me. I accepted the fact that her story had the ability to inspire and educate me in regards to my involvement in the music business, so I read it until I was finished.

It took me 3.5 weeks to finish Donald’s book. I’d sit down to read it and take notes . But, I picked it up and put it down often. And although I was underlining various passages in the book, I wasn’t spending time with that book. I was simply reading.

I find myself in the same predicament when it comes to the Word of God. I read it regularly. Almost every day. But, rarely do I sit with the bible in my hands for 30, 40 , 60 minutes. And when I look back over the last 2 years and the moments when revelation and confidence in the Word of God was building and increasing in my life, I also notice that the time I spent in the Word ranged from an hour to 2 hours ….every. day.

Sure, I have a new baby now and she requires a great deal of attention.
Having another person in the house also means I average 2 more loads of laundry per week. ( As if the Mount Everest piles I had prior to weren’t demanding and time consuming enough. It’s a wonder I have time to do anything else other than laundry)

What about getting up an hour earlier while she’s still asleep and the house is quiet?

Why can’t I forego checking instagram and twitter 35 times in 35 minutes and use that time to get in the Word?

Perhaps I need to stop skipping around the bible via various devotionals and stick to one book of the bible at a time? (This just works best for ME – do what works best for you)

The transformation that took place in my heart was rooted in the TIME I spent in the Word of God. Too often we’re hesitant to admit or pursue persistent prayer, God talk and in depth bible study because it may cause us to appear “deep” . But, I’m convinced that part of the problem with the Body of Christ is that we’re (as a whole) too shallow. We know more FACTS about God, rather than living and breathing out the love of God that can only come from being consistently intimate with Him.

Join me in making a decision to make TIME for the Word of God. Not time to read OVER it, time to INDULGE in it.

Write it down in your planner.

Set an alarm on your phone.

Put a post it on your bathroom mirror.

Let’s do. Let’s make TIME to get in God’s Word.

We WILL be transformed.

The Truth About Marriage

Jennifer Garner & Ben Affleck

Marriage is hard.

I once heard it said that years 1-5 are the hardest.

Let me be clear, it’s all hard.

Some days it’s hard work.

Some days it’s hard to believe every day doesn’t feel like that one because it’s just that good.

Some days it’s hard to remember why you got married.

Some days it’s hard to imagine life before your spouse because you’re that much in rhythm that it feels like they’ve always been there.

Sometimes it’s easy to be intimate in the bedroom but hard to be intimate with our feelings.

Marriage is not a wedding day.

Marriage is not a 3 carat ring in the perfect setting.

Marriage is not rose petals laid at your feet as you walk down the aisle.

Marriage isn’t a trip to Vegas with your buddies to get into a little mischief before you settle down.

Marriage is a choice.

A hard choice.

to love, to stay, to pursue, to open up, to tell the truth, to protect what’s sacred,

to fight fair, to pray, to sacrifice, to adjust, to compromise, to be faithful in heart,

emotion and body, to give, to receive, to forgive, to apologize, to grow, to admit,

to do the hard things.

People change. This is a real truth that we often fail to not only realize but accept

and prepare for. PEOPLE CHANGE.

When our spouse changes and evolves it is a CHOICE to love them THROUGH that change

just as it is a CHOICE to leave.

When we don’t protect the sacred ground of our marriage…with all it’s splendor &

ordinary alike…

When we allow our hearts to find comfort in another

or we allow bitterness to turn our hearts and backs to our beloved,

we have forgotten the truth that marriage is a choice to love another

unconditionally, with all of you, even when it hurts.

Yes, love hurts.

It hurts your pride, your selfishness, your arrogance.

Love is relentless and in constant pursuit.

It longs to rip out all that is dark and muddy in the nooks and corners of our hearts

only to leave light and rapture there to produce good in us.

You see, love is the very essence of God. God who gave His very heart and laid it on a

cross to be bruised and broken open in order to bring us back to Him.

Love — God who never leaves, always stays, even when we are unfaithful.

But, we reject the good…the love when it doesn’t look or feel the way we want

…. because real love is rooted in sacrifice.

It is hard.

The truth about marriage is it is hard.

It is the choice to endure with hands and hearts clasped together

so when the hard waves crash against you….

instead of letting go…

you hold on tighter.

What About Us?

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This morning my heart is full.
My wick is a little longer.
My coffee tasted just a bit sweeter.
My personal worship time with the Lord was rich. I sang to Him and he dwelt in my praise.
I am feeling so refreshed after a lovely time of worship, impartation , fellowship, and SMORES with the worship leaders and musicians from church.

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My mind goes back to a time in my life when I considered giving up on singing. Don’t get me wrong, I love to sing. But, singing…leading worship in particular, had become such a hardship. I dreaded looking the congregation in their faces.
Stoic.
Bored.
Judgemental.

I’d spend at least 3 hours during the week prior not only rehearsing the music but also looking up scripture reference for a greater understanding of the lyrics and content.

All that effort and time for blank stares.

I remember a preacher that I respected very much say openly, “People don’t come to church for the music or the singing.” Felt like a dagger.

For years my husband and I have longed to belong to a church and body of believers in which creativity and living a life committed to following Jesus didn’t have a dividing line.

When we began going to our church I struggled with getting involved in the creative arts department. I knew I was gifted to sing and lead worship but, my past experiences caused me to be hesitant about using my gifts passionately in church.

“It’s not necessary. What I have to give isn’t necessary”

Those are the words that spun around in my mind.

I understand there are people that prefer the hardwood pews and quaintness of a small, older church where everyone knows one another. A piano or organ accompanies a hymn or two and that’s enough.

I understand some people prefer the groove of “shouting” music after a soul-stirring message in which the preacher uses humming, singing, and squalling to deliver his point.

I understand some people prefer not to attend church in a building and instead gather with a few friends at a coffeehouse and find Jesus in the scriptures and fellowship. No smoke and mirrors. Just the gospel.

I get it, and I respect it all.

But, I’m a creative. I go to the movies fully expecting to come out inspired and ready to write a short story or find a scripture passage parallel to what I’ve just seen.

I find Jesus in Christmas lights.
symphonies.
Leaves on trees changing colors.
a marching band.
Disneyland.
a crayon box.
colorful food.
fireworks.
Love.

I find Jesus in the WOW and I want to use my gift(s) to create the WOW.

Set design speaks to me.
The unity and uniqueness of instrumentation speaks to me.
The texture of varied voices speaks to me.

And I’m not the only one.

So What about us?

Why are creatives often lost in the shuffle? Deemed as not necessary or over the top.

The gospel is always relevant, but the way in which we present the gospel isn’t at times.

When we refuse to allow creativity to be activated in our services and churches we miss out on ministering to those who dream in color, are looking for God in an out of the box experience, and make the assumption that all people receive the same. We force people to bury their talents when we limit their opportunity.

The journey toward meaning begins when we unearth our gifts (Rebekah Lyons)

Why is this truth? Because being aware of and having the opportunity to use our gifts in our respective churches is a reminder that our Creator Himself is creative.

Using our gifts is a manifestation of God’s creativity.

Our creativity offered to Him out of our relationship with Him draws others to know Him, and builds the church.

While every church is different and has a different vision and assignment I am so grateful to have found a church that believes in the connection between creativity and living a life of devotion to Jesus.

For the first time in a long time I am thankful that I am free to believe that what I bring to the table matters to God.

What a blessing.

The Simplicity of Gratitude

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I have a love/hate relationship with this quote. {By the way, I don’t know the originator or I’d give them credit. I think it may be @annvoskamp } . I use it often when teaching on worship or mentoring worship leaders. But, it can be hard to live by. Like , this morning when I had to throw out $150 worth of groceries because there was a power outage in our area due to Monday’s storm. So all the groceries we JUST bought before going out of town….down the drain & in the trash. I didn’t want to be thankful. I wanted to be angry & disappointed. I was disappointed and that turned into worry. But before worry could turn into anger, I wrote a mini list of necessities…things we could get by with and headed to the store. As I put every single item on my mini list in the trunk …I started to thank God. “Thank you for these groceries Lord. Thank you for the cash you blessed us with to get these groceries. Thank you for the milk being on sale. Thank you for the vegetables & fruit that’ll keep us strong. Thank you for the Klondikes that were on sale so the kids can have a treat before bed. ” {that’s important around here ☺️} And before I knew it I was thanking God for things that don’t have anything to do with the groceries and things that haven’t even happened yet. Thanks-giving transforms the heart. The disappointment didn’t magically disappear , it just became smaller in the face of gratitude. Disappointment & worry reminded me of what was lost, gratitude reminded me of WHO I have. #gratitude