Lover’s Ballad

Several days ago, I was sitting in my bed at night and that ancient battle of whether or not to go with what my flesh was wanting, or what I knew my spirit needed commenced. I had not spent time with the Lord or read the Scriptures much that week, and realized I needed to, though a large part of me wanted to do other things then – looking on social media, reading, etc…All things that are not bad in and of themselves, but as believers, we’re supposed to keep the Lord first and foremost in our lives.

I’m not going to say that it was easy to do the right thing, because it wasn’t. However, I’m grateful that the Holy Spirit helped me to overcome that and do what needed to be done even if I didn’t “feel” like it.

The devotional I used was an app called “First 5.” If you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically a short devotional that takes about five minutes of your time. The Proverbs 31 team put together the app and devotionals, and they usually go through different books of the Bible – at least, that’s what I’ve observed so far.

Anyway, right now, they are going through Hosea.

When I opened the app, the main verse out of chapter 11 of Hosea that they were focusing on was…

“I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst and I will not come in wrath,” ~ Hosea 11:9

At first glance, you might be like, ‘ok. so, what’s the significance here?’ The part that really stuck out to me was the very end of the passage: the Holy One in your midst and I will not come in wrath. 

I read this the day before Easter. And in my mind, I kept thinking how ridiculous it was that I was struggling with wanting to read the Bible, to spend time with God. He literally died for me – nails stabbed into his hands, thorns shoved onto his head, betrayed by his closest friends. 

Then, here I am, having a difficult time deciding whether or not to spend time with Him or go scrolling on my cellphone.

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So, when I read that passage – “I will not come in wrath” – my entire brain was kinda overwhelmed. Humans, imperfect as we are, are not forgiving creatures and when someone doesn’t respond correctly after we have sacrificed everything, well, I would say that the majority of us are probably going to be pretty mad.

God is perfect. He has not sinned at all. If anyone had the right to be angry after the sacrifice Jesus gave for us, it would be Him.

But that’s not how He responds. Instead, He makes several statements that I think we all need to remember. One, God is not man – sounds straightforward, yet many times, I know I think that He will react the same way that humans do. The Holy One in your midst, reminding us that He is here. Lastly, I will not come in wrath.

I especially love this verse, and really the entire passage, not only because of what it says, but where it is located…Hosea. The Old Testament. A lot of times, the Old Testament is categorized into the section where God’s power is shown and not His love and mercy. While there is some truth to that, I don’t think it’s the whole story.

When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
2
The more they were called,
the more they went away;
they kept sacrificing to the Baals
and burning offerings to idols.
3
Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk;
I took them up by their arms,
but they did not know that I healed them.
4
I led them with cords of kindness,[a]
with the bands of love,
and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws,
and I bent down to them and fed them.

Then verses five through seven cover the consequences of Israel’s actions. What will happen because they refused to come back to God.

8
How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah?
How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me;
my compassion grows warm and tender.
9
I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath.[c]

I find this passage beautiful. It really shows the Lord’s heart, I think. It reminds me almost of a lover’s ballad – someone who knows what they need to do, and yet, the very thought of hurting their love is unbearable. The tone is definite, yet broken – resigned, nostalgic, adoring.

Reading this helped me to see a different side of God that I had not really thought of before, and I hope that some portion of this Scripture will touch your heart like it did mine.

~ Southern Dreamer

The Purest Love

For those of y’all who didn’t realize it, American Idol started back this past Sunday! This year the judges are Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan, and of course, with Ryan Seacrest as the host.

As I was watching the second night, the very last audition shown caught my attention – and maybe, not for the reason that one would first think. If you haven’t watched it, I would encourage you to check out the clip below:

David Francisco auditions for them, and when he first walks in, you notice the braces that are helping to support his arms and weight. Like they do with many of the auditions, they explain the history of the person, and David was no different. In 2016, he moved to Nashville for the purpose of pursuing music, and in a tragic turn of events, was hit by a distracted driver who ran a red light. A bike offers no protection in the case of an accident, and this situation caused him to be paralyzed from the waist down at only twenty-three years old.

A friend wrote him a letter to encourage him not to give up, and long story short, that friend – Christie – is now his fiancé.

For his audition, David sang “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder.

As he is singing, you can see that Katy Perry starts to really tear up and get emotional. I couldn’t find the exact clip – this video doesn’t show it, but after they walk out of the audition room, you can hear Katy say, “It’s the purest kind of love” referring to the couple.

When I was talking about it with my mom, we came to the conclusion that it wasn’t his story in and of itself that brought her to tears. It was the fact that he and his fiancé were so in love, despite all of the difficulties that life had thrown at them. How Christie, chose to stay by his side and love him through everything, even when he could not walk or dance or do all the activities that you would normally find a couple doing. She could have easily decided to leave him and find someone else, someone who was completely healthy – but she did not. Christie stayed by his side.

And most of Hollywood does not have that.

They have cheapened romance and love, thrown commitment out the window – made having affairs something to be admired and sought after. There is no depth, no lasting promise to stay with someone forever – even when you disagree, argue.

random by southern-dreams on Polyvore featuring artWhere are the stories like Jack and Rose from the Titanic, how he would rather die than see her perish? Or The Princess Bride with Buttercup and Wesley, the loyalty and willingness to not care whether they were poor on the farm or living in the grandest castle? What about the comical adventures of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, from I Love Lucy, who were committed and enjoyed the journey of life together?

The amount of classic, appropriate romances coming out of Hollywood, that actually have depth and commitment, are unfortunately not many. This is why, I believe, Katy Perry became so emotional watching David singing, and Christie lovingly waiting on the sidelines.

She does not see that in her day-to-day life. Most people, especially in the stardom industry, could care less about keeping vows that you make to someone – if they even manage to become committed enough for marriage!

It is truly sad how far our society has gone, and the relationships and family unit that have suffered as a result. Divorce? Cheating, affairs? Far more common than it should be. And what really gets me angry, and stumped if I’m being honest, is how people can cheat on their spouses when they have children?! The notion that having an affair and then divorcing because of that or because you do not want to have to do the hard work in a relationship, the idea that this does not affect the children is absolutely ridiculous.

As a society, we need to start taking back these things. Why should we let how Hollywood and the media portrays relationships, love, and sex dictate our actions? We are better than that – we need to be better than not.

I’m not so naïve to think that this is easy. We are all sinners, who unfortunately struggle with sin. Nothing good ever came easy, but for heaven’s sake, let’s start doing something about it. 

If we fail, well, there’s the next day to try again. But we a society, we need to start redefining romance and love to what it is actually meant to be…sincere, loyal, committed, respectful.

Let’s stop lowering our expectations with these “celebrate a one month anniversary” for dating. Yeah, that’s great that you’ve been dating for one month! Exciting, fun. But in my opinion, one month is just getting to know someone – it is not even a true test of commitment yet. What we should be celebrating and encouraging others to do, is for someone who is resisting the temptation to sin in a relationship – cheer them on! Encourage them. What we should be making a big deal of, is for those who get through the first year of marriage, for those who have been married for ten years, twenty years, fifty years. For the people that say we are going to stay together and work through these issues in our relationship. For the couples that decide to be committed and not leave the other, even when hard times hit.

Faithfulness is such an important component in life. No one would ever abandon a pet, or decide after two weeks of working at a job they had dreamed about for their entire life to quit – most people wouldn’t that is…then why do we treat relationships any differently?

Both sets of my grandparents, and my own mom and dad, have demonstrated what it looks like to be faithful even in the midst of hardships. Being faithful doesn’t mean you always agree with the other person, or even like them very much at some particular moment, but it does mean that you stick with them through thick and thin.

And honestly, I think that’s why having faith in Jesus as a part of a marriage is so important. When you have Jesus, then you have a higher loyalty – so even on the days when you want to give up, you can remind yourself of the promise you made to God. Not only that, but looking at the example of Jesus. He loved us even when we did not love him back, and he continues to love us even when we blatantly oppose his authority and sin.

In conclusion, I hope that Hollywood will create more films like The Greatest Showman that show love with depth, sincerity, and commitment, and as a society, I pray that we will start reclaiming the true definition of love and not let it be changed to something that is cheapened.

~ Southern Dreamer

 

 

Behind the Scenes

Last month, I went to see Black Panther with a group of my friends. We all drove to the movie theater, found our seats, and waited for the film to begin. There was action, humor, and everything in between, but I’ll save my longer review for another post 😉

After I see a movie, I like to go on YouTube and look up interviews with the cast.  So, that’s what I did! One of the characters in the movie, is T’Challa’s younger sister – Shuri. As a genius, she helps to design Wakanda’s technology and weaponry. The actress, who plays her is Letitia Wright.

During one of the interviews I was watching, she mentioned her faith in God. My interest was piqued, as a believer, so I scrolled down to see other videos that might hold similar content.

I was really encouraged from what I saw. Sometimes it can get so discouraging, seeing actors and actresses in Hollywood constantly going down this destructive path of immorality, etc – where are the role models? When I watched these interviews then, it encouraged me. I would also like to note, that a lot of times people will mention god/God, but not be referring to the one, true God. What caught my attention though, was not her reference to God in and of itself, but how she also talked about the Holy Spirit, prayer, church, and the fact that she gave up a huge acting job for Jesus.

If you watch the video above, you’ll notice that she says that God told her he could do more, if she would trust him with this. This is going to sound like a rabbit trail, but I promise it comes back around!

Yesterday, my mom and I were driving home and I had just shown her the video. We were talking about it, and then suddenly it was just like God let a lightbulb go off in my head. If you’re not aware, Black Panther has…

  • in four days (opening weekend) made more than the Justice League in its entire run in North America
  • in its four day opening, is only surpassed in revenue by the first Avengers film.
  • has reached $1 billion at the global box office
  • it is the second highest grossing superhero movie of all time
  • it is the seventh highest grossing movie out of all films
  • has currently made $950.40 million in the US alone

Ok, are you ready for this?

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,” ~ Ephesians 3:20

Letitia was obedient in giving up a huge acting job – one with Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning. That was an act of trust and faith; God did not tell her “hey, by the way, you’re going to get a role in a Marvel movie.” And she spent seven months just with Christ.

And y’all, LOOK WHAT HAPPENED. The success of Black Panther is amazing. Please don’t take me as saying that the movie does not deserve its success, I think that it definitely does, but here’s the thing…this is not just because it’s the first African American superhero movie.

Letitia was obedient, and God is a good and gracious Father, who delights in giving incredible gifts to his children. Hollywood, the secular world is coming up with reasons why this film has been so successful, and yeah, that definitely has merit, but y’all, don’t miss the big picture here!

Since Letitia is the daughter of the King, and she was faithful, God is blessing this movie and the success of it in so many ways! I can just see God saying something like, my daughter has put me first in her life – giving up something that she highly valued. I am going to bless her with a role in a Marvel movie, and not only will it be successful, but it will be one of the highest grossing films of all time. 

Is that not so exciting??? I don’t know about y’all, but I think that is freaking awesome! I love this entire story. Not only do I find her faith in a profession where it is looked down upon encouraging, I also adore this entire situation. It is such a good reminder of the blessings that come when we are obedient to God.

I’m not saying it’s easy, nothing worthwhile usually is – especially if it calls for sacrifice. If Letitia were writing this, I feel certain she would say the same thing. But look what God did! He orchestrated it so that she not only got another acting job, but one that would put her in a position to be noticed and have more opportunities.

The next time God asks us to do something, I hope and pray that we have the courage to be obedient and faithful.

~ Southern Dreamer

Sources:

http://www.nerdcoremovement.com/black-panther-already-surpassed-total-domestic-revenue-justice-league/

https://www.thewrap.com/black-panther-billion-box-office/

 

To Fear Or Not To Fear…

Fear. That dratted emotion that can get us all wound up and in a messy pit.

See the source imageWouldn’t it be great, if we never experienced fear again, never had to worry over anything? Lived in a world where anxiety was non-existent? I think that would be pretty amazing. 

Unfortunately, we do live in a fallen world, and because of that, can feel fear. Something I have been off and on struggling with, in terms of that, has been fearing what God might ask of me.

It’s funny, because I do want to please God and be used by Him, but somehow, fear sneaks its way in and starts whispering all sorts of silly things. What if He asks you to do something that scares you? What if He tells you to do such and such thing that freaks you out?

This past week, I went to a Bible study, and then afterwards read a devotional. Once I finished reading it, I realized there was something similar in both what the devotion was saying, and a small part of what we had been discussing in the group (just a side note, often times, God will make those sorts of things align like that, because He wants you to pay attention to it or is trying to tell you something). In His Treasure, by Sheri Rose Shepherd, this specific day’s verse was from Ephesians.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” ~ Ephesians 2:10

Of course, my first thought was ok so God is wanting me to do something. OH. GOD IS WANTING ME TO DO SOMETHING. Cue my brain semi-panicking.

blog17Well, I turned to Ephesians, since I like to read the entire chapter of wherever the verse came from…and guess what the title of that section was?

By Grace Through Faith.

By Grace Through Faith. 

Crazy, huh? Here I am, panicking, and then God is like, “LANIE. GRACE.” It’s amazing how patient the Lord is with us, because I know for me, there are so many times that God has shown me grace, and yet, I’m still like grace??? WHAT. Does not compute.

I want y’all to see just how many times grace is mentioned in this passage.

“…by grace you have been saved…”

“…show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus…”

“…For by grace you have been saved through faith…”

Ok. Grace. Right. After noticing this, I went back to verse 10, now trying to remember that God bestows grace on us, as I read it. So, Jesus has created good works for us to do. What does that look like?

In Matthew, Jesus tells a parable, which, I believe, gives some insight into this.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master,” ~ Matthew 25:21

I know a lot of times, people focus on the beginning part – the “good and faithful servant.” And while that is definitely a part of this, I want to focus more on the second half of the verse. The last line says, “enter into the joy of your master.” 

Isn’t that beautiful? He has just given his servant a larger assignment, and right after that, says enter into the joy of your master. This is not an assignment to be a burden or cause him to panic – you don’t tell someone, “enter into the joy” if what you are having them do is something that will cause fear, stress, or grief. 

Another way to look at this, is like a job promotion. Imagine you work at a huge company. You’ve been bringing coffee, fetching papers, doing odds and ends. Then one day, you come into work and your boss is there.

~~~

He gives you a grin, takes the coffee out of your hands.

Naturally, you are surprised, a bit confused. Weren’t you supposed to deliver those?

Chuckling, he tells you that you have been such a faithful worker, that he wants to give you a promotion. He’s got a job with you specifically in mind.

His excitement is contagious, and despite your worries over whether or not you will actually be good enough to do this next assignment (you had only been delivering coffee and papers up until now!), you nod your head and follow him to the next floor.

~~~

I love analogies – they always help me to better understand concepts and visualize what that would look like in day-to-day life. How would our lives be different if we could come to God, with no fear of what he might do/what he might ask of us, and just be excited because He wants us to do something more?

Over the past couple of months, I’ve talked to several godly adults, and something that has been common in their responses is this: God has gifted each and every one of His children with specific skill sets. He wants to use those. He gave them to us for a reason.

Yes, He might ask us to do something outside of our comfort zone, but it will be within our skill set. For example, my mom loves God’s Word and she loves to encourage others, but speaking in front of others? No way! And yet, that is what Jesus has her doing. But, do you see my point? It is outside of her comfort zone, but it’s not so far out that it’s in another hemisphere.

It’s easy to say all that of course, and much harder to actually believe. Changing the way you think isn’t easy, but I hope to retrain my mind to stop thinking about God like a drill sergeant, and more as a loving Father, who is eagerly wanting to show me more of the “family business,” and let me have a larger role in it.

~ Southern Dreamer

Note: This does not mean that we won’t be challenged when God is asking us to do something, or that we won’t experience difficulties. However, as His children, Jesus is not trying to make us afraid.

 

Undercover Boss

The lights flash overhead – flash flash flash.

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The crimson curtains fall in perfect line across the stage – swish swish swish.

Center Stage Design Challenge

In the crowd, dozens upon dozens of angels stand transfixed – gaze adoringly focused on their Lord. No sound is made, and yet there is an uncanny sense of destiny and heroism about to be embarked upon. The foreboding aura of – wait. A breeze shifts through the auditorium, whispering to the congregation.

Watch. Listen. Believe. 

Another murmur.

See my Son, unblemished and without fault. He now goes to the world below. Our creation, that became riddled with sin and darkness. So lost and desperate for anything real, blinded by their own brokenness. He will become in likeness with them, transforming to be both God and man, trading the riches of His throne, for the dust of the Earth. 

Eyes were wide in the crowd, silence filling the room.

Through Him, the canyon of sin – the gap that separates our creation from us, will finally be bridged. By His sacrifice, they will have a way to come home. Now, let it begin.

Lightening scintillated in shards of electric light, and the clock of eternity ticked on.

Tick. Tick. Tick. 

~~~

The stage is set; the prologue has been written. What will happen?

In nervous anticipation, the heavenly audience watches from above. There is the birth – raw and painful, yet filled with so much beauty and relief. He’s here! God, in the flesh! The trembling hand of a father, strokes the babe’s cheek – held in his mother’s arm. How is this real?

Oh, but it is real. Very real.

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The child, Jesus, grows up. People do not know who he is, not really. They say that he is such a wise young boy, always obeying his parents. The years fast-forward and adulthood has come.

Miracles are performed and lives are saved.

The instrumental music’s tempo dramatically increases. Oh! Oh! Now-now there is pain and betrayal – blood seeps His skin, inch deep wounds scar His body, and agony covers the atmosphere in a dark display of thunder and rain.

The audience holds their breath, watching anxiously to see what will happen next.

There is a stone, a grave. Three days. Seventy-two hours. And, then!

Life.

He lives.

~~~

Jesus was the ultimate “Undercover Boss.” If you have never watched the show, the premise of Undercover Boss is the CEO of a business disguises themselves and works several different jobs that are part of their company. They meet different people, those who are struggling and need help. These individuals show them how to work their specific skill, and so the show goes on.

No one knows that this person is the boss. Not, that is, until the very end. During the last portion of the hour, the CEO – now looking like themselves, meets with each of his or her employees that they worked with.

The employees are naturally shocked, surprised! They had no idea!

But the best part is yet to come. Finally, the boss leans forward – grinning, he references their struggles in life, and what they had gone through. “I want to do something,” he says, “I’m giving you a check for $20,000 dollars.”

Instantly, the recipient is in tears – wondering if this is real. Could all of their anxieties really be over? Did someone actually notice them? All they can do is thank the CEO over and over again.

This is what the Holy Spirit revealed to me.

I was sitting in the bed one night, condemning myself for not reading my Bible enough or feeling like just worshipping God was “enough.” Dratted perfectionism y’all!

Anyway, Undercover Boss was on the TV and the Holy Spirit suddenly told me that’s me. I came to Earth and I am your undercover boss. This person offered financial help to these people, they did not expect it and yet, they accept it. Why then, do you continue to try to prove yourself to me, when I have canceled all of your debt. You are debt free. 

WHAT.

Basically my brain xD

So yeah, the CEO gave them thousands of dollars, sent them on vacations, helped them out of whatever problems life had thrown their way. And Jesus? Oh boy, here comes the surprise! Can you feel the tension? The big reveal is here!

~~~

A hush feels the room. Then…

I am offering you a clean slate. Freedom through me. You will have no more sin debt, I have already paid the price for it. I want you to become my heir – royalty. Everything I have is yours: my righteousness for your robe, my divinity for your soul, my love for your spirit. All I ask is that you trust me with your heart, and all this shall be gifted to you. 

There has to be something more, right? It-it can’t be that easy! That simple? Crazy! No one just offers everything to a stranger. No one could possibly want to give someone like me this!

Your flaws and failures do not frighten me away. I see your greatest potential, the best version of yourself. The natural state of your humanity is nothing compared to the magnitude of my love, with which even the darkest of souls can be saved if they only believe. 

But, me?

I have chosen you. You are my chosen one, my treasure.

The question is…

Will you trust me?

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~ Southern Dreamer

*Scripture references: 1 Peter 2:9, Romans 8:17, 2 Peter 1:4, John 15:16, 1 Corinthians 2:16, Isaiah 61:10, 1 John 4:19, Exodus 19:5

Faithful Butterflies

Yesterday, I was walking back to my dorm. My backpack filled with binders and school supplies bounced against my spine, straps secured over my shoulders. The summer heat and classic southern humidity filled the atmosphere, making me hurry towards the air-conditioned building: Ridgecrest South. It loomed in the near distance – students exiting and entering in the always moving throng of a college campus. As my feet transitioned from grass to pavement, a fluttering movement caught my eye. Flitting across the grounds, were tiny, adorable little butterflies. Their cheery neon-yellow color bestowed of their vibrancy for life, drawing a smile onto my face.

I hope the title of this post is beginning to make sense.

Today, it was like all of the things that have occurred – which I will go in more detail to – came together in a perfect masterpiece and a lightbulb hit me. Sometimes in life, changes happen, and you’re thrown into it wondering how am I supposed to do this? That’s sort of the season I’m in now. College is a huge difference, going from a homeschooled-Christian environment to a large, secular university; an introvert entering one of the largest colleges. Kind of crazy.

The past week or so, several events have happened. Little things, that you might not assume were connected if you weren’t looking for it. For me, even though I did not realize it at the time, the connection started one afternoon. I was walking and suddenly, one of my professor’s called my name – saying she wanted to speak with me. She assured me that I was not in trouble, before referencing a piece of work I had done.

“Have you found a church home yet?”

I shook my head. “No, I’m still sort of looking around.”

With my response, she told me about the church she and her husband have been attending for the past few years. “They have a great college program,” she said, suggesting I should come and visit. I thought it was amazing that she was a Christian: even though her class is my hardest, she’s my favorite teacher. After I learned all of this, I instantly knew why she has been my favorite.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God,” ~ 1 John 4:1

Even though I did not know it at the time, I believe subconsciously the Holy Spirit was telling me that the same spirit that was in me, was in her. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty AMAZING. SO. COOL.

After class, I headed to the Student Center so I could pick up a package. There were a couple of students in front of me, though not many. When my turn came, I handed them my Action Card and signed off on it, during which they went to get my package. They handed the cardboard box, and I walked past the glass doors to where a gray shelf/table jutted out from the wall. Placing the box on it, I grabbed my cellphone and checked Facebook (as every good millennial would do xD). That’s when I saw I had a notification.

Take a wild guess as to what the overall message was about…God’s faithfulness. My friend, Ane, was going to be sharing in my mom’s Bible Study about how God had been so faithful to her (side note: Ane, you seriously need to start a blog! Your story is amazing). Obviously, I’m not in my hometown right now, so I couldn’t be there. I was so glad she had sent what she was going to say to me! As I finished reading it, all the pieces clicked and I realized how faithful and loving God has been to me.

And when God does something like that, you have to tell. I mean, first of all, it’s SO COOL, and secondly, it can help encourage others! Or God can use it to prompt them as Ane did for me 🙂

“I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!” ~ Psalm 40:10-11

Where do I start?

This past weekend, I went home. On Sunday, I headed to church (albeit very late SORRY, thank goodness God can work through all of our faults!), and saw Mrs. Jane. I greeted her with a wave and hug, before heading into the sanctuary. When the service was over, she approached me and we started to talk. I told her about college, and some of the changes I was having to get used to. Honestly, I can’t really explain the friendship I have with her. I suppose the simplest way, would be that it is completely brought together by God. He has made us kindred spirits. She prayed with me, before I left.

One of my mom’s friends, Mrs. Elizabeth, has been so sweet to me. This past summer I had the opportunity to house-sit her home and watch her silly, cute pets while she and her family were away. I was really grateful for the chance, and as I’ve started college, she has been faithful in praying for me. Knowing the wisdom she has, I’m so grateful for that! She sent me two packages and a letter, which I was gratefully surprised by! The package I mentioned earlier, was from her and contained beautiful, delicious sugar cookies in the shape of Dogwood blossoms/flowers.

Then there’s the cards from my grandparents and aunt with Starbucks gift cards (I’m pretty sure I live off caffeine nowadays xD) – a wonderful surprise that brightened my day. On Tuesday, I met with my English teacher and she was so encouraging to me! She strongly encouraged me to consider majoring or minoring in creative writing. Yesterday, someone from BamaCru – a Christian organization – texted me, asking if I would like to get lunch or coffee.

Isn’t it amazing, how God orchestrated everything? I’m so humbled that He loves me like that!

If you’re experiencing a time of change or are in a place where you don’t know what you’re doing, I would encourage you to ask God to pray for Him to show His love to you, for you to experience kisses from the Prince of Peace. Sometimes we forget, but as believers, we are His children! He delights in giving us good gifts!

“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” ~ Luke 11:11-13

~ Southern Dreamer

Good Guys V.S. Bad Guys

Alright y’all, so I’m not really sure where I’m going with this blog post 😉 I’ve had a couple of ideas and thoughts floating around in my head, and figured I might as well try to put them into a cohesive mix-up of words and phrases. Lord willing, this will come together as some sort of bloggie post that flows and doesn’t sound like a random jumble of mashed-up craziness!

I’ve had some experience babysitting, and there was something interesting I noticed. When I asked the boys, who their favorite characters were, they almost always referred to the “bad guys.” They had the good guys too, but normally, they seemed more drawn to pretend-play with the darker, powerful foes.

This surprised me. I have a brother, and I always remember him loving characters like Luke Skywalker, Spider-Man, and other heroic people/beings. When I came home, I told my mom and asked her what she thought about it. Why did they seem instinctually drawn towards the opposing side? What was it that caused them to be more enthusiastic in that?

Here’s what she said: little boys are often drawn to the darker characters because they are portrayed as powerful and strong. She told me that with Brayden, my younger brother, she always encouraged and pointed him towards the good characters. She would not buy him all of the Darth Vaders, Jokers, or overall villainous toys. She wanted him to strive to be like the heroes. Not perfect, because no one is, but trying their best to follow truth and do what is right.

I know some of y’all are probably thinking I’m going to the extreme end of things. But, I do not believe I am. Because I have a brother, I understand that boys love to play-fight – cowboys and Indians, the Dark Side and the Light Side. There is nothing wrong with that, and I am definitely not against it – nor am I against a child having both the good and bad characters. After all, without an antagonist, victory would not taste quite as sweet and neither would justice be as preciously guarded.

But I believe it is very important for parents to make this distinction: encourage them and point out the cool and awesome qualities in the good guys. Yeah, it might sound silly, but fictional characters – especially for children – are critical. They look to them for inspiration and hope.

Jesus used parables and stories to convey truths. If our Savior did, then does that not show the high value and impact that stories can have?

Children learn through play, and fictional characters are a huge part of that. Rather than consistently being drawn to the powerful yes, but also opposing what is true and good, characters, should we not encourage them to look at the ones seeking after righteousness and truth?

For boys to be brave like Luke Skywalker, loyal like Harry Potter, and compassionate like Aragorn.

For girls to be as loving as Padme Amidala, have faith like Lucy Pevensie, and hard-working like Mulan.

For teens to look at Darth Vader and know that redemption is possible, to remember Natasha Romanoff and how your past does not define you, and to look at Finn from Star Wars, Emma Swan from Once Upon A Time, and remind themselves that even heroes experience fear and doubt their abilities.

Maybe I’m way off the mark here, and this is all just a silly theory running around in my head. Who knows, this could all be mess concocted together late at night.

Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Whatever you read and watch is bound to have some affect on you. I am not saying that if you watch a TV show with a villain, or read a book with a dark wizard, that you are going to flip a switch and turn evil – FAR FROM IT! Without antagonists, any story would be quite boring and basic. There would be no challenge for our hero. With that said, as I stated earlier, children’s minds are still developing. I’m not a parent, but I have a pretty awesome mom and dad. And they always made sure to make the distinction between enjoying the story, and praising the villain. I can never remember hearing as a child, oh look how cool Palpatine looks with his Force lightning! Isn’t the White Witch’s outfit awesome?

As children grow and mature, then the conversations can obviously go deeper and you can tease, joke, or comment on scenarios that you would not have done when they were little. Like I said, I’m not a parent, but I think encouraging and pointing kids towards healthy, heroic role models whether in fiction or real life, is important.

~ Southern Dreamer

 

When Being Drunk Is Good

From the song “Happy,” to the hundreds of advertisements promising true happiness, our world is on a constant search for something that will make us happy. Many times, we think it’s something superficial – like money or going on awesome trips. If that’s true, then why are celebrities often so miserable? Why do many famous individuals turn to drugs, alcohol, and other such devices? I believe this is because they are lacking fulfillment, purpose, and joy.

True joy.

Patheos.com defines joy as, “Joy isn’t like happiness which is based upon happenings or whether things are going well or not. No, joy remains even amidst the suffering. Joy is not happiness. Joy is an emotion that’s acquired by the anticipation, acquisition or even the expectation of something great or wonderful. It could be described as exhilaration, delight, sheer gladness, and can result from a great success or a very beautiful or wonderful experience like a wedding or graduation but the definition of joy that the world holds is not nearly as amazing as biblical joy.”

Happiness is contingent on our circumstances, what is happening around us. Have you ever been having a really great day, and then something goes wrong? Your coffee spills, the fast-food restaurant gave you the wrong order, you suddenly realize you have a project due tomorrow. BAM. Your entire day seems like it just did a huge 180 and you are freaking out.

Does God want us to be happy? Certainly! He is our Father, and as his children, Jesus only wants the best for us. However, God is much smarter than we are, and he knew that there would be days when something goes wrong. He did give us free will, after all, and God doesn’t take back His Word. Even when it might not be our fault, or a person’s fault, as long as there is sin in the world, we will never have a perfect day.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world,” ~ John 16:33

Jesus tells us that we will have hard times. He never promised that our lives would be free from struggles, but he did not leave us empty-handed. The second part of the verse is important to remember: I HAVE OVERCOME THE WORLD. For those of us who are believers, we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. The same power that OVERCAME the world lives in those of us who believe!

That is pretty awesome, however, I would like to bring the topic back around to joy. I promise it relates 😉

Like I said earlier, God wants us to be happy. There’s a problem with happiness…it’s contingent, subjective. Thankfully, we have an amazing Father and He offers us a solution to this…JOY.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law,” ~ Galatians 5:22-23

When we accept Jesus into our hearts, the Holy Spirit comes and dwells there. The Spirit, as part of the trinity, embodies all of the qualities of God. We have an opportunity to experience these emotions through the Holy Spirit.

There have been two times in my life that I can recall feeling the joy of the Holy Spirit. And y’all. It. Was. AMAZING. I felt so empowered and fearless! I was drunk on joy! That’s literally how it felt, and anyone who has experienced that, knows how absolutely riveting and exciting it is. You are just so joyful, happy, delighted. You’re like a child who trusts that everything is going to be ok. One instant, my mom and brother’s computer had crashed. Everyone else in my family was panicking, thinking that the computer was gone forever, along with all of their work on it.

Now, I do not take credit for this. All I can say, is that God in his mercy and love, perhaps saw me as a willing vessel and deposited His JOY and FAITH and TRUST in me. I was not worried! I knew God was going to fix the computer. I was drunk on the joy of the Holy Spirit, and you know what? The computer was saved. They’re still using it today.

Imagine what we could do in this world if we lived every day drunk on the joy of God. If we became like children and humbled ourselves in prayer. “Father, overwhelm me with faith and trust and joy that only You can give.” I think we would change this entire world, turn it on its axis.

I’m not pretending to know how to do this. Honestly, I am learning just as much as you. There’s not always a step-by-step manual on how to do this thing called faith, and that’s ok. All God asks is that we have a willing heart.

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long,” ~ Psalm 25:4-5

~ Southern Dreamer

Victory in Jesus

Yesterday, as I was sitting in the car, my mind began to wonder. Sometimes when that happens it’s a good thing, a creative idea will come to me or I’ll remember something I had forgotten. Other times, when my thoughts drift off, they’ll jump onboard the “Fear/Anxiety Train.” Unfortunately, I was on my way to the plush cushioned seats of Worry.

So that’s where I was mentally.

As my eyes glanced at the radio, I noticed what song had started to play…”No Longer Slaves” by Bethel. Just to give you a quick preview, the chorus of this song says:

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again into your family
Your blood flows through my veins

Yeah, pretty awesome. I started to sing the words and the Spirit reminded me of something really awesome. Are y’all ready?

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, lives in us! Like, WHAT. I think many times we gloss over this, or don’t understand the actual meaning. But y’all, the power that raised our Savior from the grave? That brought him back to life? LIVES IN US.

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you,” ~ Romans 8:11

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” ~ Acts 1:8

It made me feel so empowered! And I could feel my fear being washed away as I meditated on this thought. Life can be really hard, and once in a while it’s wise to remind ourselves of whose we are. Children of the Most High. Princes and princesses of the King of kings. Creations of the Bright and Morning Star. Co-heirs with Christ (aka God of the universe). Friend of God.

And because of that, we have the privilege of being the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). God’s Spirit, to those who believe, resides in us. We can live in the victory of Jesus’ death and resurrection! We are truly free! In the life of Jesus, we have complete confidence of triumph. When we go through trials, struggles, pain, and suffering, let us remember that at the end of the day, in God, we are victorious! As Paul said, “perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

Perhaps you fight battles that no one knows, save for yourself and our Lord. Maybe you’re struggling with something that you think no one can possibly understand. Or it could be that right now your life is going perfectly. Everything is coming together exactly as you thought it would, and you couldn’t be more excited! Whether or not you find yourself in a season of waiting or one of great joy, let us never forget that in our Savior, we are VICTORS. CONQUERS. OVERCOMERS. WARRIORS.

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:57

As we celebrate this fourth of July, remember where the true freedom lies. Between biting into a juicy hamburger and dipping your glistening silver spoon into a bowl of cold, soft ice cream, do not forget the high price that Jesus paid. When you watch the fireworks explode in beautiful displays of red, blue, and white, thank God for saving us from a lifetime of misery and sin. He set us free, and His freedom is the most valuable kind. Because even if the world goes to hell, the government crumbles, and everyone is in a panic, as Christians, we can still stand tall and say with confidence that we are free.

We know the truth and we have been delivered. Let us never forget the priceless gift of being a Child of God. We are free.

~ Southern Dreamer

Resting In God When The World Is Going Crazy

This past year, my senior year, I duel-enrolled at a local college. During my second semester, I took Bio 2 and found it fascinating (minus one section *ahem* parasites/bacteria/etc).

Anyway.

We were learning how everything on Earth is connected and how global warming is affecting it. Here’s the short spill on it – I promise you’ll be able to understand it and I’ll try my best to not spend several paragraphs on it 😉

Because of Earth warming, the Indian Ocean has been steadily warming as well. You’re probably thinking, “ok. so the ocean is a little bit warmer, what’s the big deal?” I’m glad you asked! XD

The increasing temperature of the Indian Ocean has caused the North Atlantic oscillation (aka two air masses) to become stuck on its “intense” cycle. The North Atlantic oscillation has never been completely calm, but there are usually periods or breaks where the intensity lets down and it is more docile. However, with the increasing temperatures that has not been happening.

north atlantic

It’s amazing how the entire world is so intricately connected. In Africa, there is a body of water called Lake Chad. Wikipedia says, “The United Nations Environment Programme and the Lake Chad Basin Commission concur that at least half of the lake’s decrease is attributable to shifting climate patterns.” As Lake Chad has dried up, the dust and dirt that was beneath the water has been exposed.

You can imagine what sorts of algae, fungi, and other gross things lie at the bottom of the lake. With the dust being out in the open, the pathogenic soil fungus it contains has been swept into the air from the Saharan and blown towards the Caribbean.

Interestingly, this dust has caused an ironic increase in pediatric asthma cases and coral sea fan disease. Which is obviously not good.

Now, I’m going to be honest. I kind of started to worry, because wow, how the heck are we supposed to fix all of this. ITS SO MUCH.

God, knowing this, led me to this verse.

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near,” ~ Luke 21:25-28

WOW. Like, anyone else amazed??? I mean that’s literally what’s happening! And there it is, right in the Bible. It makes me feel so much better, to know that God knew this was going to happen. None of this is a surprise to him.

Thank you Jesus for that!

~ Southern Dreamer