Sitting By The Fire

See the source imageThe past couple of weeks, I’ve been going through a book called Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman. As described in another book, Breaking Up With Perfect by Amy Carroll, there are two different types of perfectionists:

“Some lovers of Perfect live with the Good Girl Syndrome. These women are rule followers by nature and bask in earning the pleasure of the people surrounding them. Others live with the Never Good Enough Syndrome. These women use their flawless exterior to cover the wounds and shame of their pasts. Both kinds of women build an external structure rule by rule and pleasant smile by pleasant smile.”

If you struggle with perfectionism, like I do, then you definitely need to pick up a copy!

Recently, I reached chapter twelve in Grace for the Good Girl, titled “Remain.” Right away, I knew that this chapter was going to be one that spoke to me…since this was the first paragraph in it:

“I’ve never liked the phrase quiet time all that much, but I was a good girl who went to Bible college, so I’ve not always been brave enough to admit it. I never knew what I was supposed to do during a quiet time. Read one verse? Is a chapter enough? Maybe I should memorize the whole book. The list seemed both empty and endless.”

Yep. I can relate to that – not knowing if what you’re doing is “enough” for God, and the overthinking mind and perfectionism only heaping on more confusion and stress.

Do any of y’all see yourself in her description? I do.

It can be hard, for us perfectionists to have to work through this. After all, we aren’t supposed to feel like this, are we? We should be jumping up and down for joy, happiness oozing out of every pore at the thought of getting to spend time with God.

And yet, oftentimes, I find myself doing it out of obligation, duty, or guilt. Then, my mind can’t help but go…

You’re such a hypocrite. 

Not exactly the nicest thought to be thinking.

“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders,” – Deuteronomy 33:12

While researching, I came across this verse, which I do not think I’ve read before, and knew I had to add in. Sometimes it can be easier to see God as a task master and dictator, than a loving Father.

Rules, justice? I can understand that. It makes sense.

But grace? Upon grace? It befuddles me. And yet, that is what God offers us – free of charge, free of punishment. He wants us to come and rest in Him. Even if that’s just laying in bed in the morning and talking to Jesus, and that’s the only time you have.

I know y’all are probably wondering why I titled this post, “Sitting by the Fire,” when all I’ve talked about so far is grace, perfectionism, etc. So here comes the part where it gets explained 😉

For those of you who have wood-burning fireplaces, don’t you love the crackle of the wood and the smell it gives off? Something dangerous, yet beautiful. Something that puts off heat, that we need, but can also cause damage.

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Emily Freeman, describes this and the analogy from her friend Fil Anderson.

“He likened this fire stoking to time spent with God. He didn’t put the fire out and make a brand-new one every hour. He merely kept the same one going, moving embers and logs around to catch the flame in new ways so the warm kept on warming.”

Then, in the next chapter, she adds this, which connects to her earlier point.

“We breathe in air and breathe out worship. We receive love and extend worship. We embrace children, offering worship. We comfort, we laugh, we mourn, we dance, we read, we dream, we exist – all worship. We pay the bills, we run on the treadmill, we enjoy a good movie, we make dinner, we welcome friends with open arms – worship, all worship. We send money and offer prayer and sit with a lonely neighbor, in Jesus’ name. We wait for love, we long for home, we pour out our hearts and hopes and fears and longing; we create with words and photos and colors and food, all beautiful acts of worship.

But we don’t call it that.

We call those things living. But when the Spirit of the living God lives inside of you, then your living is also your worship.”

Y’all, when I read this I was like WOAH. I have always put my time with God in a category, separate from everything else, and if I didn’t get to it that day, well, I wasn’t a very good Christian then, was I?

I had never thought of it like that before, even so, it made complete sense! Of course everything we do is an act of worship! Our bodies are His temple.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies,” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

There are so many things in life that we have to do – school, work, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, visiting friends, etc. As life happens, some days are going to be so busy that we aren’t going to have time to sit down and completely devote fifteen or thirty minutes to God.

In those times, I believe Jesus wants us to just rest in Him. He knows how busy and stressful life can be, and knows that there are some seasons in life that are going to be crazier than others.

Now, that doesn’t mean this is a free-pass-never-read-the-Bible-again-ticket. That’s not what I’m saying. There’s a difference in giving yourself grace, resting in God, and completely and blatantly taking advantage of it and making a consistent pattern of not spending time with the Lord.

In the end, as we learn to walk in grace, it’s less about performance, and more about expanding our definition of what it means to be in the presence of the Father – every breathe in worship.

~ Southern Dreamer

God’s Promise

The rainbow. God’s promise.

“Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” – Genesis 9:8-16

In our world today, the rainbow has become the symbol for the LGBT movement. The real message of the rainbow, however, has existed for centuries.

After the flood, recorded in Genesis, the first rainbow appeared.

Can you imagine? Having never seen a rainbow before, and suddenly there is this sheer, sparkling magnitude of light over the horizon? The reds, the blues, the yellows! The purples, the oranges, the greens!

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It must have been absolutely stunning.

Rainbows…God’s promise to us.

Placed in the sky as a declaration of His covenant with mankind.

For me, the rainbow has an even more personal note. If you’ve read my story, then you may remember that I was diagnosed with narcolepsy and cataplexy at a very young age.

When I had first gotten sick, at six years old, God told my family something. I’m not going to disclose it right now, but it was important for us personally. And not long after that happened, there was a huge double rainbow over the sky.

A few years later, my family and I were driving to North Carolina and stopped on the way to take a picture. My dad had the camera, while my mom, brother, and I smiled.

Snap!

The crazy thing is though, upon looking at the picture, we noticed something pretty amazing. There was a rainbow cascading over us. It was as if God was enveloping us in the words He had given just a few years before. My mom said, “I was basking in His glory.”

rainbow3

That array of color was not there before.

Totally God.

Last month, my family and I went to visit my grandparents in Mississippi. Our first night there, we all went to a restaurant downtown at the square. The food was delicious, and the restaurant was lovely, but for me, the highlight of the night came after.

We exited the restaurant. I looked up at the sky, and guess what I saw?

A rainbow.

I was so excited, and instantly called everyone else’s attention to the awesome phenomenon.

“We have to get a picture!” I exclaimed, yanking my phone out of my purse. Once my family realized, my mom came over and my dad snapped a picture. My brother, being the free-spirited person he is, decided to photobomb one of the photos.

rainbow

At first, I was kind of annoyed. We were trying to take a picture. But then my mom reminded me, that Brayden was in the original one too.. No accident, of course; Brayden has been such an instrumental prayer, part of God’s promise to me. He has faithfully gone before God on my behalf. He has walked every step of the way with me.

It’s so crazy looking back now, at the first picture with the rainbow, and then this one recently. Through all those turbulent times, God has continued to be faithful. Even during the times where it didn’t feel like it, when I had doubts, or during those seasons of silence, He has not left.

rainbow2

I love the rainbow, not only because of its beauty, but when I see it, I’m reminded of God’s promise. His promise to me…personally. I am hanging on to it.

Whatever God has promised you, don’t lose hope.

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory,” ~ 2 Corinthians 1:20

He is faithful and His word is trustworthy.

~ Southern Dreamer

Feeding The Spirit

Everyone always talks about how we’re made up of the mind, body, and spirit. And I knew that. But…sometimes one forgets the importance of spending time with God to your own spirit.

The past couple of months I haven’t been hearing from God as much. Logically, of course, I realize that there are seasons where He is silent and other seasons, where you hear Him all the time. Feelings or emotions though, did not exactly get my self talk. It was more like…

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Yeah. Not exactly the most helpful thing.

It also happened to make my heart/spirit really anxious and worried.

Definitely not helpful.

So, even though I didn’t necessarily “feel” like sitting down and spending time with God. I made myself do it. Sometimes you have to make yourself do something even if you don’t want to.

I grabbed my Breaking Up With Perfect by Amy Carroll – which is a great read by the way for any perfectionists out there, my Bible, and a highlighter, sat down in my bed and closed the door. Now, everyone has their own way that they do their quiet time and I am by no means suggesting that this way is the “best” way or the “right” way. I tend to overthink things so I do better if I can have a guide, that helps me decide what to read in the Bible.

So, I’ll read through a chapter of the book, and then out of the passages of Scripture, Amy Carroll referenced, I’ll pick one to go more in depth to. This usually transitions to me reading that chapter in the Bible, and then having my prayer time.

I did this for who knows how long, I can’t remember exactly. It wasn’t a super long period though, and then, one day I just realized, wow. my spirit isn’t feeling panic-y and anxious about this. 

This does not mean that I don’t still struggle with anxiety, because I do. But there’s a difference in me being anxious, and my spirit part being anxious. At least, it feels slightly different to me. Additionally, this does not mean that I don’t still have questions or doubts or other such struggles that Christians go through.

Sometimes my head can be very full of thoughts going in all kinds of directions. Sometimes I’ll be obsessing over something, making it turn into an unnecessary anxiety.

But.

There is something that completes our spirit when we spend time with God. I’m not sure exactly what it is – if it’s the fact that the Holy Spirit is in me, or that I am formed by the Maker to know Him, or maybe something else.

I honestly find it amazing, since many times my humanness/sinfulness comes into play and I find myself thinking…I don’t want to do this right now. I have other things I could be doing. And in my own mind, I feel like a hypocrite. How can God want me to spend time with Him, when I have to push myself to do the basic quiet time?

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust,” ~ Psalm 103:13-14

Love this verse. Somehow, even in the midst of being the most powerful being in the universe, the one who created the stars and moon and sea, He still manages to see us and remember our humanity. Not only remember it, but to show us compassion for it.

Amazing.

The love and mercy of our God always astounds me, and more often than not, I find that my expectations of what it should be are expectations that exist outside of grace. Many times, I can easily start overthinking what I’m doing for spending time with the Lord, but I’m trying to work on that and to give myself grace, and remember that I am human.

As we all go about our day-to-day lives, let us remember the importance of feeding our spirit and to remove the yoke of perfectionism from ourselves, and take up the mantle of grace.

~ Southern Dreamer

 

Grace Abounding

grace

Y’all probably know by now that I tend to struggle with perfectionism. With perfectionism, comes a viewpoint that makes grace incredibly hard to understand. I think as humans, grace is a hard concept in and of itself. Most situations we encounter in life are performance based and there is no grace if you mess up. Perfectionism doesn’t exactly help this already difficult topic to get any easier.

So, I was sitting in my college dorm room a month or two ago, and doing what I tend to do often, go through the motions of perfectionism, guilt, fear, etc…Then, I had this thought that I believe the Lord shared with me.

God does not base the grace He gives us on a scale. He doesn’t look at the entire week, and go, “Well, Monday through Wednesday you really screwed up, so when Saturday comes, there’s no grace for you.”

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I don’t know if anyone else does this, but I usually think about the grace that God might give me in terms of everything I’ve already done that week.

I messed up on this too many times this week.

I haven’t spent time with God in several days, but now I really can’t cause I have an exam to study for – cue guilt.

Does this sound familiar to y’all? Do any of you find yourselves doing the same thing?

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness,” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23

For me, realizing this, gave an entirely new meaning to the verse, “his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” Not only are His mercies new every day, but He is not judging us on all of our actions in order to determine whether or not He should give us grace.

Is anyone else’s mind exploding? Cause mine definitely is.

As believers, with the Holy Spirit living in us, we are heirs in grace. Grace is the birth certificate, the blood of Jesus is the writing, the Holy Spirit is the identification.

“But he gives more grace,” ~ James 4:6a

And then in James, He expands on the concept of grace. Not only does He give us perfect grace, but He gives more grace. When we think that surely we have exhausted the supply of grace, that God cannot possibly want to extend further grace to us, the Bible clarifies that nope, God actually loves to extend grace to His children.

I love this quote from Dwight L. Moody:

“We must not limit the mighty grace of God.”

How true is this? It can be so easy to carry guilt for things that we should not feel guilty for, or if we should feel guilty, then instead of freeing ourselves from that guilt after repenting, we continue to hold it close – telling ourselves, that Jesus could not really mean that we receive grace for that.

“And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace,” ~ John 1:16

But wait. There it is again – more grace. Grace upon grace.

Grace.

Such a simple word, but so difficult to wrap our minds around. I don’t know if we will ever understand grace or how deep it goes on this earth, yet I do think that as we grow in our faith, we will be able to better grasp a tiny portion of the truth, strength, and expansiveness of God’s grace.

~ Southern Dreamer

Do you see it?

This past semester, I dived back into Disney Channel. I had stopped watching it for a while, because frankly, the amount of disrespect that was being shown to parents, not to mention making them look stupid, was unappealing.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that several of the shows were no longer treating parents in such a manner, such as Bizaardvark and K.C. Undercover. 

There was something, however, that started to nag at me.

If you watch Disney Channel at all, I’m certain you saw the many trailers for the new Disney Channel Original Movie Zombies. 

Now, I’m not going to delve into whether or not it is morally right to watch shows with zombies. Personally, I don’t enjoy it, since I find it too frightening for my own tastes, but as long as they are portrayed as the monsters they were created to be – such as in The Walking Dead which my brother and dad both watch, I’m not going to argue about it.

And herein lies my issue with Zombies. On the forefront, the film has great qualities and the inherent lessons they are trying to teach are good…but. I really do not believe they went about this the right way.

Let me just start with some Merriam-Webster.

Zombie:

“a: a will-less and speechless human (as in voodoo belief and in fictional stories) held to have died and been supernaturally reanimated
b: the supernatural power that according to voodoo belief may enter into and reanimate a dead body                                                                                                                  c: person held to resemble the so-called walking dead.”

So from this definition we can gather, that one, they do not have a will or speak. Now, that reminds me of an animal, except…an animal does have a will (as anyone with pets can attest to!). If they’re not an animal then, and not inherently human, then what does that make them?

Food for thought.

The Urban Dictionary describes zombies as,

“in its near-mindless state, it grasps no remains of emotion, personality, or sensation of pain. The only observable action a zombie takes part in is killing living creatures, especially humans, and eating them.”

Alright. We can now, after significant research, logically deduce that in dictionary terms and in pop culture, zombies are dead bodies, do not have a will, cannot speak/think/experience emotion, do not have personality or the feeling of pain, and the only activity they actually do is to eat other living creatures – specifically humans.

Now, with that definition in mind, I’m going to look at the Disney Channel Original Movie, Zombies. 

First of all, um like there are zombie children??? and parents??? Last time I checked…DEAD people did not procreate. There is literally nothing believable or logical about this. And as we established earlier, the only action zombies participate in as mindless creatures is the eating of living people.

Here are a few quotes from the movie that I find particularly problem some.

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“I’m not a monster, I’m a zombie!”

Ok. Back to the dictionary. Merriam-Webster describes a monster as,

“a: one who deviates from normal or acceptable behavior or character, an immoral monster
b: threatening force                                                                                                                       c: something monstrous; especially : a person of unnatural or extreme ugliness, deformity, wickedness, or cruelty.”

Well, I don’t know about y’all, but eating people is generally considered immoral. Not to mention, highly unacceptable and very much not normal behavior. So, yes. According to all logic, zombies are monsters, and therefore, Zed falls into the zombie/monster category.See the source image

“I’m fighting against intolerance!”

*heavy sigh*

*deep breaths*

You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

This literally spats in the face of every single moment of intolerance on our planet, and the progress that actually has been made. They are basically comparing the intolerance historically against people of color, religion, women, etc…to zombies, which, as stated above, are certainly, and most definitely not in the same category as humans or animals.

Look, I’m all for people everywhere being treated respectfully and such, but let’s not confuse wanting to get a concept across, with another concept that is disturbing. They could have still gotten this concept across with so many other ways, without going to the blatant lie and illogical thought process of “zombies are good, not monsters, and can totally interbred with humans.”

Are they trying to make monsters seem good, and nice? Possibly. For the sake of the kids who watch it, I hope not, but at this point, I don’t really have many other options to draw from.

Now, the film could have been good in its message. Change the zombie family to a mutant family. It would still get the same message and values across, without saying that zombies are “good” creatures, when nowhere in history or in definitions have they been portrayed as “safe” or “good.”

Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

It is important that we are aware of the purpose and message behind what we are watching, reading, and listening to. Unfortunately, Satan is real and we cannot be naïve and think that he is not trying to manipulate us. As Colossians says, we must make sure that we are not being distracted by the glitz and glamor of the various forms of media, and remember that behind every story there is a purpose.

Oftentimes, it isn’t obvious and there lies the tricky part. If it were clear and obvious, most of us would probably catch it. Unfortunately, most things in this world are not going to be so easily seen or obvious. Frequently, some bad is mixed with a lot of good or vice versa, and that brings up a moral dilemma.

Moral dilemmas are always conflicting, as they are very much not black and white. It can be difficult to discern what the right choice is however, I believe the more we spend time in God’s Word, and the more we come to know His character, the easier it will be to know what to do. It may never be completely clear, but the closer we draw to Him, the mirror that we look at the world through becomes just a little bit less dusty.

~ Southern Dreamer

 

 

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.

See the source image

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