“You Gotta Put Your Behind in Your Past”

Forgetting is generally considered a bad thing. “Don’t forget to take your umbrella.” “I forgot to take my medicine this morning.” “I’m sorry I forgot your birthday.” “Honey did you forget to pay the light bill?” But there is a kind of forgetting we need to learn, a kind of forgetting that is good: forgetting what is behind us.

Most people’s minds immediately jump to the thought of putting our sins behind us, our former ways of living. We are told to throw off these burdens of sin that seek to entangle us again. (Hebrews 12:1) We need to consider past actions and old sin habits that weigh us down in our “new life” journey with Christ, and chose to put these down, to make them part of our past behavior not our present. We also have to lay down the guilt and shame associated with those sins. The enemy of our souls will keep us wallowing in shameful, guilty memories for years if we don’t wake up and stop ourselves! This is false guilt ladies. If we have repented and turned from our wickedness we do not have a reason to feel guilty. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) And if He purifies us from unrighteousness, them we are cleansed and made new and free from shame or guilt. Our sins are covered by Jesus’ blood.

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2

We also realize that forgiving and forgetting a grudge we’re holding against someone is a very important thing to do. A thing to put behind us. We all know “Forgive and You will be forgiven.” Forgiving and forgetting those actions that caused wounds in our past can be huge and difficult to do. Especially if they are abuses perpetrated on us by people close to us who were supposed to love and protect us. They are called wounds for a reason; they require healing. To heal and grow requires doing the hard, heart work in our quiet place with God to put these big things behind us.

But I believe these things are just the foundation of our forgetting. There is so much more to the concept of “forgetting what is behind.” There are floors and floors to our forgetting “building” that we may not have even understood yet. So what are some of these things?

Well, we would probably all agree that another obvious thing that needs to be put behind us is ache-adult-depression-expression-41253worry. Scripture instructs us not to worry. It’s a command. “Do not worry” or “Be anxious for nothing”! (Philippians 4:6) Do we take that as seriously as we do other commands like “Do not steal” or “Do not commit adultery”? We should. And what are we instructed not to worry about? Here’s a list from God’s Word: your life, your body, what you will eat or drink, what you will wear, when you will die, tomorrow, what to say and how to say it, when you are arrested, when you are brought before the authorities, or how you will defend yourself. (Matt. 6:25-34, Matt. 10:19, Mark 13:11, Luke 12:11) Worry and the accompanying anxiety that goes along with it give us health problems. So could I ask you to unload that suitcase of worry from your baggage cart and leave it behind for the rest of your life journey? It takes an intentional choice to put worry behind you.

The little things need to be forgotten too. Whether it’s the little annoyances with your husband, or if it’s little things in your social circle, or the little things at church or anywhere else. If the devil can’t get us into sin, he will heap our minds full of little distractions from God’s purposes in our lives. Our enemy uses them to build a straw man and make us feel alienated, left out and forgotten. Let’s not fall for that! Forget that list of grievances with your spouse. Put it behind you. Forget those times you feel left out or overlooked. (God doesn’t overlook you!) Put it behind you. Forget the whispers around the office. Put it behind you. Forget that you didn’t get picked for that special thing at church. Put it behind you. Forget and focus on what God has called you to do today where you are and get to work. That is the best thing to put these little things in their place. Are you keeping a running list of these little things? All the tiny day-to-day slights, when remembered, can add up to a bigger issue, a root of bitterness growing in our heart.

Maybe you have a loved one who isn’t living up to your hopes, dreams, and expectations. pexels-photo-311391There is a time to forget hopes, dreams, and expectations and put them behind us, too. If you can’t get over a past relationship that you had hoped would be healed, or if your grown child is not living the life you had dreamed for them, it may be time to forget this as old history and find a way to live life in the present, loving them despite anything we deem to be hangups. That may mean allowing them to live with the consequences of their sinful choices. That’s hard! But God loves them more than we do, and He is active when we are still before Him down on our knees praying on their behalf.

Disappointments and resentments need to be put behind us too: the vacations we could never afford, the boyfriend that got away, the promotion that was given to someone else. When we cling to the disappointments of the past, Satan twists these in our minds and tells us God is not really good, or He doesn’t really love us, or even that God doesn’t exist, for if He did, He surely would come through for us. The enemy of our souls wants us to save up these bitter tears where he can use them to tear us apart from the Lover of Our Soul. Hebrews tells us to “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (12:15) If we are wise, we will choose today to forget these resentments that are behind us, to let them go, and follow the instructions of scripture. As Paul says in Philippians, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

As Christian women we may be doing well with putting all these previously mentioned negatives behind us. We may feel we’re handling life well in that respect. But there are also good things which need to be forgotten as “what is behind.”

If we aren’t careful Satan whispers in our ears each time we receive applause. He tells us how amazing we are. And we are. He tells us how blessed the people around us are to know us. And they are. He tells us how useful we are in God’s kingdom. And we are. But each of those things he whispers to us is like a huge puff of air into our balloon of pride. Satan knows pride. He knows it well. It is the thing that got him cast out of heaven, and ever since he has enjoyed nothing more than tripping up the rest of us in the same way. He longs to take truth and twist it. We are used of God for good things, but Satan wants to twist it into pride over our accomplishments with feelings of being a notch above other Processed with VSCO with c4 presetpeople and an arrogant attitude that is distasteful to the Father. As we move and act and accomplish things that are God’s purpose for our lives, we need to thank God for using us, savor the moment of usefulness, and then forget it and put it behind us. After all, it’s not us, it is God working through us to will and to work for His good pleasure doing the things He created in advance for us to do. It’s all Him! (I Thess. 2:13, Phil. 2:13, Eph. 2:10)

Along that same line, we must put our desire for attention behind us and forget it. God sees us and knows us and pursues us. In Him we will find exactly the attention our soul longs for. He also created us with a need to feel significant and needed. Satan will try to offer us counterfeit fulfillment for this desire. He makes us feel we have to grab for attention. Society supports this idea, with everyone wanting their 15 minutes of fame, and with the most longed for jobs not generally the ones that give the most to the world, but rather the ones that get us the most attention: performers and sports stars and jobs in the limelight. Our enemy offers us quick gratification for our need to matter, while the Father wants us to patiently wait and learn and grow through those desert times, and then one day He will raise us up for His specific time and purpose so that He can say to us as Mordecai said to Esther that we were made for such a time as this. (Esther 4:14) Let’s quit taking the counterfeit bait that hooks us and allow ourselves to be truly fed by the Lord and used by Him.

I’m sure I’ve just skimmed the surface of forgetting what is behind. The more I think I know in this Christian life, the more God shows me I am just a little child with a very uninformed understanding of His ways. So I encourage you to meditate on these ideas. Ruminate as my granddad would say. Seek God in His Word and in prayer and find what treasures or tragedies He would have you forget that are behind you, so that you can more fully press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Scriptures on worry: Matt. 6:25-34, Matt. 10:19, Mark 13:11, Luke 12:11

One Size Fits…ALL

When you read the words “one size fits all” you may think first of an article of clothing. One size fits all means that no matter your size, height or stature this garment should work for you. I am personally thankful for such garments around bathing suit season!!!


“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered!”

I was preparing a devotion a few days ago and thinking about these “one size fits all” tags, just thinking of those words and how broad they are and how they really can speak to us as Christians about “covering”. The one thing we all are in need of as sinners who fall short of God’s glory is grace. Grace to cover us, protect us and shield us from the enemy who seeks to destroy us and our lives. I thought of how God’s grace is offered to all in the way of salvation and how no matter where you have been or what you have done HE is enough to cover you and shield you and protect you from all who seek to harm you, no matter what you have done or where you have been. We can never sin so far that HIS grace cannot cover us.

As I began to write down a few thoughts, I thought of things I had done and maybe places I had been that were not uplifting to the call He had placed on my life years ago and GRACE just kept coming back around. I remembered words I have spoken that were unkind and choices I had made that caused me to miss opportunities to share about God’s love. The enemy would have loved for my mind to stay right there BUT GOD’S GRACE covers me. You see, as a 15 year old, I gave my heart and life to God and promised to follow and serve Him for the rest of my life. There, at that moment, I received salvation, grace, forgiveness and a promise that I belonged to Him. His grace covers me. His grace “fits” over my  sin. The times I have been so bold in the choices I have made and the sins that committed, even in those times, HE has prepared a way for all of those to be washed away, to be covered. Grace is for all of us, offered freely and with the promise that HE will never leave us.

“One size fits all” may be just a simple tag in a garment, but those words to us as believers mean that we are covered by our Heavenly Father and that His love for us is immeasurable. We can never sin bigger than His grace can cover. Our choices could never take us so far that His grace cannot reach us. Our faith can be and should be strengthened knowing that without a doubt we are covered and loved so much that GOD gave His Son to die on a cross as the covering for our sin. This covering, this salvation is offered to ALL, no exception. In a society where size and beauty and social status seem to be the measure of all (according to the magazines and news stories), what an incredible blessing to know that no matter who you are this grace, this covering from GOD will fit. Grace is “one size fits ALL!!


In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished upon us. Eph. 1:7-8


Back to Basics: Witnessing

[I’ve got my mint green tea today. Dena has some precious truths and stories to tell. Grab your coffee and settle in to read with your journal and a pencil. ~ Editor]

by Dena Green

Philippians 1:3-5 “ I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

Jesus’ last words to the disciples at the end of the book of Matthew were to go and make disciples. To share the gospel with others. Just like Paul and Peter and Barnabas and so many others we read about in scripture, we as believers are to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. Paul called it a partnership in the gospel. These men lived in a much more hostile environment to the gospel than we do, and yet they boldly proclaimed the gospel.

pexels-photo-389401The thought of witnessing to others can be intimidating and scary to say the least. We can think of all kinds of excuses to not share with someone when we are not comfortable. I don’t really know what to say. I’m too shy. I’m just not comfortable doing that. I don’t want to offend them. What if they are ugly to me and reject me? What if they say no that they don’t want to be saved or they want to wait and think about it? What if I don’t say the right thing?

Let’s take the “I” and the “me” out of it. It is not about you or me when we share the gospel. It is about Jesus. A person is not rejecting you. They are rejecting Jesus, so we can’t take it personally.  Yes, rejection is very hard to take, but it is not our responsibility to decide who may or may not say no, only to share.

I Corinthians 1:4-6 says that we were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in us. This means we have been given everything we need in Christ, including the enablement to speak effectively for him. The enabling takes place the moment we accept Christ.

Often, we are not comfortable doing something unless, first, we try and then continue to practice it until we are comfortable doing it. Baby steps lead to bigger steps and more boldness. The same is true in witnessing and sharing the gospel. The very first time I sat down with someone to share the gospel, I was trembling with fear that I wouldn’t say the right thing or would leave something out. We must trust that Holy Spirit will go before us in everything we say. He is the one who does the work. We are the vessel that he uses. Follow his leading.

man-holiday-people-faceOne Sunday morning my sister followed the Holy Sprit’s prompting. Instead of attending church, she felt very strongly that she should go and talk to our daddy about his salvation. You see, he was dying with cancer. We had been praying for him for many, many years to come to Christ. He was harsh and hard to deal with and had rejected many attempts by others to share the gospel and the invitation to come to Christ.  But not that day. She was scared and anxious about what response she might get. But as she gently talked to him about his need for Jesus and about her concern for his eternity without Jesus, he said yes. Right there on the back porch swing, with her two little children beside her, she led him to Christ. My niece, who was very young at the time, said, “It’s easy Granddaddy, Mama will help you.” Just a little over three months later, my daddy stepped into eternity with Jesus.

There are so many people that we come in contact with every day that need to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. People who are going to step into eternity without Jesus. We do need to prepare our hearts and be equipped to share the gospel. We will talk about that later.  Know that God has “enriched” us. We’ve got what it takes through HIM. Come on partner, let’s do this!


The Refiner’s Fire

There burns a fire with sacred heat, white hot with holy flame
And all who dare pass through its blaze will not emerge the same.
Some as bronze, and some as silver, some as gold, then with great skill
All are hammered by their sufferings on the anvil of His will.

Years ago Christian singer Steve Green sang this song and it stirred me deeply. It was called “The Refiner’s Fire.” I remember being gripped by those opening lines. “Passing through its blaze” and being “hammered by their sufferings” were not the things I longed for in the Christian life. The fierceness of that idea – coming through a fiery trial and being refined as precious metals are – prompted me to look into the subject of refining ore and to read about it to see just what spiritual implications this word picture carried.

titanium_001The Process. In ancient times, refining with fire was essential to working precious metals such as gold, silver, or bronze. It’s purpose was to take raw ore out of the ground and separate the impurities (called dross) from the precious metal within the ore in order to make usable, valuable metals.

After being mined, the raw ore was first crushed to a small pea size, then ground into a powder between grind stones of granite. Dirt and rock particles were washed away leaving bits of gold nuggets which were then gathered into a crucible.

vidro4The crucible was heated to extreme temperatures to bring the metal nuggets to a fluid state. The metalworker (refiner) sat next to the molten metal stirring and skimming it to remove the dross that rose to the top or blowing the dross away with a bellows. Sometimes it took up to five days of this process with fire temperatures topping 1,000 Celsius for the refiner to get the pure metal of great value that He desired.*

And what was his goal in refining? When did he know the job was complete? When he could clearly see his reflection in the molten metal.

The Metaphor of Refining in Scripture. Scripture clearly demonstrates that God will put us through the fire. Isaiah states that “I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction” (48:10) and “I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy.” (1:25)

Fire and smelting? Removing something from me? A furnace of affliction? Doesn’t sound like something we would want to go through.

But these afflictions – fiery trials – that God allows into our life are to test us and refine us. In Zechariah 13:9 the Lord declares, “I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.” And Psalm 66:10 says, “For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver.”

We come to a relationship with the Lord as if we are that raw ore from the ground, the precious metal within us bound up in the dirt and rock (sin). We are broken down and crushed by the trials of life. Then comes the “washing with the water of His Word” to flush out the sin. (Ephesians 5:26) At this point we are raw nuggets of unrefined precious metal that need another step to perfect us. We are then put into the crucible, and the fire is applied.

At the FoundryMalachi 3 tells us that “he [God] will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.” We  see another purpose of the fiery trials of life – to purify us. Our strength melts. Our resolve melts. Our faith melts. We suddenly find that the trials have turned us into something we are not comfortable with. This is the unknown. We are vulnerable. Will we survive this fire? What will be left of us when it is over? Not the dross. Not the impurities that keep us from being a pure, clear reflection of our Father God. They will be released and skimmed away in the melting.

I can just see our Heavenly Father leaning over us in love (maybe even singing over us, rejoicing at what He is making of us! – Zephaniah 3:17) as the fires increase in temperature and we began to melt. He gently skims off the dross. Purer. He adds more heat. More impurities are released and skimmed off by His skillful, tender hand. And the process continues. Until at last the silver ore has become so clear that He sees a perfect image of Himself and knows that the fiery trial has worked, and we are ready to be removed from the fire and to be made into a precious object that reflects His image clearly to a hurting, dying world. And that is the ultimate purpose of our refining.

First Peter 1:6-7 says it this way, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Our fiery trials bring praise to Jesus, glory to Jesus, honor to Jesus. They reveal Jesus to the world and change us into a purer image of Him.

luminous fire flameInstead of walking around in fear of the next trial that may come, we are told to “not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13) Our pastor often says that people are either in the middle of a fire, just coming out of a fire, or about to go into a fire. Does that strike fear in you? The second verse of Steve Green’s song speaks to this and offers us a glimpse of a mature attitude towards facing those fiery trials.

I’m learning now to trust His touch, to crave the fire’s embrace
For though my past with sin was etched His mercies did erase
Each time His purging cleanses deeper I’m not sure that I’ll survive
Yet the strength in growing weaker keeps my hungry soul alive.

Are we? Learning to trust His touch? Learning to crave or at least accept the embrace of the fire? Learning that we will survive and will come out purified and of greater value? Learning that in our weakness He is strong? Learning that the little tree only grows stronger as it faces the winds of adversity? (But that’s another subject.)

James 1:3 tells us that “…the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Are we willing to grow and change to become steadfast and pure? Can we join in the chorus of “The Refiner’s Fire” and wholeheartedly sing these words?

The Refiner’s fire has now become my soul’s desire
Purged and cleansed and purified, that the Lord be glorified.
He is consuming my soul refining me, making me whole.
No matter what I may lose I choose the Refiner’s fire.

Do I, do you, see the fire as something we desire or something we avoid? Do I, do you, long to be purified in order for God to be glorified? Can I, can you, wholeheartedly say, “No matter what I may lose, I choose to go through the fire”?

We’ve all heard “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” In faith, we must learn that on the other side of that fire, God has prepared green pastures and calm waters for us up ahead. He has gone before us through the fire. Psalm 66 gives us a testimony, an “after” picture of one who has come through the fire when it says, “For You, O God, have tested us; You have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; You laid a crushing burden on our backs; You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet You have brought us out to a place of abundance.” We can rest in that fact – God will bring us through to a place of abundance. God is good. God loves us. God has a purpose in what He allows in our lives. He assures us that “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2)


Do we believe that? Do we have the faith to say with the Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that we know our God is able to deliver us, that He WILL deliver us, but even if He does not we will not abandon Him to serve other gods or idolize anything else? As you and I face turmoil in life today: abandonment, a shocking health diagnosis, getting the call you never wanted to receive, financial devastation, the fires of addiction, or rebellion, or pain brought on by ones we love… whatever. We have a choice. We can choose to walk through the fire with the Father, in faith believing God that He is able and He will deliver us. Or we can choose to self medicate and avoid our fears by turning to the idols of this world that cannot deliver. Either way we are still going to walk through the fire. The choice seems obvious.

“The Refiner’s Fire” Sung by Steve Green

The Refiner’s Fire lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

*Information on refining was compiled and summarized from the following sources:

Unger’s Bible Dictionary
NETBible – International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

My Dirty Word

Every year about this time I flash back to 1984 and I cringe!

My highshool sweetheart, Randy, and I had gotten married in college. We were full time students with no job, living off of home-canned vegetables from his parents’ garden and $0.33 a box Kraft Mac and Cheese. We had gone for 3 years without buying any meat other than the cheapest ground beef we could find on sale. We had splurged on our anniversary one year to go see the movie “Mad Max” at the $1 matinee in the college theater. The year before a $40 early Christmas present his sister sent was used to purchase our whole Christmas – that included a scrawny live tree, 2 sets of 20 lights, a boxed set of a dozen ornaments, a tree stand, and cross-stitch material for me to make presents for all our family!

After a couple of years of living tight, we had both graduated, and Randy had a great job in a stable company as a junior engineer. We now had money coming in, although a lot of it went to pay back student loans, and were excited that this Valentine’s Day we could actually buy each other presents!

pexels-photo-196664As the day approached I purchased Randy a present, and eagerly awaited the day so we could exchange gifts! I spent lots of spare moments daydreaming over what special gift he might have gotten for me this year: Roses?! Jewelry?! Something really great for sure, because we had money now! Oh the anticipation and expectations!

He came in from work the afternoon of February 14th with his hands behind his back grinning from ear to ear! Oh wow! It was going to be good! I think I may have squealed as he told me to close my eyes and hold out my hands. I just knew that this first REAL Valentine’s gift of our married life was gonna be a good one! My expectations soared.

The moment he placed the gift gently in my hands and said “Open your eyes!” was a pivotal moment for me. All my hopes and excitement were swept away as I stared into the face of a simple stuffed teddy bear. I paused, not reacting immediately, thinking there must be more… but nothing. He stood there with a sweet, loving smile waiting for my reaction as I turned into the wicked witch of the west and lashed out in tears. His smile faded as he was taken aback by my anger, disapproval, and ungratefulness.


Looking back I am ashamed that I acted that way. It was an adorable teddy bear with suspenders and hearts attaching the suspenders to the pants. He bought it because he loved me so, and it represented a cuddly, sweet picture of the love we shared. He was young and didn’t realized the selfish expectations for grand things I had in my heart.

The afternoon continued with tears and discussions and a breaking of my anger. I slowly began to understand the thought and love that had gone into his purchase. He took me to a beautiful, romantic supper and offered to go shopping with me to return the bear and pick out whatever I wanted, (he really is an unselfish picture of the love of God) but I declined. I decided I wanted to keep that bear. I needed to keep that bear!

That day I learned the big dirty word in my life: EXPECTATIONS! It’s actually the big dirty word for all of us no matter who we are showing love to. Are we going to be so focused on our desires, or our needs from the relationship, that we are let down or angry when those expectations are not met? With a friend – do we get angry when they cancel plans with us or hang out with another friend? With a parent, are we upset when they treat a sibling in a way we don’t think is best, maybe feeling we were slighted? With a person we’re dating –  do we get mad when things don’t go our way? With a spouse – do we let them have it verbally when they fail to do, or do something different than, what we thought was best? In all these situations we are letting our expectations control us and cause us to be dissatisfied in the relationship.

The key to satisfying loving relationships is to not hold expectations so dear to our heart that they become goals and feel like failures when they don’t happen. 


My “Expectations Bear” after years of loving.

I still have that teddy bear I received 33 years ago. I kept it on purpose as a reminder NOT to sell out to my expectations. As our 4 children came along my “Expectation Bear” was the first stuffed animal in the nursery. My kids and grandkids have all loved on him and played many games with him through the years. He’s had an ear torn off and sewn back on, and has lost both suspenders and one heart, but I still keep him in the toy box. I need the reminder of how my selfish expectations wounded one I love dearly and nearly wrecked a beautiful day. That bear will always be with me. I’ll probably be the little ole lady in the nursing home hugging that bedraggled bear.


That little reminder, that bear, has helped me develop a happier lifestyle, one that doesn’t set expectations on people. My only expectation is in the only perfect one who knows me completely – My Savior and Love, Jesus. All my expectations are in Him.

So this February 14th, let’s not allow expectations of a gift, or of being married “by now,” or of someone owing us something, or of anything else ruin a relationship or sidetrack us from earthly relationships or from Our True Lover, Creator, and Friend!


Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails!” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8


A Place for Grace

Subtitle: Why is the one place grace should be easiest to give, the hardest place to give it?

By Michele Mann

I remember the moment like it was yesterday. It was a Wednesday night service. I hadn’t planned to be there. I was a newlywed and this was our first church. We’d only been part of the church for a few months and my husband encouraged me to go and get to know some folks. So I went. The service began uneventfully. A worship song, prayer, and then the announcement of a business meeting.

I had never been to a church business meeting, for good reason. All I wanted to do was run for the nearest exit, or maybe go hide under a pew. I’d heard horror stories about how “business” was conducted in church, and I really didn’t want to stick around long enough to see if the stories were true. But I was stuck. And sure enough, it got ugly. Something about the colors of the pews clashing with the carpet. It was so stereotypical and so shallow. It got so heated my young, immature, impressionable heart started to ache. I quietly excused myself and left the sanctuary in tears. I spent the rest of the meeting in a bathroom stall—discouraged, dejected, and just plain sad.

Growing up, church and I had a distant relationship. Oh, I rode the “church bus” from time to time when I was in elementary school (mostly for the bubble gum). But, strange as it may sound, by the time I reached middle school, Jesus and the Bible were integral parts of my life, but church was not. I started noticing the same kids I saw at church were the same kids who were cruel and vindictive and cliquish at school. I decided, as a very pretentious 13-year-old, if those kids were the product of the church, then I’d like none of that. I knew I was a sinner and needed Jesus, and I loved Him, but His church, no thank you.

This began years of struggle. As I read the Bible and grew as a believer, I knew I needed to allow God to change my stinky attitude. In college, I began to serve at a local church where I got a closer glimpse of the body, and it wasn’t pretty. There was gossip and judgmental attitudes and cliques and jealousies and conflicts. It seemed those who were most in need of the love of Christ were the ones who were the most soundly rejected by the church. The people who grew up in the church didn’t welcome the newbies, and heaven help you if you had serious mistakes or wounds in your past. After one dear friend was wounded deeply by a church member, it was all I could take. I was done. I’d be just fine with small group Bible study and campus ministries. Church was way too messy for me.

Then I met my husband. This godly man who grew up in church and saw the mess, but also saw the beauty. He knew how necessary and vital the church was to spiritual growth, to reaching the community, to serving others. I still wasn’t convinced. But I knew the Word. I knew my role as a wife was to be submissive and to follow his leadership. So when we searched for a body of believers, we prayed, we looked for a church that did not compromise the truth of the Bible. We looked for a church close to our community so we could really love and serve our neighbor. We finally felt God’s drawing to a local body. But it was hard. I’m so thankful for a husband who made me go on the weeks I really wanted to stay home. Pretty soon we found a precious group of friends, found places to use the gifts God had given us, and we settled in a bit.

pexels-photo-185432Then came the business meeting. All the emotions I had been keeping at bay piled up and could no longer be contained. I wept bitterly in that church bathroom. I cried out to the Lord from a long wounded place, “This is not how church is supposed to be! This can’t be what you intended! God I want to love your church, but it is so broken. So fractured. All I see is the ugly stuff, God help me see the beauty of your body.”

After a while, I finally gathered up my fractured heart and went back in the sanctuary just as the “meeting” was coming to a close. As I quietly slipped in a back pew, I heard a sweet voice at the microphone. It was Mrs. Thelma. She was an older lady, a tiny thing with eyes filled with love and fire. “Friends,” she said sweetly and gently. “One of my favorite verses is Psalm 19:14, ‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Now I don’t think our words have been very pleasing to the Lord. Maybe we should spend some time talking to the Lord and making sure our hearts and minds are acceptable to the Lord before we continue.”

I was undone. My heart melted. God used this little lady with the boldness to speak truth in love to begin the alteration process in my heart. God whispered to me that day, “The body is broken because it is full of sinners, like you. But it is not beyond repair. My Saints are here. You’re looking for perfection. You won’t find it this side of heaven. But you can learn here, grow here, serve here. You need to learn to give grace and to offer mercy. You need to look for the true beauty in my Body. The beauty is Jesus Christ. I am the One who gave Myself for broken, messed up souls. I am the beauty, Michele. Seek ME and you will find ME—even in the broken places.”

I’d like to say the journey since then has been easy and pleasant, but it hasn’t. It’s been joyful at times, and it’s been excruciating at times. But what I keep remembering is Christ died for this. The body, as wounded and broken as it is, is His gift to us. We love each other through the ugly, through the pain, and through the victories. The body of Christ is not the perfect utopia I, in my immaturity, thought it should be, but it is a real place, with real people, who are really struggling and need the real love of a real Savior. So I can say, after many long years of seeking Him in the midst of the mess, I love His body and I am so thankful to be a receiver of grace–even in the hard places.


Back to Basics: Keeping a Prayer Journal.

My prayer journal has taken many forms over the years. My recommendation to you is to Start Journaling! Start with whatever you have. If you aren’t satisfied, research so you can refine or change your format. Here are some ideas on different types of journals, how to set them up, and tips to think about.

1. Write out your prayers. Most often my prayer journaling consists of writing out my prayers. I write basically a “Dear God” letter in my daily notebook – a simple, lined journal from Walmart or Books-a-Million. This is the same notebook I use for sermon notes, ideas, quotes, diary-type daily writings, etc. I used to keep a separate journal just for prayers (and that may be the option you like best), but I slowly realized that although I like to organize and separate things into boxes, the different areas of my life blend together and I am more satisfied having it all in one book. That way if God used a sermon to pierce my heart, the next quiet moment I had, I could spill out my prayerful response and these things would be together in one place.

2. Keep a prayer list journal. If you don’t just love to write like I do, consider doing a journal in which you keep an ongoing list of prayer requests and answers. Having a dedicated notebook, or a specific section of a notebook, just for list would work best. In this journal I do less essay praying and more just-the-facts request lists. Just write down the people and needs that you are praying for. Always date your entries, requests and answers. You may want to number or bullet the list. Leave room to write the answer when it comes. You may want to consider writing requests on the left-hand side of the book and leaving the right-hand page blank to jot answers to these prayers as they come. Sometimes answers are shockingly immediate! You realize God was already working out the answer before you prayed your prayer. Other requests will be on your list for 30 years before you see an answer, if you even do in your lifetime. (You may want to check out Etsy or Amazon for a specifically designed Prayer Journal if you have the money.)

3. Use a 3-ring binder with dividers. This is a very organized method using a binder, dividers, and theme paper. It is great for a scheduled 7-days-a-week in-depth prayer list. Set up categories to pray for. Label each tab of your binder with one category or a day of the week. Categories I’ve used for the week:

Church – Sunday

Family & Like Family – Monday

Friends & Intercession – Tuesday

 Government – Wednesday

The World – Thursday

Missions/Missionaries – Friday

Praise – Saturday

At other times I have added, Community, Schools, Prayer Group (when I was part of a large prayer group that involved praying for a couple of dozen people), Healing, Salvations, and Church Leaders. This binder idea works well if you have lots of things you’re praying for and limited time. You can pray for a different section of your notebook each day of the week. The idea is to try to use only 7 groups or else have more than 1 topic to pray for under each day of the week.

4. Use an index card box. Another great idea is to use 3×5 cards and a small card box or even blank business cards and a binder to hold them. Categorize or alphabetize requests. I tend to always have a section up front for “Urgent Needs.” Put the request on the front with the date and the answer on the back with the date. Rotate cards to a separate “Answered Prayers” box once they’ve been answered to keep room in the first box, and in order to use the “Answered” box as encouragement and a reminder of what the Lord has done.

5. Write scriptures to pray beside specific prayer requests. When God gives you a specific verse to pray for a promise, or when you come upon a scripture that specifically meets a need you’re praying for, jot it down in the notebook or on the card with the request where you will remember to pray it!

6. The busy mom option. Use a photo book. A small photo album or flip book you can put photos in is a quick prayer reminder. Place in the album photos of people, churches, etc. that you are praying for. Keep it on the kitchen counter, nightstand, or the end table next to where you sit to nurse the baby. Flip through the pictures praying for each person or situation in whatever spare moments you have.

7. Try a paperless Prayer Journal. Apps such as Prayer Notes or Pocket Prayer Pro offer techies and people on the go something that is always with them. Record prayer requests, set reminders, get a system of daily prayer going, all at the tip of you fingers. I haven’t personally tried this form, but would love to hear from someone who has.


The bottom line – PRAY.

Get yourself organized in a way that assists you but doesn’t dominate you.

Remember the goal is not the organization, but praying and growing in our communication with the Lord.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12

Getting Real!

by Debbie Stovall

(A recently updated blog post that we all need to hear.)

Flashback with me to summer… Grilled burgers. Watermelon. Homemade strawberry ice cream from my Mom’s 50-year-old secret family recipe. It was a typical summer holiday cookout – yummy and very laid back with just the fam.

So after sleeping in late and then a day full of old movies, Nertz, and being totally lazy with just my husband and the kids (who are actually young adults now), it was wonderful to have a couple of friends that we hadn’t seen in a while drop by in response to our Facebook post about the homemade ice cream. We enjoyed the frozen goodness and had a wonderful conversation, ranging from light-hearted catching up, to corny inside jokes, to deep gut-level honest sharing that you only do with REAL friends and family.

It was 30 minutes after they left – probably 7:00 p.m. or so – that I went to the bathroom and noticed myself in a mirror… Yikes! I had not combed my hair after I got up that morning! All day long I had gone around with bed head and never even passed a mirror to notice. What must my “guests” have thought?! But then… I smiled as I realized how wonderful it was to have people I could be REAL with! They didn’t care. They loved me anyway.

Don’t we all long for that?! We want to know and be known at a deep, gut level, and to be so comfortable with friends or family, someone, anyone, that we can smile, relax, and not sweat and fret and fear what they’ll think. We don’t want those insecurities to rise to the surface. We want to be accepted for who we are, the way we look, and the mistakes we make. Not for who people want us to be. Not for who they think we are because we are keeping up pretenses and hiding the REAL us every time we are around them. We long to be accepted… loved… just as we REALLY are.

Some of us will have the rare pleasure of experiencing that with a few select friends or a parent or sibling, but for many of us even family seems to be unable to know us, accept us, and love us as we long to be loved.

But there is Great News! There is Hope! We have a Heavenly Father, our Abba, who knows us intimately, accepts us totally, pursues a relationship with us relentlessly, and loves us unconditionally! Psalm 139 reminds us “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely…. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be…. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.”

Let’s take off the mask and come out of hiding. The enemy of our souls seeks to separate us, to isolate us, to cut us off from the flock. Why? To weaken us, discourage us, and stir up all sorts of negative thoughts that are contrary to the truth of God’s Word. Remember, Satan comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy. I believe that much of the vitriol and hate we see boiling over in society today stems from that inner fear that we are alone, unknown, uncared for, unaccepted, and forgotten. That is a lie from the pit of hell.

You and I have a loving Father, Our Creator, who knows us. Intimately. More intimately than we wish even. Scripture tells us that we look at the world as if we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror, but that when we meet God face to face we will “know fully, even as [we] have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) And guess what! Even though He fully knows you, “warts and all,” He doesn’t reject you. God sees you! In all the chaos, fear, or failure that surrounds you. He knows you – the REAL you! And you know what? In spite of all your self-condemnation, fears, hiding, and not loving yourself – God loves you! He REALLY loves you! Come to Him. Just as you are.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Jeremiah 31:3

Enjoy the songs below and allow the Lord to minister to your heart as you listen.

“He Knows” by Jeremy Camp