Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Lifter of My Head

"But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head." -Psalm 3:3

We sang a song at Lawndale this morning that reminded me of this verse, and I had forgotten how much I loved it. The image created here speaks to the tenderness of my Savior. Can't you just picture Him? He sees your head hanging low with the pain, heartaches, and weights of this world, tear-stained, puffy-eyed, and defeated, and he gently takes your chin in his hand and tilts it up so that your eyes meet as if to say, "I'm right here. I see your pain, and I can take your burden. There's no pain I can't pain that catches me off guard. I know your every day before you live it, and you are never, ever alone. I am here. Always."

Let Him be the lifter of your head today.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ode to Tiger Stadium

Legendary LSU public announcer Dan Borne wrote a poem about the magic and majesty that is Tiger Stadium on a Louisiana Saturday night that LSU is using on a lot of its football promo material this year. It's too amazing not to share, so I thought I'd post it in honor of season kickoff week. This literally gave me chills. I wish I could make a game in Death Valley this year, but I'll see LSU play Ole Miss in O-Town in November! But without further ado, here's the poem...and Geaux Tigers!

"It is a pantheon of concrete & steel.
It's a city that rises defiantly in the Delta
Alongside the Father of Waters.
It is the humidity of autumn evenings
That drapes stately oaks and broad magnolias.
It is haunted...and it is loud.
It is Halloween night & Cannon blasts.
It is a Louisiana gumbo of humanity
That cheers its Tigers to victory
And destroys the dreams of invading foes.
Chance of rain is...NEVER!
It is the cathedral of college football
And worship happens here.
When the sun finds its home in the western sky,
It is a field of glory for sure...
But much more than that it is a sacred place,
And it is Saturday night in Death Valley!"

-Dan Borne

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

For the Times when You're Tempted to Whine

My very brief epiphany of the night: there are times when I think to myself that life just isn't fair, and then I remember that the Son of God Almighty being tortured and dying a humiliating death on a tree wasn't exactly fair either. Quite a humbling thought. What we view as temporary unfairness may in actuality be God planning something much bigger, better, and more beautiful in the end. Life may not be fair, but God's plan is always perfect. Lord, please give me the patience to see that. Your ways are truly higher than my ways and Your thoughts higher than my thoughts.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Lesson in Courage: My Review of The Help

I loved Kathryn Stockett's novel The Help. Loved it. However, I was nervous when I found out they were making it into a movie. Hollywood has this way of screwing things up sometimes especially when it comes to movies set in the Civil Rights era in the South, but when I found out Kathryn Stockett's childhood friend and fellow Mississippi native Tate Taylor was going to be directing it, I eased up slightly. Now that I've seen the movie, I've realized only a Mississippi native could have written that book or directed that movie. See, as someone who was born and raised in Mississippi, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with my home state.

Now, before you go berating me for insulting my birthplace, let me explain. I love Mississippi. I love summer nights and the tune of crickets singing and fried chicken and the electricity of football season in the air and strong but delicate magnolia trees and a million other things about Mississippi, but my home state has a dark history that's no fault of its own. The guilt lies solely with its people and the way in which they've treated each other with injustice and allowed hatred over petty differences to engulf our state's history like a disease. Not that any other place doesn't have just as much guilt, but when I think about the horrors inflicted on African Americans and the hatred and fear felt by both races in my beloved Mississippi over the years, it just makes me sick. And it has always left me asking myself a haunting question. Would I have been brave enough? All through school when learning about the Civil Rights movement or even the Civil War, I always had that question in the back of my mind. Would I have been brave enough to do something about stand up for what is right? I hope that I would have been. I hope that I would have been one of those good people who knew that love and respect are neither black nor white who treated all people equally and spoke up when others didn't. I hope I would. Movies and books like this always find me hoping I'd have been one of those people, and I like to think there were more of those people than history lets on. People who fought in quiet ways that wouldn't get them in the textbooks but changed their world in smaller yet still significant ways.

I see a lot of myself in Skeeter Phelan - curly hair, single, writer, sassy, college-educated, career-minded Mississippi girl - and I hope that I'd have been as brave as she. It's a beautiful and moving book and an equally beautiful and moving movie. Read it. See it. Go out and live it...because injustice didn't end with the Civil Rights Act, and there are new injustices to fight everyday. The Lord has called us to stand up against them and to be set apart. Find your cause and fight for it, and He will be there beside you to give you strength and clear your path.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Laura Story - "Blessings"

We've recently been studying this idea of crying out to God in our Life Journey Group at Lawndale, and I came across this song on the radio today that blessed my heart and pretty much sums up what we've been discussing. I hope it touches you today too. :)

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

And all the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy?

And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

It All Ends...or Does It?

I woke up Friday morning with some strange symptoms: blurry, puffy eyes from crying; sleep deprivation; smiling satisfaction; and bittersweet longing. I didn't need a doctor to tell me what was wrong. My diagnosis was a Harry Potter hangover.

Hundreds of thousands of eager fans like me ran to the theaters late Thursday night for the midnight showing of the second part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and I have to say it did not disappoint. It was definitely the most intense Potter movie; my heart started beating like crazy from the beginning all the way to the epilogue. It runs the gamut of human emotion with perfect moments of love, fear, anger, acceptance, comedy, and sacrifice, and in the end (spoiler alert) love wins.

It was Dumbledore who said throughout the series that Voldemort would only be defeated by love, and love did defeat him when Harry sacrificially laid down his own life for his friends and the entire wizarding world. Sound familiar? :) Harry comes back to life to finish off Moldy Voldy and rightfully claims the Elder Wand as his own. Then in an effort to prevent anyone from attempting to wield its power for ill gain again, Harry snaps the wand in half and tosses it off the bridge. After his long journey, Harry now knows that selfish ambition and a drive for power only corrupt one into an ugly, barely human creature and that selfless love is where true happiness lies.

I'll go into more detail on the spiritual side of Deathly Hallows when I finally get around to it for the finding God in HP discussion, which at this pace may be 10 years haha. The great and wonderful thing about these books and movies is that there is always more to learn and always more to see. Is this the end? Technically, yes. Realistically? Oh, no. So look for the finding God in Harry Potter discussions to start up again soon(ish) here. I'm planning on re-reading the entire series with notebook in hand to really delve into how God makes Himself known in this series (with or without the author's intent). And I pray that all the millions of people seeing the movie over the next few weeks will open their hearts to this message of sacrificial love and let it point them to our Savior.

Thanks for the thrilling ride, Harry. I just got off the rollercoaster, and I'm already ready for another go. I mean that philosophically of course, but if anyone wants to fly me to Orlando, I'm okay with that too. :)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Love's Like a Hurricane; I Am a Tree

I admit I've been a slacker blogger lately, and I promise I will get back to the finding God in Harry Potter series (eventually), but I'd like to share with you about the incredible meeting God and I had this weekend at the retreat at Caswell Beach.

If I'm perfectly honest with you, God and I have not been on the best of terms lately. It's not like we've been at odds or anything, but for the past few months or so, I've been dragged down by this awful apathy about my walk with Him. I've still been going through the motions, but my passion was zilch. I was stuck in a rut and couldn't get out. I went into this weekend praying basically two things: 1. Lord, please meet me here this weekend so I may refocus and fall in love with You all over again and 2. Lord, please don't let me be distracted by all the cute Christian guys (Did I mention it was a singles' retreat?) (I told you I was being perfectly honest!) ;) Wow, did God ever answer those prayers. I won't go into detail about that second request except to say that He was the focus of my weekend and I met some amazing brothers (and sisters) in Christ this weekend.

As for the first request, God knew this weekend that I needed to get back to the basics of our relationship, and by that I basically mean that He reminded me that The Gospel can pretty much be summed up in one word: love. As in...He loves me. A lot. And He wants me to share that love with as much passion as a parent who can't stop talking about how much they love their kid or a lover who can't stop talking about how much they love their beloved. He is my one true love, and He always will be no matter who else may come along. And He is jealous for me. Wrap your head around that statement from the David Crowder song for a second. The God who created the universe is jealous for your love. He wants you to give Him your whole heart and being. He is jealous when you put anything above Him because He can love you more than anything else could possible dream to.

God really used David Crowder's "How He Loves" while He was working in my heart this weekend. I couldn't get it out of my head all weekend, and I'm a firm believer that He puts particular praise songs in your head like that for a reason. (Random fact: the technical term for this is "earworm." Ew.) I keep singing that song over and over in my mind..."(His) love's like a hurricane...I am a tree bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy." Such powerful words. I've been through a few hurricanes in my time in Louisiana, so images of raging wind that will not cease and forever change the landscape around it come to mind. Then on Sunday, we drove back by some trees I'd seen all weekend, and all of this finally clicked for me (This is not the actual tree...this is one from some random person's Flickr account, but you get the drift)...

These funny-looking trees definitely stand out from the landscape. They don't stand up tall like normal trees because they have been physically altered by their prolonged exposure to high, hurricane-force winds coming in from the ocean. Even when these strong winds are not present, you can still see their permanent effects on the trees. There is clear evidence of change...of something out of the ordinary. Do you see where I'm going with this? The hurricane force of God's love for us is permanently changing when you accept it. It bends you and molds you in ways that make you holy and set apart and make people who look at you say, "There is something different about this person. Something must have made them that way." We are ordinary people who God uses in extraordinary ways for the furthering of His kingdom.

So here's my prayer in light of all that's been stirring in my heart this weekend. Lord, may our lives reflect your amazing love. Let your love be clearly evident in our lives so that others may come to know You through the testimony of our changed lives. You say in your word that people will know we are Yours by our love. Let that love flow freely out of an overflow of our hearts. Let us serve you and love others out of passion not out of duty. I don't want to go through the motions, Lord. I want others to see Your love in me and want it for themselves. Help me not fall victim to apathy again. "Show me how to love like You have loved me" and "break my heart for what breaks yours." Give me compassion with action, and thank you, thank you, thank you for your jealous love for me. Forgive me for the times I give you reasons to be jealous by putting other things before you. Help me live a life on mission wherever I am. I am Yours. Forever. Amen.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

An Invitation to Another World

"Yeh don' know what yeh are?....Harry - yer a wizard."
--- Hagrid, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Chapter 4

Harry Potter is the boy who lived, yet he didn't have much of a life sleeping in the cupboard under the stairs in horrid aunt and uncle's home. In fact, Harry's future is pretty hopeless - no chance for love, no chance for adventure, no chance for much of anything. He's practically enslaved and stuck in a mundane, abusive life. Then one day a letter changes his life. One day Harry, who knows no one in the world besides his awful family, receives an invitation to a new life and a new identity. That invitation comes in the form of a letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and with the acceptance of that letter, Harry's eyes are opened to a new world beyond his comprehension and a destiny he never could have imagined. Harry is no longer Harry Potter, forgotten and unloved child. He is Harry Potter, a wizard with a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11 reference anyone?). Harry is now a member of a world that is magically set apart. The wizarding world becomes his true home yet he still lives in the Muggle world.

What a telling reminder to us that we are not true citizens of this world. Once we accept Christ, we are called out of our mundane, hopeless lives into a citizenship in Heaven and called with a purpose to fulfill our destinies He has planned for us. God invites us to step out of our cupboards under the stairs and join him in a life more wonderful than we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). He'll stop at nothing to find his way into our hearts and show us a glimpse of who we can be in Him...just as no boarded up mail slot prevents those letters from finding Harry. He always knows just where to find us, and He meets us right where we are whether it's in a mundane dead-end existence at 4 Privet Drive or in the middle of a dark storm in a tiny shack by the sea with the waters rising. Still, those letters find Harry, and in the end, all he has to do to begin his new life is accept what Hagrid tells him - that he's a wizard. All we have to do to begin our new lives in Christ is accept that we are His bought at a price and devote ourselves to following Him. That's only the beginning of the journey, as Harry soon discovers too, but it's the first step in the transition from the boy who lived to the boy who really lives.

Pen Strokes in the Wonderful World of Harry Potter

It seems like ages ago that I first picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone mostly to see what all the hype was about. My sister and I were both in high school, and for those of you who knew Staci and me then, I was far more a bookworm than she was (She's warmed up to books since then.), but ironically it was her copy I picked up. A friend of hers had told her it was a great read, and I had heard through the grapevine of the Potter buzz, so after she had finished it (or maybe even before she finished it...I'm fuzzy on the details), I decided to give this Harry Potter character a try even if it was written for "kids" and would surely be below my (what I thought at the time was a beyond-my-years) reading level maturity. At the risk of sounding completely ridiculous and exaggerated, I had no idea this series would literally change my view of literature.

Before you go thinking, "Here's another one of those crazy Harry Potter nuts," let me elaborate. Undoubtedly, I connect with this series on so many levels (It basically took me one book to realize I AM Hermione Granger haha.), but for the purposes of what I'm planning for my blog in the coming months, I'll focus mostly on the redeeming spiritual themes in Harry Potter. Yes, that's right. I said spiritual themes in Harry Potter, and I'll take it a step further and say there are down-right Christian themes in Harry Potter if you open your mind enough to see them. It saddens my heart to see so-called Christians openly bashing the series for its references to witchcraft and evil. Although most of those people have probably never even READ the books (GRRR...don't get me started on this), my focus will not be to fight fire with fire. Instead, I'd like to discuss how you can actually see glimpses of God in this series.

While I grew up on The Chronicles of Narnia (which is also dear to my heart), I knew it was blatantly allegorical, written by a man who is undoubtedly Christian and intended for the series to draw children (and adults) closer to God, but until Harry Potter entered my life, I had never really realized that you can see God in "secular" literature. The more I delved into the series, the more I found snapshots of God's character and references to the Christian walk. I hope to share those with you here in the coming months, and I hope that you too can start to see Him in literature that is not specifically "Christian" and that you may see a new side of the wonderful wizarding world of Harry Potter.

I may go chronologically through the books, skip around, or focus on characters depending on what I feel like sharing at the moment. I'm currently listening through the audiobooks while I run, so I might end up sharing my latest treadmill epiphany at times as well. ;) I've also read (and have on my to-read stack) a few good books on the subject too. Check this out if you want to do some reading on your own:
  • Looking for God in Harry Potter by John Granger
  • What's a Christian to Do with Harry Potter? by Connie Neal
  • God, the Devil, and Harry Potter: A Christian Minister's Defense of the Beloved Novels by John Killinger

Sunday, March 13, 2011

All Things New

*I dedicate this blog post to Kathryn Taylor, who recently admonished me for being a slacker blogger and thus inspired me to write tonight. Love you, Kat!* ;)

You've probably heard me say this before, but there's something about the changing of the seasons that always refocuses my heart on God...especially the change from winter to spring. It never ceases to amaze me how every year bare, sleeping trees know exactly when to wake up and start growing leaves again. If that's not evidence of a Creator, I don't know what is. Who else could make new life spring from a cold slumber? It's such a refreshing reminder that when we go through those wintry phases of life or that when winter storms blow through our lives, He can always make spring come again...but in His time. I have to remember that without the coldest winter nights, it would be difficult to truly appreciate beautiful, bright spring mornings. I'm so glad that God can use every season of nature and life to teach me more about who He is. When you see the daffodils start to peek out of the ground this spring, take a moment to thank the One who orchestrated them.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

"You're Not Alone" by Meredith Andrews

I search for love
When the night came and it closed in
I was alone
but you found me where I was hiding
and now I'll never ever be the same
It was the sweetest voice
that called my name


You're not alone
for I am here
let me wipe away your every fear
My love I've never left your side
I have seen you through the darkest night
and I'm the one who's loved you all your life
All of your life

You cry yourself to sleep
cause the hurt is real
and the pain cuts deep
All hope seems lost
With heartache your closest friend
and everyone else long gone

You've had to face the music on your own
but there is a sweeter song
that calls you home


You're not alone
for I am here
let me wipe away your every tear
My love I've never left your side
I have seen you through the darkest nights
And I'm the one who's loved you all your life
All your life

Faithful and true... Forever
For my love will carry you....

You're not alone
for I... I am here
let me wipe away every fear... Oh yeah
My love I've never left your side
I have seen you through your darkest night
Your darkest night
And I'm the one who's loved you all your life
All of your life

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hope through Faith

Often when I'm tempted to view circumstances in my life as debilitating, unfair, hurtful, or despairing, my heart is quietly reminded of 2 Corinthians 4. This passage just might be one of my favorite sections of God's word because it's just such an eloquent, poetic, and beautiful reminder that no matter how hopeless your situation feels, you have the power of God Almighty living in you. He is in control (as my neighbor across the hall reminded me only yesterday), so we have no reason to worry, pity ourselves, or let life get us down in any way. Hope for tomorrow comes only through the faith we have in Him moment by moment. He's only asking us to hold on tight and let Him lead. The question is are we willing to let Him use our light and momentary sufferings to bring Him glory instead of using them as an excuse for a pity party? I'm not saying we don't have real pains in this life or that there's not a perfectly appropriate place for grief in our lives, but there's danger in dwelling too long on pain. There's no pain He can't use to glorify His name if only we'll let Him. I hope this passage in 2 Corinthians blesses you and comforts you tonight as it has done and continues to do for me. May we strive to shine for Him in all circumstances. May our faith in His complete control give us immovable, unshakable hope. And let us not forget that it is only through His ultimate sacrifice and pain that we have that faith and hope.

2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 16-18:
7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

16So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Christmas Joy in January

I heard something in the grocery store today that made my week, and let me tell's been one crappy week. I'm talking first-ambulance-ride-to-the-ER-because-I'm-throwing-up-every-hour-and-dehydrated-and-have-the-stomach-flu kind of crappy week. I needed a pick me up today, and apparently God knew that. I love when He does that.

So on to the story. I was in Harris Teeter exhausted from my first day back at work after being sick when I rounded the corner to hear a little girl singing at the top of her lungs. What's the big deal about that? you ask. Well...she was singing "Joy to the World." I couldn't help it. I laughed out loud at this precious little girl who was hanging on to Christmas for dear life, and it got me thinking how all of us could do with a little more Christmas joy year-round. That's the great thing about the hope we have in Jesus, it's new every morning...not just on Christmas. And that's just what I needed today - a reminder that God is always there, always strong, always loving. Here was a little love letter from Him to me in the form of a Christmas carol sung by a little girl in a grocery store. Did I mention I love my God? :)

P.S.: Speaking of hanging on to Christmas, I should really take my Christmas tree down. Um, yeah. I'm that girl.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Word from The Word for the New Year

10Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
11Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.

Psalm 51:10-13 (emphasis mine)