Tag Archive | Pastor Tom Gibbs

God’s Valentine Promises to Us

There is no better gift to get for Valentines than receiving, and knowing, God’s Valentine promises to us. God’s Love for us is greater than anything we can imagine.  His sacrificial gift to us was His son, Christ.  God is love!

     “…nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  ~ Romans 8:39

I saw the Hallmark Valentine commercial.  I have to admit, I’m a sap for romantic gestures, especially this time of year…ok, I’m pretty much a romanticist all year.  I love the idea of someone telling me I’m beautiful.  I want someone to tell me they want to grow old with me.  Who wouldn’t want to have a super hero rescue them?  And, I never grow weary of someone saying they need me, or love me.

After watching the commercial, I realized that God is constantly trying to send me His own “Hallmark” greeting. God tells me He delights in me.  I ask Him to never let me go, so He promises to hold on to me.  He comforts me.  God wants to be my “Super Hero“, if I would let Him.

God has also told me that He loved me so much that He sent His only Son to give me hope by dying on the cross…so I could live.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever  believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

His promise doesn’t end there.  You see…I was sexually abused as a child.  I have harbored lots of pain, shame, and guilt.  It took years (almost 30 years to be exact) before I understood that God did not condemn me for what happened.  People may condemn me; but, He never does.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” ~ John 3:17

We all have struggles.  It’s nice to know that we have hope in the midst of our struggles.  There is hope in the very lives we live.  Christ’s love is our hope.

There were times I wondered where God was in the midst of my suffering…literally suffering at the hands of others..

My pastor reminded me that God had been beside me every time I have suffered.  In fact, He is present in the suffering and struggles of the world today.  He controls the suffering, and guides it for His purpose.

God’s promises don’t stop there. Oh no they don’t!

Another of God’s promises totally sweeps me off my feet when I think about it.  He tells me that He has plans for me.  He says in the midst of my struggles, He has plans for me to prosper.  God is molding me to be in the image of Christ. He is not finished with me.  He wants me to invite others into His kingdom, so that they may prosper.

I know you are thinking, “What you talking bout?”

I’m talking about what my pastor (Tom Gibbs) said, “We are all walking the road with our elder brother…Christ.  The path can and will lead us to glory.  Our present sufferings are identified with the struggles of Christ.  While we are walking with Him (during our struggles) we are being formed in the image of Christ. We are no longer subjected to the bondage of this world.  God comforts us in this world even when we have lost our way.  The world offers us meaningless and randomness sufferings; but, God is in control of the suffering.  Our sufferings guide us for His purpose in the end.”

So in all of this suffering in our world…there is hope. Hope in the love of Christ.

As Valentine approaches, remember that even during our struggles–God is wining and dining us.  He is the true lover of our soul.  We should take the time to express that “we love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

This Valentines Day my prayer is that we will remember that God’s valentine promises to us are very real and present in our lives …today and everyday.  God is near.  God is Love!

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Compassion Changed My Life. Thank You, Pastor!

I realize this blog is a little long; but, it’s important to raise our spiritual leader(s) up on a regular basis–by offering prayer and at times showing them some appreciation. In honor of Pastor Appreciation month, I would like to dedicate this blog to those who have given their time to tend their flocks.  I know that my pastor’s compassion helped me to change my life.  I was sexually abused as a child, and I had a lot of baggage.  My pastor helped me to understand how to leave my past abuse behind while becoming more passionate for Christ.

So how can we show our appreciation to our spiritual leaders?  Well, most pastors put a significant amount of their time into preparing sermons.  I think one of the best ways to give encouragement to them is by being faithful participants in the congregation.

Many pastors pour their heart out, using God’s words, into a sermon to tell us the truth of His grace and love for us.  These words spoken, allow us to understand the faith & hope we can have through Him so that we can live and have a passion for Him.

It seems to me that the life of a pastor might be one of the loneliest professions one could pick. It has the makings of a very tough, demanding – and lonely – occupation.

Frustrating?  Some of the times, yes.  Rewarding? Most times, yes.  Spiritually fulfilling? I am most certain yes, and on many different levels.

To spend one’s “everyday” life to further the kingdom of God must be a great profession indeed.

We all have days where nothing seems to go right. Maybe days of immense stress with any number of things that could be contributing to a “bad day.” Maybe you’re having a “season” of bad days.

When that happens, it’s not uncommon for us to talk the situation over with a spouse, family member, friend, or peer. Those conversations can be a great relief.  Maybe you might come up with some solutions that you had not considered.

Your pastor has probably had some of those same “bad” days; but, unlike the rest of us, they often don’t have the luxury of a sounding board.

Think about it.  Most of us have jobs where we are faced with “performance” appraisals once, maybe twice a year.   Pastors are continually being critiqued on a weekly basis. I’m sure there is someone sitting in the pews, on any given Sunday, who is thinking that the sermon could have been better, or that the music wasn’t to their liking, or that the service just wasn’t “good” enough.

It’s almost certain that at least some of the comments will make their way back to them. Who are they going to discuss their concerns with about the fact that no matter what they do…somebody seems to be unhappy?

Then there’s this role of counselor.  We often speak to our spiritual leader in confidence. Things said, and seen, can weigh heavily on their heart.  All along pondering how to deal with such difficult situations. Yet, where can they go when they are feeling emotionally drained themselves?  Where can they go to receive advice about how to handle a particular situation?  That could be a whole separate blog; but, at this time I want to share what one of my pastors did for me.

As a child I had been sexually abused by my stepfather from the ages of 7-15…becoming most intense from age 9 and on.  I had no idea of how much the abuse really affected me.  The following is an excerpt from my site “About Grace Desired”:

     “My husband, Sam Hairston, had researched and found a church that taught reformed doctrine.  We had been attending Redeemer Presbyterian Church for over a year. I have never been one to stand out at church.  I have pretty much been a back row worshiper.  I obviously lacked passion for His truth–because there was definitely a lack of knowledge.

As time went on, and due to the good leadership at the church, I began to understand more of the Bible–the truth of His Word.  The senior pastor, Tom Gibbs, has a vision and a passion for furthering His kingdom by being compassionate toward His people.  The church has a vision and passion as well.  Together, the community of the whole church has a passion for wanting to further His kingdom within our city and beyond.  For the first time, since I was in high school, I had begun to love a church.

At church it was spoken that the broken (being me) could be energized by the “grace of God”.  Week after week, I began to hear that Jesus was for the brokenhearted.  Tom preached, and I heard that Jesus could be my champion, and that I could be made new like the “Oaks of Righteousness“.  I also heard that God took delight in me.  I thought, who me?  I am a broken and scarred sinner who is full of shame, guilt, fear, and contempt.  How can that possibly be?  I was a skeptic!

At the time, Pastor Tom Gibbs, and his wife Tara, believed something else.  They had noticed the back row worshiper and her family.  I was told that they had prayed for us prior to their time spent with me.  I suppose they wanted us to become the front row family.

Anyway,  they began to play an integral part in my life.  They dedicated much of their time trying to help me see that His grace and love is the reality of my faith & hope; thus, I would learn that I have really received His grace for my past secrets.  They helped me to begin to understand that my shame, guilt, fear, along with my contempt, were unnecessary–because Christ took all of that away when He was nailed to the cross. The path was becoming clearer.  I was to begin my journey learning that God desired me for who I was…even if I was broken.

I began to realize that God was actually “wining and dining” me.  God longed for my attention.  I began to feel God’s love, and it was the kind of love that I subconsciously craved for years and did not know it.  Many, many months went by, and little did we know that a volcanic eruption (in epic proportion) would follow after the completion of the workbook.  It was very painful to recall the memories I had suppressed.  I began to have nightmares.  I had no idea of  the emotions that were surfacing to the top (like the beach ball). These were emotions that I had harbored within my very soul for years.

My “season” of confusion, self-hatred, and fear became too complex… even to the point of  a deep despair.  I began to become so frustrated that I cut myself a couple of different times.  Of course I never really wanted to die; but, that I just wanted to get the horrible shame, guilt, and fear out of my body.  

My “season” of emotions turned into “seasons” gone bad; kind of like a really bad reality TV show.

I believe God puts people into our lives for a reason. I definitely believe God brought the Gibbs’ into my life for a reason.”

Sometimes we put our spiritual leaders on pedestals of sorts – and it’s got to be a little lonely up there. We might forget that they’re human beings just like we are. They have strengths, and they have weaknesses, just like us. They get tired. They get frustrated. They need a pat on the back every once in a while, too!

So while Pastor Appreciation Month is a great thing, remember it’s important to support them all year long with prayers and words of encouragement. If last week’s sermon had a particular impact on you, say so. Send your spiritual leader a note of appreciation. You can also support spiritual leaders by becoming more involved with the church.

If we are enthusiastic followers of God, it will mean something to God – and to His ordained servants.  I’m thankful that my pastor showed compassion and saw more in me, than I saw in me.  He saw that God was not finished with me yet.  Through his compassion he helped me to leave my past abuse behind and helped me to become more passionate for Him.  Thank you, Pastor!

My prayer for spiritual leaders would be: “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.” ~Philippians 1:2

In honor of Pastor Appreciation month, I would like to thank the rest of the staff at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in San Antonio, Texas.  They are as follows: Tom Gibbs, Senior Pastor; Brandon Eggar, Associate Pastor; Victor Martinez, Assistant Pastor; Michael Novak, RUF Pastor; Brent Watkins, Music Ministry (BTW he also has his own jazz band “South Texas Jazz); Bekah McNeel, Children’s Director; Matt Beham, Youth Director (who has spent countless hours with my kids); Harriet Peavy, Office Administrator; Sarah Gill, Assistant Administrator.  I would also like to thank the Elders, Deacons, and Deaconesses for their countless hours of service.  There are so many others that play an integral part behind the scenes, and God bless you all for your time and efforts to further His kingdom.

Begin With the End. Begin With Him!

I, personally, have a hard time focusing.  Not only do I have ADD, I have trouble concentrating on what’s important at hand.  I’m not exactly the best at seeing the “big” picture.

I teach school and we have been participating in Stephen Covey‘s program: “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“.  The first two habits talk about being proactive, and begin with the end in mind.  One must start with a clear purpose in mind of where they might want to end up.  I thought about this idea, and this is what I decided.

HHHMMM!!!!  Begin with the end.  Begin with Him!  I should focus on the cross.

My purpose in life should be knowing Christ, and building a relationship with Him.  Now, I have a bad habit of focusing on my self.  I tend to deal with things that pretty much-well…include me.  I don’t focus on the big picture–which should be Christ.  I begin to day dream and get caught up in “self”; thus, losing sight of Jesus.

Part of my problem is my lack of organization.  Other problems may include idol time, and lack of passion to set the goal of learning His word (which should be a high priority).  I want things to come easily.  I don’t necessarily want to put out the effort.  I tend to look for shortcuts.  Not that doing these things, or wanting them, are always bad; but when I begin not to see the necessity of the cross…then my faithfulness has become quite superficial.  I need to stop taking the easy way.  Sometimes the “road less traveled” may be lonely, but necessary.  My pastor, Tom Gibbs, has made emphasis about these shortcuts before.

Covey talks about being proactive versus reactive.  Proactive is when you define a clear purpose of what you are working toward…with the end in sight.  Reactive is when people live in the past, or can’t get out of the present.  Their purpose is kind of minimal.  They may remember the old way, and  seem to get stuck on only dealing with that type of situation.  They really don’t look to the future, and what could happen in the long run if they focused.

My pastor, Tom Gibbs, says that we are called to be active in our faith.  Even when we continue with the shortcut, Christ is taking the hard way to draw near to us.  He is our champion!  He is our Savior!  It’s right to give Him thanks and praise–at all times.

Sometimes I think I test the sincerity of God.  Is He really for me?  Does He really have my best interest?  I tend to do all of the talking. It’s a one way relationship between God and myself.  I lose focus of His plan for me, and I just look ahead to my plan.  Instead of talking all of the time, I should be listening to what God has to say.  He does have some skills–hahahaha!

Part of being able to focus sometimes means I might need a “time out”.  This past summer my pastor took a Sabbatical.  Now, I haven’t actually talked to him in person, but he has told the congregation how great it was to renew his relationship with the Lord, his wife, and kids.

I consistently need to be renewed if I am to press on in this life.  How can I expect to build a relationship with God, or any other person, if I don’t take a break.  In this case, taking a break to become renewed in Christ may mean taking a break from the ways of the world.  I may need to meditate and pray more on His words.  I will need to do my best to really listen to Him.

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” ~ 1 Peter 1:13

There are different ways to become renewed.  Physical activity is a great way to become renewed.  Eating right and exercising will give me strength and the energy I need to focus.  With better focus, I could deepen my thoughts in my mind on His words.  With the commitment of focusing on Him, it would touch the very core of my spirit.  I would draw nearer to Him understanding that His grace and mercy is for not just for me…but for everyone.   With having a renewed spirit, I might be able to begin to build relationships with others.

Building relationships means that I will have to build trust.  When I build trust with another person, it gives me hope.  I know that there is hope in Jesus.  He is forever faithful to me.  Because of Jesus’ faithfulness, I will be able to be more faithful to Him and to all that He commands of me.

I will say that a big obstacle of my focusing on His faithfulness, is meditating on His words.  I’m a pretty decent prayer warrior; but the meditating on His words is tough for me to focus on.  That’s where coming together as a community of believers to worship is great for people like me.  The service at my church is like a “full meal deal”.  There is so much going on, and it touches  all aspects of a great worship service.  We have meditation, prayers, music, greetings of peace, the sermon, communion, and a benediction.  It just goes on and on–in a good way.  My needs are definitely met, and I feel quite full of the Spirit when I leave.

Drawing near to Him, and being able to draw on all my resources of renewal, allows me to become uplifted.  Being uplifted allows me to focus on Him without being distracted.  Therefore, focusing would allow me to concentrate not only the uniqueness of myself, but others; thus possibly making a difference in how I see the big picture.

Christ shall be the focus of my renewal of my mind. I will be proactive with my faithfulness for Him by drawing near to Him. I will build trust in my relationship with God by becoming a better listener. I should begin with the end. I should begin with Him…keeping my eyes focused on the cross.  Amen!

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” ~ Romans 12:2

I Am More Than a Broken Girl. I’ve Survived.

I was sexually abused growing up as a child; BUT, I am more than a broken girl.  I’ve survived.  I’m a child of God; therefore, I’m not who I used to be!

There’s a verse in Proverbs that says, “Whoever spares the rod hates his son,but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”  This text was originally written in Hebrew.  There have been many different translations, and much interpretation; but, in this case discipline was meant to teach or guide, and it was not supposed to be used as a punishment.

I was often “disciplined” by my step father; but, looking back…it was definitely a punishment and not really a “teaching” moment.  His way of disciplining varied from speaking harsh words that I was worthless, to physically hitting me, and he often sexually degraded me.  I never really knew which form of discipline I would be receiving; therefore, I was constantly on edge.

The anxiety that I experienced as a child was often due to the fear of punishment.  My thoughts would be when would my step father come again?  What have I done to deserve this?  Will I ever be good enough to warrant praise?  I thought I must be very bad to be so punished.  I would often feel guilty for upsetting him enough to do such things.  I would associate feelings of guilt with being punished.  Even today, I may apologize for something that I did not do (although I do lots of things that need apologizing for).

Child sexual abuse is the use of sexual behavior in a way to control the behaviors, or actions, of a child.  Sexual abuse acted upon a child can have lasting effects that can carry through to adulthood.  One of the main reasons is that the victim keeps the abuse quiet, and does not tell anyone.  In a child’s mind, if there are no witnesses…who is going to believe them?

Sexual abuse can be quite confusing to a child especially when the one who is doing the abusing is supposed to be doing the loving and protecting.  It’s a harsh reality and confusing when this takes place.

Looking back, I would say that no one really knew I was being abused.  I had bruises, and when others asked me about them…I would just say that I got them playing sports…or I fell down.  I feared being found out which could lead to more potential pain.

My step father had ways to keep me quiet.  He told me I was worthless, that I was tainted, and that no one would want me.  This caused a great fear of  abandonment within me that I still have trouble with today–when I get depressed.  Many feelings have remained with me stuck in the back of my mind.  It is a sick situation–fearing that no one will want me, like me, or that I will have a spouse to take care of me.  It’s a horrible feeling!

My step father said he would beat me up if I told anyone, and since he already hit me…I did not tell anyone.  I seriously did not give out the gory details until my pastor and his wife recommended a book called “The Wounded Heart” by Dan Allender.

It has been three years this month (October) since I began that life changing journey.  I was afraid, even as old as I was, to tell my heinous secrets from my past.  I was living in darkness hoping no one would find out.  The problem was that my secret was beginning to take root inside of me and weeds were beginning to grow.  I was letting the darkness consume me.  The lies I had heard for most of my life were turning me into a sad, broken girl.

I know I have mentioned this before; but my pastor, Tom Gibbs, once told me that, “By giving into the fear of darkness, it will only compound the pain and evil of what has already happened.  By you keeping things hidden it will gain power over you.  Remember, that God is Light and there is no darkness in Him.”

The Urban Dictionary has two definitions for a broken girl.  A broken girl (lower case) is a girl that has tattoos that show or unconventional piercings. The bigger, or more of them, the more broken she is.  A Broken Girl (capital letters) is a term the redwings use to describe a girl who… is not reputable to tell any of your friends about at all and no one would want to know about.

To me, I felt as if I was the broken girl defined.  I had been told I was worthless.  I felt as if I were a disgrace.  I felt misunderstood.  There are days I still feel like this…of course from my own doing.  On occasion I have a little help from others; but, for the most part…it’s just the lies of my past.

Matthew West has an amazing album out.  He took stories from other people’s lives and he wrote songs about them.  His album, and tour, is called “Story of  Your Life”.  He did a great job writing theses songs about various experiences, and tied them to how God loves us.  Some stories were of praises, and some not.   There is one particular song that he wrote about a broken girl, and it was very real to me.  The good news is that he talks about the Good News.  Matthew talks about how God is Love… figuratively and literally in this song. He says that Love sees us differently.  Love sees beauty, and He can’t be taken away from the broken girl.  Matthew’s words struck a chord with me, and here are part of the lyrics of a “Broken Girl”:

Look what he’s done to you
It isn’t fair
Your light was bright and new
But he didn’t care
He took the heart of a little girl
And made it grow up too fast

Now words like “innocence”
Don’t mean a thing
You hear the music play
But you can’t sing
Those pictures in your mind
Keep you locked up inside your past

This is a song for the broken girl
The one pushed aside by the cold, cold world
You are
Hear me when I say
You’re not the worthless they made you feel
There is a Love they can never steal away
And you don’t have to stay the broken girl

Those damaged goods you see
In your reflection
Love sees them differently
Love sees perfection
A beautiful display
Of healing on the way tonight
Tonight

Like Matthew, I want to reiterate that God is Love.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:7

God loves those who are crushed in spirit.  One of my homework assignments when I first met with the Gibbs’ at their home, was to find verses where it said that God loved me.  I found out that I was His Beloved.  I learned lots of things that I had never known.  No one had really taken an interest in me spiritually since I was 16…this was 30 years later.  A lot had happened over those years.  A heart became hardened.  Roots of bitterness were taking over.

I had to make some changes, and quick.   Tom also told me that I must learn to let Jesus love me, and I must love Him in return.  If I don’t do this…it will be impossible for Him to pull my weeds and replace them with flowers.  I have really come far despite my abuse and lack of knowing a lot about the Good News; but, I can cultivate a bigger garden if I let God help me.

I will say that I did question God, in the beginning of my journey, why I had to be naked and exposed?  No child should have to experience this kind of pain alone.  God revealed to me that I was not alone.   He was with me.  Christ suffered with me, and for me. The difference when Christ suffered for me was that I was in the crowd.  I was the one of the ones who shamed Christ.  I pinned him down with my sins.  I was the one who caused His suffering and the exposing of His naked body.  Jesus took my shame.  He did it all for me. The truth is that Christ suffered for me, He showed me grace, and now he gives me hope.

I am more than a broken girl.  I’ve survived.  I have lived through things I never would thought I was capable of, and it was all because of Christ.  His Love has helped me to discover that I’m worth fighting for, and He has given me strength to survive. Christ is healing me, pulling my weeds out to make a beautiful garden.  I am a child of God.  I’m not who I used to be.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ~ Psalm 147:3

Break Free! Break Free From the Chains!

Many of us understand what bondage feels like.  We feel like chains may be wrapped around multiple times constricting us with each action we make.  I, personally, want to break free from the chains, and to live a life filled with God’s grace.

I realize that many of us have different battlegrounds; but, the thing we have in common is the overwhelming feeling of being held hostage within our own chains. I often wonder how am I ever going to be released from the chains in my life?  These so-called chains that  hold me back.  Most of the time it’s my own idols holding me hostage; but, on occasion–it’s someone else’s idols holding me hostage…and that’s another blog.

Being aware of my own guilty feelings (from my past sexual abuse), I began to look inward to myself for help, instead of outward toward Him.  I have worn many chains since the actual abuses have taken place. I have meticulously layered the chains of guilt, shame, perfectionism, and “pleasing others” around my neck until they have utterly weighed me down.  I felt as if I were suffocating me.  I was suffocating!

There are times, I have claimed freedom in Christ; only to let my past fears, and sometimes present, sneak in and take control–again. I forget that I’ve been saved by His grace.  Instead I seek the wrong kind of hope, and I wait in the dark for help.  I tend to put faith in myself.  I tend to think that I will be able to break free from the chains on my own rather than putting my hope in God to help me break free from the chains.

I fear I am part of a commonality with other struggling Christians. I don’t always know who I am with Christ, nor do I fully understand what it means to be a child of God.  And why not?  In Romans it says that the Spirit Himself bore witness with my spirit to be a child of God.  Ok, then why don’t I sense the feeling of being that child?  Could it be the chains I’m wearing?

Last Sunday my pastor Tom Gibbs said, “We tend to resist being a Christian!”  He said, “We have no excuse for knowing the God that we try so hard to suppress.  We practice the lies of idolatry by suppressing His truth.  Our idolatry is our way of manipulating the world around us.  We are committed to our idols when we feel threatened.  In essence, we practice a lie; thus, suppressing God even more.”

Tom is right!  Instead of looking inward to myself for help in breaking free from the chains; I should be looking to Christ–who has the answer of truth and grace to set me free.

The first step to breaking free from my chains is to resolve my personal and spiritual conflict by genuinely repenting, and then totally submitting myself to God. I should follow the KISS example: Keep It Short & Simple.  I need to stop with my self-serving tendencies, and stop hiding behind my mask.  I tend to want to masquerade that I’m obedient even when I’m not dependent on His Spirit.

I am thankful that we are taught about the kingdom of God; but, we also need to understand the kingdom of darkness.  Satan‘s wickedness lies in Heavenly places.  That’s why there is a need for discernment…to be able to know that some things are just lies.  Lies that chain us down.  Our battle is not against flesh and blood; but, the forces of Satan’s darkness.

We must understand that the battle is for our minds.  The battle is whether or not we will believe the lies or will become transformed…made new with Christ. We must understand that God does not lie!  God is truth and grace.  Satan does lie!  He is wicked and full of darkness.

In the Bible, Paul wrote that he was free from bondage. He expressed that he had confidence that his freedom was real. In Corinthians he said that, “I will not be enslaved by anything.” Paul said this following up to those who had been sanctified (saved by His grace) and justified in Christ (because of His death), but were continuing to be held in bondage by their old idols.

Being a good disciple, like Paul, means being a good counselor as well.  The two are intermingled.  Discipleship counseling is where two or more people meet in the presence of God.  Together, they learn how God’s truth and Word can help break them free from the chains of idolatry; thus, being able to conform to the image of God as one begins to learn to walk by faith.

The other day a particular song came to mind by Wilson Phillips.  The song was “Hold On”, and some of the lyrics are as follows:

“I know this pain
Why do lock yourself up in these chains?
No one can change your life except for you
Don’t ever let anyone step all over you
Just open your heart and your mind, mmm
Is it really fair to feel this way inside?…

You could sustain
Or are you comfortable with the pain?
You’ve got no one to blame for your unhappiness
You got yourself into your own mess
Lettin’ your worries pass you by
Don’t you think it’s worth your time
To change your mind?

I know that there is pain
But you hold on for one more day and
Break free, break from the chains…”

Tom said another thing that really stuck with me.  He said, “We should be humble and faithful disciples of Christ.  It’s a matter of the heart so that we are actively doing what God has called us to do.”  He said, “Our performance vindicates our dependence on God.”

I realize that my support system does not always include Christ.  I had, and have, not cast my anxiety and fears on Christ, and I am anything but dependent upon Him.

My chains have brought me nothing but darkness; but, in my darkness God has helped me to see His Light.  I can’t, nor anybody else, set me free.  Only Christ can set me. I can’t bind up my broken heart; but, God can.  God is my “chain breaker”.

In order for me to break free, I must have a true knowledge that I am a child of God.  Where am I going to learn that?  From His Words in the Bible.  If I really know God, then my behavior will change radically.  My biggest deterrent mentally and spiritually is me not understanding His true freedom.

Tom mentioned about John Newton’s analogy… having a good “spectacle for the scripture”.  I must delve into His words so that I can have a good relationship with Him.  I must focus on Him.  I need to begin to live more by faith and begin renewing my mind.  Knowing God in terms of “heart matters” will be a sign of maturity; thus, it will help me become a step closer to the freedom in Christ without wearing chains.

Living and growing in Christ may mean I will encounter different  and new chains to wear.  But, I must remember that I have been made new.  I have been called to do what He wants me to do, and that is not to be bound  with the chains of fear from my past. Grace is not just about obedience; but learning to be dependent on His Spirit.  This kind of obedience can only happen in and through His grace.

For freedom Christ has set us free; ‘stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery’.”~ Galatians 5:1

This bondage breaking power that Paul talks about is available to me.  I’m not really comfortable with the pain I cause for myself, or others.  I am the one to blame most of the time.  It’s time to make a change, and break free…break free from the chains.

Shalom: A Greater Kind of Peace

Who would like Shalom? <with hand raised high, while saying, “I do. I do.”>

In the Bible, the Hebrew word “Shalom” means peace.

Shalom is no ordinary peace.  Shalom is a greater, more complete peace.  It is the ultimate peace!  My Pastor Tom Gibbs describes Shalom as a “wholeness within all of the world”.  I love that thought.  A peaceful, wholeness within all the world to share His Light.

The Hebrew word “Shalav” means to be at rest.

To me, Shalom is a greater kind of peace…a peaceful rest that can only come from my Father in Heaven.

As Pastor Tim Keller says, “Shalom is like a fabric that has been interwoven together and is beautiful.”  I can picture this beautiful fabric that is quite intricate with lots of details.

I found a needlepoint work of art at Goodwill.  Someone had donated it; but inside the mounted frame, and delicately woven into the fabric, was the word Shalom.   Someone spent a lot of time working on this beautiful piece of art.  BTW, I gave this piece of art to my daughter, Erica Hairston from which the blog “Teach Me To Walk” was written.  She has a beautiful peace about her, and I thought she would love it.  I had thought of writing about Shalom back in April, and after finding this beautiful piece of art…I felt I had to share these thoughts.

Relationships, like this piece of art, are delicate.  We have many pieces of fabric that are interwoven together.  Sometimes the fabric becomes unraveled…much like our brokenness within our lives.  The fabric then must  become “re” woven so that we as Christians will be able to bring about witness for Him.

We all seem to long for Shalom at some point in our lives.  We want to live in Shalom and search for it; but, the place has already been created by God.  It is called Heaven.  Here on Earth there is no lasting place, or city to dwell in; but there is one city that can last (and it has yet to come).

How do we seek this place of Shalom?  We have to engage in the practice of loving our neighbor.  Love should be our action…after all, it was His action.

I’m the worst at becoming judgmental of others especially when I think they have wronged me.  The truth is…I’m not in charge of justice; but, I am in charge of my actions.  God is in charge of justice; but, His justice is different from what mine looks like.  God’s justice is love…in action.  Being able to forgive, be thankful, not moan for what I think I may deserve.  Not becoming an “idol” worshiper of my own desires.

I’m reminded of the Christian band Luminate.  They have a song called “Shine“.  The lyrics go as follows:

“And though it starts with one, There will be a million candles.
There will be millions more, Singing with the tongues of angels.
The Light of Heaven falling down, Spreading love to the darkest places.
I want to strike a match, and watch it bring salvation.

Shine, Love is an action.
Shine, Oh it starts with a passion.
We want to be a heart that’s pure
So all will see that we are Yours…
Shine.”

In order to spread His love, by shining His Light, we may have to meet the needs of others through sacrificial love.  We should try to make a difference in other’s lives, besides our own.  In fact, we are not our own…we are His.  If we don’t love the least of these, then we do not love Him.  In the Bible it states, “He who is kind to the poor…loves Me!”

God is for us.  He has walked in our shoes.  He knows how to identify with us as poor, broken, and oppressed.  After all, He was born in a manger, died on a cross, and buried in a tomb.  He knows exactly what’s it is like to suffer the consequences of others.  I’m reminded daily that my sins pinned Him on the cross.  I was one of the many who stood in the crowd and did nothing to show love to my neighbor as he died a heinous death.

By His death on the cross, He has vindicated our sins, and we have been saved by His grace.  With such grace, we are able to find Shalom and live the life of Shalav that He has intended for us to live.

God’s justice for us was shown through His love in action.  It was His promise of  Shalom.  He tells us not to worry.  He gives us Shalav…a place to rest. In fact, He asks us to rest upon His yoke.  It’s not just for me to rest but for all who are weary and burdened.  God gives us a peaceful rest, isn’t that awesome!  We are to take advantage of that rest, so that we will become better equipped to shine His Light for others to know of His salvation.

Yes, we all get worn out from our daily living, and that’s why we need to take a break.  We may need to renew our faith; like the wings of eagles. We must soar with great passion from within ourselves, and the community of the church, to be able to turn this passion into an action.

The good news is that we have been forgiven and there is a future for us…a future in Heaven.  We are reminded of this future when we worship with our church community.  As a community we become that fabric that has become “re” woven together so that we can become a community of believers that bring about the fruits of His Spirit. We will begin to proclaim the reality that the love we show was His action taken when He died on the cross.

Slowly, we can begin to make a difference…striking His match.  The journey He took for us will begin to shine through us, and we will begin to let His Light be seen throughout many dark places.

The whole earth is full of His glory!  Let His love be the action that obtains Shalom: a greater kind of peace that dwells within us for the whole earth to see!

Shalom, and may you go in peace by making a difference…by shining His Light in dark places when all other lights go out!

Teach Me to Walk

My oldest daughter, Erica Hairston, is expanding her very own spiritual journey with our Heavenly Father.  It has been a blessing to watch her mature and grow spiritually, and all aspects of her life as well.  I often stand in awe of her.  She has a beautiful spirit about her, and tries to be a friend to all…especially to those in need.  She is a people magnet!  Erica’s gift from God attracts people to her…in which she is better able to share the Good News.

My other children, Jess and John, are just beginning their own journey making a difference in their own way to further His kingdom.  I’m so very proud of them all; each with their own unique God-given talents that they share with others on a daily basis…especially with me.  What a blessing to be called “Momma“.

I’m actually going to focus on Erica for this blog because of a recent event.

Here is a brief synopsis of Erica.  From an early age she  has  thrived on “being in the thick of things”.  She has a lot of energy, and knows how to harness it and channel it to work for herself, and others, and in a good way.  Erica has been in sports most of her life, and has proven to be a great leader on the softball field and mission field.  She earned  the title of best athlete at her middle school, and earned first team all district honors in softball for her high school team a couple of years.  Erica has made lots of friends, loves life, and truly cares for people.

Yes, she has faults.  I know I painted her better than Mary Poppins; but, she does have special God-given talents.  Plus, we already know that we are all sinners and fall short.

Erica has a mission, and it’s to further His Kingdom.  She puts her on twist on the way she furthers His kingdom with a  flair that only Erica can do.

This past year, Erica attended Baylor University.  She has made a network of amazing Christian friends, and it has literally pumped her up for Jesus!  They are a well oiled “tight knit” group ready to fight in God’s army.

Recently, in one of Erica’s quiet time, God revealed to her some of her strengths and weaknesses.  She told me that God had revealed to her–that He was going to teach her how to walk.  He was going to teach her His way, and it would be better than she has ever walked before.  They would start over and take it from the beginning.  Even though her spiritual walk is strong; He was going to make her walk stronger than it has ever been before, and all for His glory.

I work at a summer camp now, and it’s very hard to get a hold of me.  My cell doesn’t have service unless I stand on top of the zip-line on one foot.  Ok, that is a little exaggeration…but not much.

Erica finally got a hold of me to tell me what God had revealed to her; then, she casually added that something unexpected happened a couple of days later.

I thought, “I wonder what unexpected event?”

I knew she had gone to Minnesota to spend some time with one of her future roommate; and then she said, “By the way, I got to go jet skiing and tubing for the first time.”

I thought, “Awesome!”

Erica also told me that she went water skiing, and that the skis were too loose, and she had trouble getting up; therefore, she tightened the skis. The problem was the next time she was getting pulled out of the water (because she is strong) she was pushing harder with one leg, and the ski was under water slightly.  This is not a good thing while trying to ski on top of water.

I’m thinking this is all really cool!

Then, her next words were words that would pain any parent’s heart, and my very soul writhed with pain for her. Erica had an accident.  The iliofemoral ligament (the strongest ligament in the body, had detached from her hip, and will be having surgery on Tuesday.

BTW…prayers would be good now.  Prayers for the doctor and healing would be great; especially since she is a Packer fan and a Cowboy’s doctor will be performing the surgery.  She may have to change her allegiance after the surgery; but, she should see how it turns out first-hahahaha!

My eyes began tearing up as she told me what had happened.  I was trying not let her hear the pain in my voice; but, I’m not the best at hiding my emotions.

I immediately asked if she had a life jacket on, and she said, “Yes, she did”.  I was somewhat relieved.  I was happy that she had thought of safety first, and that it helped her to keep a float while writhing in pain waiting in the cold water.

Erica went on to tell me of the events that followed, and she felt certain that she would have drowned (because of the severity of the pain) if not for the life jacket she was wearing, and the other “Life Jacket” that covered her with strength and comfort.

A boat drove by and said they would call the sheriff to get help.  Those blessed people also drove around the lake to help clear it so that the waves would not continue to make her move so much…and cause her pain.

Her future roommate, Elizabeth Papetti, and another girl, Kristen Pool, dove out of the boat into the water, and each of the girls got on Erica’s side  to help support her until emergency service arrived.  I am thankful to God for all of their support to help their friend…their sister in Christ.

She told me about the air life that came; but, that an ambulance was actually able to get to where they were.  Erica said that placing her on the backboard was an excruciating pain that she will never forget.

My heart was hurting so bad!  A parent never wants their child to suffer such pain.  I wanted to be able to take it away, and there is nothing I can do.  Then I realized I can pray, and that’s one of the best things I could do for her.

All of the sudden Erica’s voice, despite being a little pain stricken, became more upbeat.  She said, “Momma.  I got to talk to the people in the ambulance about Jesus.”

My whole body became engulfed with a beautiful warm, spirit filled feeling.

Then Erica said, “Momma.  I’m going to have to learn to walk again.”

The realization of her accident came rushing over me again.  I felt sick to my stomach.

Then Erica said, “Don’t worry, Momma.  I have faith.  Plus remember, I told you what God had revealed to me that He was going to teach me how to walk.”

Ok…now, I really need a tissue.  This beautiful, sweet child of mine finds the beauty in her own pain.  What a testimony!  It’s true!  He is going to teach her how to walk in His truth and way.  How awesome is that?

Erica has made it back to Texas, and has a great support group of friends with her.  As a mom, it’s so hard not to want to know how everything is going.  How I wish I could take her pain away, and be with her.

Erica reassured me she was in the great hands with her friends, and of the best hands in the Father of the Heavens and Earth.  I have no control in th situation.  Not controlling the situation is a big leap of faith for me.  Since my mini-stroke in May, I have had to learn to let some things go, and not worry so much.  It’s definitely a test of faith for me, and being able to put my trust in Him…despite my weaknesses.

I truly can’t do much for her while I’m at camp, or any place for that matter; but, I can definitely pray.

I listen to K-LOVE Christian radio quite often.  Their link is also on this web page.  As I got off of the phone with Erica, I was reminded of a Jeremy Camp song that I really like.  It’s called, “Walk by Faith”, and a part of the song is below.

“Well I will walk by faith
Even when I cannot see
Well because this broken road
Prepares Your will for me

Help me to win my endless fears
You’ve been so faithful for all my years
With one breath You make me new
Your grace covers all I do.” 

Those words are so true!

As my pastor, Tom Gibbs, has told me many times…even if I can’t see and I may be in a season of brokenness, God will teach me to do His will.

God will help me with my many fears that follow me from my past to present shame and guilt of abuse.  I must not listen to the lies.  I am His beloved.  He has made me new.  And the most important thing…His grace covers all I do…just like Jeremy’s song says.

If one looks closely…one can always find beauty from within their pain, or brokenness.

Tom has also told me, “You have to draw near, be patient, and listen to what God is trying to tell you.”

I suppose if I can continue to do those things then beauty will be able to spring forth from the pain that has built up over the years.

My new prayer for myself is for the Lord to teach me to walk…walk in His way of truth, and not my way of lies.  Praise His glorious name!

 Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.  For great is your steadfast love toward me;…”     ~Psalm 86:11-13a

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