Saturday, December 25, 2010

Hope During the Holidays

While most of the country has spent the last month in a frenzy of holiday shopping, baking and decorating, we sometimes forget those experiencing pain during this season. Earlier this month I read a lady's blog that chronicles her years of struggle with infertility. She confided with her readers that while she receives countless Christmas pictures in the mail of her friends' cute kiddos, the holidays are very sad for her. Longing for a child of her own she has renamed Christmas a "helliday", instead of a holiday.

As a mother, and a woman with my own history of infertility and miscarriages, I hurt for this young woman. I know the pain she feels during this season. Yet there were some aspects of her struggle that I cannot relate to. During my years of infertility, I experienced hope; not a hope of having children one day, but a hope that Jesus would give me joy despite my circumstances. Hope that I would enjoy peace in life whether I had another child or not. Hope that no matter what trials I faced here on earth, eternal life with Jesus would far outweigh it all. And Christmas was always a joyous time, not a "helliday". Why? Because Christmas was about CHRIST, not me.

As I think of this holiday season, my heart goes out to friends and loved ones facing trials even now:

* My aunt and cousins who lost their dear 43-year-old son and brother this summer
* My cousin who lost her mother unexpectedly after Thanksgiving some years ago
* My father-in-law whose mother (and my husband's grandmother) just passed 
* Two sister-friends who recently suffered miscarriages
* The single mama holding it down, loving her children and the Lord with all her might
* The wives, children, parents and siblings of fallen U.S. soldiers on foreign soil

And there are many others bearing heartaches this Christmas. You may be one of them. Please know that above all, God loves you passionately, dearly and immeasurably. He came to earth as a little baby, suffered physical and emotional pain and died on a cross for you and me. Trust me -- He understands pain. He understands your pain. And He won't waste it. He'll use it to draw you to Him, grow you up in Him, make you more like Him. Romans 8:18 says "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

I pray you find rest during this sacred season and wholly depend on Jesus through it. I've written a short poem to celebrate this beautiful Christmas evening...

Love,

Carla



'Twas the Night of Christmas

'Twas the night of Christmas, when all through the house,
Every creature was thankful for his or her loved ones, friends and spouse.
The gifts were displayed under the tree with care,
In hopes that Christmas joy would always be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of the Christ-child danced in their heads;
Meanwhile my husband and I reminisced about Christmas day,
The joy of Jesus' coming chasing our sorrows away.

May you too enjoy the love of Jesus tonight,
And I pray that His joy would overcome your worst plight.
Tonight I exclaim with all of my might,
"Trust in Him! He is the Way, the Truth and the Life!"


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Joys and Pains of the Ministry Life: Part III

This is the last post in my series examining the challenges of life in the ministry, although I may revisit this topic sometime in the future. This series has apparently blessed many of you. Some of you are pastor's wives, some of you lead ministries in your local church, some of you serve para-church ministries, and all of you are fellow Christians at various churches around the country. My prayer has been that you would be encouraged in whatever work the Lord has called you to.

I cannot continue writing without thanking you for reading and supporting my blog. The feedback you have given me -- through blog comments, facebook messages and emails -- have encouraged me to press on with my writings.  One brother sent a message to my husband about my blog that lifted my spirits on the very day that I needed it. I had been wondering to myself, "Is anyone even reading this anymore?" Well, the Lord answered that question through that brother. I appreciate all of you for cheering me on. Please continue to read and share my blog site with anyone that would be blessed by my posts, including those who have yet to place their faith in Christ.

So, moving on to our last challenge...

Challenge #3: Being Put on the Front Lines of God's Army


When I thought of how to wrap up this series, my mind continually turned to the issue of spiritual warfare. Wikipedia defines spiritual warfare as "the Christian concept that the Devil and demons attempt to thwart Good and the will of God." Now I ain't come here to preach y'all, but believe me, spiritual warfare is real, whether we believe in it or not.

One of the most difficult things about ministry -- and the Christian life, for that matter -- is this persistent presence of warfare. Like the cloud of dirt that follows Pig-Pen from the Peanuts cartoon, this warfare becomes a constant unwanted companion, especially for those in ministry. And why is that when we are most God-focused and committed to our spiritual disciplines (like reading our Bibles and consistent, fervent prayer), do we find spiritual warfare most prevalent in our lives?



Take the following examples from my life:

* When Anthony and I first married, we were elated about our new life together as husband and wife. We knew God had so much in store for us, and eventually the children that would come from our union. Unfortunately our first year was also the hardest year of our marriage as we struggled with unrealistic expectations, disagreements and disappointments. There were days we felt like we were swimming upstream, against the current of life. There were nights when we both sensed an evil presence in our bedroom. I wholeheartedly believe that we were fighting against demons that were working feverishly to break us apart. Married people, remember that your spouse is not the real enemy. Your boss, your coworkers, and your ministry partners are not your enemies. Ephesians 6:12 says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the power of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

* When Anthony began full-time ministry, some of our most tense times were immediately before Bible study, small group ministry, prayer meetings or church services. There have been many Sundays when at least one of my children, or maybe two or three of them, have undeniably lost their minds. The first service that Anthony preached at the Little Rock campus of Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas, I was a total wreck for the first fifteen minutes of church. I had left on time for church, but managed to get lost using a GPS. Come to find out, the church is located on a street that has been recently renamed. So why didn't someone send the memo to my Garmin GPS?

* When Anthony and I moved to Arkansas this past summer to join the pastoral staff of Mosaic, I was excited that God had called us to serve this wonderful multi-ethnic ministry. However, at the same time I was overtaken by fear, doubt and insecurity. Even though some of my struggle came from the natural need for security for a woman that had relocated twice in twelve months, I know that a portion of my fear root was spiritual as well.

While each of these examples is layered with intricacies: human limitations, sinful natures, and our wills warring against ourselves and others, I know that a common denominator for each is spiritual warfare. The enemy didn't want Anthony and I to remain married. He doesn't want him working full time for a ministry that invites people of every race and tribe and tongue to worship together. He doesn't want me to experience joy as the wife of a pastor. And he doesn't want me to experience the abundant life that God has promised His children.

Guess what? He doesn't want the same for you either.

God's Grace for the Challenge of Spiritual Warfare:

Ephesians 6, verses 10-18 lists God's weapons for spiritual warfare. I encourage you to read through that passage and meditate on the grace and power God has given us to fight our real enemy. But I want to focus on two particular weapons. The "sword of the Spirit", which is the Word of God, is our only offensive weapon. Brothers and Sisters, we've got to stay in the Word to fight our enemy. We've got to stay in the Word to fight our own wills even.

Brothers and sisters, let's purpose to fight together, side by side.

Fighting with you,

Carla

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Joys and Pains of the Ministry Life: Part II



Welcome back to my blog series on life in the ministry. I hope these writings encourage you as you walk through the calling that God has placed on your life. If you're like me, you have days that you thank God you've been called. Other days the calling seems so natural and fitting, it's not even a conscious thing. It just is. Then there are days when you scratch your head and ask yourself, as I have from time to time, "How in the world did I get here?" Trust me, you're not alone.

And if, at the moment, you are not in ministry or married to someone in ministry, please continue to read on. We need your encouragement, grace and prayers!



 Challenge #2: Life in the Fishbowl

I'm sure all of you have heard of the "fishbowl life" in ministry. Now this may not be a challenge for some of you, but I personally never aspired to a life on Broadway! An introvert, I  am most comfortable behind the scenes, supporting those around me. I am the encourager, the sensitive girlfriend, the "actress in a supporting role", if you will. Ten years ago, however, ministry life threw this introvert into the forefront, the spotlight, the front-lines. And for years I think I was about as shocked as the fish in the fishbowl above.

Today I have settled into my role, but I sometimes still find myself overwhelmed with the fishbowl life. Just this past Sunday my family slept in just a tab bit too late. When it was time to leave, I noticed I had just enough time to get to church a few minutes early. As I went to grab my keys from where I always keep them, my heart sunk with the realization that they weren't there. I searched for several minutes to no avail. I couldn't find them anywhere: not in the bathroom, not under the coffee table, not between the couch cushions. Finally my oldest son Kalin yelled out "Mom, the keys are already in the van!" Unbeknown to me, my son Christian had grabbed the keys to open the van doors, and left them right in the driver's seat.

Needless to say, we were late for church. I was faced with a dilemma: do I sit all the way in the front row next to my husband as usual or do I slip quietly in the back? Well, at a small church plant, there's no such thing as slipping quietly in the back, so to the front I and the four kiddos marched. I felt embarrassed about my lateness in a way that I'd never felt before my husband became a pastor. After all, I wondered, does my lateness communicate a lack of support for the ministry, for my husband? Thank the Lord, by the second worship song He had aligned my heart back with His. I remembered that church was all about Him anyway: not my fellow church members, not my husband, and definitely not me!

A few months ago a lady at church complimented a pantsuit I'd worn the Sunday before. She commented on the slim cut of the suit and told me she'd said to herself, "Oh, she's not a regular pastor's wife." Without any more clarification from her, I wasn't sure if that was a compliment or not. I made the choice to take it as one. But then I asked myself, "What's a 'regular' pastor's wife?" I've met hundreds of pastor's wives in my lifetime, and they've probably been more different from one other than alike. We believers have got to let go of preconceived notions of our brothers and sisters in leadership. The preacher, the women's ministry leader, and the choir director are all human beings -- fallen, yet redeemed. We need the grace to make mistakes and reveal ourselves as the imperfect, and sometimes downright pitiful, human beings that we are.

God's Grace for this Challenge:
In Galatians 1:10 the Apostle Paul said, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." No matter who we are or what our station in life, God wants us to live our lives to please Him. We are to love and support one another as we live in community together, but we are not required to please each other. After all, we can never please everyone all the time. The funny thing is, the more I try to please other people, the more displeasure I sense from them. Perhaps that's God's way of realigning us with His will for us.

Ladies (and gentlemen, if you're reading too), let's vow to let ourselves and each other off the hook. Until we reach heaven, we will constantly fall short of our own and others' expectations. As we view our sisters and brothers in ministry, let's turn off the spotlight and let's "live and let live." We should neither place our ministry leaders on pedestals, nor throw them under the bus! We must strive for a balance of honoring and respecting our leaders, while allowing them to walk in humanity. We are all desperate for God's -- and one another's -- grace and acceptance.

Sisters, let's take our pastor's wives, ministry leaders and missionaries out of the infamous fishbowl and wrap them in our prayers, love and support.

Walking With You...

Carla

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Joys and Pains of the Ministry Life



My next series of blogs is dedicated to my sisters in ministry: whether you're a pastor's wife, a missionary or a ministry leader. Ours is a rewarding, yet trying road, Ladies. We cannot walk it alone. I know I certainly cannot. I'll be listing a few challenges of the ministry life then share tidbits of God's wisdom concerning that challenge. May you be encouraged by the things I share, and at the very least know that someone out there "gets" you.

And if you find that you don't fit into any of these categories, still read on. I'm sure there's a pastor's wife, missionary or ministry head who is aching for some of your encouragement. These blogs just might clue you in on how to give her that encouragement.

Challenge#1: Sundays no longer feel like the Sabbath

This was perhaps the most difficult thing about becoming a pastor's wife for me. The Sunday before Anthony became a pastor, we enjoyed worship together as a couple. We sat side-by-side through the entire service, worshiping together, laughing at our pastor's jokes and being challenged by the same Word. In the afternoons, we'd enjoy a meal together, take an afternoon nap and during NFL season, watch the Ravens play.

The Sunday Ant became a pastor, he no longer sat serenely in church next to me. He would often answer ministry questions during the service or even leave his seat to go rectify the situation himself. He was always "on" and seemingly attentive to everyone else before me. And because he had to arrive to church early, his presence -- and help -- in the home with the children was non-existent. Years ago I coined this phenomenon the "Sunday-morning widow". A harsh phrase, but that's how I felt.

And no longer did I feel like I had the freedom to walk through the church doors with a long face. I too felt like I had to be "on", smile always intact. And now that he preaches more often, I even feel "watched" during the sermon. People want to see my reaction to my husband's jokes or when he shares a deep personal struggle. And it's not imagined. Very recently, a lady told me she checked my expression to see how I had reacted to something shocking Ant had said. I've been told very similar things throughout the years.

For you ladies running ministries, you feel me too. Gone are the days when you can sit in the pew soaking up the ministry poured out by others. Sunday is a work day, just like for your pastor. How do you rest on a day like that?

God's Grace for this Challenge: An Audience of One

A friend recently shared her heart about becoming a pastor's wife. People were heaping their expectations on this young woman, discouraging instead of encouraging her. I encouraged her to remember that she should live her life to please an Audience of One. Let me give you the back story on this concept. One Sunday, before I performed a skit in church, I told my sweet friend Peggy Southard how nervous I was feeling. She told me to remember I was performing for an Audience of One. Jesus was the only One I really had to please.

Although Peggy has gone on to be with the Lord, I still remember her words like it was yesterday. So when I enter church, the smile on my face is authentic. I don't feel the need to pretend or perform for others. Remember I mentioned the time my husband made a shocking statement during his sermon? I know my mouth was wide open. Girlfriend, I didn't play it off at all!

And as far as the Sunday-morning Widow issue... Hey, it is what it is. After ten years in full-time ministry I can hardly remember Sundays being any different. Daddy works on Sunday mornings, but praise God, He's working for Jesus! The children don't resent this; it's the only life they know. And now I guard our times after church on Sundays. Ant's usually exhausted, so I do my best to make sure he gets some rest on the Sabbath too. His just starts after church! By Sunday evening, we're usually rested up and ready to enjoy a good meal and time with one another. We'll often watch Sunday night football together or a family movie.

It's funny I just recently told a friend that the ministry life isn't easy, but I cannot imagine living any other life. And it's true. This is the life God's called me to. Why would I want anyone else's life?

Be blessed, my Sisters! Feel free to send me comments or Face book messages about your ministry challenges. I welcome the dialogue. And until we tackle the next ministry challenge together, may we seek to delight our Audience of One!

Carla

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunny San Diego!


Last week I had the pleasure and privilege of spending a week in beautiful San Diego, California with my hubby. For several years our lead pastor, Mark DeyMaz, has been dreaming of a conference that would encourage other diverse churches around the country and train others with the goal of becoming diverse. Well that dream is now a reality as we participated in the first Multi-ethnic Church Conference. And what a blessing it was to see men and women of different races, cultures and backgrounds worshiping and walking together

During the conference, we were blessed by speakers Erwin McManus, David Anderson, Dave Gibbons and many others. We even heard from Michael Emerson, the spiritual trailblazer that penned the book Divided by Faith. My husband Anthony and our dear former Pastor Chris Williamson (Strong Tower Bible Church in Franklin, TN) facilitated workshops. And my pastor's wife, Linda DeyMaz, represented the ladies in the house by teaching the pastors' wives. We had a wonderful time.

After the conference Ant and I got a chance to play. We ventured out on the San Diego trolley and hit some really cool spots. Here are just a few:

A really cool place with fun shops and the best Mexican food I've ever had!

 
Live music at Old Town. The Day of the Dead skull was larger than the singers!

Ant chilling on some artwork at Balboa Park. Hmmm... Looks like I've got five kids!

At the botanical garden we enjoyed flowers of every kind from all over the world. Pretty prophetic considering the ministry we've been called to.

The most popular photo op in Balboa Park, so we had to get one here!


Me lost in a sea of fragrant roses. Song of Solomon 2:1: "I am the rose of Sharon, And the lily of the valleys."

 Isn't God's creation amazing? In a "desert garden" we were overwhelmed by the variety and creativity of cacti we saw.

 Back in Arkansas with Linda and Mark DeyMaz. What a blessed time we had connecting hearts!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes



For those of you with children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, godchildren, you know how profound those little people can be. Well, my kiddos are no exception. I'd like to share some God-moments for each one...

Kalin a.k.a. K-Man

My13-year-old K-Man is a deep thinker, y'all. One of my friends once nicknamed him D.W. or "Deep Waters". Kalin is the artsy type. He daydreams a lot and lives in a constant state of creating. At any given time he's either composing a new song or rap, writing a book or producing a short film. He's a sanctified Kanye West, J.K. Rowling and Spike Lee all wrapped up in one.

The downfall to this creativity, however, is that people some may not take Kalin seriously. I've had teachers tell me they weren't sure he was really "getting" his work, until he busted an A on an exam. Kalin shocks us with his intellectual and spiritual depth at times.

Take, for instance, a few years ago in Children's Church at Strong Tower. After dramatizing the story of the three Hebrew boys and the fiery furnace, the teachers had begun answering the students' questions about the Daniel text.

One of the children asked, "What did the boys have for food in the furnace? Didn't they get hungry?"

Kalin, who a friend of mine said had looked disinterested during the entire skit, said, "No they didn't get hungry. Jesus was in there with them, and He is the Bread of Life."

Now that could preach. And why do we hunger for the things the world has to offer, when we've got the Bread of Life as our Savior, our Lord, our Friend?

Christian a.k.a. Christian Man a.k.a. Ray Lewis

My Christian Man is the roughneck of the family. Recently he had to write an essay in his third-grade class, answering several questions. Almost each of his answers read "I really want to play in the NFL." And believe me, very few of the questions dealt with future aspirations. For instance, one his questions was "What are you afraid of?" His response: "I'm afraid I might not make it into the NFL." To say he's focused on his life goal is a gross understatement.

On the other hand, Christian is my sensitive heart child. He is the first one to run to his baby sister if she falls, rushing to nurse her wounds and make sure she's okay. He's the quickest to tear up after an offense. And at this time, he's the one whose heart is most bent towards the Lord. A couple of weeks ago, we started leading the kids through the gospel of John. After the first night of study, I prayed that the children would begin to long for our times in the Word. The next night my Christian asked, "Mom, are we going to read John again tonight?" I wish all my prayers for my kids were answered so quickly!

As I compose this blog, Christian just asked where he could find a Bible. He's now reading the Word of God on his own. Right this very moment. God is so good. Lord, may we have a love for your Word that I see in my Christian Man.

Joelle a.k.a. Joellie Bell a.k.a. Joella the Bella

Now my Joelle is my girlie girl. Don't get me wrong. She can run around and wrestle with the big dogs. But I've never known a 5-year-old obsessed with makeup and hair glitter. I call Joelle my "Diva". Once in Children's church the kids drew pictures of what they were praying for. While other children were probably praying for their sick grandmothers, my daughter prayed for, what else? Makeup!

But Joelle is also my sweet, affectionate child. My most extroverted child, Joelle has never met a stranger and never will. I'm convinced her winsome personality will win her homecoming queen, class president and head cheerleader all in her senior year of high school.

Joelle is in that adorable stage in life when she answers every spiritual question with -- Jesus. Who was the first man God created? "Jesus!" Who tried to run away from God and got eaten by a big fish? "Jesus!" Who died to save us from our sins? "Jesus!" Okay, sometimes the answer is actually right.

Although we crack up with the inappropriateness of her answers, it makes me ponder. After all, isn't Jesus really the answer to everything we face in this life?

Jada a.k.a. Jadie Padie a.k.a. Jay Jay

And last, but not least, is my Jada Girl. Although the youngest of the bunch, we haven't been able to convince her of that fact. Jada is quite convinced that she's the boss around here. Jada is my take-charge, no-nonsense two-year-old. She regularly instructs her older siblings what to do and not do, locks all the doors around the house (while everyone's outside the rooms) and constantly asks me for money to buy something from the store.

Jada may be my bookworm. She loves when I read to her, and just "read" her first book herself -- If You Give A Pig a Pancake. I was amazed at how well she'd learned the story. She's also at the "why" stage. We have to remember what all the child development books say about the inquisitive nature of a child so she doesn't drive us crazy with all her questions.

But best of all, Jada already loves to pray. One day Joelle asked me for our regular bedtime prayer. Before I could lay my hands on her and open my mouth to pray, Jada had already laid her hands on her and begun to pray for her big sister. She's done that several times since then. She's a little spitfire prayer warrior.

Last month Ant and I attended a seminar led by Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. His two main points that day: 1. Learn to love people as Jesus does and 2. Pray, pray, pray! My little redhead Jada has encouraged me to do just that.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Today has been a nostalgic day for me. After spending a weekend in Franklin, Tennessee, I just realized how much I really miss that place. Franklin -- for those of you who have never been there -- is a sweet little city outside Nashville. It has the charm of a small Southern town with the conveniences of a larger city. What other city its size has a beautiful mall, almost every food chain you can think of, and both a Borders and Barnes and Noble? What more can a girl ask for?

With all its positive points, what I realize I miss most are the people there. Having resided there for nine years, I dug some really deep roots there. This was evident to me when after church at Strong Tower Bible Church -- where my husband served as Assistant Pastor for several years. While telling a girlfriend that I was praying for a challenge in her life, I found that I was the one in tears. I then commenced to share about the challenges of having relocated, and yet relocated again. When the conversation ended and we parted from one another, I asked myself a deep, heart-probing question: What was that? I was as surprised as she probably was by my tears and my transparency.

The day before I had attended a baby shower for Cassie and Rabo Garba, a young couple that my husband married right before we moved to Virginia. Cassie and Rabo moved to NoVA with us to help us start the church that we thought we were starting there. They lived with us for several months, but moved back to TN when we answered our call to Arkansas. When I saw them and gave them huge hugs -- despite Cassie's protruding belly -- I burst into tears. I guess they were a reminder of both lives that I've left behind -- one in Tennessee, the other in Virginia. Both lives that I was pretty happy with, thank you very much. Standing out on the sidewalk in a flood of tears, and a little embarrassed, I asked that same soul-searching question: What was that?

Now that I've had some time to process, I think I know why the tears fell so readily. In Tennessee, I felt safe. I felt at home.

The sermon yesterday, given by Pastor Curtis Zackery a newly ordained pastor, was right on time for me. He reminded us the real reason behind ministry: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All of our heart-stirring worship music and motivating ministry programs and deep theological sermons mean nothing, if the Gospel isn't the motive and the message of it all. At the end of the sermon I recommitted my heart back to the Lord. In my heart, I told him that I'd go anywhere for the Gospel -- even Conway, Arkansas. I don't know when this place will feel like home for me, but then again heaven is really my home anyway. Until my citizenship there is fully realized, I'll go wherever He calls me to go for the sake of the Gospel.

My encouragement and conviction from the Word of God: Mark 10:29-30: "'I tell you the truth,' Jesus replied, 'no one who has left home or brothers and sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields -- and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.'"

Friday, October 8, 2010

You know you're in Arkansas when...

Okay, so I've been serious and deep up to this point. But today I'm feeling kinda silly. So come on and have some fun with me. And if you're in -- or from -- Arkansas, don't be offended. I'm just having a little fun getting acquainted to my new hometown! Trust me, there have been days here that I've had to laugh to keep from crying!

Now I must say, when I lived in Franklin, Tennessee I thought I was in a Southern town. And I was. But now that I'm in Arkansas I must say, I'm in a more Southern town. And I didn't think it possible! So, for whatever it's worth, here's my list of:

YOU KNOW WHEN YOU'RE IN ARKANSAS WHEN...

1. The status symbol of choice isn't a Mercedes or Jaguar, but a big ol' hefty pick-up truck.
2. People don't love Razorbacks paraphernalia, they live for it.
3. Mature and mentally stable adults wear pig snouts to football games.
4. Fried foods (meats, vegetables and fruits) are a delicacy.
5. People either adamantly oppose or adore Bill and Hillary Clinton.
6. Hunting season receives the honor of a national holiday.
7. People sport bumper stickers with pictures of ducks, proclaiming "If it flies, it dies!"
8. Plastic pink flamingos as lawn decorations are alive and well.
9. You can leave the presence of a perfect stranger knowing her name, where she lives and works, where her children go to school and her shoe size.
10. Your fellow Arkansans live five hours or less from several cool major cities, but never visit any of them.

But you also know you're in Arkansas when you meet some of the kindest, sincerest believers in Christ that you could ever meet! And I have already met quite a few of them!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Faith Beyond My Years

For the past few weeks, I've been attending a Bible study at Mosaic Church taught by three of my favorite ladies. The study, entitled "Faithful, Abundant and True: Three Lives Going Deeper Still", is taught by Kay Arthur, Priscilla Shirer and Beth Moore. This study has convicted and challenged me tremendously.

This past week, Kay challenged us through the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, often deemed the "Hall of Faith". I was once again challenged by the faithful steps of  Noah, Abraham, Moses and so many others. But what spoke to me deeply through God's Word this week was verse 4:

"By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead."

Amazing. "And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead."

On July 18 of this year, I lost a dear cousin, Marcus L. Adair. Marcus and I grew up close -- geographically and relationally. In my early twenties we landed teaching jobs at the same elementary school, and carpooled together in the mornings and afternoons. Since we shared the last name Adair, our most difficult task there was convincing our coworkers that we were cousins, and not husband and wife. 

Marcus was bright, extremely talented and always smiling. Having earned a PhD in Higher Education Administration and Policy, he had accomplished much in just 43 years. And yet he had the potential and resources to achieve so much more. But Marcus suffered from severe seizures, and the Lord decided to take him home a bit early.

In just a few years, I will reach the age of 43. Who knows how many more years the Lord will give me? When a young person passes away, it makes us all -- young and old -- consider our mortality. I've certainly considered mine. Through Hebrews 11 God has commended me to live a life of faith. A life so full of faith that the testimony of that faith extends beyond my years on earth. I pray that the epitaph on my tombstone could boldly proclaim:

"And by faith Carla still speaks, even though she is dead." And may God receive all the glory for that faith.




Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why Sojourner of Truth? The Final Chapter

And now the last reason why I've named this blog Sojourner of Truth.

"What is truth?" is the question Pilate asked Jesus before he released him to the Jews for crucifixion. "What is truth?" is a question that scholars and religious people have debated since the world began. As far back as the Garden of Eden, the serpent questioned Eve seductively, "Did God really say, 'you must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" What was he tempting Eve to question? The issue was far deeper than whether or not the fruit was good to eat. He was tempting Eve to question the truth. And what was the truth? Every word that God the Father had spoken -- nothing more, nothing less.

So that's the Truth that I plan to share throughout this blog. As I share my thoughts on this screen, I would be remiss if I didn't share my God's thoughts too. After all, anything He has to say is far more important that the deepest knowledge I could ever communicate. An avid reader, I read all kinds of literature, not just Christian literature. It's amazing how much truth I've gleaned from secular writings. But I've come to realize that all truth is God's truth, whether or not the writer recognizes it as such. So on that note, this blog is dedicated to the truth of God's Word. May His truth sink deep into your spirit as you read the Word of God...

John 8:31b-32: "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

John 14:6: "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'"

John 16:12-13a: (Jesus speaking) "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth."

I Corinthians 13:6: "Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth."

I Timothy 2:3-4: "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."

May we, sons and daughters of the Living God, know His truth. And may the TRUTH set us FREE!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why SoJourner of Truth? The Sequel

Sojourn, noun: a temporary stay
Sojourn, verb: to stay for a time in a place; live temporarily

So today I explain the second reason for the name of my blog.  Well, for a little girl who fervently prayed that she would never ever have to move out of the only home she knew, I have spent the last decade of my life relocating to new towns. After having spent my entire life in my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland -- except for four years of college in faraway Washington, D.C -- at age 30 I relocated for the first time to Franklin, Tennessee. My husband Anthony had answered the call to ministry at Strong Tower Bible Church. We were thrilled with the opportunity to serve the Lord and His people full-time.

I can remember the bursts of joy that I'd feel at any given moment. We had been given a clean slate, a fresh start, a chance to "reinvent" ourselves, if you will. What an awesome opportunity! For weeks, Franklin was a perfect place: a great place to raise our son Kalin (and the baby I was carrying). I couldn't imagine ever missing old Baltimore with its low-rated public school system and high-rated crime statistics. But one day the honeymoon ended, as all honeymoons do. Maybe it was when I realized I still hadn't made any close friends. Or maybe it was when I found out that ministry can be really hard sometimes, especially on Sunday mornings when your husband is working, instead of worshiping with you. Or maybe it was when I suffered my first miscarriage, or maybe the second.

It was around that time that I discovered a life-altering truth: moving is hard.

Fast-forward eight years. In 2009, after much prayer and seeking the Lord, Anthony and I moved from what had become comfortable Franklin back to the East Coast. This move felt different, like we were coming home. We were excited to be an hour from our family and so close to the nation's capital. Every chance we got, we hopped on the Metro to check out the beautiful monuments and amazing museums. Even though I missed my friends in TN, Northern Virginia felt like a great place to camp out for the next decade or so.

But that decade turned into one year. I now call God the "Great Flipper of Scripts", because that's exactly what He did to us. We thought our mission was to plant a church in Northern Virginia, but less than a year into the process God called us here to Little Rock, Arkansas. Honestly, just
six months ago, if you'd have blindfolded me, I couldn't have landed my finger on Arkansas on a U.S. map for a million dollars! But here we are, Anthony serving as a teaching pastor for Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas and campus pastor of their new church plant in nearby Conway. And me sometimes scratching my head saying, "What had happened was?!"

It's been hard, but it's been good. I've had days that I've cried the entire time in carpool line, hoping that my tinted windows kept me hidden. And it's been lonely, though our church members have bent over backward to make us feel at home. But I've walked this walk before, and I know I'll come out better on the other side. Sometimes I wonder, why the one year pit-stop in Virginia? And why couldn't we have joined the staff of a church back home? I don't know all the answers, but I know a God Who does. And I know that He loves me deeply. So even though I'm a sojourner here (heaven's my real home anyway) I have a Father who will never leave me nor forsake me. And nothing can separate me from His love. And as the psalmist says:

"If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast."
                                                                                       Psalm 139:9-10

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Sojourner of Truth?

Today I begin my second journey into the world of blogging. Years ago I began a blog, enjoyed it for a while, then decided it was more time-consuming and heart-revealing than I was really wanting. This time I've purposed to stick this thing out. Well, we'll see, won't we?

I thought I'd begin by explaining the name of my blog -- Sojourner of Truth. There are a few reasons; today I'll focus on the first. I am totally intrigued and inspired by Sojourner Truth, a woman born into slavery. After escaping the bonds of U.S. slavery Sojourner became one of history's most famous abolitionists and women's rights activists. Born Isabella Baumfree, she changed her name to Sojourner Truth, telling her friends "The Spirit calls me, and I must go."

In her famous speech, "Ain't I A Woman", Truth proclaimed at the 1851 Ohio Women's Rights Convention "I have heard the Bible and have learned that Eve caused man to sin. Well, if woman upset the world, do give her a chance to set it right side up again... And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created Him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part?"

As I sojourn through 21st Century America, I pray that I would have the chutzpah of this sister. May I stand for what's right, even if -- and when -- I stand alone. May I always proclaim God and His truth, no matter how unpopular. So for this, my first blog, I pay homage to Sojourner Truth. A woman of purpose, a woman of God, a woman of Truth.