Blog Series: Behind the Music

I’m going to start a blog series about my original songs; the scriptures, my personal journeys, how they came about, etc. To start things off I want to share a blog post (from my old blogger blog) how it all began.

April 30, 2016

Last week, James and I went on vacation. Originally, we were going to go to Florida with my cousin but things got a little crazy and we decided to go to Branson instead by ourselves. Cameron had other commitments so he stayed home. I was finally going to have enough alone time to do some song writing…I brought my keyboard and all kinds of other notebooks and “stuff” I thought I might need; I really didn’t have high expectations, I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing but on Saturday morning after I unpacked and had my quiet time I sat down and began. I had written some lyrics while I was sick a while back…back when I had a moment to be still. So I poured over the lyrics to a part of a song I had written called “Be Still”; it really was the story of my life, always being distracted and busy and never “still” enough. It was based on Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”. The music – lyrics and chord progressions came pouring out of me and after a few hours I had a complete song. Well, at least a song with all the main parts…I could play it for myself and sing it. I was simply awe struck, God is so good to me. Day 1 and I already had a song. I recorded it and sent it to a couple friends, I played it for James – much to his surprise (because he didn’t expect much either) but no one was as surprised as I was and am. That night a lady I didn’t know texted me about some Alaskan missionaries at her church there in Branson, she said she thought we were supposed to attend her church the next morning and meet them. So, we did. If you read my previous post you know that I bawled through at least half of the service, it was an amazing day. Sunday afternoon I wrote my second song. Tuesday, I wrote another. What was happening to me? God was turning me into a song writer! The song I wrote Tuesday was called “Great is Your Faithfulness”…He really is faithful. Tuesday morning we met with an old friend of James’ from back in high school. She is a songwriter and happened to be in Springfield the week we were in Branson. She is a wealth of knowledge and gave me so much advice and instruction on where to go from here. God’s timing is perfect, He has a plan. It was a wonderful week, I wept a lot and grew closer to my Lord. Below are some things I wrote down each morning.

April 23, 2016
Galatians 1:24 “And they glorified God because of me.”
This is my desire, that people would glorify God because of me. I want God to use me to bring people to faith in Him and to worship Him.
Lord Jesus, help me use the gifts You’ve given me to honor You and to show people who You are that they may fall on their face and glorify You, that they would sell out to You with all that they are. May they glorify You because of me, because I’m living with abandon, following Your will, and pointing them to You. Keep me humble, holy and righteous. May you be first in every area of my life and may I boldly display that. Thank You, Jesus for this opportunity to serve You. You are glorious and worthy of all praise. I love You. Amen
I wrote a song today, it’s called “Be Still”. It’s based on Psalm 46:10 “Be Still and know that I am God”. I am simply in awe that God allows me to serve Him in this way. Singing, playing piano, and now writing music. Incredible, amazing, He is truly wonderful and worthy of much more than anything I have to offer. What a blessing it is to be His child and to serve Him.

April 24, 2016
Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
When I surrendered my life to Christ, I gave up living for myself. There are times when the Spirit battles the flesh but my life is no longer ruled by the flesh if I stay in the Word and in close fellowship with Jesus.
Jesus, help me today to live by faith, to put away any selfish ambitions and live for You, for Your will and for Your Glory alone. Thank you for giving Yourself up for me so I could have a relationship with You. Thank You for what You are doing right now in my life. Help me not take one moment for granted and to be constantly in awe and wonder of who You are. Thank you for this journey however short or long it is. You make what seems impossible possible, I am grateful. Praise Your holy name. I love you, Jesus. Amen.

April 25, 2016
Galatians 3:28-29 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for You are all one in Christ Jesus. And if You are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Do the offenders in prison really know how loved they are, how God wants to free them with the power of the gospel and have an intimate relationship with them? I want them to know this, I want them to see that they/we are all one in Christ.
Lord, use me in this mission field to show Your love for these, incarcerated men and women. Humble me, give me words when I have none, silence when none are needed and love so powerful that it cannot be denied it’s from You. Help me stay focused and not let the world crowd in and distract me from this calling. All for Your glory, Lord. Thank You, Jesus, for this time, this journey, this incredible way to serve You and to make You known. I love You, Jesus. Amen. Let our lives reflect You.

April 26, 2016
Galatians 5:16-17 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
Spirit vs. Flesh – this is sometimes a tough battle. I find myself sold out to the Spirit and ready to jump off a cliff into unknown possibilities and then other times find myself desiring comfort and “so called” stability. And I forget, I forget that God’s ways are higher than my ways, that He has this all figured out and that His plan is the best plan. I simply need to trust Him more, rely on His strength, there’s real stability in following His will and an overwhelming peace.
Lord Jesus, Save me from myself, keep me focused on Your plan for me, lead me by Your Spirit. When I am tempted to chicken out, remind me of Your mission, remind me that people need to hear about Your saving grace, remind me that time is fleeting and this world is not my home. May Your Spirit that lives in me overcome my flesh and win out in every decision, thought, and circumstance. Use me for Your glory, Lord. I love You, Jesus. Amen.

April 27, 2016
Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Don’t give up! We will reap what we sow. Some may see that as wordly gain but I see it as lives changed. Do not grow weary in doing good! I don’t ever want to tire of sharing the gospel with the lost and hopeless. What is the cost of one human life/soul? It is priceless.
Lord, Use me to share Your truth and hope, help me stay focused on Your plan and not get side-tracked with my own personal interests, help Your interests always be my interests. Give me strength when I start to get weary, give me a greater, more supernatural love for the lost. I love You, Jesus. Amen.

April 28, 2016
Hebrews 11 “Faith”
This chapter is all about faith in action. These men and women had faith in an invisible God to lead them to something better and they didn’t have the Holy Spirit!   Lord, I want to put my faith into action; I want  to so fully rely on You that even when people say I’m crazy I will have Your overwhelming peace and joy, knowing that I’m doing Your will and what You’ve called me to do.  Thank You, Jesus, for Your faithfulness, Your peace, and for continual sanctification.  Make me who You want me to be.  I love you, Jesus.  Amen.

Sing for the King,

Christy

SOCIAL DISTANCING & THE INCARCERATED

by Christy Hoagland

The current state of the world brings on a whole new meaning when it comes to the incarcerated. These are a group of people who are already made to be “socially distant” due to being in prison and now the few gifts of contact and more has been stripped away as well.

I stated last week on social media that the Department of Corrections was still letting us “VICs” Volunteers in Corrections come into prisons and hold services. We are considered nonpaid staff, we’ve had training, TB tests, etc. And as of last week, we were still going full steam ahead to all of our services. As of just this morning, a couple services are suspended for a couple weeks and then they will reevaluate. Our team has been in agreement that if we are allowed to come, we will. We have taken extra precautions such as no handshakes and maintaining social distances to make offenders feel safe. We take their well being very seriously, their Spiritual well being is also at stake and we know that the Gospel is the greatest hope we can give them.

Last Friday night at the end of the service I asked the men at Algoa what affect this has had on them, what has changed, and what, if anything, were they doing differently. On March 12th offender visits were suspended other than attorney visits. So, for the past 12 days, no contact with family or friends other than the telephone. They are concerned for their families, what the world is even going to look like when they are able to leave prison, and so much more. As our discussion began on Friday, some things I hadn’t thought about surfaced. Parole hearings have been changed or delayed, out dates have been postponed, and some reentry home plans are not allowing anyone to come at this time. Imagine being in prison for years maybe and not being able to leave after your sentence was completed.

When asked what they might be doing differently, one man jokingly said ‘taking more naps’, others said praying more. We have been encouraging them that now, more than ever, is the time when the light of Jesus needs to shine through them. And isn’t that the same for all of us? Now, in these uncertain and strange times with things changing day by day, is the time to share the Gospel of Jesus to those around us – or not so closely around us, like, 6 feet away :).

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Counting Your Blessings in the Midst of Sorrow

by Christy Hoagland

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Really, Lord? Is this possible? To give thanks in all circumstances?

My family has been going through some trials, great sorrow, sadness…

It is during these times of grief that we often try to gain answers to so many questions…let’s look to scripture for hope, for peace, for joy and perhaps get a glimpse of the whys. What does God’s Word say to give us comfort, what does He tells us to do during these times of great struggle, and how can this be used in my life for good? There are three things the Lord has brought to my heart during this current hardship.

Affliction and Suffering Strengthens Our Faith

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.  These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 1 Peter 1:6-7 This scripture tells us that these trials will show how genuine our faith is and that there is wonderful joy ahead and that our fire-tested faith is more precious than gold. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3 It seems rather ludicrous to count suffering as joy but if these trials produce strength, steadfastness, and a closer relationship with Jesus because we have to rely on Him to help us through it then it is worth it. This strengthened faith and trust in the Lord will give us peace. “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3 I have this on a post-it note on my computer monitor as a reminder to keep my mind on Jesus. It is easy to dwell on the difficult things in life rather than trusting in the One who is completely in control. Although it is hard to see God’s plan in the midst of suffering we can trust Him and His Word. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 God has a purpose even in the hardest things in life. It may take time before we see or know what that purpose is but we can trust the only One who is trustworthy and faithful. ” And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 And just maybe the trial you are in is preparing you to help someone else. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Focus on Eternal Things

This world is temporary, this life is so so short compared with eternity. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4 What a time to look forward to! Let’s keep our eyes on eternity and in the meantime carry out what we are called to do, to redeem this short time. Ephesians 5:16 tells us to make the best use of time while we are here. We must share the precious Gospel of Jesus with those around us. “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:7 So many people walk by us everyday who have no hope, no peace. We are called to love the lost and share our hope with them. We are called to proclaim who He is. “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done, and proclaim that His name is exalted.” Isaiah 12:4 “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:15–16

Cherish What You Have, Count Your Blessings

Trials make me thankful for what God has given me. I have a beautiful family, a sweet and amazing ministry, the gift of music and so much more. But most importantly I am thankful for my relationship with Jesus Christ. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32 He is on our side, He gives us good gifts, He loves us so much more than we can imagine, He gave His Son for us! “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

Let us shift our focus, our hearts and our minds to Jesus when we are hurting. He is the only comfort, only peace, only joy when we are suffering. He is good, He is faithful.

“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” John 16:22


*image – YouVersion

Just Say Yes

by Christy Hoagland

I was standing in a prison gymnasium last Saturday quietly playing while man after man left their seats to repent, believe, and profess faith in Jesus at the back of the room and as they were gathering around to pray I was overcome with the faithfulness and goodness of God. And I said to myself “Christy, you could’ve missed this.”

I could’ve been content just singing on the worship team at my church, leading a song here and there and doing Bible studies and many other “good” things but… still missed out on the best things God has for me to see and to witness and to experience. Don’t get me wrong, going to church, preaching, leading worship, serving, it is all part of what God calls us to but that is only the beginning and if that is all we do then we stay stuck, we stay in our places and don’t venture out to share our faith, love the unlovable, and go to where God has called us and do what God has called us.

For me it has been a process in my Christian walk, obedience to say yes when prompted and no to other things. And I have done both; the “nos” to obedience to God keep us stuck and the “yeses” set us free and help us focus on what really matters. Obedience to Jesus keeps us from settling, as Jennie Allen would say “I almost settled for a wasted life” (Johnny quotes that all the time now); if we are honest we have all been in seasons where we look back and wonder where the last month, year or years went and if there was any meaning or significance in it. This is what I fear most, living a life of insignificance as a follower of Jesus. As myself, I am insignificant but in Christ – so much more. Thankfully I serve a pursuing God that has given me His Spirit to prod my heart to a better way to live.

I’d like to share just a few of the promptings God put in my heart that has led me to today – to this precious ministry of worshiping with and leading the incarcerated in music, the Word, and so much more.

2013 – My “anything prayer” *(Anything You want me to do, Lord, I’ll do it for You) and the challenge to risk… honestly, the details don’t really matter but I took a risk and said yes to something and God started growing me into a worship leader.

2013 – A simple meeting in a church hallway with an ex-offender. From this point on God would use this ex-offender to become my encourager, my friend, my ministry partner and more

2013 (December) – First prison concert at Algoa Correctional Center

2014 – Ladies Jail Ministry at Pettis County Jail

2015 – Began courses at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary for a certificate in Worship Ministry.

2015 (November) – First service at Algoa Correctional Center with my husband (we then started the Volunteer process)

2016 (March/April) – First songs written (Be Still, Sing for the King, Great is Your Faithfulness)

2016 (May) – Sing for the King Ministries was born

2016 (July) – Quit my full time job to do ministry full time. This was a big yes, a difficult thing to lay down because it required faith for God to provide for us.

2016 – Present – God has taken the yes of serving the incarcerated from a once a week and a handful of services here and there to close to 200 services inside prisons and other services outside prison walls.

If you are tired and weary and wondering if there’s more to life than what you’ve been living, let me tell you that there is and so much more than you could possibly imagine. Just say yes to Jesus and He will show you great and marvelous things, He will give your life meaning and purpose and you will never be the same. Surrendered and sold out is the best way to live life. All it really takes is one yes after another, the first being surrendering your life to Jesus and then trusting Him to lead the way. Then the next yes and the next and sometimes a no along the way to keep you on your “yes path” of obedience.

Serving my Creator, life-sustainer, Savior and King is my greatest joy and sometimes I get overwhelmed that He would call me and use me like He is. Can’t wait to see what’s next…

In the meantime, I’ll just say yes.

(I hadn’t intended to use this song but as I was writing this post this song popped in my head so I have to share. It brings tears almost every time I hear it.)

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” Isaiah 6:8


Photo at top – Photo Credit: Taylor Hoos

*Anything by Jennie Allen

BREAKING THE CYCLE

by Christy Hoagland

In the few short years of being involved in prison ministry we have seen generations of families incarcerated. At one institution we had the grandfather, father, and son all in one service. Right now, a young man in one of our weekly services has been in and out of prison (mostly in) since he was 17 years old and both of his parents are currently doing time in the Department of Corrections. Most of these offenders don’t know any other way to live.

A couple of years ago, “Willy”, brought his friend, “Stan” to the chapel on a Friday night. Willy was excited about coming to church each week and tried to save a seat for his friend. Stan would come pretty regularly but kept to himself and was not very talkative. Over time, Stan began to open up but then found himself in some trouble and was sent to Administrative Segregation (aka “the hole”) for several long months. We tried to visit him but they weren’t allowing him to have visitors and he was later transferred to another prison.

More time passed and we were doing one of our quarterly services in another institution and in walks Stan, smiling as he came into the chapel because he saw a familiar face, faces 🙂 We were overjoyed to see him and talk to him for a few minutes before the service started. He said he thought he would be transferred again but didn’t know when or where.

Fast forward a few more months on a Friday night and in waltzes Stan. We are thankful he’s back for weekly services instead of every three months. He begins attending regularly again and talks to us more and more each week. One night I remember him telling us how he is involved with some “people” and he has to keep his “status” with them. He was trying to play both sides…church and thug life. But Stan keeps coming to church and God continues working on his heart.

A few Fridays later, Stan gave his life to Jesus and things began to change! He was overflowing with joy! He was smiling from ear to ear every single time we saw him. Now, Stan was bringing men with him to the chapel, he was talking to them about Jesus! Stan has cousins in this same institution, he brought them to the chapel and both of them received new life in Christ and all three of them were baptized shortly later at an amazing prison baptism service! As Stan was getting ready to be baptized he said “I can’t believe it took me so long to figure out that I was on the wrong side!” On the night of the baptism we were visiting with the three of them afterwards and Stan was talking about how they thought they had to go to prison to become men, their fathers, grandfathers, and uncles had all been in prison. These three men are the cycle breakers in their families!

Just last Friday, they brought another friend with them that came to see them be baptized. This man told me he came back because of the love and care Johnny Allen showed him at the baptism service. He has been in prison for the last 12 years and had never been to the chapel… he received Jesus as his Lord and Savior through many tears last Friday night. Hallelujah! It seems we are on the cusp of something great and we have a front row seat.

God is on the move inside the razor wire!

SEEING GOD MOVE

By Christy Hoagland

There are so many wonderful things, services, happenings, divine appointments Sing for the King encountered recently that it is hard to know how to start or where to begin. Seeing God move never gets old.

Let’s start with a sweet baptism service at Algoa Correctional the Wednesday before Easter.  36 men were baptized this night, yes, 36!  Every one of them was special but one that was especially precious was a short little man, a little older in years with a cane that hobbled up to the baptismal.  The chaplain and some others helped him climb the stairs to get into the water and then afterwards 4 fellow offenders lifted him out and set him on the floor, it reminded me of the men that lowered their crippled friend down through the roof so Jesus could heal him.  What love!  That same love was evident in these men who lifted our friend out and in all of the men in attendance at the baptism.

   A couple days later we were back at Algoa for our regular Friday night service but today was not just another Friday, it was Good Friday.  Two of the chapel workers (offenders who work in the chapel and help with our service) presented the crucifixion scientifically and with scripture.  It was so beautiful and so moving and so heartbreaking all at the same time.  Men were weeping at the altar during and throughout the rest of the night.  As our chapel workers walked back to the back I sang “Lamb of God” and it was considerably silent especially compared to how these 100 men worship and praise the Lord in song.  They were thoughtful and intently thinking about this Jesus who came, who died, who rose again so they could live.  Meanwhile our chapel guys in the sound booth who spoke clung to each other and wept.  It was a night to remember.

Two more days later – it was Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday!  We go to JCCC every third Sunday and this month just happened to fall on Easter.  We arrived almost a half hour earlier than normal and Johnny stated, ‘we are here early for a reason, I believe there’s someone in the lobby that we need to talk to’.  Well, it turns out that there was.  Two women who had just finished visits with their loved ones were chatting in one corner of the lobby.  A conversation was struck and as Johnny began to share these ladies poured their hearts out to us.  One woman was the wife of a man that Johnny had been incarcerated with, so Johnny told her to let him know that Johnny was praying for him and to sign up for our chapel service.  She said he hadn’t wanted to attend any chapel services but that she would tell him and meanwhile we would all be praying for him.  The other lady had come to visit her son, she beamed through tears that today was the first day she was able to physically touch her son, to wrap her arms around him in 8 years.  He had been in trouble and in the hole and all of her previous visits were behind glass.  She was rejoicing in this sweet embrace that we so often take for granted.  We circled up with our new friends and prayed Spirit-filled powerful prayers interceding for these men and their loved ones.

The next day was Monday and we were asked to come hold a Community Celebrate Recovery service in Golden, MO.  If you don’t know where that is…it’s a stone’s throw away from Arkansas.  You can actually see Arkansas from the church.  A six hour drive to spend a few hours with these precious people.  I sang, James preached a powerful message, Johnny testified and God moved.  God was moving before, during and after this event!  People at the altar throughout and at the invitation 2 women and 1 man surrendered their lives to Jesus.  Another man rededicated his life, stating how he had let things get in the way of his walk with the Lord.  We were gleeful all the way home knowing that this 10 hours of our day spent doing God’s work is so worth every minute, every hour, every mile.  And we are thankful and grateful for the next chance, the next opportunity to see Him move.

Unseen Study ~ Chapter 13

“Wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Matthew 26:13

“We become God’s friend when we listen for His heart and His soft whisper in His Word.” – Sara H. (Pg 224) Becoming God’s friend, knowing Him more…this is what this chapter is all about, in fact, I think this is what this book is all about…knowing Him, drawing near to Him, wasting our time, our lives, everything on Him. My days become so task driven and such a whirlwind that I need this reminder to be hidden and unseen with Him. I have realized that through this study and others and especially time with the Lord and His Word that my “anything” comes from being “unseen”. Praying anything you want me to do Lord and being hidden seem so far apart but it is because of the hidden and unseen times that cause me to pray that anything prayer. Knowing Jesus more produces boldness in me, spending more time with Him causes me say yes to the uncomfortable things He calls me to and this makes me want to be hidden, unseen, different from the world and growing to be more like Him and to know Him more.

“Familiarity can be the greatest enemy to growth, and yet most of us (if we’re honest) hang out around the same side of God that we know — over and over again. Sometimes over years. Decades. And admitting it to ourselves, to Him, to others, only opens us up to possibility. I pray often: “I barely know You, God.” Sometimes, just to remind myself that there are vast landscapes of Him to explore — and just when I think I’ve figured Him out.” – Sara H.

What an adventure it is to know Christ and be known by Him. It is the greatest gift I have ever received and it continues every time I seek Him. I want to have a story like Mary’s, not to be shared and told but a story that says she loved Jesus above everything else.

MY FRIEND IS A MURDERER – PART TWO

by Christy Hoagland

Since we have been doing prison ministry we have met many people, many offenders who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. I have looked into the eyes of people I knew were murderers, pedophiles, rapists and have loved them. I think God has given me the ability to love them, it is a supernatural thing. I have never been afraid of anyone I have encountered in our prison services or felt the need to shun them. Now don’t get me wrong, I abhor their sin (I abhor yours and my own too) and if I were to think on their crimes too hard and too much I may start to get carried away in my flesh and think less of them but God reminds me of His grace and keeps my eyes fixed on His calling for me, for this ministry – to speak the truth and hope of the Gospel into the lives of the incarcerated, even a murderer and to love them.

Not long ago I was told the details of an ex-offender’s crime, a murderer but now follower and lover of Jesus. To be honest, it affected me, I became queasy and my heart ached for the lives lost, their families and so much more. And then in another wave of emotion just seconds later my heart turned toward him and it hurt for him, for the memory of his sin and the years of consequences. We were getting ready to set up for an event so I held back the tears until an appropriate time and then I wept for him. I couldn’t help thinking how he has probably replayed this memory over and over because that’s what the enemy likes to do to us to keep us from remembering what Christ has done for us. I thought about how this now NEW man must feel about the old one. I really wanted to go find him and throw my arms around him and tell my brother in Christ that he is loved. I believe he knows this truth and I am thankful. But there are so many more that struggle with God’s gift of grace, that it can cover the size of their sin.

My friend, the murderer, is a great man of God and God is going to use him is so many amazing ways. But that is because He believes God, He believes the Word of truth that says he has been redeemed and set free and made new. And if we should have any doubt that God forgives and uses men such as he, let us look at Paul.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” 1 Timothy 1:15

Let’s go tell about a forgiving God, about the sacrifice of Jesus for all sin no matter who they are or how big their sin…

Unseen Study ~ Chapter 12

I can’t pretend to know how Mary felt as she anointed Jesus with the oil. It is a little overwhelming to think about me in her place and although I can’t “change places” with her I am called to live a life that is devoted, surrendered and saturated with Jesus, hidden in Him – a life poured out at His feet. I am just now learning this hiddenness thing or maybe just now beginning to understand it and I am sure that I never fully will but as I pray and seek Him, I will try to put away the distractions, rest in His presence and listen for His voice.

“Some things that I will ask of Him, no one will ever see or know or hear. ‘The secret of the Lord is with those who fear Him,’ we read in the Psalms (Ps 25:14). Pouring out my thoughts to Him and carrying the thoughts of His heart toward me, and toward my family and the people in my world, is not merely a part of life in God. It is all of life in God.” – Sara H. (Pg 202)

I don’t want to miss Jesus…miss out on really knowing Him, who He is, what He is saying to me. I don’t want to live a safe life and wake up one day wondering where the years went. I want to live every day, every seemingly significant or insignificant moment in His presence. “We’ll mature without effort into wrinkles and gray hair, but our hearts won’t mature deep into God by default. We have to desire more and more of God. Paul prayed for such greater fullness in our experience of God. Sara H. (Pg 207)

“So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

Seek Him, talk to Him, pray.

“God told me what I already knew, but what I needed to hear again: the story of God and me is my most significant story. His eyes on me and into my life are the source from which I draw everything else. Whether I am folding laundry or speaking from a platform, my exchanges with God are always about His reach for me and my reach for Him in return, again and again. The rest of life is the overflow.” – Sara H. (Pg 212) I love this! I hope you are listening for His Holy whispers, I sure am trying to, to listen and abide.

Unseen Study ~ Chapter 11

“He [God] loves to heal what has broken.” – Sara H. (Pg 190)

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

God loves to heal our broken hearts…and He is really good at it. I have been really sick this week and I was scheduled to lead worship at a Pastor and Leaders Conference today, I hated telling them I couldn’t come, I hated that I was not going to be able to network with other church pastors and leaders and I hated losing out on getting paid. But God gently reminded me that He is my provider, my comforter, my healer, my everything. And it’s gonna be okay.

So, as I was reading this week’s chapter I was reminded of God’s healing the broken, not only physically but spiritually, emotionally. We’ve been remodeling our house and our stairway is finally finished, I had picked up a large shadowbox and other things to display my dad’s uniform from Vietnam along with the flag folded at his funeral. My grandparents and aunts had allowed me to receive these precious items and I wanted to display them in honor of him. This project, along with reading this chapter wrecked me. My dad passed away in 2008 in a car accident, he was 58 years old. I had a hard time with my dad’s passing because of me…I loved him and didn’t tell him enough, I didn’t return phone calls in the months leading up to his death, I played his cheerful message left on my answering machine from my birthday over and over wishing I had one more chance to talk to him, to tell him I loved him and that Jesus loved him. Upon hearing of his death, the first words from my mouth were “I never told him about Jesus”, my mom reassured me that she had and my wonderful aunt told me about his faith in the first minutes I saw her when I arrived at the funeral home. God’s marvelous grace…poured out over me through my aunt. God knew what I needed and he began healing my broken heart over my own sin in not sharing the Gospel and not letting my dad know how much I loved him and that he was a good dad to me. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over myself but God continues to move and grow me through it. He has given me an urgency to share Him with the lost, with my family and strangers. I am thankful for His grace, His love for me and His continued healing in my brokenness.

“When we acknowledge the parts of us that are broken, we have significant growth spurts in God.” – Sara H. (Pg 198)

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18