From Turtle to Butterfly

WHY GO TO CHURCHI asked this question on Facebook yesterday – “Why do you go to church on Sunday?” Now, I would like to share WHY I asked that question.

I was listening to a message and the pastor said, “I didn’t come to church for a normal service; I didn’t come to church to play church. I can’t have a ceremonial faith. I need a personal, powerful touch of God!” When he said that, I began to wonder why others go to church, so I asked the question to see what kind of responses would be given. Most were what you would expect – people giving the answer they think they should give. Not that they weren’t sincere, but, I wonder… did they really ask themselves the question and take time to get honest with themselves? Or did they just give their ‘pat’ answer? Because here is the way I would have to answer that question…

I remember a time when I got up on Sunday mornings and got ready for church because, well, it’s Sunday and that means we go to church. Not because my family went, but my older sister did. She was the pianist at church and, as a teenager, I went with her. That’s how it started for me. I’m told we did attend church as a family when I was younger, but I don’t remember that. WOW! I never even realized until I started writing this – my sister is the reason I began going to church. If it weren’t for her, I have no idea where I might be today! Praise the Lord for her “transferrable faith”. (You can listen to the message about that by clicking here)

Back to why I go to church, though – for years, that’s why I went, because it was the thing to do on Sundays. Sunday morning, Sunday night and, gasp, even on Wednesday nights! YES! Believe it or not, that was the norm ‘back in the day’ and, also believe it or not, some churches still have those three services. Personally, I think we need those three services – I don’t know about everyone else, but I leak a LOT and need to be refilled more than once a week. I am thankful to be in a church where we do meet on Wednesday nights, so I can get that mid-week refill I so desperately need!

If I am being totally honest, my reason for going to church did ‘evolve’ over the years. I did begin going to church because I love the Lord and because I wanted to worship and fellowship with other believers (I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior when I was a teenager). But, I still found that, even though I went to church on Sunday, for the most part I left the same way I went. Nothing was really different. My way of thinking didn’t really change and my lifestyle didn’t really change. I was pretty much that ‘good, Christian girl (woman) who went to work (or school, when I was younger) and went to church’ week in and week out.

Then, He began doing a work in me in July of 2006 and even more so around the year 2009. Hard to believe that’s been fourteen and eleven years ago! During those years, I’ve had some really great moments and some not so great moments. I believe He ‘bumped up’ His work in me beginning in 2012 and things REALLY began to change when He revealed some things to me in July of last year (2019).

So, today, I can answer my own question – “Why do you go to church?” (on Sunday or any other day, for that matter) – in a totally different way! In fact, this is what I found myself writing/praying in my prayer journal this morning:

Thank You for today being the day I GET TO go to Your house and join my sisters and brothers in praise and worship of You! Light a fire at Eastside Baptist this morning, Father! WAKE US UP!!! Draw us to the altar!!! Give every person in attendance EXACTLY what they need and let Your Presence SO FILL the sanctuary that it spills outside the doors and walls and draws people in who are outside! May they feel SO compelled by the Holy Spirit to come in that they can’t stay away – they can’t just drive by – they must STOP and go inside! Let Your Spirit fall SO HEAVY, Father, that it can be SEEN as a fog inside – but ALL will know it is YOU! Oh, how I LONG to be in a service like that – a service of TRUE, PURE, UNADULTERATED, ABANDONED WORSHIP OF YOU, FATHER! May it – let it begin WITH ME! If it has to start somewhere – let it start with me! Teach me, show me how to worship You with TOTAL ABANDON! Just like the old song says – I WANNA LIVE WITH ABANDON! GIVE YOU ALL THAT I HAVE!!!

I agree with Pastor Jentezen Franklin – I don’t want to go to church for a normal service; I don’t want to play church anymore; I don’t want a ceremonial faith – I want, no, I NEED a PERSONAL, POWERFUL TOUCH OF GOD!!!! And now, today, I can honestly say THAT is why I go to church. And, if Father wants to start the FIRE with me, I’m okay with that now! I sure wasn’t ready for it before, but I am now. Are you?

URGENTSome mornings my alone time with Father can feel a bit ‘forced’ to me. Not meaning I feel ‘forced’ to have it – just meaning I sometimes don’t know what to say after “Good morning Father! Thank You for waking me this morning.” I’m not sure why that surprises me because it’s hard for me to keep a conversation going with anyone. I’ve just never been good at ‘small talk’. No, I don’t consider my time with Father to be about ‘small’ talk, but at the same time, He’s okay with it if that is what we have.

Then there are mornings like this morning. Our time together gets off to a bit of a slow start, I find myself trying to think of things I need to thank Him for and He is so precious to remind me of some things I had almost forgotten. Then, I’m getting ready to leave and I ‘innocently’ thank Him for something else that came to mind and He begins to fill me! Sometimes He fills me with His sweet Presence to overflowing and I just get so HAPPY and FULL OF PRAISE I can’t contain it! But, this morning was different.

This morning, He began to fill me with a feeling of URGENCY!!! A feeling of urgency like I’ve never felt before! The only way I know to explain it to you is to just share what I found myself writing (praying – yes, I write my prayers) as He was filling me with this sense of urgency. Actually, this filling (yes, filling – not feeling) can’t be explained – but I will share what I found myself writing:

Thank You for this day to go to Your house and worship You with other believers. Father, may we EACH and EVERY ONE begin to realize how important URGENT it is that we STOP PLAYING CHURCH! Each of us – ME, I – need to realize just how URGENT it is that we are staying in a constant, CONSISTENT, state of WORSHIP! We MUST start GENUINELY crying out for the lost souls to come to You! We need to take You to THEM!!! Does my life do that? Do I let You shine through me to others or am I too busy doing what I want to do or feel like doing? Oh Father, BREAK MY HEART for the LOST! For the ones who so desperately need You! Show me how – lead me – and help me to know when You are doing it!

Even as I typed those words, He began to fill me with that sense of urgency again! If you have read this far, then you were meant to read it for some reason. Either He wants you to begin to realize the urgency or maybe, just maybe, you are one of the ones that need to surrender to Him today, this minute! Whichever it might be, if you would like to discuss it, I’m here. Well, I’ll be at church later (from 10:00 a.m. CST until around 12:30), but outside of that, I’m here 😉

P.S. This verse (II Peter 3:9) keeps being put in front of me the last few weeks. My husband even showed it to me yesterday and said, “I keep seeing this verse today in all different places”. The Lord isn’t slow about keeping his promises, as some people think he is. In fact, God is patient, because he wants everyone to turn from sin and no one to be lost.” ~II Peter 3:9

The sad fact is there are some who will absolutely harden their hearts and never come to Him. He is being patient; He doesn’t want anyone to be lost, but He will not – He cannot – wait much longer. Please don’t wait one more second if you haven’t come to Him yet – surrender to Him TODAY!!!

BEAUTIFULLY WRAPPED GIFTDid you receive any gifts for Christmas this past year that you have yet to open? What about for your birthday? Or your anniversary? Have you ever, at any time, received a gift you haven’t yet opened? I’m guessing the answer to all those questions is no.

Who receives a gift and doesn’t open it? Now, I’ve seen some gifts that were wrapped so perfectly, so beautifully, that I’ve heard the recipient remark, “Oh my! It’s so beautiful, I don’t want to unwrap it” as they are ripping the paper off. Am I right?

It’s because we are all so curious, we just can’t stand not knowing what’s inside. Why do you think it’s so hard for anyone to see all the wrapped gifts under the tree at Christmas time, not knowing what is in each one? And, the thought occurs to me, why do we only do that at Christmas? We don’t wrap someone’s birthday gift or graduation gift or any other gift and place it somewhere for the recipient and others to see days or weeks before they actually get to open it. Why do we do this at Christmas? Maybe that’s a thought for another day…

The point is, when any of us receive a gift, we like to open it right away and see what is waiting inside. Sometimes, when the gift is revealed, the recipient isn’t as thrilled with it as the giver hoped they would be. The recipient of the gift may have to suddenly pretend to be excited about the gift, when in reality, they don’t like it, don’t appreciate it or don’t even know what it is!

Do you know the same is true of the gift God has given to each one of us? God gave His Son, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to be the Ultimate Sacrifice, the Ultimate Gift of all gifts to each one of us. Did you also know, even though the Gift is the same for each one, it is also very different for each one? Do you know the Gift works different for each recipient?

Some open it and immediately reject it saying it is not something they need and they toss it aside. Some open it and, not wanting to hurt the Giver’s feelings, pretend to love it. They ‘make a fuss’ over it and carry on the charade for a little while before they leave it by the wayside. Some open it, aren’t really sure about it, but they accept it and, over time, it becomes more and more special to them. Some open the Gift and immediately fall in love with it and treasure it always!

What’s really special about the Gift God gave you – and me – is that you can’t keep it to yourself. You will absolutely have to share it with everyone you know! That’s what you are supposed to do, too! It’s the Gift you can share with everyone you meet and still have plenty for yourself! It’s also the Gift that gives another Gift – the Holy Spirit!

So many people have not accepted this gift yet. It just sits there, waiting for them, wanting to be opened, but instead it is ignored. If you are one that hasn’t opened it yet, I urge you to open it today! I promise it will be different for you than it is for me. It will look different to you than it does to me. It will work different for you than it does for me. Even though we have all been given this same glorious, wonderful, Ultimate Gift, it will absolutely be, look and feel different for each one!

If you haven’t already, will you accept the Gift God is offering you today? The Gift of Jesus, the gift of peace, the gift of hope, the gift of eternal life?

PRAYER: Father, thank You for this wonderful Gift, Jesus, You have given. I admit I am a sinner and I accept this Gift, Jesus, as my personal Savior. Jesus, come into my heart, wash me clean and lead me in the way You would have me go. Amen

Peter said to them, “Change your hearts and lives and be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. ~Acts 2:38 (ICB)

PRESENCEHere we are at the beginning of a new day, a new year, a new decade! What a journey the Father took me on last year. The word He gave me for last year was DEVOTION. He gave me that word on December 28th, 2018. It had a double meaning for me. It was mostly about renewing my devotion to Him, which happened in a HUGE way! But I also believe He gave me that word because He took me on a journey last year that not only helped me renew my devotion to Him, it grew me in ways I never could or would have imagined! I’m convinced it is what made me ready for events that happened in our life (mine and my husband’s) later in the year. What kind of journey did He take me on? A journey of receiving my devotion each morning straight from Him instead of buying a devotional book to use for the year. I admit I was doubtful as January 1, 2019 drew near and fear could have kept me from even attempting the task, but I pushed through the doubt and the fear and decided to trust Him. I knew if He was truly asking me to do it, He would give me what I needed and He did! He never failed me once! And now I have a year’s worth, 366 days of devotions (yes, He even gave me one for Feb. 29th for the years that are leap years)! I don’t know if they will ever be published as a book – that’s up to Him. I only did what He asked me to do. What He does with it, if anything, is His call.

And that brings me to this year’s word – PRESENCE. I don’t know about y’all but, sometimes, I can be so dense! Father knows this, of course, and is patient with me, but I bet sometimes He’d just like to smack me! LOL A while back, a friend of mine made a post on Facebook about telling her son, since he was old enough to understand presents vs presence now, that she would rather spend time with him than spend money on presents he would only appreciate for a little while. I thought to myself, “WOW! That is so true!” Then, as I was looking back through my prayer journal a few days ago, I discovered where I had written the following on December 27th, 2018 – yes, a year before my friend’s Facebook post – “Now I want to go be quiet and see if I hear You speak any more to me about the “presents” and “presence” of Christmas.” So, though I didn’t remember it until I saw that in my journal, He apparently began speaking to me about presence over a year ago!

I guess He just used my friend’s Facebook post to remind me. Even then, I didn’t ‘get it’. But, as He usually does, He just kept putting that word in front of me – sometimes literally and sometimes in conversations with others. In fact, it was when I was attending the December Thirty-One Celebrate and Connect meeting that He FINALLY got through to my brain that PRESENCE was the word He was giving me for 2020!

So, I want to be more conscientious, more aware of being PRESENT with the people I’m around. Whether that be at work, at home, at church, wherever! I want to become more aware of His Presence at all times because He is always with me – ALWAYS! He doesn’t stay home when I go to work or to the store or for a drive or whatever – HE IS ALWAYS WITH ME!! My presence is absolutely nothing without His Presence in me!

My husband and I are facing many changes this year. Changes we didn’t ask for but we feel God has had us in a period of transition the last few months. We feel He is making a shift of some kind. While we don’t yet know what that is or what it is going to look like, I want to be especially mindful of being present in the moment, because only God knows if I will be given the next moment.

Do you have a word for 2020? If you do, I’d love to hear it and I’d love to hear how you received it. Would you be willing to share by leaving a comment here or a link to where you may have written about it?

FACEBOOK GROUP COVER - IN CHALLENGESThere are no presents under our tree;
However, HIS PRESENCE fills our home.
Our lives are full of the gifts
He’s been giving us all year long.

I jotted down that little poem in a note app on my phone Christmas morning. I thought maybe there would be more to go with it. I’ve been praying about it since then and, as I sat down this morning to see if I was supposed to elaborate on it, I felt it was complete. I mean, it really does say it all.

For some who may not truly understand, though, I will try to explain just a tiny bit here in this post.

My heart was FULL on Christmas Day just remembering how God has blessed us throughout this past year. There were a lot of changes in our lives – happy changes, sad changes, just changes in general.

In January – wait, let me back up to last December 1st, because that is when Mom got her lung cancer diagnosis. Okay – then, in January, Frank was approved to go in Bullock Correctional Facility as the Assistant Chaplain.

February 20th – God sold our house in Atmore and let us know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, we were moving to Union Springs EARLIER rather than LATER. (We had been thinking we would move in the summer – AFTER I finished my commitment to my HIPPY job)

March 10th – We moved to a rental house in Union Springs – totally provided by God because, when our house sold in February, we had no idea where we were going to stay! I would leave on Sundays and go back to Atmore to stay with Mom at her house through Thursday each week, until my job with HIPPY ended May 11th.

March 17th – He showed us the house that would become our home – even though we had no idea how He was going to do it. He did – and it became officially our home May 11th!

May 6th – Mom was promoted to Heaven.

June 14th – Jessica found out her Dad had passed away, probably the night before, suddenly and very unexpected!

August 13th – MYA MARIE KITTS was born and Frank got to be in the delivery room! She has brought so much joy and love into all our lives these last 4½ months!

Soooooooo – you can see why my heart was so full on Christmas Day and why I mostly spent the day simply reflecting on all the wonderful gifts God has given us throughout the year. Like the peace He gave when He called Mom home – it happened pretty much just as she had always said she’d like for it to happen. Sure there are days I miss her really bad; but, I know where she is and that I’ll get to see her again, so I refuse to allow myself to get caught up in the sadness. I allow myself a good cry now and then, when it hits, but I do not allow it to linger on and on. Mom wouldn’t want me to do that.

It hurt watching my baby girl go through losing her Dad only a month after losing the only Granny she ever really knew. But, again, I am glad she also has the Peace our Father gives and I know she is doing okay. She is as great a mother as I always knew she would be, by the way! She is so wonderful with Mya – it just thrills my heart to watch her with her own baby girl!

I believe the gifts of PEACE in our losses and NEW LIFE in our family have probably been two of the most cherished gifts He has given us this year and my heart is, indeed, full!

Now, let’s enjoy the last few days of 2018 and see what wondrous things He will do in 2019!

I CHOOSE JOYSunday night (Dec. 23rd) as I lay down to go to sleep, thoughts of the day were whirling around in my head of all the different emotions I had gone through. I should have gotten up and written them down then; but, I didn’t. I sensed the Lord was giving me the words to sort it all out; yet, I still refused to get out of bed to write it down. The last thing I remember thinking was, “I choose joy!” and then I was waking up at 3:15 a.m. Now, here I am, at 12:14 Tuesday morning, and I feel He may be giving me a second chance.

I couldn’t quite put my feelings into words Sunday. I couldn’t even figure out WHAT it was I feeling. One minute, so many different things at once; the next minute, nothing! I felt pretty good Sunday morning. I sang in a choir cantata with people I had met only two weeks before! My husband, daughter, son-in-love and granddaughter were able to attend and that made it even nicer. After church, we all went to eat lunch together, which was also great! Any time spent with even part of our family is a good time! (My husband had been to Urgent Care the day before and found out he nearly had pneumonia! He got a couple shots and started medicine when he got home, so the fact he was feeling better enough to attend church Sunday morning was incredible in itself!)

This same church was having a special, candlelight service Sunday evening and I felt led to attend. (Hubby felt he needed to stay in out of the night air, due to his illness, and I agreed – even though it made me sad he couldn’t go with me.)

Mom moved to Heaven this year – May 6th, to be exact. Maybe I cried through nearly the entire candlelight service because I was missing her, maybe it was because I was thinking how much she would enjoy a service like this, if she were still here. Again, I don’t know. I only knew I couldn’t stop the tears. I DO miss my Mom. There have been many times I wanted to pick up the phone to call and share something with her, only to remember I can’t do that anymore. Mom and I were very close, we liked the same kind of shows/movies on television; we loved going to singings together; we enjoyed LIVING together, which was incredible! When I remarried in December, 2013, Mom and I didn’t necessarily talk or see each other every single day; but, we didn’t let more than a couple days go by without at least a phone call. We only lived a couple blocks from each other, so we still saw each other often! Yes, I’m sure some of my feelings Sunday came from really missing her and that is okay!

What would not be okay, in my opinion, is to WALLOW in those “poor, pitiful me” feelings! Why? Because those feelings, while perfectly natural in short time increments, are what the enemy can use to cause deep depression and wanting to withdraw from everything and everyone around me! Not to mention, my Mom would tan my hide good if she knew I was spending time wallowing in self-pity and feeling sorry for myself because I miss her! (and, if you’re too young to understand what “tan my hide good” means, ask someone older than you – LOL) Like I said, she would definitely understand me missing her – she had times when she missed my Daddy terribly – but, she also wouldn’t allow herself to “wallow” in those feelings.

So, as I lay in bed Sunday night, trying to sort out all my feelings, I kept coming back to JOY! Does choosing joy mean I am happy and smiling all the time? Definitely not! It means I CHOOSE to remember my joy comes from the Lord and is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), unlike the joy of the world, which comes from “the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25). By remembering this, the enemy no longer has a hold on me and I remain FREE!!!

Yes, it’s okay for me to miss my Mom and have days where I cry over the craziest, silliest, out-of-nowhere things; but, I will not allow myself to stay there and wallow in it – for these reasons:

  • God sent His ONLY Son to live on this earth in a human body so I could have relationship with Him
  • Jesus loved me enough to be willing to die on the cross for MY sins, even though He was completely innocent
  • I know Mom would NOT like it one little bit and absolutely would NOT approve – she wouldn’t want me to STAY sad, she would want me to be HAPPY for the many years we had together

We all grieve in different ways and grief is a perfectly normal thing to go through when we lose someone we love – especially someone we were very close to! I just don’t want to allow the enemy to use that grief to bind me! Yes, grief can become a chain used by the enemy, if I allow it.

So, on those days when I’m feeling a little sad, I allow myself to feel sad; but, I also stay in constant prayer on those days, reminding myself to CHOOSE the Joy of the Lord and not get caught up in or overtaken by my “feelings” of grief. The devil would like nothing better than for me to allow that to happen because he can not stand for me – or anyone else, for that matter – to be FREE!!! However, the (sad for the devil) truth is that I AM free! (John 8:36)

What will YOU choose each and every day – no matter what your ‘feelings’ are? I hope you CHOOSE JOY 🙂

SEARCH ENGINEYou may be wondering why I am asking such a silly question. It actually came out of my quiet time with my Father this morning. Let me explain…….

I was sitting here, having my quiet time with the Father, and I found myself on the subject of prayer. I had seen many prayer requests on Facebook yesterday and was asking for His will to be done in each situation.

Then, I began thanking Him for giving me the gift of prayer. Let me just share straight from my prayer journal. “Thank You for giving me the gift of prayer. A way to not only talk TO You; but, a way to talk WITH You. In fact, I think sometimes my prayers should be more about LISTENING to You and for You and the only way for me to be able to do that is to get back in Your Word so I will know what and when You are speaking to me.” It was at that moment when He began to speak.

Jeremiah 33:3 came to my mind. It says (in the NIV), “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” He ‘gave’ that verse to me and my husband a few years back as we were praying about something and He just seems to keep it in front of us a lot! However, this morning when He brought it to my mind, He showed me something He has never shown me before. Yes, I have read it in this version many times; but, today is the first time He spoke to me about one word in this passage – UNSEARCHABLE. He made that word stand out.

Here’s what I felt Him speak to my Spirit about that word. In this day of “Googling” everything for answers, ONLY HE can give me – and you – the truly important answers! Even as I am typing this to share, He has reminded me of something I have said in the past, when talking with someone about the answer to something. . .”Hey, just Google it. Google knows everything.” OUCH! Yes, I said it in jest and we laughed about it; but, maybe I should have followed it up with something like, “But, seriously. I’ll pray with you about it and we’ll see what God says”.

Yes, I’ve said “Google is a wonderful thing” before and, YES, it most definitely is a wonderful tool we can use. However, when it comes to the important things that our Father wants us to know, HE is the only search engine that we will be able to conduct our search on and come up with the correct answers. Sometimes His answer isn’t always what we want it to be – that’s when we have to remember His Word to us in Isaiah 55:8, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.”

So, for ‘earthly’ answers, please continue using the Google search engine. However, when it comes to matters of true importance in life, remember to use the GOD search engine. You may not always get the answer you want; but, then again, sometimes even Google doesn’t give you the answer you want. Am I right??? I can promise you this: the answer you get from God will ALWAYS be because HIS PLAN is ALWAYS the BEST PLAN for you 😊

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