together…..

We can’t live, TRULY LIVE ABUNDANTLY, as God intended us to live without unity. I’m reading in the Book of Acts and the early church grew because of unity:

“They all joined together constantly in prayer…” Acts 1:14

“…they proposed…they prayed…then they cast lots…” Acts 1:23-26

“…they were all together in one place.” Acts 2:1

“All the believers were together and had everything in common.” Acts 2:44

“Every day they continued to meet together…” Acts 2:46

“…they raised their voices together in prayer to God..” Acts 4:24

“All the believers were one in heart and mind.” Acts 4:32

AND LOOKED WHAT HAPPENED…….

“…And they were ALL filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” Acts 4:31b

So what keeps us from REMAINING in unity? We have an enemy that “…comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” John 10:10a. How does he do that? He separates us by feeding us lies, that we believe, and therefore we focus on self not others. We walk through life carrying the weight of unforgiveness. Our love has conditions. We protect what is ours, even our own sin and shame.

BUT, Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10b. What does that even look like? Well for starters, even though we know “the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”, 1Peter 5:8b, we have a Lord whose “eyes range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9. When the bread of adversity comes upon us, it’s NOT just ours to bear alone. What happens to you, happens to me.

When there are broken relationships among believers, I believe it grieves the heart of God. I know personally, when there is conflict or brokenness in a relationship, especially with a believer, my spirit grieves and longs for restoration. This longing is rooted in my spirit. It’s not an emotional (soul) longing. It’s the Spirit of God communicating with my spirit and I am deeply troubled. We are going to have conflict in relationships, just as I’m sure the people in the early church in the Book of Acts did. However, I believe when we are focused on the Rule and Reign of Jesus Christ in our lives and that my life is NOT MY OWN, the Kingdom comes and His will is accomplished in and through us! He won’t leave us broken. He always restores!

We are STRONGER together…..Ecclesiastes 4:12

We are PRODUCTIVE together….1 Corinthians 3:9

We are PROTECTED together…..John 10:14-18

We are PROSPEROUS together….Acts 4:34

We are ONE together….. Acts 4:32 and John 15

follow me…

…” ‘and I will make you fishers of Men.’ AT ONCE, they left their nets and followed him.”

Matthew 4.19

The first disciples followed at once without any hesitation. This was the first time Jesus said follow me. He was going to show them who He was and how to live on mission.

Later in John 21:15-22, we read about Peter’s encounter with Jesus after His resurrection. After all they had been through together, even after Peter denied Jesus, Jesus was still pursuing Peter because He had a divine purpose for him. However, this time when Jesus said “Follow me!” there was a hesitancy in Peter’s response. There wasn’t an “at once”. Peter had a lot of questions, and Jesus addressed his fear and hesitation. This time Peter KNEW the cost of following Jesus. He was a changed man, but he was still relying on those changes instead of on Jesus.

The first “follow me” in Matthew was a physical following, literally, drop what you’re doing and come go with me. The second one in John is not so much a physical thing, but it addresses Peter’s spirit. The first was come watch me, the second was come after me and do what I did.

My spirit must be one with the Spirit of God to follow Him in this way. It’s a reckless abandonment of the body, mind, will and emotions because of a radical invasion of the spirit. This is what transforms us not just changes us.

I did a little research on the difference between change and transformation. To change is to do something different instead, and you can revert back to the previous state. To transform is a more thorough, dramatic change, and you will NEVER BE THE SAME again. Change fixes the past, but transformation creates the future, freeing us from the past. Change is all about what I want, and transformation is what HE wants. When you try and change something about yourself, the past is directing these actions. Conversely, when something is transformed, the future directs your actions.

So, to bring all this together is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. These two scenes in scripture are the perfect example of what Paul was talking about in Romans 12:2 NLT, ” Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” And that is exactly what Jesus did with Peter. He knew he couldn’t do this on his own, so, with the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter was transformed. If you take a peek at Acts 2:14-41, you will see a complete transformation in Peter, a new creation with a boldness, tenacity and vision to follow Jesus.

HOPE – Heaven Occupying this Place called Earth

Have you ever walked outside or even inside in the dark? I mean the kind of darkness where you are so disoriented and don’t feel confident you can find your way. And then you encounter the smallest, microscopic speck of light that completely illuminates your surroundings. You realize where you are. You can now see. The darkness seemed so vast, it caused a fear and a lack of hope. Yet it only took a small glimmer of light to break through and usher in Hope. In the beginning there was a vast darkness, yet the Spirit was there, hovering over the earth. The very first thing God spoke into the darkness was Himself, light. He spoke Himself into creation. He is light, and light reveals Himself in the midst of vast darkness. The first thing He wants us to “see” is that He is here. He is the source of the light breaking through the darkness.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13

Hope is not just a feeling or desire for something to happen….Hope is a person and He has a name, and His Name is Jesus. I read something interesting in the Wiley Online Library about hope. They were describing hope from 2 different perspectives. From a common perspective, hope is like a wish and its strength relies on the extent of the person’s desire. But biblical hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised and its strength is in the faithfulness of God. So good! It doesn’t depend on me. I can walk here on earth knowing that the God of Hope is occupying this place, and I have the assurance of that because of His faithfulness not mine.

….Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.

Hebrews 6:18b-19a NLT

As we all know, an anchor is a strong device attached to a ship and used to hold the ship in a certain place. Hope keeps me “attached” to the Father and keeps my soul (my mind, will, and emotions) focused on things above. As I seek Him and wait for His voice, I know that my “longing fulfilled will be a tree of life” Proverbs 13.12.

In Christ Alone

A wise young man once said on his facebook page “the more God shows His faithfulness, the shorter my prayers get”…. or something like that. Well, that resonated in my spirit….deep down in the place where my spirit is one with His Spirit. Simplicity seems to be a theme these past few months. So I’ll let my words be few.

CHRIST IN ME
MY ONLY HOPE
JESUS
LOVE WHAT’S IN FRONT OF YOU

While on this journey of simplicity, I picked a few flowers along the path….. and boy do they smell good!

First a gardenia…. the sweetest smelling….  There’s No sweeter Name than the Name of Jesus.

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Second the rose….in our culture it represents love….Let My Life Speak the Truth of His Love

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And third, the limelight hydrangea…..Jesus said I am the light of the world….Follow me

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For so long I have followed a process, a proven system, a step by step program that would surely draw me closer to being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. For so long I defined following Jesus by doing the things I read about in the bible, or asking the question, “What would Jesus do?” The Israelites had a cloud by day and fire by night. The disciples in the New Testament had Jesus in the flesh, telling them what to do next. Why can’t it be that simple for me? Here’s where I get excited. I have the greatest, most miraculous, most radical thing of all… JESUS CHRIST LIVES IN ME!!! Instead of my mind, will, and emotions determining what my body should do, my spirit is ONE with the SPIRIT of God in me. That’s where the new definition of following comes in. My spirit united with His Spirit leads, and my body and soul (mind, will, and emotions) must follow. I am now following the spirit that is within me. There is not a process, program, or formula for this. It is simply listening for Him to speak to my spirit, and my spirit leading the rest of me to join Him. It’s like a waltz, and Jesus is standing there saying, “May I have this dance?”

waltz

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.  I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30

 

A Kingdom Purchase

“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I WILL NOT LEAVE YOU AS ORPHANS; I WILL COME TO YOU.” John 14:15-18

A promise filled with Hope!

So what does this little guy…..

 

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And this table have to do with this promise??

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The sale of this table will contribute to his homecoming!!!

His name is Ike Eskridge.  He is currently living in an orphanage in China, but not for long.  You see, his forever family is waiting on their travel date to go bring him home, and the sale of this table will help them do that.

We started a silent auction for the 6 foot Trestle Farm Table at The Chapel Market last Saturday.  The bidding started at $450 and is now up to $625.  We will continue to take bids until 4pm Saturday November 1st at The Pike Road Arts and Crafts Fair.  The table will go home with the highest bidder, and all the money will go directly to this sweet family.

Meet The Eskridges…..

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Dexter grew up with Martha Hunter in Camden, AL.  They went to school together from Kindergarten through 12th grade.  Martha Hunter also became a nurse and helped deliver 2 of our children.  We are so excited for her and her family, as we know the joy set before them!  We cannot wait to meet Ike and see the transformation God has in store for his life as his feet are planted in Acres of Hope.

My Awakening

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have seen videos of, participated in, or heard about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  Some of the members of my family have taken the challenge…. except me.  The thought of pouring a bucket of iced water over my head is awful.  I don’t like to be cold. It makes my body ache.  Well, yesterday I received a challenge. No, not the ALS Challenge, but one that I am finding to be much more difficult.  I would much rather dump the ice water over my head….really I would.  So here’s where it all began.

My dear sister in Christ over at karensdilbeck.com sent me an email requesting I read her latest blog titled “I am Obscene” , and after reading it, “pray and do with it as God leads”.  I was at work when I received the request, so I just glanced over it and all the pictures, put my phone back in my pocket and went about my day.  When I got off last night, I pulled my phone out and read it.  I was without words, hard to believe it, but it’s true.  I read it again when I got home and I didn’t know what to do with all that I had learned.  You see, I have been so incredibly ignorant to everything that has been going on in Iraq.  Heard about some stuff, saw some pics on facebook, heard about some videos, but MY life has been way to busy to stop and be informed about what was really happening over there.  I had no idea what ISIS was and as awful as this is going to sound, I could have cared less. So I sat in front of the computer not really knowing what to do.  I went to bed and was going to turn on the TV, but I just couldn’t.  I went to sleep, quiet easily, which is not usually the case, and slept very soundly.  I woke up, and as soon as I sat up in bed, I felt physically sick.  Quite frankly, I was disgusted with myself.  The reality of what IS going on broke me.  The grief overwhelmed me.  There I sat, asking God, what in the world do you want me to do with this.  The Holy Spirit began to speak, and I began to write.  I was reminded that we have over 900 followers on our Facebook page that see when I post a new blog…write He said.  I haven’t blogged in months.  I was hearing the enemy say “you better not go there, they will find you, they will find your children, that Facebook page and blog are for your business, you will offend people”….FEAR began to grip me.  Then the Holy Spirit nudged me to share this with a group of parents I was going to be meeting with this morning and pray.  This is the verse He gave me,

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land, or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.” 2 Chronicles 7:13-15

In the Old Testament “this place” was referring to the temple Solomon built.  We are living under the New Covenant and “this place” is us! We are the temple. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20  His eyes are open and His ears are attentive to the prayers offered in me! So, I shared and we prayed.  We prayed for forgiveness for our ignorance and our lack of concern for our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We prayed for forgiveness for being so concerned about trivial things in our lives.  We cried, we pleaded with our Father, we sat quietly in His presence.

And now….I am writing to you… I am challenging you….. Get on one of your many electronic devices and google search what ISIS is, what there plan is.    They have had a plan for thousands of years.  They believe and have faith in their plan.  They have never waivered from their plan.  They are walking out their plan.  What is our plan? Are we tenacious about it? Have we forgotten it?  Do we believe in it…have faith in it?  Are we walking it out?  These brothers and sisters in Ninevah, yes I said Ninevah, are walking it out. This is happening to the great, great, great…. grandchildren of the people Jonah was sent to preach to.  They are standing, professing their belief is Jesus, knowing their children will be beheaded, the women will be raped and killed, and the men hung.  Watch some videos, as gruesome as they are. Look at the pictures.  Read the articles.  And yes, it will be hard….you will be overwhelmed…and hopefully broken.  Then, do with it as God leads.

This is the picture that I can’t get out of my head.  This little boy has an Arabic N on his shirt.  Look it up and see what it means.

I thought that writing this post and being vulnerable with those parents this morning was going to be so hard.  But as I remain in His presence, He is asking me to something much more difficult.  I am to pray for the men of ISIS.  As they lift their sword to the head of one of the least of these, I pray that the eyes of Jesus are looking back at them, that their deception is destroyed by the love of Jesus, and that the truth will set them free!

 

Chief meets Chestnut

“Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands..” 1 Thessalonians 4:11

The Master Carpenter, Dexter, at The Chapel Market

He is a quiet servant but outgoing and loves people.  He focuses on the business God has given him to tend to.  He has hardworking hands, cut up, calloused, strong, yet gentle.  This is Chief, who most of you know as Dexter.  He got the nickname “Chief Thor” at youth camp while leading a construction team consisting of teenage boys.  I guess he liked it because he wants his grand kids to call him Chief!

He is your carpenter at Acres of Hope, the creative mind and gifted hands behind all the treasures we build!  Come join us today as I walk you through the steps he takes transforming an old pile of chestnut that appears to be useless and dead and turns it into a beautiful treasure full of LIFE!

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So, we received this pile of chestnut from a couple who live here part time and in North Carolina.  They needed another table for their Montgomery home that did not take up much space.   Their idea was to have a custom table that had drop leaves which could function as a sofa table, and when they have company it could become a farm table for dining.  When I first saw the pile of wood, I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure how this was going to turn out.  There you have it, secrets out, I’m not the creative genius behind Acres of Hope 🙂

chestnut10 I learned working with salvaged wood is very time consuming, and there is an art to it.  Old nails must be removed, each board must be cut to size, and then everything must go through the planer.  This sounds pretty simple, but I gave up on removing the nails after a few short minutes because it was way too hard! I’ll stick to staining, finishing, posting pictures and talking to you!

Chief then fashions the feet and trestle legs using a variety of tools I am not qualified to touch. Let’s not forget that back in November I shot myself with the nail gun 😦     Some stretchers and braces are then added, and voila, you have a trestle base!

He then takes some wide boards and joins them together, and as far as how he made them drop like that, well that explanation is above my pay grade.

We then sealed it with some Linseed oil and let that cure for a few days.  Now our favorite part of the process, delivery day!!!!!  Our clients were very pleased with how it turned out, and it fit the space perfectly!  Chief never ceases to amaze me with his ability to build these treasures! So I guess the moral of the story is, one man’s burn pile could be another man’s treasure!

A Southern Snowfall

I have done what I am sure many new bloggers have ….. NOT BEEN CONSISTENT!  Quite frankly, I went through a spell where I really didn’t think anyone cared what I had to say. But you know, I realized that I need to blog for me and not try to write what I think you might want to hear.  So, I am jumping back in full swing.  Lots going on at Acres of Hope, so let’s start with the biggest news of these past 2 months…

Our Homestead in the Snow

It only happens about every 4-5 years in our little town and it always shuts us down.  You guessed it, snow!  The children are all excited.  No school, roads closed, no milk or bread on the shelves in the local grocer, and endless trails of mud and water through the house.  Awwwwww…. a little piece of heaven!

The last time it snowed here was 4 years ago, and we remember it well.  It was the day we brought Maggie Mae home from China!  Beyond exhaustion from the 33 hours of travel, after 4 hours of sleep, everyone bundled up and headed out for some fun.  It only lasted half the day, but the kids had a blast!  This year, we got to enjoy it for 2 1/2 days!!!  So what do southerners do in the snow……..

Well you gas up the Polaris and the 4-wheeler and head to the shed to get the boogie boards you use at the beach, the wake skate and tube you use at the lake, grab some rope, hook em up and away they go!!!! No snowmen this year because the snow was too dry, but endless hours of being whipped around in the snow/mud was all they needed.

We took peaceful walks in the woods where we met up with this guy,  Ruby and Billy  stayed warm in their house all day, brewed lots of hot cocoa and smoke was continually rising from the chimney.  A few much needed days of rest on the homefront!

Anchor of Hope

hope candleHebrews 6:8b-10 “…we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.”

An anchor, something heavy attached to a vessel to keep it in place, and hope, a desire accompanied by confident expectation of its fulfillment.  These two combined are why Jesus came.  He is the heavy, mighty, strong anchor that God sent to earth so that His plan would be fulfilled, for man to be reconciled to God!  Christ lives in us, he attaches Himself to us, His vessel, and keeps us in the place where God wants us to be.  The waves crash, the wind blows and tries to steer us off the path, but our faith is convinced of what we hope for and certain of what it cannot see (Hebrews 11:1)  all because He came.

Our hope ushers us into the very presence of God where Jesus, our anchor, is waiting, watching, and interceding on our behalf.  Without Jesus there is no hope, nothing to long for or be confident in.  Without Him we are tossed by the waves, blown off course by the wind, and oppressed by the darkness of this world.  Our hope comes from a desperate place, deep in our soul, that is calling out to the light.

The words below are from the heart of our 16 year son, Parker.  This is what the Holy Spirit has revealed to him after the death of one of his best friends, Gray Godwin.

“We have hope in eternal life because of Jesus’ death and especially his resurrection. I don’t think a whole lot about the hope we have until something happens that makes me think about the future. The future is a very scary subject, in that it feels unknown and out of our control. With the death of my friend Gray this past week, I for one have definitely thought about his future and mine. Knowing that Gray loved God so much, reminds me that he is happier now than he has ever been. By his death, he has entered into the gates of heaven, and is living out what we are all hoping for, eternal life. Once I wrapped my mind around that concept, I was jealous that I was not in heaven yet. I wouldn’t say I was suicidal at all, but simply put, I was ready to get out of the corruptness of this world and be with Jesus. But that also made me think of how selfish it is to think like that. Though the world is corrupt, it doesn’t have the hope that I possess. Holding onto what I knew and not sharing the great news of Jesus Christ is not right. If keeping Jesus to myself was satisfying me, then my heart is not in the right place. My number one job as a Christian is to get closer to God, and grow in Him. So many people die, who are unlike Gray, in that they are fearful of what will happen to them before, during or after death. We need to bring those people hope so they are no longer anticipating or fearing death. The Word of Jesus Christ is that hope.”

IMG_1048Parker, Gray, Hudson, Hammond

A Sacrifice of Praise

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“We are the light of the world. We are a city on a hill. We are the light of the world, and we gotta, we gotta, we gotta let our light shine.” – Kari Jobe

And that is exactly what Gray Godwin did wherever he was…. Let the light of Jesus shine through him!  Do you notice how everything around him is black and white, but he is in FULL COLOR.  This is how he lived his life here on earth and now how he spends eternity with Jesus. He stood out in a crowd. The character of our Most High God was sealed by the Holy Spirit in Gray.  Overcoming adversity and embracing life because of his firm foundation in Jesus is his testimony!

So for us who remain here on earth, what do we do?  A sweet friend shared with me that we put our right foot in front of our left, and eventually our heart will catch up.  I’m not sure if my heart will ever catch up, but I am reminded of what Jesus said to His disciples in His darkest hour,  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41.  So, we will continue to pray.  And what about when we don’t know what to pray? The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:26 “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”  My heart and flesh cry out with groans, and my God can interpret that?  What an amazing God!

So I will pray… I will groan… and I will worship. Your Presence is Heaven to me Lord!  It is in Your Presence that heaven and earth collide, and we can join Gray in worshiping our King.  Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty! We bring you a Sacrifice of Praise. We surrender our mind, will, and emotions to you God and say, Spirit within us RISE UP!