The weekend after Chris left, I got a sweet package in the mail from my dear sister, Aurelia at YouFrillMe.com

One of the gifts was a devotional. The lady who wrote it spent time just listening for God, and writing down the Words He gave to her. The devotional is called, “Jesus Calling, Enjoying Peace in His Presence,” by Sarah Young.

In Iowa, at LifePointe church, our worship team would have a “free worship” night once a month. That means that we would spend time, without music sheets and with musical instruments, listening for God, practicing His presence, and singing from the Spirit.

It was amazing….That was also the first time I have heard of “practicing His presence.” I wish I could explain how much this affected and transformed my relationship with Christ. I am so thankful for the leadership and mentoring from Pastor Robby Elgin!

Anyhow, it had been a while since I truly sat, in the quiet, and listening to God. So, I started reincorporating that into my Bible times, and wrote down what I heard. The following is a Word from God that I heard shortly before Chris deployed.

” I will bring GOOD.

Only I, can bring water from barren land, JOY from sorrow.

Only I, can bring LIFE from death, JOY in your mourning.

So, take off your sack clothes, throw away your veils!
In the same way, remove the coverings of insecurity and loneliness that the world clothes you with.

Open your eyes! Awaken! It is true that I AM here and ALIVE, covering you with JOY!

I will strengthen you, never leaving you, holding you close. In the night, I will minister to your soul.

Because I love you, even before you were created. I knew you, in the dark of the womb, and I laughed with JOY at My marvelous creation.

Because I know you. Inside. All of you. I know how you are and why you think. I know your secrets.

I know you, and although you cannot fully know Me, I desire you in a way that is indescribable.

So, nothing that happens is a surprise. For I see any and all things. I know you, the workings of your mind, and I RESIDE in you, waiting patiently for you to OPEN your eyes.

My child, I am filled with LOVE for you. Don’t live in your loneliness and despair! See ME! I am here, “Surely, I will NEVER leave you.”

I am in the air you breathe, even in the tears you cry. I will consume you and you will never be cold or alone, rather you will be filled with the FIRE of the Holy Spirit. Come to Me, walk with Me. Sing to Me, Look to the heavens! I am everywhere, in every thing. I am with you, in you, beside you.

I will equip you for this journey. Cling to Me, cling to the Word. I will transform your soul, renewing you and giving you LIFE.”

Is "God gonna get you?"

Well, Dr. Murray was found guilty in the Michael Jackson case. Not so long ago, Amanda Knox was exonerated from Italian courts. And, before that Casey Anthony was found not guilty in the murder of her daughter, Casey Anthony.

Those are some well known, notorious cases, and I, like so many others, have been captivated by them.

Its hard to avoid the comments on the news articles.

There is one comment that is left rather routinely…..it annoys me, but at the same time, saddens me.

” God is gonna get Casey Anthony. She’ll get hers and is going straight to hell.”

That same comment could be replaced with any of the above’s names.

On the surface, not only is that a rather strong, judgmental comment..but its also a little self-righteous.

That is almost like saying, “ God is gonna get her. But not me, because I am not a murderer. I do nothing wrong. I will stand before God, and my judgement will be so much better, because my life is cleaner than hers. God is loving me today, and will send me to heaven, but he’s angry and that girl is going to hell for her sins.”

There is only one problem with this avenue of thinking.

God loves Casey Anthony. God loves Dr. Murray. God loves Amanda Knox. He commands his love towards them.

Not only that, He would receive them, forgive them, and continue loving them, if they sought Him.

We are so human, that we just cannot understand the depths of His love and forgiveness. The “God is gonna get him/her” proves that.

“Every sin—no matter how large—can be forgiven and swallowed in God’s infinite ocean of grace. Just as God forgives those who turn from their wicked ways, so should we. God offers salvation to even the most wicked. 1 John 1:7 tells us “The blood of Jesus purifies us from every sin” . God is willing to forgive all! (unknown)

As followers of Christ, we are called to be like Him, to walk in His love and grace, and to show it to others.

What do you think a non Christian thinks when he or she sees those types of comments, coming from the mouths of Christians?

What kind of damage do you think this is doing to the gospel?

How much do comments like this contribute to the “backlash” against Christianity?

Christians are up in arms, feeling as though Christianity is being attacked in this country today.

But how much of these attacks are because of us and a lukewarm faith? Guess what?

We, followers of Christ, bear great responsibility for attacks against our own faith.

– A lot of us have turned Christianity into a “tradition,” instead of a way of life.
-Plenty of us have used “religion” to justify political beliefs and to push a personal agenda.
-So many pastors have forgotten their calling and have started preaching politics from the pulpit.
-A lot of churches have stopped sheltering the persecuted and started advertising campaigns based on gimmicks to get people in.
-A lot of churches will never advocate for the orphan, the widow, the missionary and persecuted Christians in other countries.
-Many a church will fall into the trap of building a “castle” instead of growing a generation of believers.
– Most famously, the Catholic church has covered up the disgusting behavior and sexual misconduct from their priests.
-Children’s ministries are struggling, Worship teams and worship bands are becoming the focus and the main reason why many people even go to church.
-This results in worship becoming a “feeling” instead of recognition and praise to God, instead of an action…and instead of living a LIFE of worship.
-Ministers and self righteous “Christian politicians” have been found in cheating and drug scandals….

“Religion” has HURT many people,as you can see.

there is so much more than that.

It goes even deeper.

Some of us may tithe to the church, but its the rare person that tithes more than 2% of their income.
Others tithe only to the church, and rest in the “law”, forgetting that what we have and have earned is not really ours, but was given to us to give back to others.

-What about the homeless in the homeless shelters? Better yet, the bum down the street? We refuse to give some money or resources to help them out, because he has a brand new pair of Nikes on, or because he might be “faking it.”

-We withhold our treasures, and wonder why financial prosperity is being withheld from us.

-What about the missionary, risking his life overseas to spread the good news?

-What about the persecuted Christian in Africa, Iran, China, North Korea, who is in jail for believing in Christ. What about their families? These people have a love and faith in Christ that has set them FREE from the bondage of this world?

-what about the orphan? Who will never know the loving touch of a parent and the safe haven of a family, if not adopted? And the widow? Who is alone, lonely, vulnerable, and unprotected….

-What about forgiveness? True forgiveness. Has your father abandoned you? Has your mother hurt you? Has your husband cheated on you? My christian friends, YOU are called to forgive!

When I hear someone say, “God is gonna get you,” it just does this to me. It hurts me because it hurts the message of Christ.

The message, which is not coming from some scary guy in the sky who wants nothing more than to squash you.

God doesn’t want to GET you. Not like that.

I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want us to think like that either. To condescendingly believe that we are better than someone else. To waste our time being so angry at injustice, that we condemn someone else to hell.

You can be sure that God gets angry. You can be sure that he will judge each and everyone of us. But God’s judgement does NOT stem from an out of control anger. God’s judgement is from love, a pure love, that none of us can fathom.

How grateful we should be for a love so incomprehensible! How foolish would it be of us to think that God’s love is reserved only for the faithful, only for the saints!

Lets take an in depth look of ourselves, this holiday season.
What better time than to remove the attributes in our life that make us unwilling to love and show love to another.
What better time than to celebrate God’s love by opening our hearts, homes, and life to someone else?

Here is some scripture, from Matthew 25. Read it, don’t read it. But after the scripture, is my conclusion.

The Final Judgment
31 “But when the Son of Man<sup class="footnote" value="[d]”>[d] comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations<sup class="footnote" value="[e]”>[e] will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,<sup class="footnote" value="[f]”>[f] you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.<sup class="footnote" value="[g]”>[g] 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

What more evidence do we need, as Christians, to really, purely, and genuinely love others? When will we stop ignoring His call?

When will we stop portraying God as an Unloving, Inclusive, Hateful…and even Republican, God?

This is some pretty radical stuff I’m saying. And that is okay, because I’m all about being radical. Jesus’s message of love was radical back in bible times. His message of living in the spirit and not the law was extremely radical!

And today, we have managed to take the radical-ness out of our faith. We don’t want to be uncomfortable. We don’t want our churches to make us uncomfortable. And, our churches would rather grow in earthly numbers, than spiritual numbers. We’ve forgotten how to be radical…here in America.

Heck..we’ve even forgotten how to radically love our own family.

Today, I challenge you to love people who are uncomfortable to love. Write down everyone who has hurt you, wronged you….write it down, then tear it up and threw it away!

I also challenge you, during this holiday season, to bless someone else!
Have a little extra money left over? Buy a gift card and send it to a struggling or disheartened friend! You can even email it to them!
Or let the spirit lead you to paying for someone’s lunch, coffee, or even leaving an extra big tip for someone. Offer to babysit your single friend’s kids a few times, shovel your neighbors driveway….there are so many ways!

If you really want to love on and bless someone, find a family to buy Christmas gifts for. There are numerous ways to do this…through your church, word of mouth…..

But also, there is Angel Tree, International Justice Mission has a Christmas catalog out….

Some of these things are just tiny things that seem easier to do around the holidays. But maybe, these things will plant a seed. Not just in you, but in the person you are blessing.

Lastly, I beg of you to not be caught up in the Christmas hype. Don’t get mad that some place doesn’t want a Christmas tree up, or that someone spelled Christmas with an X. God doesn’t need Christmas. And historically, Christmas wasn’t even Christ based ( if that means anything to you). But God, doesn’t need a Christmas tree or Christmas gifts or care about spelling or who doesn’t celebrate Christmas.

He cares about people. Relationships. LIFE.

And so should we.

cut short

Things are going okay in the Stephens household.

After surviving 12 days of everyone being sick with an icky cold, we are finally on our way to recovery!

The worst things about being sick are the sleepless nights, and the messy house that is a result of being too sick or tired to care about.

And as I type I hear a little tot, waking early from her nap, crying out, “Mommy,” in the most sweet pathetic little voice.

That’s my cue!

How do you LOVE?

wow….its been a tough week. Or two. I’ve been wanting to blog, but I haven’t really been able to sit down and clear my mind for a while. Tonight, I’m choosing to do that over sleep, which I am sure I will regret tomorrow.

The feeling of “deployment” is finally settling in. Its been about 3 weeks, and I’m finally starting to feel exhausted. Single parenting is no fun….its no easy thing!

In the military, I’ve heard people say that “deployments will either make you or break you,” when it comes to marriages. Unfortunately, I’ve had friends whose spouses cheated during their deployments, which eventually led to them divorcing.

And it’s so sad, when things like this happen.

I’m going to say this, and I don’t care if it offends anybody.

IF you have cheated on your spouse, then you are selfish! Shame on you! Cheating is selfish, but mostly cheating is NOT love. And whats more….cheating will break up your family! If you choose to cheat, then you choose to not only leave your wife, but your children….

Cheating is the single, most disgusting, most divisive thing you can to do your family.

I realize that those are some pretty strong thoughts.

But, its hard to be lukewarm on this, because I have a few very close friends who have gone through this. I also have a few not so close friends who have confided in me about this…..

This week Kim Kardashian has been all over the news. You know what for! But, if you have been living under a rock, click here to catch up.

I can’t even imagine how it is for celebrities, who must live such surreal lives. When you have “yes” people all around you, when you are so incredibly rich…..Its no wonder that celebrities always date other celebrities or other rich people. And its no wonder that there are SO many celebrity divorces, when a famous career is typically the first priority.

Anyhow, Kim Kardashian is all over the news, and I am just so glad I’m not her. Even though she has a reality show, no one wants to live their WORST moments on TV. I know I wouldn’t!

And, you know, Kim Kardashian is an incredibly beautiful young woman. She had a fairytale wedding, and dreamed of a “happily ever after.”

And she is NOT the only one out there who dreams of that. How many of us, as little girls, dreamed about what our “knight in shining armor” would look like?

On our wedding days, did we not say our vows and blissfully imagine that we were living our own fairy tale?

And, lastly, how many of us were disheartened….learning that love is not a fairy tale, the knight in shining armor does not exist, and “happily ever after” is not as simple as it sounds?”

Some of you have never really struggled within your marriage. That’s great!

But, most of us will. Whether its financial, personality conflicts, trust….distance, children…..

There are life events that happen that change us. They change our character…and actually, they refine our character.

How many of us ran into an ex, and came away saying, “He/she hasn’t changed at all!” And, you say this in a negative way….

Meanwhile, men always say that they want a woman who never changes!

But we all HAVE to change to become a better person, a better wife or husband, and a better mother or father.

And I will confess, that Chris and I have had our own struggles. The past 1.5 years were incredibly hard on us. We went through A LOT. We are still going through some of the A LOT. We had some of our worst arguments ever….

And I mean arguments where we both wondered, inside and even out loud, if our marriage would survive, with love intact. If we would give up on each other. These were times that were so overwhelming, that it would have been easier to run away than to forgive and rebuild.

Ladies, daughters, friends and sisters! Marriage is not a fairytale because fairy tales do not exist.

Do you know what really exists?

Sacrifice. Forgiveness. Keeping your big mouth shut when its important. Patience. Heartache. Pure, indescribable JOY. Perseverance. Weariness. HOPE.

Out of these characteristics come LOVE. ( Those are just a few characteristics, by the way)

Yes! Real, true, gotta have it, love! Which is actually flexible, actually CAN be broken, and actually is not always romantic.

You see, real love, CAN be disrespected. It CAN be broken. It can be thrown on the ground, break it into a million pieces, turn it to dust, and fly away into the wind.

But it will NEVER disappear. LOVE always finds its way back. Love always heals, and it ALWAYS repairs the wounds of the soul.

Love is the greatest gift we can give one another. It can consume a a raging fire and melt a heart of stone.

It can survive in the most desperate of circumstances.

Love is a constant. Always adapting, yet never changing. Love is not just a desire, but a basic NEED.

Love, it endures.

Who do you love? Better yet, how do you love?

Chris and I aren’t perfect…we can be mean to each other, and we are, at times. We know how to hurt one another – we know each others weak points. We struggle, and thankfully, have been refined by our struggles.

I have taken away a lot from the past 1.5 years. And one idea I have taken is this….

I cannot control a single darn thing. I cannot control what happens to me, what has happened to me or what will happen to me.

So, instead, I will become an author. I will write my story, just the way it is – just the way it happened.

I will NOT quit.

When the past and present is written, I will continue to write.

Because although I cannot control what happens, I CAN control HOW I react.

I can react and survive with indiscriminate grace. I can choose to persevere and to fight for what is mine. I can choose to forgive. I can choose to love myself. I can choose to LIVE. I can choose JOY!

I will write page, after page, after page, of my own love story.

And ultimately, LOVE, will be my reward.

If God is love, and love is of God ( 1 John 4: 7-8 )…then shouldn’t we all take it WAY more seriously. Shouldn’t we actually talk about it? And isn’t our love for our spouses and children a direct reflection of our relationship with GOD?

Ooooh, now that’s kind of scary. More than that…its downright honest AND a whole other blog post.

But seriously, let us allow LOVE into our lives. Let us fill up on love and let love POUR into the lives of others. Because in this way, ALL will reap love’s harvest.

Today, I saw a quote from Misty Edwards, singer, songwriter, musician and member of IHOP (International House of Prayer). She said:

” Love, loves to love, and the reward of love, is love.”

Simply said. Simply true. Powerful. And from that quote, this blog was inspired!