Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The "What-If" Moments

This picture accurately depicts my heart and mind some days.

Unfortunately,  I am a worrier by nature.  The words "What-If" are always swirling in my mind. My husband can attest to this. I can't tell you how many times he has said, "Morgan, I'm just gonna trust God. He is pretty good at what He does. If I try to handle it on my own, I'm gonna screw it up." That's the type of response I WANT to have, but why is it so hard to sometimes trust that God WILL do what He says He is going to do? I recently picked up a devotional book called "Trusting God: A Life Without Worry" by Women of Faith. (Ladies, I got it at SAMS Club for less than $6, if you're interested.) I thought to myself, "now this is something I need to read."

I've started doing them first thing in the morning when I get to work. Today's devotional was about Issac's Unforgettable Love Story (Read Genesis 24) and dealt with the "what-ifs" in life. I've read this story numerous times but I learned something new today. Just to catch everyone up to speed: Issac was the Son of Abraham and Sarah. Because God had promised that Abraham would be the father of many nations, his son Issac would have to have a son.  The first order of business was to find him a bride, but the bride needed be suitable (aka love the Lord). "What if" Issac couldn't find a suitable bride?

So Abraham gave one of his trusted servant's specific instructions to go and find a suitable wife for his son, Issac. Wow...what kind of pressure is that? Can you imagine the "what-ifs" the servant had? Instead of "worrying" about the situation, he laid out a very specific prayer request to God. 

"Lord, God of my master Abraham, " he prayed, "give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.  I am standing here at the spring where my daughters of the man of the town are coming out to draw water.  Let the girl to whom I say, 'Please lower the water jug, so that I may drink,' and who responds, 'Drink, and I'll water your camels also' - let her be the one You have appointed for Your servant Issac.  By this I will know that You have shown kindness to my master." (Genesis 24:12-14)

Wow. What a SPECIFIC prayer to God. It made me wonder why I am not that specific in a prayer request. Why don't I pour out the details of my heart instead of saying things like, "God you know the situation." It made me think about having lunch with a girlfriend and how we can talk and talk and talk. What if I looked at her and just said..."well...ya know."  That doesn't leave much room for conversation.  I wonder when the last time was that I prayed a bold prayer of expectation....specific enough that if it happened, I just KNEW it had to be God's intervention. I know it has been awhile since I was THAT specific.  Well, you can believe it will start today.

The other part that I noticed is that by praying a specific prayer (which God answered before the servant had even finished the prayer) 2 amazing things happened:

1. The servant was able to testify to Rebekah and her family his specific prayer request and how God answers. It was a huge testimony to how God works in our lives.

2. When Rebekah's family was asked if she would stay with the family or go to be joined with Issac, the family responded by saying, "This is from the Lord; we have no choice in the matter." (Genesis 24:50)

How comforting to know that we can bring every detail of our lives to the heart of the Father - even the "what-ifs". In addition to that, when we pray specific prayers to God, when He answers them, (which He ALWAYS does, by yes, no, or wait), we can say "This is from the Lord."

It definitely helps those leaps of faith feel less scary when we know that Sovereign God, the one who has absolutely everything under control , is directing our steps and is in the details.

What are the "What-ifs" in your life right now? I encourage you to join me in taking your Question Marks to God and allow Him to add the Period. It will testify to the fact that your journey will be full of Exclamation Points!

For His Renown,

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Impact of Learning to Man Up

I've experienced a lot of amazing moments in my years of youth ministry, but one of the top three was being able to be a part of the Man Up Conference in Atlanta last weekend. Man Up 2012 was a conference put on by Reach Life Ministries/Reach Records and was geared towards men in the urban context. There were amazing teaching sessions by top urban ministry leaders.  Worship was led by Anthony Evans (You may have seen him on the TV show:The Voice) and amazing Christian Rap and Hip Hop Artists, such as Lecrae, Andy Mineo, Tedashi, Trip Lee and others gave an amazing concert finale. Honestly, it was one of the best concerts I've ever experienced.  We were blessed that Man Up provided scholarships for our guys and gave them an opportunity to experience a once in a lifetime event that left a profound impact on them. Although this was a "Mens Only" event, I was able to be a part of it by volunteering with an incredible team of hardworking people. We housed them all in our home and although an exhausting schedule, I went to bed smiling, knowing they were there and we were able to love on them for the whole weekend. We are thankful for ministries and people who provide these amazing opportunities for our youth and adults at Rescue Atlanta. I thought everyone should read a little about how Man Up 2012 impacted our men:

"The Man Up Conference was one of the most phenomenal conferences that has taken Man hood to a different level.  The Christian rappers motivated me to be a more responsible man; a man with courage and a man who doesn't envy others. As men, we have to be willing to live by the bible." AJ - age 15

"I learned that the man can have lots of encouragement and can be a godly man. Also, it made me feel like I can do better than what I'm doing now and be a better man." Avery - age 15

"It was everything I imagined it to be.  It was lots of fun, but there was also a good Word given.  We met lots of artists and inspiring people.  They had a Word on what a biblical man is.  To me, a man is to live right by God.  It is everything that you are supposed to do and more.  But everything was a good experience over the weekend." LeQuardis - Age 16

"I learned a lot of stuff at the Man Up Conference.  I would like to come back to Man Up.  It was the best place I ever went."  Jamontay - age 13

"What I learned at the Man Up Conference is that is doesn't take just a brave or a muscle man to be a real man.  A man should have courage and be a responsible man, stop with childish games, and Man Up." Malik - age 14

"I learned how to be a biblical man at the Man Up conference.  It was a thrill. I had a great time.  I loved the music." DeAndre - age 13

"What man Up means to me is to be a biblical man.  Man up is when you learn how to step up.  You can finally say that you are a "man."  You can finally take that step." Cameron - age 13

"I learned a man doesn't have to be macho to be a man.  Jesus is a prime example of a man." Travis - age 13

We had one man from our Urban Training Institute to attend. I asked him, as a grown man, to share what it means to "Man Up" and his thoughts on the conference.

" Man Up means living the good life in Jesus Christ, My Lord and Savior.  Man Up mean taking responsibility for my actions and not putting the blame on others.  Man Up means providing for my family when I know that God gave me the ability to do so.  Man Up means keeping the Lord's commandments everyday.  Man Up means to be submissive to the Lord Jesus everyday in every way.  Man Up means having Godly communication with my spouse and friends.  Man Up means putting on the whole armor of God so that I can overcome the evil that is in this world.  Man Up means praising God for who He is and what He has done for me.  Man Up means putting away childish things.  Man Up mean that trusting in the Lord with all my heart.  Man Up means realizing that I can do nothing without Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior! Man Up means this life I live on earth is not about me, it's about living according to the Lord's will, for He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords."

"I especially enjoyed the music and performances.  I loved the fact that there was over 2,000 men of all nationalities that were in one accord praising Jesus Christ without fighting one another.  I felt the presence of the Holy Ghost throughout the whole Man Up convention.  Who else but the Holy Spirit can orchestrate something like the Man Up Convention where people can come and let loose their inner being while worshiping the good Lord Jesus? My hope and faith has been increased simply by being present  at Man Up 2012.  For me, it was a once in a lifetime experience."  Wayne - age 47

Glenn and I sat in the back of the room during the finale concert and just observed and were honestly overwhelmed with thankfulness and emotion as tears filled our eyes and we reached over for the others hand. Our Sunday middle school class ends each week with our youth watching the video and singing the song "Background" by Lecrae. It was definitely an emotional moment to know they were belting this song at the top their lungs right along with him at the concert....seeing one of their role models in person giving everything  his all.  This is why we do what we do. This is worth all the sacrifice, all the hard times, all the asking, all the good times, all the bad times. We desperately desire for the people we work with, especially the youth, to have a life changing encounter with God. We will stop at nothing to provide them with every opportunity to help them see there there is more to life than what they see in the hood and that a very loving and personal God cares about them and will pursue their hearts with intensity.

Man Up.

For His Renown,

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

When I Grow Up: Helping Kids Dream

The longer I do inner city ministry, the more smiles and sorrow it brings me. I celebrate the innocence of a child when I find it. I grieve the loss of innocence in a child when it's apparent they have had to grow up ahead of their time.

Last week was spring break, so I had the opportunity to spend more time with some of the children and youth than I normally would in a typical week. I took one young girl out to lunch one day. I wanted to take her somewhere that she may not normally get to go. I took her to a sit down restaurant. Her eyes were wide looking all around the room. There were TV's everywhere. I told her she could order anything she wanted. She ordered a cheeseburger. I ordered a burger as well with a little difference on the toppings. Our waiter had told me that he had come up with 1/2 of the burger (idea of toppings) and assured me it would be great.  When the plates were set in front of us, the little girl said..."How do they make it look like that?"  To me, it was nothing more than a burger on a plate, but to her, it looked like a masterpiece, the way it was plated. About half way through my burger I said, "Wow, the waiter was right, that was really good" and without skipping a beat, the little girl said, "That must have been the half he made." I just want to bottle up those moments and save them for many of these kids. It was an innocent precious and rare moment.

Later in the week I had a conversation with a young woman who expressed her interest in experimenting with dating other girls. I simply said, "What's wrong with boys?" I will never forget her response. She said, "Well at least if I date a girl I don't have to worry about getting a black eye." My heart sank. Is that what a relationship with the opposite sex had been reduced to? Not getting a black eye? 

As Glenn and I have asked some of the youth what they want to do when they grow up the answers have been something along the lines of "I'm gonna work at McDonald's, the skating rink, or six flags." (Not that it's bad, we need people to do those jobs), but what it showed me was that our kids aren't dreaming. What happened to wanting to be doctors or teachers even if it didn't happen?

We are committed to helping our kids dream and dream big. I believe that with hard work and determination, these kids can be the first in their family to go to college, or do something they really love. One of our girls likes to do hair, so I'm planning on taking her to the Aveda Institute for our birthday (we share the same one)  to get our nails done, but with the thought of exposing her to the possibility of getting trained in something she loves to do that would provide a good living. Just to simply give light to another option. Give hope for a life more than what she knows right now.

I may not come from the exact situation our kids do, but I know that I sell myself short on so many things the Lord wants to do in me, for me, and through me. I get tunnel vision and think that what I've known is what I'll always know. Or if I fail to succeed at something I set out to do, I quit, become frustrated, and eventually hopeless.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20 

 “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:13

This is true for adults as well. It is never too late to start dreaming again. You are never too old to dream. Sure, there may be some physical limitations...but there is always something within reach. Don't be afraid to take a leap of faith. If you are comfortable and not being stretched in any area of your life, maybe it's time to start dreaming again.

Please pray for our kids. Pray that they will start dreaming beyond their current circumstances and that God will give us favor with designing creative ways to encourage them in their journey.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
If you were to dream big, what would you do?

Has God put a dream in your heart and you're afraid to take the first step?
If God put it there....He will give you the tools needed to accomplish it.
If you have taken the first step on a hard and winding road....don't give up.
You never know what God may have around the next bend.

For His Renown,

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

It gets harder to blog when I'm not talking "about" stuff going on and instead have to blog about me. I'm sitting here the night before Easter feeling almost disconnected. I'm going back and forth between feelings of "it doesn't feel like Easter" and "but we should carry Easter in us every day." There's no Easter dress, or family get together this year. I'll be doing an Easter egg hunt with kids during the Easter Sermon, and I realize....I have to make the time to reflect on the day, not because it's something "Created" for me.

There is something else happening tomorrow that it will be a milestone in our time here at Rescue Atlanta. Tomorrow marks the beginning of Rescue Atlanta's Urban Training Institute. This will be a 6 month residential program for men who are "sick and tired of being sick and tired" and "mature in their misery." They will go through various classes, training, mentoring, etc to give them the tools necessary to change their life. My husband, Glenn, will be overseeing the program. He is a product of the Urban Training Institute in Savannah, GA and it is really an amazing thing to see his life kind of come back full circle to be able to guide/mentor a group of men. He has sat where they sit and knows what it takes. I couldn't be more proud as a wife.  Please keep this program in your prayers. I'll type more on this later this week.

But the whole idea of it has been on my mind a lot this week and kind of came to a head today. As some of you may know, I have started out on my own journey to better health repeatedly over the past 10 + years. I'll always say..."This is it."..."No turning back.".....etc, etc etc. Only to find myself sitting here months the same place. I'll start, but never finish. I'll give it my best shot, and then trip up and fall off the wagon. I repeat bad habits. And then I end up feeling like the girl who cried wolf. I feel like people read my new attempts and say..."Yeah right." Really...I don't blame them. I create blogs and facebook groups for accountability....and then drop off the face of the earth.

This week, I reconnected with a friend of mine from college on Facebook. The first thing he asked me was..."Are you still doing the pleasingly plump diaries? (This was a blog/facebook group I created for an honest view of my journey). I really enjoyed reading it.  I've lost over 100 lbs in the past year." It was as if a knife of conviction went straight to my gut. Here I was the person setting out to be an example, giving out hope and inspiration...and someone else did what I set out to do. Thanks to that friend, because he caused me to take an honest look at my life. In general...not just weight.

One of the key requirements for the Urban Training Institute is that the men enrolling be "sick and tired of being sick and tired." Why? Because that's really the only way they will make the changes necessary. If there is another way, another out, another option that still holds some sort of intrigue to them....they will, by default, take it.  And I've discovered that it is the same way with me. I need that same standard. I sat out on the porch this afternoon and just whispered to God..."God..I'm sick and tired of being sick and so many areas of my life. I can't live like this anymore. I'm tired of holding onto the past. I'm tired of living in insecurity. I'm tired of the worry. I'm tired of fear. I'm tired of being afraid to do certain things. I'm tired of being limited in some things I can do. I'm tired of watching many of my friends being pregnant at the same time, some on their fourth child, and not knowing if I can ever experience that due to my health. I know these thoughts and fears are NOT of you.  I'm tired of talking the talk..I am desperate to walk the walk and finish strong. I want my life, even my physical body to be a testimony to glorify you.  So, I reflect on Easter this year...the way your Son died on the cross and rose again to make it possible for me to be a new me to put to death these old things, and embrace a new day....a new life...a new way of living as a new creation."

So what does this mean? I'm not sure really. I just know that before..I've done it for all the wrong reasons. I'm not saying I'm not gonna trip up. But there is a desperation that has never been there before. Glenn and I joined a gym this morning...and I'm registered for 20 classes of Zumba to start. But there is a lot of mental and emotional baggage I've got to deal with as well. I ONLY share this in this way because I believe for the number of people that read this...someone else identifies and may need to know they are not alone. I work with people and kids every day that don't believe their circumstances can be any different than they are. I want to do whatever it takes to show them that CHANGE IS POSSIBLE, but it may take hard work!

I'm really thankful tonight for the Sacrifice my Lord made for me. And I want to do a better job of displaying that thankfulness in my life..mind, body, and spirit.

No matter how many times I've stumbled, failed, or race is not over.  For I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

"Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!" Hebrews 12:2-3

Never give up.

For His Renown,