Monday, May 21, 2012


I just want to brag on God for a hot second.

I've told you before that my b. friend gave me Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts" for Christmas. I started reading Ann's blog shortly after I started her book. Through her blog, I discovered that she wrote sometimes for a blog community called (in)courage. Lots of women contribute to that blog, so it's not always the same voice. Sometimes the posts are about being a wife or mom, and that doesn't apply to me. But the posts are always about being a woman, and that always applies (and is always needed). So I subscribed to the (in)courage daily emails. Through this blog community, I've been exposed to some of the most sincere writing I've ever read. These women are real. They're people. They have struggles. They have success. They have times when they need prayer. They have times when everything is peachy. And they write about it. All of it. Through (in)courage, I've found many of the personal blogs of these writers, so I'm reading some of them every day...or at least every post. Every sentence isn't always applicable, but I'm learning from them that sometimes all you need is one sentence to speak to someone's heart. There has not been one day that someone associated with the (in)courage community has not blessed me.
Sometimes I'm afraid to read today's post because I'm afraid it might step on my toes or draw out some deep conviction that I've been trying to dampen and deaden. And it usually does. But that brings growth. That brings closer relationship with my Jesus. That brings a feeling of community centered on these women that I have never met or spoken to...but there is something about them that is like me. We share a common bond. Each of them is different, and they're all different from me and the other readers. But in one way we're all exactly the same. We're women who love Jesus. That tag can be put on each of us, and that means connection. It means none of us are alone. It means these ladies can put a need on their blog and ask for intercession and they can rest in the fact that they have intercessors! It means that no matter how lonely this life gets for any of us, or how much we feel like we might be the only person to have ever experienced something...there is always someone out there. Someone who has been where we are, or someone who will be. The thing is...we have to reach out sometimes. We have to get out of our comfort zones--no matter what they look like--and trust that God will provide. He created us for community. That's where we thrive. Where we don't have to do everything alone. Where we can join up with others and depend on Him. He gifts us with people and we oftentimes just take them for granted. I know I do.
So today, I am thankful for (in)courage and the community it has allowed me to be a part of. Through (in)RL. Through its contributors. Through its raw truth and honesty. Through its affirmation that I am not alone. Through allowing Jesus to live through and within.
Thank you, Lord, for using (in)courage on a daily basis to speak to my heart. Thank you for knowing me and loving me. You are good.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Do you ever make the same mistakes over and over again? Or have a hard time taking your own advice? Or spend so much time looking at the specks in the eyes of others that you never notice the huge plank in your own? I do. I'm guilty of all of those things.

Oftentimes, I'm so busy doing what I think is good... encouraging others to seek the Lord, reminding my friends that God is in control, blogging about how we use our words and living a life filled with grace and thanksgiving, tweeting Bible verses and Charles Spurgeon quotes...I get so caught up in the doing that I forget to be.

Jesus calls me to be still. And I respond by being anxiously frantic. I try to fix everything and everyone myself. I miss out on the whispers because I'm looking for neon signs. My relationship with Christ suffers because of my misappropriation of attention. Not only that, but my relationships with the people I care most about suffer as well. It's pretty easy for me to respond to people that I don't know that well with grace and mercy. But my best friends? My sisters? My favorites? I am hardened and harsh.

WHY? I try to write it off as feeling like I can "be myself" around them or thinking that they'll forgive a snippy comment because they've had more experience with my "good side", but those are nothing but excuses. The real issue is me. My pride. My selfishness. My sin. Those are the relationships I should be most careful with. I can say that I cherish them with my mouth, but until I cherish them in my heart, what good am I doing? The BIGGER issue is this: If I feel like spouting off is part of "being myself", who am I? Like I mentioned the other day, the Bible says that our mouths speak out of the abundance of our hearts. If I'm snarky and judgmental when my guard is down, what is in my heart? Snarky judgment. How many relationships have I ruined and how many hearts have I wounded by "being myself"?

I'm thankful that my God is the God of second chances. And third chances. And hundredth chances. I'm thankful that He responds to me with grace and mercy when I deserve nothing but hell. I'm thankful that when He looks at me, He sees a new creation and not the filthy, sin-stained person that I once was. I'm thankful that He has promised to finish the work He has started in me. I'm thankful that He has removed my sin from me and placed it as far away as the east is from the west.

Oh God, get me out of the way. Live through me. In You, I am a new creation. Help me to act like it. Thank You for grace and mercy and redemption and restoration. Make me more like You.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


In this quest to become more graceful (as in "full of grace", not as in "not clumsy"--that's a whole other battle), I have become more and more aware of my words. Ann Voskamp writes about thanksgiving and how all of our sin stems from the original sin of ingratitude. Beth Moore writes about realizing that Christ crucified and raised is enough. And I copy these nuggets of wisdom down and tweet them and retweet them and add them to my notebooks and journals and try to hide them in my heart with the promises of God. I even invite others to join me in my endeavor to be more grateful and choose gratitude and joy and respond in grace through this platform and my Twitter account and my Facebook page... but when I get in a situation where I need to respond in grace, it is still not easy. Now, I'm not dense enough to think it would be easy. I'm not surprised. I just feel like the daily (hourly? minute-ly?) struggle should be acknowledged. There is no "quick fix". Honestly, I'm kind of glad it's a process. It affirms my constant need for Jesus and His grace when I have none of my own to offer.

Proverbs 15:28 says: "The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil."  (NIV)

Yep. Gushes. How many times has it seemed like I could not stop my words? I could've, but it was easier for me to just let the evil gush out of my mouth. Wondering why? In the book of Matthew, Jesus is talking to the Pharisees (the religious ones...the ones who had all the answers...the smart guys...the "holy" ones...the rule and He says: "You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." [Matt. 12:34, ESV] I'm the same as the Pharisees. How can I expect good to flow out of my mouth when my heart is filled with judgment and anger and unforgiveness? THAT is why it's so easy for evil to gush out when the opportunity presents itself.
So. How do I fix it? The truth is... I don't. The good news is...Jesus can. And He does. If I ask Him to. Isn't He so good? Too good for me, for sure! But I am so glad it's in His character to love me in spite of my gushing evil mouth and disgusting heart. And PRAISE THE LORD that He has covered all of me--mouth and heart included--with His blood, so when the Father sees me, He sees the perfection of His Son and not my broken sinfulness. Amen? Isn't it true then? Christ. Crucified and raised IS enough. It's more than enough. It's everything. That should put everything else in perspective for us. We have no right to be ungrateful. Christ DIED for us. Anything else we get is just because He loves us and delights in us and sings over us. How dare we ask for more. We are so arrogant sometimes to think we know best when we know nothing. And, truthfully, it doesn't matter if we know anything at all so long as we know Him.

Praise God He wants to know us.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Micah 6:8

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (NIV)

This verse keeps popping up in my life. I know it's significant, and I can't wait to see how God uses it!

Act justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly.

What does the Lord require of you?
Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.

He hath shewed thee, O man, what [is] good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (KJV)

He has shown you, O man, what [is] good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (NKJV)

No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. (NLT)

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (ESV)

He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? (NASB)

No, the LORD has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God. (GNT)

Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God. (HCSB)

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God? (AMP)

But he's already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It's quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don't take yourself too seriously -- take God seriously. (MSG)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What I'm learning about Christian community from The Hunger Games...

You read that right. You can learn something about Christian community from The Hunger Games. Did you know? I'm still learning this lesson, but I think best when I write out what is going through my head, so here I am.

I've never been good at being friends with girls. It's so much easier to be friends with boys. Boys get mad, but the next day--or next hour--everything is back to normal and it's like nothing ever happened. Girls get mad and they talk to other girls and get more mad and by the time 15 minutes is up, World War III has been planned and implemented. I know how girls work because I know how I work. I have to fight tooth and nail to overcome some all of my natural tendencies and let God control my tongue (or my texting thumbs) and my actions. It may be in my human nature to sin and respond in anger, but in Christ I am a new creation. Jesus lives in me, and it is in His nature to respond with grace and mercy and love because that is His character. If my goal is truly to become more like Jesus, then I have to bow out of situations and let Him be in control. Please don't hear me saying this is easy or that I get it right all the time. That's not true.
It. Is. HARD. And I get it wrong. Most of the time. But occasionally, God gives me the strength to step back and try to see things people from His perspective. THAT changes everything. When I look at a person and think "Jesus died for them.", it changes how I see them too.

So what does this have to do with The Hunger Games? Let me tell you. (no spoilers, I promise) In the second book of the trilogy "Catching Fire", Haymitch says to Katniss, "You just remember who the enemy is." THAT is our lifeline, y'all! We forget. We are so dumb sometimes. Don't deny it. I know I am. You know you are too. The Bible says we're sheep for a reason. We're dumb. I forget who the enemy is. My enemy is Satan. My enemy is sin. My enemy is my humanness. It is not the girl that sits a few pews over at church. It's not my ex-boyfriend. It's not my sister. It's not the woman who has my dream job and the life I've only ever imagined. I am so blind sometimes and see only the circumstance in front of me and not the big picture. How stupid is it for me to fight against people who are on my side of the battle?!

Ephesians 6:12 says:
"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

There's our enemy. And when we're dealing with other Christians, we share a common enemy! It's amazing how having a common enemy can bring people together. I've seen that on display all over our world. Sports fans unite against a common enemy (usually Auburn...). Activists and fighters and survivors and family members unite against cancer and Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis and drunk driving. In my own life, friendships have formed over having a common enemy. And as the Church, don't we have a common enemy as well? Why do we fight so much amongst ourselves? Doesn't that just mean Satan wins a little victory? I KNOW he doesn't win in the end because I believe the Bible is true, but I bet Satan cheers and celebrates every time I gossip about someone or grumble about something or complain about a song we sang on Sunday. He knows if I'm fighting other Christians, I'm not focused on fighting him.

So what should we do? Pray. And just shut up. If someone makes you mad, don't go talk to your girlfriends. Talk to Jesus. He already knows. You don't have to fill Him in on the back story and stir up your anger all over again. Believe me. I'm telling myself this more than I'm telling you. I know from experience that responding with grace is more rewarding and sweeter than responding with anger. I still forget and need reminding, of course, but I know it. It might feel great in the moment to spout off and tell someone exactly how I feel about them. But when I do that, I'm ignoring how God feels about them. Don't I mess up too? Shouldn't I give them the same forgiveness and love that God has shown me? Maybe they don't deserve forgiveness or mercy or grace or love. I don't either.

I was reminded on Sunday morning by a friend who teaches with me that God not only forgives my sins, but He FORGETS them too. I go to Him saying, "I'm so sorry. I messed up again." and He says, "...Again?"

"as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:12

Will you join me in trying to be more like Jesus in this way? Let's remember who the real enemy is. I know I'm going to mess up, but I also know that God is faithful and He will forgive and forget. Every time. Shouldn't I let Him do the same through me?

Friday, May 4, 2012

This is where the healing begins.

Raise your hand if you're an introvert!!! Not likely, huh? Or, if you're anything like me, you're definitely not going first.

Hello. My name is Alicia. And I am an introvert. Don't get me wrong. I love people. Love. After Jesus, I love people best. That's how my degree ended up too: Religion Major. Psychology Minor. Jesus Major. People Minor. I love people, and I love serving people. But sometimes I just need time. Quiet. Peace. Rest. God made me in such a way that I need to retreat to refuel. Some people need to be with others and draw strength from being part of a crowd. I draw strength from getting by myself somewhere and breathing deep the presence of the Creator.
Isn't it amazing how God just knows? He gets it. He gets me. When it feels like everyone else is giving me funny looks and saying, " really went by yourself?" God is looking at me and smiling because He understands. And not just because Jesus retreated to pray by himself...but because God MADE me. He knows how I work, and He loves it. All of it.

So. In true God fashion, He surprised me this week. Last weekend was extra taxing, and I was spent. Monday night, I went home from work, changed clothes, and walked out the door with no destination in mind. About a mile down the road, I had my mind set on Starbucks, but half-way there, I turned into the parking lot of a local coffee shop instead. I stayed there for an hour and a half and then went on to Starbucks. All in all, I had about 3 hours of focused alone time on Monday. It was refreshing, but I was still dealing with distractions and a million thoughts flying through my head.
On Tuesday, I headed out to one of our conference centers to do some work with their staff. I was going to a place I'd never been to work with people I'd never met. I was --guess what-- anxious. But God is good, y'all. He is so good. I ended up at the most beautiful place I'd ever been in Georgia with the nicest people and some much needed alone time. I won't go into too much wordy detail, but I will let my pictures do the talking.
Just remember, when you feel discouraged or alone or worn plum out, God knows. He knows you. When no one else understands, He gets it. Because He made you.

["McDonalds sunglasses"]

Grace and Peace.