Worship Time!

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“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” Psalm 8:1 ESV

Over the years, I have been in and out of churches. I’ve heard many sermons and I have shaken many hands. However, there is one thing at every Sunday service that, no matter the church, I look forward to the most. No, it isn’t always the preaching (gasp!). I just can’t wait to start worshiping the Lord with my fellow believers through song! Craving the piano player’s sweet melody, I raise my hands and clap for every rendition of “I’ll Fly Away”. “Just As I Am” reminds me of how good my heavenly Father is and what a sacrifice Jesus made for me. I LOVE worship time!

Are you the same, beloved? If not, there are other ways to worship. When we pray, we can worship the Lord. The above Psalm is a song, but it can also be a prayer to the Lord. Read it now as a prayer to your heavenly Father who loves you unconditionally. The Lord is majestic! He is to be glorified because He is glory! Oh Lord, how we don’t deserve Your goodness! How majestic is Your name!

Even if you don’t crave the piano player’s sweet melody or you don’t eagerly grab the bulletin to check the list of songs for the service, take time to worship the Lord. Praise Him for all He has done. Sing to Him with love. Raise your hands in submission to the Holy Spirit. When we worship the Lord, we become transformed. We shift our focus. You don’t even have to worship Him publicly. Maybe you worship Him while singing along to your favorite Christian radio station on your way to work (guilty as charged!). Maybe you worship Him while doing the laundry, praising Him that you have clothing that needs washing. However you worship, continue to do so. The Lord loves it and He loves you, dear one.

Blessings!

~Lauren Ray

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Spiritual Maturity

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“As we watch our lives in Christ unfold, as we hear ourselves saying no to things we used to say yes to, it’s almost like learning a foreign language. With constant use this new language becomes second nature. We don’t have to think, What’s the Spanish word for water? We just say it: agua. In the same way, we don’t have to think, How should I behave in this situation? We do or say as the Spirit leads and are amazed to discover we did something good and right.” ~Liz Curtis Higgs, The Girl’s Still Got It

I LOVE Liz Curtis Higgs. To me, she is a phenomenal writer, hilarious speaker, and all around Jesus-loving, God-fearing woman. I have read many of her books and was blessed to be able to attend her “Endless Hope” tour back in April. Seeing her live, meeting her in person lifted my spirits beyond belief.

Her quote above, written in an amazing book about Ruth, speaks of the spiritual maturity we try to obtain. Christ wants us to grow and mature as Christians and when we do so, He is overjoyed. Spiritual maturity happens over time, sometimes a long period of time. Spiritual maturity occurs by reading God’s Word, spending time in prayer with Him, and growing in our relationship with Christ. Our maturity is shown through circumstances. How do we react when we’re under pressure or great stress? People can know our maturity through our reactions.

Paul speaks of spiritual maturity in Colossians 1:28, “[Christ] we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (ESV) Once we become saved, our goal is to grow in our spiritual maturity. Christ wants us to grow in Him.

If you struggle with growing more mature in Christ, you can ask the Lord to help you grow in your maturity. He loves us and wants us to grow spiritually. He will give you the wisdom you need. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5, ESV

Blessings, dear sisters!

~Lauren Ray

 

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A Little Appreciation

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As women, we need affirmation….Affirmation that we are good mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, and friends.  We want to know that the things we do mean something.  Women want to hear “thank you.” They want to know that meal was delicious.  Moms want to know their children are thankful for the endless hours of driving them to practices and games.  Wives want their husbands to be grateful when the sock drawer is full.

 

As a teacher, I’ve just “celebrated” Teacher Appreciation Week.  My principal, PTO, and superintendent showered the teachers with gifts and food. Teachers want to know they are appreciated. These fellow professionals spend their own money to enhance learning in the classroom. They study and plan and teach and assess and analyze.  Teachers attend their students’ games and baptisms.  They provide food, clothing, and supplies for students.  These educators cry and worry over their students, “their kids.”

 

Yesterday was Military Spouse Appreciation Day, a day set aside to let military spouses know their service is appreciated.  These spouses stand beside their men and women in uniform.  They support them and pray for them. Military spouses obediently go where they are sent, rebuilding their lives and developing a “new normal.”

As I type these words, I know there are many more appreciation days and months, times of the year set aside to show our appreciation to others and what they do.  However, I have to ask the question, “How often do we let God know that we appreciate Him?”

 

You see,  for me, I wouldn’t be a wife or a mother without God’s guidance and provision.  I wouldn’t be a teacher or a pastor’s wife without the path He’s laid before me.  Oh, and what about the prayers He’s answered? I’ve prayed for the health and salvation of my children. I’ve prayed for the safety of my husband. I’ve prayed during financial difficulties and times of decision making.

 

You see, it’s so easy to get caught up in the quest for gratitude. I’ll admit that I get frustrated that my children don’t seem to appreciate the fact that laundry gets done in waves because we have 8 ball games and mandolin lessons and church all in one week, and your  twelve year old says out of the blue, “Thank you, Mama, for taking me to mandolin. I love it.” What about when you are praying for your son’s salvation and not sure if he really gets what God does for us and you have an amazing conversation about how he knows God is real because he knows you’ve prayed to God for him to be healthy and here he is alive and healthy….It’s like “WOW! I didn’t see that coming!  Thank you God!” And when you’re tired, no completely exhausted, and you have no energy left to get through that pile of dishes in the sink, but your husband kisses you on the check and starts rinsing, you’ve go to whisper, “Thank you, Jesus.”  What about when you’ve prayed for a friend or family member, and God answered that prayer in an unbelievable way?

 

How many times do we tell God how good He is?  How much do we show appreciation to Him?

1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:17 remind us that whatever we do, we should do for God and no one else.  We ought not seek our own glory, but do all things for His glory.  So when we feel unappreciated for the times we slave over matching socks or cleaning up toys, we should say, “Thank you, Lord for providing for my family so we can have clothes,” and “Thank you God for my children and the fun they have.”  When we feel unappreciated at work because our overtime went unpaid and unnoticed, we can be thankful that our jobs make a difference and provide for our families.

 

I encourage you to give thanks to the Lord for all He has done, for the big and the small.  Sing praises to Him, telling God he is a “Good, Good Father.”  When He whispers that He’s pleased by us, that’s all the appreciation we will need.

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Life Goals for Kids

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Just last week, the following blog post came up on my Facebook Memories.  I wanted to share it with you because after it came up, my youngest son came to me and said, “Mama, I need to be saved.”  That afternoon, he gave his life to Christ, the best decision he will ever make in his life.  Although it is an older post I’ve published, I feel led to share it here.

 

Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of what it would be like to have a family.  I always said I wanted 3 kids: 2 boys and a girl.  Well, I have my 3 children and because they are all boys, I’m an official Boymom.  With a teenager, an 11 year old, and a 7 year old who thinks he is grown, I’m quite busy and quite exhausted most of the time.  I’m also far from being a perfect mom. That’s why I own books such as Triggers,  Am I Messing Up My Kids?,and Upside Down Prayers for Parents. Being the best mom I can be for my children is a top priority.

 

With that being said, my children get quite angry with me at times.  At my house, door slamming, stomping, loud voices, and low grumbling can frequently be heard. My kids are pretty well taken care of, but they don’t always get what they want.  In fact, my 7 year old hates that I always make him eat “ba-sketti.” I’m not the mom that allows my kids to do every single thing they want to do or purchase for them every single thing they think they can’t live without.  Their daddy and I work hard to provide for them, yet we make them work a little bit too.

 

But y’all, there’s more on my mind tonight than possessions.  I have a question for you: What are you pushing your children to?  What are you making their life goals?

 

Just last night, we attended an FFA banquet for my oldest son. I’ve always encouraged my children to get involved in many activities.  I want them to be well-rounded and knowledgeable.  I want them to be comfortable with all people. Therefore, my children are involved in both sports and academics, and they are involved in other activities at church. I love watching my boys on the ball field. I love hearing their names called for an academic team or robotics award.  I love seeing them excel in something they love.

 

Yet, I know there is more to life for them.  I want to push them to be successful in all they do, to be proud of themselves, to have a strong work ethic.  But the most important thing, the thing I want the most….I want them to be intimate with Jesus. I want them to surrender their lives to Him. I want them to live a life that brings honor and glory to God.

 

So, as I am training them up in the way they should go, I’m showing them the path to God.  I’m encouraging them to be active in church. I help them to see that we don’t HAVE to go to church. We GET to go to church. There’s a difference.  I’m working with God to be a mom that shows them His light and His love.

 

My kids love cool stuff.  iPhones. Xbox. Legos. Bicycles. Golf clubs. Books. Power Rangers.  I love playing Uno and Rummy and Monopoly with them. We love trips to Starbucks, Red Lobster, and Toys R Us.

 

But even more than stuff….my kids are growing in their love for Jesus.  They love church. They love worship music.  We have great conversations about faith, Christ, and salvation.  They beg for just one more devotional each night. And all of that is what makes this Mama’s heart happy.  My children love Jesus and want more of Him.

 

So, consider this…..What are you guiding your children to?  Is it that particular clique at school?  Is it that travel ball team?  Are you buying the latest gadgets and clothes so they will fit in? Are you making groups and gadgets idols?

or

Are you guiding them toward Christ?  Are you attending church as a family? Are you devoted to prayer time and bible study?  Do you talk about your faith and tell them how God is working in your life?

 

Consider the path you are leading your children on….is it a path to salvation and righteousness through Jesus Christ or is a path of idolatry and entitlement? Are you teaching them to store up treasures in heaven or store up treasures ruined by moths and rust?

 

And then consider this……

 

Are you concerned with your child’s eternity?

 

Are you pushing the issues of big bank accounts and fast cars or are you showing them the path to eternal salvation?

 

How would it feel knowing that at the end of life, we did nothing to help our children know Jesus?  We can’t save them, but we can introduce them to the One who can.

 

Mom, very few children will grow up to be pop stars and professional ball players. Very few children will grow up to have their names on billboards. However, all of us can have our names in the Book of Life, and that is where we should desire our children’s names be found.

 

I pray for us…..parents everywhere….parents of small children and parents of adult children…..I pray that we lead by example, that we strengthen and grow in our relationship with Christ, so our children will desire a relationship with Him as well.  I pray that we can be role models for them instead of letting the world model for them what they should become. I pray that our children would be men and women of faith who sets their hearts desire on the will of God instead of the will of the world.

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Bad Girl, Bad Girl, Whatcha gonna do?

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I am totally a sinner and a bad girl. I try way too hard to be a good girl, but I fail miserably every chance I get. I want to say it’s easy to stay good. I want to say that once you’ve been saved it’s all uphill from there. But it’s not and Satan makes sure it’s not. I don’t want to blame Satan 100%, we’re definitely still sinners once we’re saved.

Sometimes I can see the bad girl rise up inside of me. I hear the Holy Spirit’s whispers, but I ignore Him and let my anger get in the way. After I realize my sin, I come to the throne of grace and beg for forgiveness. Our Lord freely gives us His bountiful, amazing grace if we confess our sins to Him. Then He gives me a second chance (and third and fourth and…).

When I stay in His Word and put it in my heart, that’s when the bad girl becomes stifled; that’s when she stays away. I had an incident at work where rumors were involved and the most extreme pettiness you can think of. I was determined that rage would not get the best of me and I refused to get angry over something I knew Satan was a part of. I remembered Psalm 37 and immediately looked over verses 8 and 9. I wrote them down on an index card along with Isaiah 26:3. Both of these scriptures, side by side, helped my anger dissipate and I was able to share my index card with my best work friend. It not only helped me, but it helped her. She even told me how much she needed to hear those verses. The Lord allowed me to shine a little bit of Jesus her way. The Lord is faithful, even when we’re bad girls. I praise Him for His faithfulness, mercy and grace. Trust in Jesus, sweet sister. You don’t walk this road alone.

Thank you Lord for being faithful and merciful, even when we are “bad girls.” In Christ I pray, Amen.

~Lauren Ray

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He Holds the Future

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If you’ve been following the state news, you know that there are some issues with the pensions of state employees.  As a public educator, I am affected by this.  It affects my future. I am reminded, however, that God holds my future.

As I reflect on crisis or tough times in my life, I am reminded that my security doesn’t come from people. It doesn’t come from pensions. My security doesn’t come from anything other than Christ. When my husband was deployed, I knew God had us in Hands.  When I was awaiting the results of ultrasounds and bloodwork to confirm my miscarriage, I knew that God was in control.  When my husband changed career paths and became a fulltime pastor, I knew God would provide when this brought a salary reduction.  In these circumstances and in so many others, I put my trust in God because He is my security.

 

No matter what comes at us, no matter how badly our government fails us, no matter how we hurt, we can remain confident of our future when we know Christ.  Through Him, we can do all things.

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Covered in Prayer

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When I was in high school, I had found out that one of my friends had asked her Sunday school class to pray for me. I was livid. Pray for me?!?! There was nothing wrong with me, so I couldn’t understand why my friend would be praying for me and asking others to do the same.

 

It took many years to be appreciative of her prayers.

 

You see, there was something wrong with me….I was lost.  I didn’t have a relationship with Christ.

 

Now, as a Christian, I covet prayers.  Just this morning, I received a text from a coworker letting me know that she’d been praying for me.  God had laid it on her heart, and she was obedient to Him and lifted me in prayer.  I’m eternally grateful for her prayers and for the prayers of others.

God tells us to pray without ceasing, devoting ourselves to prayer.  He tells us to pray in faith, believing that He hears us and answers according to His will.  In Romans, Paul’s heart’s desire and prayer was for the lost to be saved.  In Ephesians, 1 Thessolonians, and Philemon, we are reminded to give thanks for others as we remember them in prayer.

 

I challenge you to heed to God’s voice. When you awake in the middle of the night thinking of someone, pray for that person.  When you see a young mother struggling to get through the supermarket with fussing children, pray for them.  When you see the elderly widow sitting alone on her porch, pray for her.  Pray for those sitting around you in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Pray for your families. Pray for your elected officials. Pray for your coworkers. Pray for your waitress. Pray for those who have slighted you.  Pray.  Pray without ceasing and pray with a thankful heart.

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Fearless

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Do not be afraid! Do not be discouraged! Be Strong! Be courageous! The LORD fights for us!

The battles we face can be long and tiring. But always remember we are never fighting alone!

Live Fearless.

 

 

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White As Snow

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Whatever the enemy has thrown at you today, cast it aside, do not listen. Those sins are forgiven, they can’t hold you captive anymore. What was once stained red like crimson is now “white as snow!”

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But Grace

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So, last night about 10:00, I realized it was Friday.  That’s when I also realized I had not completed my post for this week.  Talk about a big “OOPS!”  As a blogger, I often found myself asking forgiveness from my readers when I hadn’t posted as often as I’d liked. I felt the need to explain myself. When I realized I was apologizing for “life happening,” I stopped.

 

And it does, doesn’t it?

 

Life happens.

 

Why do we apologize for having a rough week at work?  Why do we apologize for being sick? Why do we apologize for putting the needs of ourselves and our families before other things?  This week, between a constant headache and crazy schedule at work, I’ve felt pretty terrible. I’ve neglected my housework and my ViBella business. As you can tell, I’ve neglected my writing as well.

The important thing we must remember when “life happens” is to show grace…..grace to ourselves and to others.

 

The ultimate picture of grace is Jesus Christ.  When we fall, He picks us up.  When we fail, He redeems. When we hurt, He comforts. Whatever happens in life, Jesus is there for us.  How are you at showing grace?  Do you live by a NO EXCUSES motto, or do you say, “Girl, I understand!”?  My prayer for all of us is that we can let go of that Wonder Woman image we want to bear and just bear the image of grace.

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