Monday, June 25, 2007

From Comforted to Comforter

I just have to comment about yesterday's message. Pastor Sterling spoke about The Real World. He shared the facts about Atlanta, Georgia in that there are many wonderful things about our city. There is the opportunity for education, business, appreciation for the arts, and much more. These are the things we tend to hear of the most. However, the dark side of Atlanta is that it not so much the City of Fountains, but has a widespread reputation for its perversity in prostitution, homosexuality, sex trading and more unthinkable things. This is the Real World.

We live in a world that is so anti-family and the dark side of our city demonstrates this to no end. We need to wake up to reality and realize God placed us here for a reason and for a mission. Everything we have struggled through and everything that has seemingly been our weakness is the very area God wants to turn into our strengths and this becomes our mission.

Last night I was watching a special on the sex trade and prostitution
in India. Some of these girls are sold by their own families into this industry because of the poverty and the desperate need for income. Some of these girls were as young as eleven. I began to think about Sunday's message and the reality that these same types of things go on right beyond our own back doors within our own community.

In our fast paced, fast food, instant potato and microwave culture, many of us really do not have a clear or a deep understanding of suffering. We want to live lives of comfort and convenience. However, Jesus said if anyone desires to follow Him , he must deny himself and pick up his cross (Matthew 16:24). Jesus picked up His cross after he had been beaten and scourged until there was no flesh left upon him.

His suffering demonstrates to us that if we want to follow Him , we must be willing to suffer through tests and trials. We need to change our perspective on suffering. We can count it all joy when we go through valleys because God is using those things to dig wells of compassion within us as well as building a mission for us to carry out. Think about it! You are a mission that has been in the making ready to happen. You are a fireball of God's fiery love and power ready to slam against the forces of darkness. You are a bomb ready to explode and disarm the enemy's evil intent to hinder God's Kingdom.

That is why you have been hearing all of those lies lately. Have you heard them? They constantly echo, "You are no good. You are a failure. You have too many hang ups to be of any use to God. Give it up and quit trying to be someone you are not." If you have been hearing this lately. Take heart. It is time to step into action. It may only start with sticking your toe in the sea. However, if you make this one little move, the ocean will part.

I loved the part of the message where we were exhorted to not only allow God to come to us and comfort us in times of need, but to also go and be a comforter. We have been through many tests in our finances, families , relationships and health. We have received much comfort from the Lord. Now it is time to go and give some comfort to others who need it. We have received much, now we must freely give.

At the end of the service, there were two statements made in which we were to raise our hands for prayer. The first thing stated was to acknowledge that you are in a place where you need comforting and you need to come to God in repentance and restoration. The second one was to lift your hand if you have been comforted and feel the stirring of God to move forward and do something to be a comforter. ironically I sensed I have been in both places at the same time these past weeks. I have needed God's mercy grace and comfort, but also have had an ongoing gnawing within to go and comfort and to make a difference. I love it when God shows up in the midst of this type of turbulence.

Just the other day I was talking with the Lord and I asked Him to just show up in a special way. I was feeling discouraged and desperate for Him to come and encourage. Because His ways are not our ways, He never shows up in the way we imagine Him to. I was looking for a word or even a phone call.....I was just wanting to hear from Him. I was looking for a special bird to show up on my deck rail just as some manifestation that He was near.

Instead I received a phone call, but it was not for me. It was a needy friend who was in town and wanted to come by. She was the one who needed the most encouragement and help. My woes were of nothing compared to what she was going through. She stayed for hours and the Lord allowed me to speak truth to her and to encourage her. God showed up, but He wanted me to get out of me and to be a comforter in spite of my own pain. In ministering to this dear lady the Lord met me and showed me something tangible He had been speaking to my heart earlier. "Do you want to be healed, encouraged and strengthened? I will do that by showing you the strength that I have already deposited within you. I will continue to send those in need so that you can comfort them with my Love. In turn, you will be healed and lifted up through giving in this way." As the Lord spoke through Pastor Sterling. "Take your comforter and comfort someone else. This is true life. This is His call to THE REAL WORLD.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sharing In His Heart

I had two quiet times this morning with the Lord. Can you believe it? A busy mother with a house full of energetic babies, preschoolers, "middlers" and teenagers had two quiet times this morning? Yes and Amen! And it was not anything wondrous about me or my spirituality, it was just a very intense neediness to go to my Father and cry out to Him and to inquire of Him about certain ways I have been feeling.

I have everything to be grateful for and I am thankful for every blessing God has bestowed upon my life. Does that mean I never feel down with scattered emotions and lingering loneliness? No! Does it neccessarly mean I am in sin and just need to repent? Not always.

Sometimes the Lord gives us gifts that are unwelcome and feel uncomfortable.
As I was praying and asking the Lord why I was feeling that way, I felt both of His hands touch my chest as if He was imparting something dear from His heart to mine. I began to weep, not really knowing why. Then I heard Him say, "Be still and know."
I did not hear the entire scripture of, "Be still and know I am God." However, He knew I that I knew the rest. For a special reason He wanted me to hear that part of the scripture because He wanted to emphasize something of the last part, "I am God."

I began to share with the Lord how I feel alone at times because so much of my life is about giving and sharing. Mothers give daily and without reserve. It is our calling and it is our joy. However, sometimes we can become depleted and just want to rest and be in the company of someone who just appreciates us for who we are, not for what we can do for them and give them, but just because they delight in our uniqueness. The Lord showed me this morning that this is why I am feeling down.

Then I began to feel His heart. He showed me that He often feels this way. He is God and HE is our all in all who provides for us and is the source of all our needs. So often we go to Him as just that and nothing else. We fail so often to just enjoy His company because there is no one like Him. We become passive in our attention toward Him as someone beautiful, desirable, holy and set apart from all others. He showed me his loneliness this morning. Then I repented and cried to Him that I wanted more of Him not because He is just my Source, but because He is desirable and HE is my love.

Be still and know that I am God
Know that I feel lonely at times too.
Know that I want to be known for Me.
Not just for what I can give you.
Not for just how I can meet your needs.
Even though it is my joy to do just that,
It delights Me more to know in My heart,
That you just want to be with Me
Because I am lovely and desired by you.
I give my hurts at times for you to feel,
Because I want you to know that I get lonely and frustrated.
You are never alone in your pain, in Your joys and triumphs,
Be still and know Me as I know you.
I have given you My heart and My Spirit that you may share in My feelings too.
Be still and know that I know,
Be still and know Me more.

Lord, I thank you for allowing me to feel and know your heart this morning.
Thank you for deeper revelations that You are the God who wants to be known. You are the God who feels. You are the God who gets lonely and gets frustrated at times. Thank you for allowing me to share that with you. Thank you for trusting us as your friends to hear and experience the cries in Your heart. I am amazed that the God of Glory would be so vulnerable with His own heart. Wow, You are incredible, just incredible. Amen.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

DEVOUR SOME HUMBLE PIE: Respecting Our Husbands, Part 2

Ephesians 5:33 says, "And let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband. (that she notices him, regards him, honors him prefers him, and loves and admires him exceedingly.)

If I did a survey on 100 women and asked them,, "Do you respect your husband?" What do you think the outcome would be? I believe that most women would admit that they do repect their husbands, but would they be able to explain how they are showing their husbands respect? Because we women are very emotional beings, we often wait for our husbands to meet our need for love first before we are willing to give them respect. according to Eph.5:33, this is not the way we should act. We are not to wait. We are to see that we are being respoonsible for our part in the relationship by giving our husband's unconditional respect. When we give them this through actions, we are in essence saying with our heart, our hands, our eyes, and our overall countenance, " I love you!!!" This is what keeps and covers the heart of our husbands. It is not in how we dress to the latest fashion, or the manicures and pedicures we purchase. It is not in highlights in the hair and the cologne that we wear. But love is shown by the honor and esteem we willingly present our husbands with intent and obedience.

Last week I shared the first 3 points of practical ways we can actively show our husbands repect. This week, I am sharing the next three points. If these have been weak areas for you, and we all have weaknesses in these areas, I would encourage you to use these as a prayer list. Go to your secret place and ask the Lord to show you which areas He would like for you to focus on. Circle one or two and allow the Lord to give you grace to be strengthened in those areas by putting them into action. His grace is sufficient.

4. A respectful wife venerates her husband. This means that she intentionally looks upon him with deep respect. We can control and choose our thoughts toward them. When we look upon our husbands, do we crticize his weakness and grumble within our hearts about those traits? Or do we take our thoughts captive (2Cor.10:4-5) and make it a habit to dwell on the good qualities God has given him?

5. As respectful wife esteems her husband. She values him highly. We are usually careful in the way we handle valuable belongings. Do we make his schedule more important than ours? Is what I have to do more important than what he has to do? Am I looking out for my interests or his? Sarah called Abraham Lord, not because she worshipped him above God, but because she recognized He was God's appointed headship in her marriage.

6. A respectful wife defers to her husband. This means to yeild with courtesy. She is cheerful toward him and encourages him without complaining. She does not nag, insist on her having her own way, fights to have the last word, and does not put undue requirements on him. If someone invites her to do something, she checks with him first.

When we make an effort with God's help to show our husbands respect, we are allowing the Holy Spirit to change us first. When we are changed, God then works through us to bring change in the lives of others. Are you feeling a little low on love in your marriage? Then check your respect level. Check back next week for Part 3 in gleaning pracitcal ways to put hands and feet to what God has called us to do in respecting our husbands.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

DEVOUR SOME HUMBLE PIE: Repecting Our Husbands, Part 1

Just yesterday I met a wonderful woman who is the mother of ten children. She encouraged me so much as I listened to so much wisdom and love flow from her mouth. One thing she said is that having children causes you to eat much humble pie. As each new child comes along we are forced to eat more of it as we realize we are totally dependent on God's abundant grace in all of our relationships whether it be with our children, our family and friends and especially our spouse.

I had a lady from another state email me and ask me what to do in a marriage where the husband is emotionally disconnected. When there are strains in relationships, we tend to go to the Lord in prayer for the other person who seems to have the problem. Even though the other person may have a problem, I believe the Lord wants us to change the way we pray. Do we stop praying for change in the other person? No. However, we need to add to our prayers by asking the Holy Spirit to change us first.

This is so important in marital relationships as it is the most challenging relationship there is. As wives, our greatest need is to be loved. Therefore our tendency is to operate out of our need by showing our husbands that love. Our husband's greatest need is respect. History and experience shows that this is a difficult area for wives to demonstrate to our husbands because it is not our strongest area.

Showing respect to our husbands is not at first a natural action, but it is a choice of obedience. The definition of respect is to show honor or esteem for, consider or treat with deference or courtesy, to show consideration for.

I did some research a while back and came up with a list of practical ways to show respect as it is an action way before it is a feeling. Many times we must first do things before the emotions are there. I will share this list in 3 parts as it is long. Be on the look out for part 2 and 3 of this important truth.

Ephesians 5:33 says to let the wife see that she respects her husband and that she reverences him. (A woman who respect's her husband notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, and loves and admires him exceedingly).

1. A respectful wife notices her husband. She thinks only of him and does not compare him with other men. She is content and pays attention to his strengths and the things he is growing into. She also compliments him in this.

2. A respectful wife regards and honors her husband. She does this by supporting him whether she agrees with him or not. This helps him to succeed by knowing she is on his side. She appeals to him if she does not agree and approaches him with courteous conduct. This is not done with harsh or a controlling tone. In addition,she does not "mother" him. This may make him feel smothered in addition to feeling as though his wife does not believe in him or trust him.

3.She prefers him. She chooses him above all other relationships and puts away all distractions such as phone calls, computer and TV. As he shares with her, she gives him her eyes. In addition, she puts him at the top of her prayer list and prays also for changes in herself.

Remember, respect is something displayed by the way we treat our husbands. If we feel respect we must show it. If we do not feel respect, we must show it. Let us be grateful for our husbands. Thankfulness clothes our husbands. It drives away discontentment. Respect and honor build him up. When we build up our husbands, everyone wins. Let us all choose respect.

Check back soon for Part 2 of respecting our husbands. You will find more nuggets to apply everyday in a practical way. In the mean time sisters, think on these things. Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.(Phil.4:8)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Fathers, Love is in the Little Things

I cannot go this Father's Day without writing about my own Father and honoring him for his faithfulness to my mother and our entire family. It is on these occasions we should seize every opportunity to express our gratefulness to our Fathers for their love and presence in our lives. Maybe your father was not around and maybe you do not have the greatest memories of your father as you were growing up. However, you can still honor him as your parent by acknowledging that you have a father and that you honor him regardless of his shortcomings and failures. In this age of the fatherless it is difficult to do that because it is easy to choose to be bitter and unforgiving toward them as human beings. You become bitter and hard and choose to live as victims as though life has dealt you a hard blow and you can never get over it. Therefore, you build walls around your heart and whether you know it or not, you take it out on every loved one that comes into your life. Your spouse becomes the target or even your children, not because you had a difficult relationship with your father, but because you made the choice to not forgive. The focus of this blog is not to emphasize fatherlessness so much, but I just wanted to touch on it as this day we recognize is difficult for many people in this age as so many adults now and even children are growing up in families where the father has left or is just not attentive to his family. I believe the day is coming where God's spirit will be poured out in such a profound way that multitudes of the fatherless will know God as Father. It is in the very places of our lives in which we have lacked that God is waiting to rush in and fill.

Now I would like to talk about my Father and how he impacted my life as a little girl. Many times I think fathers want so much to provide well for their families and to give them so much, that they fail to see how much the seemingly little things bring love and positive influence to their children. In this post, I want to list some of those "seemingly" little things my Daddy did that meant so much to me.

Simply Thank You Daddy

I remember the times you would let me ride to the store with you and you would always buy me one of those little containers of ice cream with the wooden spoons! In that you said "I love you".

I remember that you came home from work everyday at the same time and if you were going to be late, you called Momma. In that you said, "I love You."

I remember you taught me many things like working in the yard, checking the oil in the car, pumping gas, driving the boat, how to swim and ski, how to balance a checkbook, how to drive a car , how to be friendly to others,and how to respect my mother. In that you said, "I love you."

I remember you always told me everyday that you loved me. I do not remember a day when you did not say it. In that, I knew you loved me.

I remember that when I was disrespectful, you would spank me. In that you were saying, "I love you."

I remember when you would always ask about my days and how school was going. You would express how proud you were of me. In that you said, 'I love you"

I remember you worked hard and provided for our family. We always had enough, but not too much that it was harmful to us. In that you said, "I love you"

I remember you always taught me about the importance of being responsible and diligent in all we put our hands to . In that you said, "I love you"

I remember that you always (and still do) loved Momma and put her first always. In that you were saying, 'I love you."

Thank you Daddy for all of the little things you did over the years that truly spoke the Father's love into my heart. It was in the seemingly little things you did that impacted my life. I know the heavenly Father's love because I was blessed with the unconditional love of my earthly father. I appreciate all of your hard work over the years and your faithfulness to Momma and our family. It truly provided a strong foundation for me to build my life upon. I simply say, Thank you Daddy!

Never underestimate the little things you do for others. It is not in money,fame, and earthly attainments, but it is in how well you love that truly impacts others for a life time. Happy Father's Day Daddy.

I love you.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

It is Easy to Say I am Sorry

Is it easy to say 'I am sorry?" Some may say yes, others may think otherwise. However the point I am making is that it is easy to say "I am sorry" rather than asking, "Will you forgive me?" I have been thinking much about this lately as it seems there have been some strains in relationships lately with family and friends.
Strains and struggles in relationships are not bad in themselves. But it is in how we react and handle those conflicts that determine whether our relationships are strengthened or weakened.

The greatest tool we have in strengthening our most treasured connections with others is humility. Sometimes it seems to take alot less humility to say I am sorry rather than asking one's forgiveness.

Last summer John and I help to facilitate a parenting class called Growing Kids God's Way. There was so much valuable and biblical information offered. However the one area which stood out the most to me was the teaching on repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. These truths have really been surfacing in my heart and mind lately. I would like to share some of the teaching from Let the Children Come by Ezzo and Ezzo.

-Understanding and encouraging repentance in the context of family relationships is one of the cornerstones of the family.

-Repentance begins with the offender.

-Forgiveness is a process requiring agreement between two parties.There can be repentance without forgiveness and there can be forgiveness without repentance. In order for restoration and strengthening in relationships there has to be the reception of both from the offender and the offended.

-Restoration is always the final objective. Often a child will cry and say I am sorry, but that is not enough. Our children need to be restored to us in a right relationship. Restoring the relationship closes the offense and buries it.

Now what was the point about it being easy to say I am sorry? Asking for forgiveness as opposed to saying I am sorry is an act of humility. When I say, "I am sorry", I am dictating the conditions of my apology. Asking for forgiveness is different. To say I am sorry acknowledges a mistake such a breaking something that belongs to someone else, or accidentally stepping on some one's toe. However, to ask, "Will you forgive me?" is to acknowledge the motives of the heart.

These truths are not new to any of us, but sometimes seems to be the most difficult truth to live by. Humility and a quick willingness to repent and ask forgiveness is an open door to the largest meassures of God's grace and favor. Let us each day humble ourselves in God's sight that we may stay pure and strong in our fellowship with Him and loved ones in our lives.

James 4:6 But He gives more grace. therefore He says, " God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

My Soul Magnifies the Lord

It has been a while since I have blogged. We have been home from vacation for over a week now. With all of the laundry and unpacking on top of having out of town guests, there has not been much time for writing. A lot of things are happening and unless you read this blog, you will not know what is going on in our lives right now. I am not planning on telling my family and friends that I have written a new blog. But for those of you who check periodically will know what is up.

Do you want to know what is up? Well, we are currently pregnant with baby number 10!! I have been in shock the last few days as I really did not think we would expecting again so soon. However, just a few days before I found out I was in my room thinking about the Lord. I kneeled by my bed and put my head against the mattress and asked the Lord what He thought about us having another baby. I told Him that I would love to have another baby if He saw fit. John and I had already agreed that we would like another baby as we have had a couple of prophetic words spoken to us that we would have 10 children.

Just days after this prayer, I began to feel queasy, dizzy and tired. The feeling was all too familiar. So, I took a pregnancy test and it was positive! It is amazing to me that with each pregnancy, it has seemed like the first. Only a mother can understand this. The excitement and wonder is as if you were pregnant with your first. As Mary the Mother of Jesus said, "My soul doth magnify the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior."

The thing that is difficult however is the lack of excitement from others when you find out you are having baby number 4, 5 , 9 or 10. The attitude of the world says,
"You gotta be kidding. How many are you going to have? Don't you know what causes that? You are crazy. You have some loose screws." And on and on it goes. When you have your first, everyone is excited. There are phone calls, congratulations and best wishes, baby showers and celebrations. Even when number two comes along, everyone is excited because baby number one will have a brother or sister. Number three and four are not too bad, but you do begin to get a few looks and comments. For me the worst was when we found out we were having number five. The unkind remarks kept me in tears and I had alot of healing to go through.

God is so faithful in that I had just become a part of a ladies bible study where the women prayed over me and the baby (Jamie). I found much healing and restoration as I knew that God was covering me and affirming me during that time. I carried shame for a while and felt as if I had done something sinful and wrong by becoming pregnant again.

But this is what God says,"Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord. The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth. happy (blessed) is the man whose quiver is full of them.
They shall not be ashamed, but shall speak with their enemies in the gate. Psalm 127:3-5. I choose to listen to what God says because His words are truth. His words stand forever.

I hope that my story will encourage other young mothers whom God has called to have many children. This calling carries its own set of persecutions and word arrows that can be very painful. If we do not go our Shelter and Strong Tower, we will become bitter toward the world. We want to stay soft and pliable toward others in order that we may continually be His vessel of Glory.

When I went through the difficult time with my #5 pregnancy, God gave me a poem which was actually published in a book. I would like to share it with you.


In the time of trouble,
You hide me where no one sees.
In the secret place of Your tabernacle,
You are the One whom I seek.

You shall hide me close to You,
And set me high upon a rock,
Now my head is lifted up,
Above the enemies of strife and mock.

At times I am like a broken vessel,
For I hear the slander of many.
But I choose to trust You Father,
While so many find this uncanny.

I will offer sacrifices of joy,
Forever in Your house.
And sing praises to You Lord,
Shouting "GLORY" from my mouth.

My times are in Your hand,
Deliver me from tongues of irreverence,
I call upon You and I cry,
Then You hide me in the secret place of Your presence.

Penned by Ange Cogburn