What Boys Go Through


Boys go through clothes quicker than a wink. Especially the knees of their pants. Nice pants, play pants, athletic pants, blue jeans…it doesn’t matter. Within weeks, days even…the pants get lighter and lighter on the knees, and then one day you pull them out of the drier and a tiny hole has formed from the ever-thinning fibers. The holes get bigger and wider at an alarming rate, as the boys scurry around the floor with their match box cars. The strings tear apart as they scuff their knees up the trunk of their favorite tree. Their shirts become stained with mud, dirt, marker, and whatever else may be in their way as they conquer their next big thing. Their mamas can usually tell what they’ve had to eat and drink that day by looking at their sleeve, which always seems to serve as the best napkin. Yes, boys sure do go through clothes quickly.

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Boys go through toys. The big, the little, the ones inside and outside. Every mom of boys has to have said the words, “Be easy!” so many times. They push hard, they pull apart with no mercy, they slam, they thump. Boys like to take their toys outside and then decide that they should leave them out there in the elements, and pretty soon, they toys don’t hold up and need to be thrown out or replaced. Boys love to “fix” their toys, and in the “fixing” their toys often become pieces that no longer fit back together. Yes, boys go through toys all the time.


Boys go through food! Oh my, how they go through all the food. Somehow, even as my grocery list gets longer and longer and longer, the groceries last less and less and less! Some days, a mama feels like every time she looks at a boy he has food in his mouth. Some boys go from picky eaters as toddlers to never ending pits as they hit one growth spurt after another (which makes them go through the clothes again). When they are out, pretty soon they no longer order the kid’s meals. They want steaks, and the number one combos, and “can we get dessert, mama? I’m still hungry.” Yes, boys can sure go through some food!

Boys go through shoes. Big shoes, little shoes, lace-ups, Velcro, and cleats. They’ve worn them all. They get new shoes that “make them run fast”, and those shoes are so clean and nice. Then they walk outside. And that’s the last time those new shoes are ever clean and nice again. They scuff them, tear the laces, wear down the rubber, and if you’re not looking too carefully, their toes will be poking through before you know it. Boys go through shoes in the blink of an eye.

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Boys go through stages. In their baby years, they depend on their mama so very much. We feed them, clothe them, and hold them when they want us. And when they become toddlers, watch out! Nothing will be safe anymore from curious hands and mouths. When they learn how to run, mamas and daddies despair over how we will ever keep up with this never-ending ball of energy. We pray and plan for activities that will fill this boy’s curious appetite and also get us to rest time. And then, boys go to school. We wipe our tears away and push back the sadness at the fact that someone else will be drying our boy’s tears when he falls off the monkey bars, and someone else will be telling him to slow down, think first, and be calm. Boys will grow into their own interests and activities. Sports, music, and clubs will threaten to take over a boy’s life, but most mamas and daddies won’t let it. Boys grow up into teenagers who all of a sudden don’t want to hang with their moms all the time. Moms may despair at first, but then they take heart. Because they know this one thing…

Even though boys go through all kinds of stuff with lightning speed, there is something that they never grow out of. Something that they never break so badly it can’t be repaired. Something that is constant in their life no matter what stage they are in.

It’s their mama’s heart. Her love. A boy can fill up his mom’s heart to capacity, but her heart will just get bigger and bigger with her love.


When he makes a bad grade, that boy is going to tell mama first and see what she says about it. When he gets hurt, that boy is going to want his mama there to hold his hand. When he meets that girl who could be “the one”, that boy is going to want to let his mom know. And when his heart is broken, who is he going to call? Mama.

They may get too big to sit in your lap, mama. They may pretend like they don’t want a good-bye hug. They may pull their hand away when you try to hold it. But they haven’t “gone through” you. You will never be outgrown or cast aside. Sure…they are going to break your heart and hurt your feelings. But they will always come back to you. Why?

You are still their mama. No matter what boys go through.

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When You Love Someone…

I didn’t want to go.

I had better plans for the night, and now I was being asked to put them aside. My plans were to go to the movies. I wanted to see the opening night of Armageddon. Ben Affleck was calling my name.

I had two avenues for getting to my night at the movies. One was my older sister who had a licence and wheels, and the other was my best friend who was planning to go (and take me, of course!). We were two excited 15- year-olds. We’d been practicing our Liv Tyler lips and singing Aerosmith and everything.

And then everyone changed their minds. Well, sort of. My sister and my best friend decided to go to church instead. My sister Amy kind of had to. She was in the choir, and the church was having an Independence Day singing and celebration. She was one of a few hundred in the choir who would be singing and praying for our nation. My friend Lindsey was going because…well…she couldn’t drive yet and her whole family  (who attended the church) was going. She begged me to go with her since she had to go.

I didn’t want to go.

And then, something awesome happened! My other friend was going to the movie and invited me!

I wanted to go to the movies so badly. But I started having this niggling little whisper that maybe I should go with Lindsey or Amy to church. I whined to my mom. I really wanted to see that movie. Why did I need to go see Amy sing? She’d be, like, one of 200. I probably wouldn’t even be able to spot her. And why did Lindsey want me to come along if she didn’t even want to be there?

And my mom said, “Paige, just go to church. Go see your sister. Go with Lindsey.” It was such a simple directive at the moment. It solved my dilemma quickly and efficiently.

But looking back on it, I see that what my mom was telling me to do was something she had done many, many times in my life without us ever knowing it. She actually did it constantly, without thought or hesitation.

It’s called sacrifice. She was telling me to sacrifice. For someone else. It’s what you do when you love someone.

I know it’s a little thing. Giving up going to a silly movie for my sister and my friend. But each day is made up of many little things, and the little things gradually meld into major things.

Major things like sacrifices made in love. I can see it all very clearly now.

My mom always insisted that she preferred things like the thin end pieces of bread, the last dry piece of sandwich meat, and the smallest leftover piece of pizza. And we always believed her.

My dad spent countless hours–yes hours–outside throwing a softball at me (you can’t really throw a ball with someone unless they are catching it, don’t you think?) until that moment that I finally learned to catch it! And then he nailed a tire to the wall of our little playhouse and stood and coached me through pitching until I could throw a strike over and over again.

Both of my parents gave nights (and lots of money) when I’m sure they were tired and weary from work to gymnastics, piano, cheerleading, beauty pageants, and band meetings for all of us girls. Not to mention the hours of hard work they put in to make ends meet and to give us extra things that were special to us.

If they ever complained, I don’t remember it. They sacrificed countless little things almost constantly that amounted to one big thing.

Love. They love us.

They showed my sisters and me that when you truly love someone, you sacrifice the little things and the big things, even when you don’t want to. And you don’t complain.

Jesus’ ministry on earth was one huge sacrifice after another. He sacrificed His throne in Heaven to come in the first place, and then when He was here, His life was never His own. Because of His love for His Father, and because of His Father’s love for us, Jesus gave Himself to us in all the little ways before He gave the ultimate sacrifice of His life. He always listened, He allowed His moments to be interrupted by children, by inquiring disciples, and even by rude Pharisees without complaint. He went out of His way to heal the sick and even raise the dead. He sacrificed His reputation by seeking out the hurting outcasts and making them new. Because of His love. Because He is love.

And He calls us to sacrifice in the name of love. It’s not always fun. It’s not always easy, either.

But in our earthly sacrifices, God leads us to the greater gifts that He has in store for us.

That night 18 years ago, I went to church with Lindsey. I did spot my sister (she’d had to go early, so I couldn’t ride with her), and I watched her the whole time, singing her heart out to our Lord. She is an incredible singer. It was an awesome service. Simply wonderful.

When the night was over, I went  to eat with Lindsey’s family, and we met some of their  friends in the parking lot. I met a boy named Chris, and even though we were both so shy that we didn’t speak (we did make approximately one second of eye contact), I knew–I knew–that this was the guy I was going to marry. God whispered it to my heart that very night.

Boy am I glad I sacrificed that crazy movie!

I did marry Chris. And he shows me the true meaning of sacrifice and love daily. He is one of the kindest people I know.

I’m so thankful for him.

I’m thankful for parents who sacrificed and loved us, even to this day, showing us what you do when you love someone.

And I’m so thankful for a Father in Heaven, who sacrificed His Son because He loved me so.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.    John 3:16

 

 

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The Call: Heith and Kelsey’s Story

Several years ago at Meet the Teacher Night, I met a  sweet, tender-hearted,  blond-haired, blue-eyed little kindergarten boy. He shyly waved hello as I stooped down to introduce myself to him. When I looked up, his parents stood together behind him, beaming so brightly they could’ve starred in a Colgate commercial. Really, they could’ve! And that’s how they have always been from that point on. Every time I see Heith and Kelsey Pike, they are smiling. No matter the circumstances.

When Kindergarten was over for the year, I was sad to see my friends, the Pikes,  go on to first grade with their smiling faces. 

I didn’t know that in a few years God would cross their path with the path of my precious church family in a big way. 

Our church just happened to be searching for a Youth and Children’s Pastor, although in the works of the Lord, things don’t “just happen”. Heith’s name was mentioned, and my first thought was, “Heith? Why? He’s got a great job with a great company! Does he even want to be in the ministry?”

And the rest of the story, well…I think Heith tells it best, and he starts back a lot further than I do. 

This is Heith and Kelsey’s story, told by Heith Pike, Associate Pastor and Youth/Children’s Pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church. 

The Gradual Tug

God was preparing me for ministry my entire life, but I had no idea it was happening until my early twenties. As a matter of fact, I vividly remember telling a former classmate of mine (Jeff Oates) in our economics class in 11th grade that “being a pastor is the LAST thing on earth that I would want to do.”

God had very different plans. 

He graciously gave me parents who raised me in church and taught me the importance of living a lifestyle of faith.  As I grew older, God surrounded me with influential people who helped steer my life in the right direction spiritually, emotionally, and financially.Some of these people included my wife Kelsey, my parents, grandparents, brother, friends, a boss, pastors, and Sunday School teachers.You see, God was using people strategically in my life to mold me into the person who He envisioned.

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Heith with a Sunday School and Vacation Bible School teacher from his childhood, Mrs. Lundy.

Looking back, I see my life like David’s.  David spent his younger years being groomed by God.He was faced with many threats to his father’s flock. Those threats prepared him for the story that we all know and love, his victory over Goliath.What we tend to lose in life is a love for the process, an embracing of the preparation.We all want the big Victory in life, but few are willing to embrace the process. Anyways, back to the gradual tug…

A guy by the name of Andrew Cooper, a former co-worker, challenged me one day to explain to him exactly what I believed about my faith.I was 20 years old, and like a child trying to explain the intricacies of the brain, I fumbled over my words trying to explain this “faith” which I claimed to have in Jesus.The truth was, I couldn’t really tell him anything but that I loved Jesus because He died for me.Now I was saved when I was 7 years old, but I was still an immature Christian.God began to grow my interest in Him, and I began to study His word and have deep conversations with Andrew about life and the meaning and purpose of humanity.About this same time, we started to attend a church in Cullman, Alabama,  called Desperation Church. Andy Heis, the pastor, became an integral part of the reason why I’m now in ministry. Our five years at Desperation were five of the best years of life.We experienced first hand what being the hands and feet of Jesus means.  God began to show me that ministry was much bigger than a man behind a pulpit.  Ministry is people, and I’m a people person.It was then that I began to feel the tangible call to ministry.

The Tangible Call…and the Wait

I can remember the very night that I felt the calling into ministry. My wife Kelsey and I were attending a Sunday night service at Desperation, just like any other Sunday night. I can’t even remember what the message was about, but I can remember crying through the entire service.

I’m not talking about the kind of crying where nobody around you notices…No, I’m talking about ugly face crying!  I was weeping.

Only on a couple of occasions in my life can I remember crying like this.  There was no obvious reasoning, at first. I cried like this for about 20 min.Kelsey kept staring at me! She had no idea what was going on.  I just told her that I didn’t really understand it either, but I felt like God was calling me into full-time ministry.  At the end of the message, I got up and went to Andy and told him about the thoughts that were rushing through my head and heart.

He told me to keep praying, studying, and preparing myself.

I’ll be honest and tell you that the wind was ripped out of my sails.  I fully expected him to just say, “You can start tomorrow!” 🙂 I didn’t have a clue!

So I started to do just what he said… I began to read my Bible daily, and pray more. I began to witness to people and help people during hard times. And I waited. But, day after day, month after month, and year after year, I didn’t get any solid answer from God about the matter. I couldn’t understand why God was not opening doors for me.  It would be three long years before I would get my answer.
Poor Kelsey, I think she feared for our livelihood during this whole process. At that time, we had been married a couple of years and had two very young boys, Colby and Caden, and would soon have our third child, the most beautiful girl in the entire world, Emma Grace Pike. There were so many unanswered questions during those three years. My emotions were unstable and that created a lot of uncertainty in Kelsey’s mind.

I had the best job a person could ask for. I met a man named Marty Hardin and his wife, Molly, who took Kelsey and me under their wing and began to mentor us and show us what marriage looked like, what financial management in marriage looked like, what ministry-life looked like, and what parenting looked like. Obviously, these are all things that we are taught growing up, but coming from someone else it all seemed new and exciting. Turned out that Marty was (and still is) the Director of Operations over Brasfield and Gorrie’s Equipment Division. Needless to say, God orchestrated this relationship to help a poor boy (me) out! I was 22 and Kelsey was 21, we had two children, a new home (with this thing they call a mortgage), and many other living expenses; and we were living on love.

So, I went to work for the best company imaginable in Brasfield and Gorrie (literally voted many years in a row as the best company to work for in Birmingham). It was then that I began to chase the American dream. I wanted to become successful and financially stable, but at the same time I still felt that real calling into ministry. There were many days when I came home telling Kelsey about a new position opening at work, or a successful transaction that day, or just gratification of how things were progressing in my career.  There were also days when I would cry all the way to work because I was so burdened about being in ministry. I felt like my career was a waste of my life. I felt like I needed to be making a difference in the lives of people around me as a minister. My life was a roller coaster of emotions, and poor Kelsey, she was on the ride with me, not knowing what each day would hold.

After three years, I won’t say I had given up on going into full-time ministry, but I had come to the realization that there was nothing I could do to open doors that weren’t being opened by God. It seemed like once I reached the point where I was comfortable and accepted the fact that I would probably never get the opportunity to go into full-time ministry is when God brought me the absolute best option I could’ve asked for!

I’ll save you all the dialogue between my mom and me, but in a nutshell, one of her friends, Kim Kanaday, approached her about me interviewing for a position as Minister of Children and Youth/Associate Pastor at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Corner, Alabama.  This church is literally less than a mile from where I grew up and with people whom I’ve known my whole life and a pastor unlike any other I know. This was an opportunity I could’ve only dreamed about!

So, I interviewed, and compared to the other lofty resumes on the table, I thought to myself, “There is no way on earth you’ll land this job, unless it’s from God.”

Well, it was from God…They offered me the job, and I accepted.

That last sentence made it seem easy…There were weeks of interviews, questions, and details in that one sentence. And during that process I was looking back over my prayer journal and ran across a prayer I wrote one day asking God for specific things to take place. Until that day, I didn’t even realize He had answered all my prayers from 9 months earlier. I was blown away!

Don’t put God in a box. Dream big, Pray even bigger, and then prepare yourself for what God is about to do.

The Call and The Effects

People are going to be people. And most of the time, when God is doing something big, people don’t understand it and so they question everything about it. Naturally, when I accepted the position at Mount Zion, basically everybody who was anybody in my life told me I was crazy!

Heith, you have a family to take care of, how are you going to do that on a youth pastor’s salary.

Heith, you have an amazing job, you’d be crazy to leave. 

Heith, you have a bright future in your career, you’re throwing that away if you leave. 

Heith, you’re not ready for the ministry. 

The list goes on for days.  I learned the very important truth that doing God things is crazy most of the time. It’s not always the popular thing to do and it takes courage to follow God’s plans. Things like people’s opinions and the love of money are what keep normal people like you and me from living out the destiny that God has for us. In our situation, as always, God worked everything out, and we’re better now than before.

Since moving into the ministry, I have a new understanding of life. Life is about relationships. Our number one relationship should be with Jesus. Once that relationship is solid, then all the other relationships in our life will fall into place. One of the greatest benefits of being in the ministry is that it allows you to impact people.  Life is no longer about how much money I can make or how others define me based on my success; Life is about helping people, just like Jesus helped people.

Some of those people I get to impact are my own family members. My relationship with my kids and my wife has changed for the better. For many years, my kids only saw me for a few hours at night before they went to sleep. I was up before them and didn’t get home until late. Now I wake them up in the morning, take them to school, stay home with them when they’re sick, keep them during bad weather, and I’m with them every day by 3:00pm thanks to Mount Zion’s After School Care Program. I attend all their field trips or parent days. I get to be a dad! All the time.

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Leading the Worship Rally at Mt. Zion Vacation Bible School, 2016.

As for my relationship with God, I’ll be very transparent, because I feel like too many people aren’t these days. In my first year of ministry my relationship with God deteriorated instead of thriving. This was one unexpected area where I struggled for a while. I told my pastor, Dr. Sammie Reid, that my relationship with God was stronger before ministry than it was in the ministry. I was studying the bible to find a passage to preach instead of studying the Bible because I love to spend time with God. He told me that he too had been through this early on and gave me some good advice. He said that if I would return to spending time with God out of desire instead of necessity, then I would have sermon material for years!  I have found this to be true and I am forever grateful for a wise man like him to guide me in my walk with the Lord.

Again, I want to be transparent in hopes that this might help somebody else. My biggest struggle has been fear of failure. I am a people pleaser and I can’t stand for someone to be upset with me or unhappy with the way things have happened.You don’t have to look far in my past to see that I’ve made some very big mistakes and some that not many people know about, but these are things that haunt me from time to time. Things that I’m ashamed of and things that have hurt other people. At times, I let these things weigh me down and I get upset and feel unworthy to be in my position. I feel like people think I’m a hypocrite maybe and that I live a double life.

I think one of the most dangerous things that we do as a society is put ministers on a pedestal and hold them to a different standard. We are normal people with sin problems just like anybody else. It’s tough sometimes feeling like we need to be perfect. People can be flat-out mean sometimes and that’s been one of the hardest things to adjust to. But I can see now that my years at Brasfield and Gorrie prepared me even for this area of ministry. I am thankful for the times at Brasfield and Gorrie when I had to talk to mad (that’s an understatement) Superintendents about a mistake I made that cost the company x amount of dollars, and let’s just say that my tough conversations with people now don’t seem quite so bad.

I want to be successful for God, that’s all.  And when I get down, it’s usually way down, and I feel like there’s not really anybody to turn to, because I am that person to everyone else.  Thankfully I have a good support system and a wife who helps me through those times.  My biggest struggle in ministry is myself.

By far, the greatest blessing of ministry so far has been seeing the change that God has done in our student’s lives. To see a student transform before your eyes is an amazing feeling and to know that God entrusted Kelsey and me with that task is a great blessing!  I love these students with all my heart and I can’t imagine life without them. Some days I wonder if what I’m doing even matters, or if we’re just spinning our wheels, but then one of the students trusts me enough to talk to me about something critical in his/her life and it makes all the difference. These kids are in the most formative years of their lives and they need someone they can trust and be mentored by.

I thank God that person is me.

I thank Him for nudging me, making me wait, and continuing to equip me daily.

I thank Him for The Call.

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2017: When the New Wears Off

It’s a new year! Such a great time for starting fresh. Many are working on fitness and health, work goals, house (and life) organization, and personal growth. But for every person who looks forward to the new season with a sense of anticipation, there is one who just doesn’t have the energy to put into planning for another year, for another month, maybe even for another day.

Life can be so tough. Every day we interact with people who are hurting. People who are struggling to put one foot in front of the other.

Dear friends who are taking care of aging parents, some of whom are facing serious illnesses.

Sweet parents who are overwhelmed with their children’s health issues, learning hurdles, and behavior.

Precious children who went to bed hungry the night before.

Sometimes the struggles are out in the open, for others to see. Other times, they are hidden deep inside, and no one knows.

Maybe it’s the teller at the bank. The cashier at the grocery store. The police officer on the highway. The coworker next door. Maybe, dear friend, it’s you.

Maybe you were “over it” before 2017 even started. The new  has already worn off of this year for you, and it’s only January 31st!

The truth is that the new will always wear off in the things of this world. At some point, new homes become old, new cars break down, new clothes wear out, and new toys lose their shine.

Programs lose their luster, jobs become routine, friends let us down, and loved ones grow old. What do we do when the new wears off and frustration, fear, and even panic set in?

We turn to the One who is ageless.

“22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.”       Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)

His mercies are new.

Every. Single. Day.

Mercy enough to cover our sin. Mercy to cover our stain. Mercies every day to cover our disappointment when the things of this world let us down.

Mercy to cover us in strength when our relationships fail and we are frustrated.

Mercy to cover us in peace when we see our children struggling with this life and we are helpless.

Mercy to cover us in grace when we realize our loved ones will not be present with us on earth forever and we are grieving.

His love keeps us from being consumed by this world. His mercies are new every day. Ask Him to cover you with mercy and grace to face the next day. The next minute. And He will. He will give you new mercies every day!

And that’s a new that won’t wear off.

 

Take a listen, friends. Happy New Year.

The God Who Makes All Things New by: Paige Givens (copyright 2015)

 

 

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Reclaimed

Reclaimed wood and furniture has become the decorating route for so many of my friends in recent years. Hit shows like Fixer Upper, Flea Market Flip, and American Pickers have inspired us all to use resources that are just right at our fingertips. Things we already have or can easily find that can be repurposed for a new use and design. 

Take a look at how my sister Hannah is displaying her quilts!

And my sister Amy and her husband made these BEAUTIFUL pieces out of pallet wood.


In my family, we have wood. Lots and lots of wood.

In recent years, my dad began experimenting with simple building projects and –surprise!—he was so good at it that he built my sister’s cabinets in her new kitchen!

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I’d say his “experimenting” worked out well. He now has a workshop where he can craft whatever he needs or wants to build.

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My dad has a custom-built woodworking shop where he is using reclaimed wood to make…everything!

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My granddad has been a craftsman for years. Birdhouses, cabinets, various classroom furniture for me…and all the teachers at my school. We dream it up, and he builds it.

Recently, some friends of mine came over for a party and noticed my beautiful dining room table. “My granddad made that for me out of barnwood,” I proudly shared. And then, we trekked over to my sister’s new “farmhouse” and ooh’ed and aahh’ed over the beautiful wooden treasures that she had in her home. The farm table, the cabinets my dad made, the wooden deck table, the barn door for her pantry, and even the wooden ladder that holds her quilts. Finally, my friend’s daughter stated the obvious…

“This family sure does love their wood.”

And I realized it’s true! We love some wood over at our place! 🙂

And then the sweet little girl’s  mother so graciously put it in another way.

“They don’t just love it because it’s wood, they love it because it’s reclaimed. They know where it came from. They know the story behind it. That’s what makes it special.”

Bingo.

This table? It was my granddad’s and his dad’s, and it sat in the old barn for years and years. It used to be a “hog-butcherin’” table. Also, I think back in the day (many years ago), there may have been some babies born on it. No lie.

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No distressing was needed to give this table its character.

 

This beautiful countertop and shelvesmade by my dad? They came from a tree out in the yard.

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This dining table? It came from a barn that’s almost 100 years old. A barn loft that stays pretty dark and empty most of the time these days, except for a cat who wants to be left alone and maybe an occasional raccoon.

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This sliding barn door also came from old barnwood.

Anything can be reclaimed. It usually takes extra time, attention, and care to take what was old and dirty to make it new and beautiful. But when the master carpenter or artist spies a hidden treasure in something, he or she is ready to put in the hours and devotion to make that treasure wonderful.

My dad and granddad both have an uncanny eye for creating beautiful things out of old wood.

Anything can be reclaimed.

Anything. And anyone.

You have a Master who can reclaim any part of you that you feel is broken. Anything that is unseen, dark, or distressed, He can make beautiful. He uses the distressed places in your life to create character and strength in you.

There is nothing too old, too long forgotten. There is nothing too hard to transform.

There is no one that cannot be transformed by the Master.

He transformed a barren couple into the father and mother of generations (Genesis 11-25).

He transformed an unloved girl named Leah into a woman who was loved enough by God to be included in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Genesis 29).

He transformed a harlot into someone who helped God’s army…and she also has a place in the lineage of Jesus (Joshua 2).

He transformed a shepherd boy into a mighty warrior, then into a beloved King, and then from a adulterer and murderer to a man after God’s own heart (1st, 2nd Samuel, Psalms).

He transformed a cowardly runner into a brave prophet (Jonah).

He transformed a group of ordinary, rough-around-the-edges, impulsive men who were fishermen and tradesmen into disciples of Jesus…preachers, teachers, world-changers.

And He can transform you.

You are ready to be reclaimed. You may already be His, and He has never let you go, but give yourself over to Him to be reclaimed for His purpose! You are never too anything  to be restored by the Master Carpenter.

And they scoffed “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary…” (Mark 6:3)

When He walked this earth as one of us, Jesus was a carpenter. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. The very ones who uttered those words in Mark surely found out quickly what kind of Carpenter He was. He went from fixing broken pieces of wood to fixing broken lives and that’s what He still does.

And no one fixes us like Jesus.

Be reclaimed today!

 

Jewels (When He Cometh) Arranged by Paige Givens, 2015

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Making Your Way Through the Circus

 

The first grade teachers at my school take the kids to the circus every year. Last year when I looped up to first grade with my class, I was excited to take my students. A teacher friend said to me, “It’s really fun, but getting from the bus to your seats with all of the kids in tow can be overwhelming.”

Yeah. Understatement of the year.

I prepared my kids ahead of time to put their hands on the person’s shoulders in front of them so that we wouldn’t get separated. And that’s all I did.

So when we got off the bus and started towards the entrance, I first noticed the crowd. It looked as if everyone in Alabama had come to the circus. I had not been since I was a kid, and the crowd was way bigger than I remembered, even on a Friday morning. There were workers for the civic center standing not five feet apart yelling into megaphones. Their directions were so loud that they were hard to decipher, they were sort of “barked” rather than told, and they were at some points conflicting.

“Groups over here! Each person must have a ticket in their hands!”

“If you’re a group come here! Give me a count for your tickets!”

“Single file!”

“You must have your ticket out!”

And on and on and on it went.

Crying babies, yelling children, barking adults. And clowns. Which led to crying babies, yelling children, and more barking adults.

I noticed immediately that my kids were forgetting to do the one thing I had told them to do. They let go of the person in front of them. And they stood wide-eyed and open-mouthed, just looking around in confusion.

So I did what any good adult would do in this situation: I joined in the yelling and barking of orders.

“Guys! Grab ahold of the person in front of you! Follow the person in front of you! You will get lost if you don’t!”

After about twenty feet of me walking backwards and bumping into the crowd which was just so full, I lost about half of my kids.

One adult. Seventeen first graders. And I’ve lost half of them. Pure terror.

The good news is, it only lasted a few seconds, which felt like an eternity to me. I quickly found the line of wide-eyed, open-mouthed children and ushered them back to the other half of my wide-eyed, open-mouthed class. I knew I had to do something for all of us.

By the way, if you’re a first grade pro who has taken your class to the circus like 18 times in a row, just scroll past all of my dramatics and shake your head at me. I finally got it together! 🙂

“Look guys. There is so much noise here. There are so many people who are bumping into you. Yes, there are clowns. There is cotton candy. There are toys. And glow-thingies. But your job is to look at me. Follow me. The shoulder thing? Yeah, that’s not working. Let go of the person in front of you and look at me, the teacher. I’m taller than all of you. Do you see my head? Do you see me? Okay. Do you see me now? Keep looking at me, okay? Follow me and you will not get lost. Do not pay attention to the yellers, the crying people, and the fun toys and food. Pay attention to me and you will not get lost.”

Little by little, they all lost their glazed over expressions and nodded seriously at me. And every one of them followed me easily to their seats.

They just needed to know who to follow.

Look, ya’ll.

In our current society, we are living in a circus. It. Is. A. Circus. Every single day social media is filled up with another story for us to fight over. We have fought over Chick-fil-a, Target, a cup at Starbucks–a CUP, I tell you!–radio hosts, Christian authors who don’t say what we want them to say, and Christian authors who–SURPRISE–don’t agree with all of the alternate lifestyles that are popping up every day. We  fought about two very human people who ran for office as if each of them had the power of heaven and hell. And we are still fighting.

This post is not about my thoughts on Chick-fil-a, although I do enjoy an occasional chicken mini or two. Or six.

This post is not about my view on Target’s new restroom policies, and Starbuck’s choice of cup to sell in December.

This post is not about Rick Burgess, a very popular radio host in my region whose extrememly painful journey with his daughter is being publicly picked apart by everyone far and wide…who have suddenly become experts on family relationships. This is not about his family, although that situation sparked the moments I’ve been spending with Jesus and the words I’m sharing now.

Oh, I have opinions. And I have convictions. Strong ones. I have beliefs. And it gets really tempting to shout scream holler share my convictions. Conviction is important, especially to the Christian. We need to know what we believe and why we beleive it. And we need to examine ourselves before the Lord to see if our convictions hold true to Him and His word.

But that is not what this post is about.

We’ve heard enough on everyone’s stance. We don’t hear another person’s.

This post is about what happens to me when a new exhibit comes to the circus that we call our modern society. And I’m sharing this because I think it’s happening to some of you, too.

So, this past weekend, when everyone’s Facebook and Twitter and whatever else blew up in the Southeast and beyond with the conflict between radio host Rick Burgess and his daughter, the megaphones immediately started blowing.

He turned his back on his daughter. She threw him under the bus. He threw the Bible in her face. She jabbed him right where she knew it would hurt. She is nothing but a sinner. He is not without sin. Divorce is a sin. Gluttony is a sin. Homosexuality is a sin. His is worse. Hers is worse.  

And then came the crowds, the peddlers, the entertainers, and the spectators. They called from every single side.

You’re not showing love. We shouldn’t condemn others. Throw the first stone. Are you without sin? She’s intolerant. He’s intolerant. You’re intolerant. You’re judgemental. You’re a redneck. You’re a hippie. You’re not like me. You don’t agree with me. You’re promoting hate. 

And on and on and on and on. And. On. It. Goes. Until the batteries on these megaphones will start to fade out and the crowds will grow hoarse from their screaming and the lights will begin to lose their luster. We will eventually simmer down from the current argument but our own personal feelings of frustration and anger will fester and grow until the next exhibit comes upon us.

But meanwhile, I’m like one of those first graders in the circus. I started out on this path knowing exactly where I’m going, and then I hit the megaphones. And I started hearing the accusations and the yelling and the rudeness. I started swiveling my head to the left and the right and watching the fingers jab in my face because what I believe doesn’t match up with what someone else thinks should be right.

I start to lose my foothold, so I put  my hands on the shoulders in front of me. That’ll be okay, right? Maybe a favorite Christian author or blogger that I respect so much. Or even a pastor. Ooh, how about one that’s on TV? But then the person whose shoulders I’m grabbing onto stops and joins the fray, and I’m suddenly lost. I’m wide-eyed and open-mouthed, and I’m not getting to my destination anytime soon this way.

When society erupts over a new fight, I know where I stand in my faith. I know Who I belong to. But when I start looking to the left and the right and to other humans for all my answers, who–just like me–are sinners and imperfect, I get lost.

What should I believe about sin, Jesus? It’s wrong, right? It’s all wrong, right? Is one worse than the other? But do we celebrate one sin and not the other? Do we laugh off one sin and hide the other? Lord, am I a sinner if I shop at this place? Am I hateful if I eat at this place? If I show kindness to this person, am I condoning what I think is sin? But what about me? I’m a sinner too, Jesus. No news there. Jesus, if I don’t agree with them, I can still associate with them, right? Lord, I am so mad at that one “megaphone hog” that’s being hateful to me because they don’t like what I believe! I wish I could just…ughh! Jesus, where do I go from here? Jesus, where do I place my foot next?

Jesus?

Jesus.  He is what is missing here. I have started focusing more on the yelling, even the object of the yelling, and even the conviction that starts the yelling…more than Jesus. And that’s exactly where the devil wants me to be.

Jesus? What do you want me to do? Where do you want me to look? 

And suddenly, it all fades away.

Beloved. There is so much noise here. There are so many people who are bumping into you. Yes, there is yelling. There is sin. There are imperfections. And trouble. But your job is to look at Me. Follow Me. Following other humans? That’s not working. Let go of the person in front of you and look at Me, the Teacher. You’re Father. You’re Guide. I’m bigger than all of it. Do you hear Me? Do you see Me? Okay.  Keep looking at me, okay, Child? Follow Me and you will not get lost. Do not pay attention to the yellers, the cryers, the noise, the distractions of your enemy. Pay attention to Me and you will not get lost.

And that is enough. I no longer feel the need to make a political stance, share my opinion, or my views on a host of things that affect the hearts of so many people. I’m not belittling anyone’s feelings or heart, here. But I’m noticing the greatness of my God. He is more important than your feelings or mine. He is more important than the argument.

Friend, if you feel caught up in the current trappings of our imperfect world full of imperfect people, follow the only One who is perfect. He will get you through the circus. He will get  you to your destination. He will use His Word, His voice, and yes, other imperfect people (just don’t grab on too tight to their shoulders, okay? Because no one is perfect.) to show you the way.

He, your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” Isaiah 30:20-21

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When We Worship the Music Instead

“I just can’t worship the way I want to at that church.”

“I feel like I haven’t even been to church.”

“Their music is so boring. What would it hurt to add some drums? They hardly ever even stand up. I need some energy.”

“It’s too loud in that place. And I’m not singing off of a screen. They just sing the same words over and over again. I’m not doing that.”

“We don’t even talk like those hymns anymore. How am I supposed to worship with those words?”

Many who’ve grown up in the Bible Belt (and beyond) of the United States have heard the words mentioned above, or something to their effect. I once traveled to beautiful Brentwood, Tennessee, for a writing conference and  I noticed that there were beautiful, large churches… like everywhere. Seriously, they were all down the streets. That’s not an uncommon sight, especially in the southeastern part of the country.

I feel SO wonderfully blessed to live in a nation where I can worship freely, at the church of my own choosing (the one HE tells me to serve at). But sometimes I wonder if we as a body of believers have become somewhat spoiled in our “churchgoing” acts, and have used those acts to replace the real act of worship. In some areas of our nation, we have so many churches of different sizes, music styles, and program offerings that we tend to sound and act as if we are at a “church buffet”, picking and choosing whatever fits our appetite at the time.

Especially in the area of music. You KNOW what I’m talking about here. Those comments above? You’ve heard them. You may have even said them. I’ve said more than one of the lines as an excuse to not “worship” somewhere. Not my style. Not my brand. Not my preference. Not my decade. Not my genre.

So the Lord is constantly teaching me about worship. And it has taken years to get a few things through my thick skull. I’m vulnerable here, sharing these things that He has taught me. Because worship…it’s what we were made for and I just think that I’ve had it all wrong at times.

Any time that our focus, our preferences, our attentions, and our hearts shift from God to something or someone else, then our worship shifts as well.

When the music in our churches causes us to argue and fuss, then our focus is shifted from God to the music. When the music in our service dictates whether we feel like worshipping or not, then our focus is on the music. And our feelings. And we start worshipping the music instead of God.

No one that I know loves singing more than me (except maybe my parents and sisters..but I don’t know–I love it A LOT!). I. Love. Singing. I love listening to music. I love playing music on the piano. I teach a music class after school. I. Love. Music. Oh my, yes I do!

I especially love Jesus Music. I grew up in “The Singing Munchers,” as our friends affectionately called my family. We sang at all kinds of churches, and we still do on occasion. My dad is a Minister or Music and my mom is a Choir Director at church. I can’t imagine going to church and not  singing.

But, friends, God has taught me–and it has been painful at times–that singing and music is not entirely what worship is all about. At many churches, we still have “Worship” time and then “Preaching” or “Bible Study” time. Aren’t they both acts of worship, though?

For such a long time, I equated our music and singing time at church as my weekly “Worship”. But then, what did I do when it was over? And what if I didn’t like the songs? Would I just miss the worship then, and have to wait until next week to worship?

Ya’ll. You have to be patient with me, I know. I thank my Father that He never left me and He continued to teach me in my ignorance and selfishness.

Worship. It’s not about the music. Yes, singing praises to God is part of our worship, but it’s not the whole thing!

And here’s another newsflash for Paige: Worship. It’s not about me. That one right there is a game changer.

When the worship shifts from me and my preferences, it doesn’t matter if I like the song or not. It doesn’t matter how I feel.

When my focus shifts to the Lord, to His goodness, grace, mercy, and power, every song becomes beautiful. Every beat hits the spot. Everyone’s voice and spirit are in perfect harmony, and every word speaks to my heart. When my focus shifts to the Lord, the worship continues past the music and singing, and onto the offering of tithes and gifts–that’s worship; and onto hearing the preaching of God’s Word–that’s worship; and onto the time of prayer and invitation to the altar–that’s worship, too.

At one pivotal moment in my life as a young adult, I came to the realization that when my focus shifts to the Lord, my worship continues past Sunday, onto Monday. When I roll out of bed, rub my eyes, and open my Bible for a daily devotion time–that’s worship. When I hear Him telling me on Tuesday to go and encourage a lonely friend, to show them love, and I obey–that’s worship.

It’s not about the music. It’s not about me. It’s about Him, and only Him. It’s obedience, and it is a beautiful thing.

2 So they hosted a dinner for Jesus there. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with Him. 3Then Mary took about a pint of expensive perfume, made of pure nard, and anointed Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of theperfume. ( John 12:2-3)

Image result for mary wiped jesus feet with her hairphoto from mudpreacher.org

In this beautiful story of Mary and Jesus, I see an act of worship. Mary worshipped Him by offering up her most prized possession, a jar of oil that was about a year’s worth of wages, and washing his feet with her tears, then drying them with her hair.

I also see Martha’s worship, as the scriptures say that “Martha served” her Lord.

I see that Lazarus sat with Jesus, which is something that I love to do. Some of the sweetest times of worship that I have known have come from simply sitting with Him, hearing Him whisper to my heart.

I don’t see a mention of singing as we know it today in this story, although it could have happened.

This story…it’s such a sweet reminder to my heart of what worship is and should be in my life.

I love Sundays. I love my church family. They are truly my family and they love me like no other. If you need a church family to love you and take care of you, I encourage you to visit my church if you live close by.

And I love to sing. I LOVE TO SING.

But, sweet friends, I love God more. I am shifting my focus from the music to Him. I encourage you to try it, and I think that the more we shift from us to the Lord, that we will find Him singing to us in ways we could have never imagined before!

He will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)

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