Welcome Home.

This past Sunday I had the chance to visit a new church in Raleigh called Hope Church. The worship was AWESOME and the preacher had me crying laughing within the first five minutes. From the amount of people overflowing in that church (and I assure you, it is not a small sanctuary), I knew this place had it going on. Not to mention, this was the fourth service of the sermon! I always get excited when the preacher starts talking about something that has been on my heart because I feel like God is really delivering this sermon just for me. I find myself getting frustrated sometimes when the topic of the day is tithing or having a healthy marriage or something that just “doesn’t apply to me.” As I’m writing this now, I’m humoring myself with the thought that anything Jesus says, no matter the topic, wouldn’t have the ability to speak to me. And this is the thing, even if the message wasn’t exactly what I had thought it was going to be, it doesn’t matter. There are tons of people who are waiting to be fed and many yearning to be healed and maybe today was their day to have the exact prescription they had been praying for. Sometimes, we are being fed without even realizing it. For instance, I still find myself thinking of qualities I want in a husband from when we discussed the perfect spouse in church one day. I probably was thinking that day, “Seriously? I’m like 18”, but now, I find it extremely useful in weeding out who God wants in my life. And although we go to church to be fed and blessed and have that sweet fellowship with other believers, sometimes it is just a way of showing God, “I’m giving you this time today. I wanted to sleep in and have Bojangles in bed, but showing up is the least I can do.” We deceive ourselves by thinking those little acts of obedience and showings of our faith do not add up to big things. Making these small steps keeps us on the straight and narrow, and these days, let’s be honest, that is very tough to do.

The story that we discussed on Sunday was the Prodigal son, which is in Luke 15. The story talks about a son who has gone away from home, abandoned his foundation and distanced himself from his father. He ran away to find what he thought was the “good life.” He searched for belonging in the things of this world, hoping that they would fill this void he felt. Luke 15:13 says he “squandered his estate with loose living.” He squandered it, the Bible says! He didn’t just spend a little bit or buy one too many cases of beer, he spent EVERY penny!!! Does this show you how much he was longing to find something that satisfied him? But it continues to say that once He had spent everything and there was a famine in the land, he decided to return home. You would think that after everything the son did, all the money he wasted and the way he completely left his father, his dad would be mad! But this is the INCREDIBLE part- His father ran to Him! It says his dad held his arms wide open, hugging his son with every ounce of strength in his body! He didn’t yell or ask questions but rather immediately asked to find a robe for his son and for the servants to prepare a feast. You see, this is the thing, the dad didn’t care what the son had been doing, where his money went, where he had come from or the time he had wasted; he just knew one thing, he was delighted to have his son home.

Guess what friend? This is exactly how our sweet God feels about each one of us. He doesn’t care what we have tried to fill our cup up with before or how many times we have disobeyed him, he just wants to hug us, to welcome us back, to prepare a feast because we are back. There is no precursor to returning home, no duty we must complete, no physical thing we must prepare and no circumstance that can keep us from being worthy in His presence. I think so often that it is not God that keeps us from coming home, but ourselves we are scared to face. Reality seems too painful, the hurt seems too deep and the regrets of the past are like whips we use to remind us that we have messed up. But what we must remember is that we were NEVER worthy in the first place-God knows we make mistakes. Heck, He expects us to! That is why we have the most wonderful thing every created, offered or available to us in this life: Grace. Grace to cover our past. Grace to help us in the present. Grace to prepare our way in the future. Grace saved us then. Grace saves us now. So, BE ENCOURAGED!!! Your homecoming party is awaiting you. There is so much good to do in your life and grace covers the bad so my friend, don’t worry for a second. Besides, you won’t want to miss the best feast of your life, the rob that clothes like no other and there is no one that can give a hug like Jesus.

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How often do we praise Him?

Taking time to praise His sweet, sweet name today.

It is so easy to get caught up asking Him what to do with your life, telling Him your worries and getting caught up in what He provides and what He has done rather than who God is. You see, the more you learn about who He is, the more you learn about who you are. The more you trust His sovereign plan, the less you worry about your next step and the more time you have to enjoy the present moment!

Bask in His presence. Love Him and let Him love on you. He yearns to tell you how wonderful and precious you are to Him but you must give Him that chance. Silence all the distractions and go to His feet. Don’t change one thing before you do, He longs to have you just as you are.

Lift up your hands! It’s time to to praise Him!

Part of His team!

Had to share this with you guys.

Have you seen the movie, “Moneyball”? Brad Pitt. Jonah Hill (hilarious, even in this movie). It tells the story about how Pitt and Hill use an unconventional strategy to remake their team. Throughout the entire movie, people doubt the baseball team and their ability to win any games because of what scouts have said about the players. Other teams are laughing at Pitt’s recruiting methods and waiting for the Oakland A’s to completely bite the bullet and fall off the map.

The crazy thing is, they do the complete opposite. I guess not that crazy because it is the movies, but the coolest part is that this movie is based off of a true story! I just love movies like that. Those movies that everyone says, “That would never happen in real life”, yet in these, it was the exact inspiration for the movie! Anyway, the Oakland A’s make it all the way to the National Championship and are so incredibly close to winning. Although they don’t take home the first place trophy, Pitt’s character still receives the offer for the highest paid manager in the history of Professional baseball. Why do all these things matter? The first time I saw the movie, I felt moved. Touched. Encouraged that this team could make it this far. But I had missed so much beauty of what the story is really saying. The difference between Pitt and other baseball managers was that he knew deep within him that these guys had the potential to help him achieve his goal. No matter what anyone told him, he found them able. It took one man to change the lives of over twenty guys and the game of baseball in general. THAT is a sweet story.

As I was watching, I couldn’t stop smiling and thinking, “so this is how God views me?” While Pitt may have not seen his players in the exact same ways as God see us, flawless and beautiful, he did have a sparkle of hope in his eye. He had belief that went past common sense. He had confidence that surpassed public opinion or standards. He didn’t care what was considered “normal” or that all those around him thought he was crazy. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was going to change the game of baseball. Do you know how many people have told you that you are not capable? Those that long for you to trip and fall? God is completely aware that you may only run half as fast as some others or that your pitching form is completely abnormal. That is WHY he loves you!!! Your imperfections allow Him to intervene and make them strengths. Your shortcomings invite Him to act on your behalf. God doesn’t care what anyone else says, what is considered “normal” for how to run His kingdom, or what a spreadsheet says about you. Grace creates your resume and it doesn’t take long to see that He finds you a PERFECT fit for His team.

Going out on a limb.

I love quotes. Shocking, right? Probably not. Anyone that knows me, reads anything I write or has ever come across my twitter or facebook account knows that I love me some quotes. I find such enrichment in being encouraged by people of all types who have studied all sorts of facets of life and who are famous or recognizable for so many different reasons, yet there is common knowledge among them all. The “sweetness” to life has many forms and hearing about the ways people find that sweetness makes me happy. It also pulls me into this world where I truly feel as if anything is possible. It is, actually, Not sure why I ever doubt that when I have Jesus but anyway.

As I logged on to pinterest, and if you don’t know what website I am referring to, you must learn immediately because it will change your life, the first thing I see is a pin that my friend had on her page that said, “Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is,” by Mark Twain. Yes, it is poetic and a lovely quote but that is not why I was so ecstatic. I distinctly remember talking to my mom a while ago about my adventurous side, my need to experience something “new” after college and do something that completely took me out of my comfort zone or familiar bubble. I told her I felt as if the Lord was telling me, “Cleere, why are you afraid to go out on a limb? THAT is where the fruit is.” So, you can imagine how I felt as I saw this on the first page of my pinterest account. I felt a little nudge in my spirit as I looked up and thought, Lord you never cease to amaze me. While a million other people also saw this pin and this quote is far from unfamiliar, it registered with me and for that moment and still right now, I feel it directly speaking and applying to my life.

There is no need to convince me that really living and bearing “fruit” requires us to go out on a limb. Sometimes that means a different locations, sometimes that means a job we feel inadequate to perform, sometimes that means being immersed in a workplace that is completely different from our usual work style. Whatever it means, I am sure that it is worth it. Think about it: If an individual has the choice to either read a book about another country and learn of its’ people that way or to completely move there, adapt the culture and live on a daily basis surrounded by those people. Which would bear more fruit? Or if someone has the choice to attend a church and sit in the back row or to join a church and is offered to work in a small group and go on a church retreat. Which would bear more fruit? The point is, “fruit” in these cases means the enrichment in our lives. Whether that be through relationships, a wealth of knowledge, a deeper understanding of another culture or simply a greater understanding of one’s self, we must be willing to dive in head first and not just dip our toes in.

The fact that my last name is Cherry only enhances this tree analogy for me. I see it so clearly (cleerely…sorry, had to do it). I know that while God wants me to feel secure, He longs for me to feel that security in Him and Him alone. Not in my circumstances. Or my friendships. Or my romantic relationship. Or my location. Or my career. Or anything of that nature. This is not to say that he doesn’t long for us to succeed and maintain those areas the best that we can, but those parts of our lives do not form our identity. He longs for us to get to a place where our heart is so content and secure in His love, that circumstances do not waiver our faith or take away from our enjoyment of the day. And when those areas flourish? Life is all the more better. God wants us to go out on a limb for Him and be adventurous in our nature. Life is a journey and it is as exciting as you make it! Let Him guide you but remember that you must be willing to go out on a limb to taste that sweetness He so freely offers.

Song of the Day: “I Will Follow”, by Chris Tomlin. Where He goes, we go. Where He stays, we stay. Where He moves, we move. Don’t be scared to go out on a limb cause Jesus has already gone before you:-)

No longer waiting for tomorrow.

So today was awesome. Why you might ask? Because I felt so incredibly useful! Sounds simple when I write it down or say it out loud but the reality of that fact is that it’s hard to feel useful sometimes. I just started a brand new internship and today was my second day on the job. I have been unsure of what to expect and if my skill set would be adequate for my assignments I would be given. Today, I had the chance to plan an annual fundraiser, or being what will be a long process, and I knew I was planning something that so many people would be marking on their calendar today and looking forward to all spring.

i realized why I loved today so much: Because I felt useful. Purposeful. Intentional. Helpful. And part of something bigger. I knew that the fruit of my labor would soon be something that a large number of people would get to enjoy and THAT made me happy. This revelation also made me realize something I have been praying about a lot recently. I know God does not get tired of us praying for the same thing, no matter how trivial, but I think I have made a close call with this particular prayer request. I think tonight might be my 600th time I have asked the Lord about what He was leading me to do. When I mentioned this to my father, he said, “Honey, you always tell me not to worry. I don’t understand why you are. Trust the Big man.” And the thing is, I do. I do trust Him but I was humbled very quickly by my lack of patience. My preferable timing to find out my future plans would be now. But that is simply not going to be the case. I do not doubt that the Lord will give me a firm place to stand when I graduate but I do often wish I knew where that place was or what I would be doing exactly. But throughout today’s work assignment, I realized I want to work for an organization, either through a sports company or simply a non-profit organization, that supports the works of children who are either ill, poor, malnourished or without other support. I realized that I wanted to be part of something much, much bigger than myself. I want to help orphans find a home because when I do that, I myself feel at home.

Granted, you might wonder how planning an annual fundraiser for a 500 member organization of economic development would teach me this. I wonder too. Until I realized where the revelation came from: my sweet Heavenly father. He showed me in a way that cleared my focus and quieted all the white noise. As I sit at my desk and look in my planner for different places I am writing down to send my resume to in these next few weeks, my ipod (which our workplace kindly allows us to listen to while doing work), the song “Waiting for Tomorrow” comes on by Mandisa. I can feel the chills going down my body and the tears streaming from my face as the words rang in my ears, “Can’t spend my whole life wastin’, everything I know I’ve been given, ’cause you’ve made for so much more than sittin’ on the side lines….Everyday’s a day to start over so why am I waiting for tomorrow?” And so in that very moment, I decided, I’m no longer waiting for tomorrow.

Song of the Day: “Waiting for Tomorrow”, by Mandisa. Have you heard? Today is the new tomorrow! Don’t wait to start. Not one more second. Go!