Friday, May 20, 2011

It's the end of the world as we know it...........and I don't feel fine.

  While we're all cracking our butts sideways laughing at this end of the world mess, I challenge you to take a different approach at discussing the, uh, "topic":

   Last night Jo and I were having our regular evening down time together. Watching the telly and being computer nerds are part of our little relaxation mode. Basically, we allow our brains to turn to mush just for a while. After the emotional roller coaster we've been riding this week, we deserved to sit and do....NOTHING. Usually we chat and catch up on the day's events. We take advantage of these couple of hours before we hit the sack, just enjoying each others company. I was still recovering from shot day so I wasn't as much fun as normal. Jo supplied entertainment this time by making his goofy jokes and a fantastic pot of coffee, repairing our burner on the comp and kissing me on the cheek with his scruffy beard every two seconds to make me laugh.
   Suddenly he chimed in, "Hey! The end of the world is this weekend, ya know." His eyebrows were raised as if to say, "Just in case you didn't already." (Insert big goofy smile HERE.) 
   "I know! And there are zombies!" I replied sarcastically. "Are ya ready????"

   It was like a bomb went off in the room. We both just looked at each other.
  
   "What?" he said. God love that boy's heart....his brain was apparently still mush. The walking undead got to him a little early I guess.
   "Did you not hear anything I just said?"
   "What?"
   Why must we map everything out for men?
   "ARE. YOU. READY?" I asked him.
   Again, a blank stare, but apparently this time it had all clicked and he was grasping the magnitude of the question.
   "I know it's a big hoax....we don't know when the end of the world will hit, but, ARE YOU READY?"
   He looked at me very concerned as I answered the questions written all over his sweet face.
   "I'm saved," I said, "it's not that.....it's everything else................No, I'm not ready. Could I face God, my Creator, on Saturday and say, 'Hey, God! I've totally done everything You asked me to do! Let's get this road on the show!"
    Um......no. Then my hamster wheel started to spin. I began to question myself a million miles per second. Now I'm asking YOU the same questions:

   Are you ready?
   If you were to meet your Maker on Saturday, whether it be by natural death, the second coming or even zombies, are you ready to look Him in the eye and answer His questions? When He says to you, "Why didn't you do what I asked you to do" will you be ready to answer? When the Father says, "I had so many plans for you, and man, they were AWESOME! ....................You knew I wouldn't hurt you or even allow you to be hurt.....why didn't you just trust me? Why did you run from me?" 
   Did you give it all you had while you were on this earth? Did you carry your cross, witness to as many people for Him as you could find? Did you serve Him and others? Did you take the time to establish a relationship with Him, let alone feed and nurture it? Did you glorify Him in all you did and fully trust Him with every single aspect of you life? Did you give Him your life totally or just partly?  Did you walk the walk and talk the talk or was WWJD just a bracelet you wore for appearances?

   Will you look away from the perfect face you have SO longed to see in shame, empty handed? Or will you bow before Him with crowns to lay at his beautiful feet, rewarded for all you've done for Him?
   When you look into the Savior of the world's eyes will He know you? Will you know Him?
  
   ARE. YOU. READY?

   After drilling myself and yes, answering, I realized that I'm not ready. I even asked myself, "What if Saturday really was THE DAY?"   Now, I know it's not, but what if? Zombies and guys with cardboard signs aside, WHAT IF GOD PICKED THAT DAY?
   The Bible tells us that the day and the hour are not known when Christ will return for His people. (Matt 24:36) Not even Jesus knows; only God the Father. (I fully believe this.) If we have no set time or schedule to follow, shouldn't we just be prepared?
   Packing isn't easy....one has to prepare a clothing itinerary for a week long vacation. This can actually take a few days and with my family, a few weeks. Laundry must be caught up and the house spotless. This way, when it's time to fold everything neatly into the suitcases, I have it all at my fingertips.  I personally make a list of needs: toiletries, medicines, a swimsuit, makeup, shoes, and beach accessories; let's not forget the GPS to make it to our destination and any other points of interest as well as the vehicle that insures we not only arrive safely, but in a "timely" manner.....I'm NOT walking to the beach, guys. 
   With all of this in our driveway, we are totally prepared for a nice long vacation.
   If we're this well prepared for a short vacation why are we not even more prepared for eternity? I don't know about you but I can't pack millions of souls to witness to into the next day or so. I can't make a difference for Christ like I know I should in 24 hours. I've stretched out my time on this earth thinking to myself, "I have nothing to worry about. It'll be a while."
   But what if it isn't? What have I done for HIM? No, as terrible as it sounds, I'm not ready. I have WAY too much work left to do. So my prayer is this....God, if you can just hold the zombies off just a little longer (by the way, I know that's not biblical), if you can keep Jesus with you just a few moments more, I will be all I need and have to be for You. I have too much to offer You. I know I'll never be perfect, but I can at least try. I can't look into Your sweet and wonderful face knowing that I haven't given it my all and then some for You. NOW....let's get this road on the show....er, with YOU leading, of course.


  My challenge to all of us is this: WHAT IF?  Are you ready for Matthew 24:36? And what are you going to DO for Him to answer the challenge? Matthew 24:44-47; Ecclesiastes 9:11


***Please note that I AM ready to see JESUS....I'm saved and my soul ACHES to be with Him. I just haven't quite finished all that I want to do for Him.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

GPS: God's Positioning System

  I always try to remember that God will never give me more than I can handle. He reminds us of this in His love letter to us. He'll never allow us to be tempted farther than what we can carry. He promises that His plans for us are to prosper us, to protect us, to give us a hope and a future. He promises that all of our pain and cross bearing isn't just for the heck of it, but for for His glory and magnification. Our struggles aren't in vain. All we have to do is TRUST Him.
  Sounds pretty easy, doesn't it? After all, He is the God of the universe, the giver of life to all things; He holds the very breath of that life in the palm of His mighty hand. Just thinking about HOW He created man is beyond my feeble mind. From dirt man became flesh. Then God, the Creator of everything that surrounds us and dwells within us, basically performed the world's first CPR session right there in the Garden of Eden. He provided all that man needed....food, shelter, companionship, a relationship with Him, and LIFE.
  So why is it so hard for us to just trust that He's got our backs?
  The past two years have been two for the record books in the life of the Griffins. I've seen God work miraculously in and around me and my family. I've seen Him be glorified and magnified in trials and out of trials. I've seen Him work wonders.
   I have been so tired of guessing what God wants for my life. It's been exhausting carrying around all of the stupid mistakes I've made. I'm 29 years old and I have no college, no job that brings a paycheck and I've got MS. I'm great at doing the house-wifery thing, but I know there's more that God wants for me and from me. I pray and pray and pray for God to make it evident what I'm supposed to do with this life He's blessed with but to no avail. Probably because I tell Him what I want. Wow. Talk abut a pity party. Griffin, you are sometimes just plain pathetic.
   Then God reminds me, Griffin, you sometimes sell yourself short, kiddo. 
   So I weighed out my pros and cons: God has blessed me with SO much. No, I don't mean "stuff". I mean gifts in which to glorify Him. I can supposedly sing. I can' supposedly paint. I can supposedly write....I'm an awesome mom and Jo thinks I'm a fantastic wife....although, I'm a terrible house keeper. But all of that doesn't amount to a hill of beans when measured up against WHO I am in Christ. This is why I'm able to accomplish everything and even breathe every single day. I ran with this. I prayed, "God, here I am. Apparently You think there's more to work with here than I do. And since You're a heck of a lot smarter than me, I'm gonna go with that. I'm laying it all out. It's all or nothing now. I'm done praying for Your will when I haven't even given You a chance to SHOW it to me. I can't see the forest for the trees so......YOU do it. I'm done driving the car and thinking I don't need the GPS (GOD'S Positioning System). It's all Yours. Take me where You will and I'll do whatever it is I need to do to allow You to accomplish Your plans for me through me. I'm letting go. I need You to open some doors." 
   In response He reminded me, "I'll never leave you or forsake you. I have a plan to prosper you and give you the hope and future you so long for. You will be protected by ME. Trust me with all your heart, Bran." 
   A few days later I suddenly felt the need to go back to college and finish. Are you flippin' NUTS?! You've got MS and NO money to pay for school!!! I thought God had completely lost His mind. "Are You serious?" I asked Him. The next thing I knew I was standing in the office of enrollment services at Dalton State College registering for school. I kept asking myself HOW we were going to do this. Jo and I can't afford for me to finish school, and I had NO idea what I wanted to major in as music isn't really a hot commodity at DSC.    
  Then the sky opened.
  My friend Natima informed me that I could get my English degree and a teaching certificate so I could teach secondary grade level English. I still have some kinks to work out, but basically, I'm going to teach. Along with that, DSC will be starting a two year music degree this fall. BINGO. I can also take the music portion of the GACE and teach music. I've known from the beginning this was my calling, but how to go about it now that I'm a full time mother and wife was beyond me. He's made the path clear, but how do I get down it was another question. Open door number one.
  I came home that day and immediately filled out all of the necessary paper work for financial aid. I had a deadline to meet with DSC that would hit in three days. It would take those three days for the financial aid to process. "Please, God....I can't do it without financial aid. I NEED a miracle. I'm trusting You. Please....don't let me down."
   Two days later I received an email from financial aid stating that I'd qualified for almost ALL of the Pell Grant. I would be going to college this fall semester for FREE. Open door number two.
   I then received a call from enrollment services; the lady calling was making sure I knew I needed to take the Compass Placement Exam.....again. "You will not receive your acceptance letter until you've taken this test and you will not be able to register unless you meet the deadline for financial aid which was yesterday." They still had not received my financial aid.
  "I filled everything out and got an email letting me know how much I qualified for....please. I've got to be in school this fall and I can't do it without that financial aid." I was almost in tears on my end.
   "We'll accept it. Just make sure you get signed up for the Compass."  Open door number three. I couldn't thank her and God enough.
    Thursday I took my Compass. I'm not a test taker and let's face it, I haven't taken anything but pregnancy and medical tests in over a decade. With MS it's incredibly hard to concentrate and I forget things so easily. How was I going to do this?
  "There are three parts to the Compass," the registrar explained. "A reading, a writing and a math."
  I knew all of this as I had studied and taken it once before.
  "You need to make at least an 80 on the reading part so you can attend for a degree rather than a certificate. You only made a 76 the last time you took it."
  I was floored. How did I of all people make a 76 on a READING test?!?! The nerves hit and I was ready to cry and barf all at one time. There's the door....just over there....only a few feet. I know you're chubby, but you can RUN!!!!
   But I didn't. I sat down at my assigned computer, I closed my eyes and I said a one more quick prayer.
   "All right....You've brought me this far. You know what has to be done here. HELP ME. PLEASE." It took me about two hours, but I finished and I picked up my scores.
    Reading: 98. Writing: 93. Math: Well, we all know I'm not a number gal so I'll be in Math 98. Let's just go with that.  I was quite pleased, to say the least. Open door number four.
   The doors just KEEP opening....

   I'm going to shift gears a little now so you can grasp the fullness of what God has been doing in my personal walk with Him as well as the walk I share with my brothers and sisters in Him.

   Our church has been kinda "down" for the past few years; but in the past year I've seen things change for His glory. I know, it's a running joke for us to say,  "I'm Baptist and Baptists don't like change, so if you would kindly move outta my pew I'll ask you to visit again."  Insert large fake smile HERE. To be frank, our church was a little like this....a little dead. *I* was a little like this and I was certainly dead. I would say I wanted things to be different, but I wasn't proactive about getting them there. Then things started shifting.....God started moving. We got out of our own way. We got out of GOD'S way. Don't get me wrong, we've still got a long way to go, but the point is we're taking the necessary steps to prepare for all that God has in store for the life of His church. We're allowing Him to work.
  This week we're in the middle of having a Team Impact event. The definition of Team Impact from a Barbie Girl's point of view: MASSIVELY GARGANTUAN Christian dudes that are passionate about Jesus come and lift heavy things like, oh, telephone poles over their heads; they also break bricks, boards, bats, and giant ice cubes. Oh, and they give their testimonies and present the Gospel in a way I've never seen before. The steel bending, ice and brick breaking and huge intimidating muscles are an added bonus, but the hundreds of people coming to Christ as a result of the glory given to God is out of this world. The first night 32 people were saved. The second night, 52 people were saved, about 16 of them belonging to our local high school football team. I haven't seen anything like this in person in my entire 29 years of life. This only happens in books, at other churches, in other states, on television with Billy Graham present, or in the Bible. I've never seen it happen at MY church. We still have three nights to go.
  In Murray County, where my church is located, 33% of the county itself is un-churched. There's no telling how many aren't saved. People say, "Well, it's none of our business what others believe." I possess a different opinion. See, as a Christian, it IS my business. It's my business to make sure the gospel gets to them. It's my business to carry it all over me. It's my HONOR to bring Jesus to the peeps.
  Our pastor, Jeremy, gets pretty fired up about that 33%. Literally, those are thousands of souls whose eternal fate dangles in the balance. As we all know, fire tends to spread, especially when the surrounding terrain is dry. Jeremy's fire has spread to the heart of our church body. On Monday night, about 100 people gathered together to scan a 1 mile radius around our church. We split up into teams and went from house to house inviting people to come to our Team Impact Event. We were able to reach 1,000 homes and even more people. Wednesday through Friday our church presented Team Impact to the local schools who would have us, so far reaching about 3,500 kids and youth.  On Monday we also participated in a corporate fast. Whatever a person chose, be it food, television, internet, they would abstain from that activity from sundown Sunday night to sundown Monday night.
  Several friends chose to fast from food, another chose to fast from his guitar, my mom fasted from the internet. I chose Facebook. I know, that doesn't seem like much to most people, but to the ones who know me and my sick affection for being social, this is a feat to even speak aloud. I'm proud and humbled to say, by the grace of God only, I've been fasting from Facebook since Sunday night. It's FRIDAY, guys. I don't know when I'll go back to it....I'm just following God. Yes, it's been tough, but I know that God is doing and is going to do something mighty as a result. My heart has been aching and pounding out of my chest over what God wants for my life and my ministry as a Christian, over what He has in store for my little family, over what he has in store for my husband, over what He has in store for His people. I am so excited to see Him showing up this week, pouring His fresh spirit over me like rain on barren and cracked earth. I'm watching God work in and around me. I am officially in revival mode.

  When God works the devil also works. In fact, he gets pretty ticked at all that God does in the life of a believer as well as in the life of one who will hopefully join the family. It gets under his hot skin and tugs on his frayed nerves like nails on a chalkboard. The rejoicing and and dancing from above interrupts the symphony of sin he and his demons direct in the lives of the souls he's lost and the souls he battles for. He will do anything to steal the joy of one whose life is being renewed.
   Jordan called me the day I took my Compass. He called me several times actually, while I was in the middle of taking the test but I couldn't answer. After I got my scores I celebrated by performing a little ditty in the hall for Jesus and thanked Him. I was quite excited and couldn't wait to call the love of my life and share my joy with him. I was standing outside of the liberal arts building allowing the hot sun to warm my face as I dialed Jo's number. Being so proud of myself and so in awe of God, I felt for a split second like the most amazing wife and mother in the world. I wasn't ready to leave the campus just yet.
   "HEY! Guess what?! I made a 98 and a 93!!! I can't believe I can still take a test, Jordy!!! I'm so excited!"
   "That's great, babe....I'm really proud of you."
   His voice was heavy and I knew immediately that something was wrong.
   "I need to talk to you about something.......and it's not good."
   Freeze frame everything.
   Jordan works two jobs: one is part-time for Shaw, the other is full time for his grandfather's company Southeastern Latex. We receive our main income and insurance, which is imperative to any family but especially one with a "disabled" member, from Southeastern. The company has been in trouble for some time now due to circumstances that will remain between the family and God. I'm choosing to be the bigger person, as difficult as that may be, however this also is only by the grace of God. Basically, we've been holding our breath waiting on the company to crumble or for Jo's job to be extinguished,whichever would come first. Because of this Jo has been trying to finish school and was very blessed to find the part time job at Shaw, praying it would turn into full time before Southeastern fell apart. His Shaw job is still part time.
   "I'm not getting paid this week."
   I stood in stunned silence.

   So it happens that quickly, huh? Everything lines up, all the right doors open and manna falls from the heavens.....to be eaten by the wolves? 

  "What are we gonna do?" I asked him, not meaning to put any pressure on him. I was spinning. He gave me all of the details and reassured me that everything would be fine. Later that night we found out that Jordan's job had been eliminated in its totality.
  Poof.
  As quickly as a flame is blown out from a candle, my husband's job had vanished. 

  A thousand questions floated in and out of my mind. We had lost 75% of our income in the blink of an eye. How are we going to pay our rent? How are we going to buy groceries and pay our other bills? What about our living expenses? How are we going to break this to Lilli and explain to her that even she, an innocent bystander, will have to make sacrifices? How are we going to pay for my doctor appointments without insurance? I have to go to the doctor. This is not something we get to play around with here. How are we going to afford gas? HOW ARE WE GOING TO LIVE?
  I had to calm down. My nerves were shot and symptoms were kicking into overdrive....because now is the optimum time for that to be happening.  On top of being stressed over the job loss, Jo was worried his wife would suffer physically. The poor guy couldn't catch a break.
  "Don't worry about me....God will take care of me. God will take care of US," I reassured him.
  I didn't ask God "why" this happened. Why not? I believe God is stripping us down to the bear minimum so that we can become totally dependent on Him. I also believe that the devil is doing his job as well in trying to steal my joy. He's not succeeding.
   "Why open all of these doors, God, if You knew this was going to happen? I know I asked for a miracle the other day, but I need another one....or two. Please, God. I know You didn't bring me this far for nothing. I KNOW in my heart of hearts.....You have SOMETHING. You have to."
   After the third night of Team Impact I came home to my burdened husband who was just barely functioning under the weight of everything crashing in around him.No Team Impact member would be able to bench press or break this burden.
  "I have some good news, Bran.....we're getting to keep our insurance for the next 18 months." He beamed with the smile I'd been missing for the past 24 hours.
 
  MIRACLE NUMBER ONE.

  "Praise GOD!!!!" I didn't know what to say I was so overjoyed and so overwhelmed by God's faithfulness.

  Last night I was awakened by a nightmare. My Lilli was running to me in the middle of her own nightmare, screaming at the top of her lungs, unable to free her mind from whatever holds were on it. I reached out to her but couldn't touch her or help her as she screamed in terror. My eyes jumped open as I heard myself groaning in my sleep. These groans usually grow into a terrified yell and then a blood curdling scream. This is how spiritual warfare begins with me. It starts with nightmares and night terrors, my cue that a battle is beginning; it ends with a fight to the finish with the serpent himself. This is the second one I've had in a week.
  My heart was pounding out of my chest as I watched shadows fill every inch of mine and Jordan's bedroom; the darkness of all that had taken place in the last day was suffocating me. Then I heard Jordan as his dreams began to run with him; his breathing escalated and his now audible voice trembled. I placed my hand on his arm, curled up to comfort him and I started to pray and rebuke the devil. I felt any evil presence flee and Holy Spirit bring His comfort. It took me a couple of hours to find sleep again.
   "How are we going to do this? This doesn't make any sense, God....HOW?" Then He reminded me:

  You know.....my ways and thoughts are higher than yours, Brandi. Remember when I promised you that I had a plan? You remember. The one that is to give you a hope and a future. The one that I promised would never hurt you. Do you remember when I sent my only son for you and I told you, 'I'LL NEVER LEAVE YOU OR FORSAKE YOU, BRANDI'....do you remember that? Look what I've done for you, Bran. If you'll just keep trusting me, I won't let you down. I PROMISE. And my track record shows that I NEVER break a promise, kid. 

  
  I cried yesterday.......a lot. I was angry......a lot. No one said that being refined by fire wasn't painful. In fact, it hurts like the dickens. Here we are, not knowing what will happen tomorrow or how it'll all go down, but we're trusting God. Look at all that we've been blessed with. Look at how He's proven His faithfulness time and time again. How can I question that? I carry an overwhelming peace about our finances and I have, believe it or not, from the beginning. There's a calm that surrounds all of those questions above. We have no debt. We can live within our means and don't require much. I may have to learn how to highlight my own hair, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. We have family and friends who have offered more than we deserve in the past 48 hours. God is already providing! He takes care of His own. I'm watching Him, in all of His glory, be magnified throughout this entire process. I have no idea how long this trial will last. I have no idea what plans God has in the palm of His hand.....but I know mixed in with those plans are me, Jordan and Lilli. He holds us in place, unharmed and untouched by the raging winds and flying debris that surround us.
   Today I feel a little different about our new situation. As I pray I can hear the commotion around me--the questions, the pain, the doubt, and of course the uncertainty. Despite the noise, I can hear God's voice above all of it. I'm emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted, but I keep my heart, eyes and ears open to Him. He holds me upright with my eyes lifted to the hills. I'm remembering that man doesn't live on bread and water alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of my Lord. I'm remembering that I shouldn't worry about what I'll eat, that the birds of the field are cared for and I'm worth more to him than they are. I'm remembering that I shouldn't worry about what I'll wear. A king was never even as well clothed as lilies and I am of far more importance to God than flowers. Today I'm remembering that God's positioning system may take me down narrow, winding roads that aren't easily traveled. In fact, without God's direction, they're impossible to travel. As we coast along together, He in driver's seat, me finally taking the passenger's seat, He reminds me of all that we have overcome together and all that has yet to be overcome. We periodically stop to conquer roadblocks which only refine my faith, strengthen me and teach me more and more about what He has for me. He reminds me that with Him I am strong, and at this weakest point He is made even stronger.
   He reminds me today that there's still one more miracle I asked of Him....He reminds me that He's not yet finished.