Thursday, November 26, 2009

Whatever is Good

Author: Katie

God’s word proves itself. I need not try to prove it. It only takes one believer to test what it says and today, it proved itself to me once again. History tells of how man is doomed to repeat his mistakes over and over from Adam and Eve in the garden to Katrina Dunkin.

This morning, I cried out to Him with a broken and contrite heart. I asked forgiveness for dwelling on things that make me miserable. His Word tells us to focus on what is good and lovely, admirable...that being Him and the work He is doing and the fact that He loves me and wants me to cast all my cares upon Him.

I find myself repeating this cycle over and over. I focus on Him, I rise above my circumstances. I have peace and a wonderful testimony of His love, mercy and grace on my lips. I live a life that is attractive to those who are seeking to know Christ. They want what I have. I feel no need to defend myself because Christ is my vindication. But, then something happens and it becomes my focus. I lose sight of the One who loves me. The words on my mouth and the meditations of my heart are unacceptable and I find myself not dwelling in His presence…although He never leaves me. My life is not appealing to those who are seeking Christ and my testimony of Him is defeated. I get depressed, and miserable and I can’t seem to snap out of it until I realize what I’m doing and I fall on my face before God with a broken and contrite heart…Then, I find myself back in His grace, restored, whole.

This morning I found myself in that place of brokenness. I cried out to God in repentance for focusing on what makes me miserable and feeling hopeless and helpless. I asked Him to help me break out of this cycle. Then I read my devotion for the day….

“You have not cried to Me with all your hearts, but you have complained that I have not heard your prayers. As it is written ‘He [the Lord] is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him’ (Hebrews 11:6), And again: ‘You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with ALL your heart’ (Jeremiah 29:13).

Look no more to My hand to supply freely your needs when you have not humbled your hearts and cleansed your hands and come to me with the sacrifice I have required – even a broken and contrite heart. You need not expect Me to speak to you when your ears are heavy from listening to evil reports…..”

I also read, “Your eyes will not look upon My face while they are still engaged in viewing the faults and imperfections in the brethren.” Of this, I am guilty…of bitterness against my best friend and sister in Christ. I confess unforgiveness to God and everyone. I confess bitterness, and I ask for prayer…and I ask my friend to forgive me because I am full of faults and imperfections and I have no business pointing out those of others. God help me…it’s a pride thing.

Again, I must remind myself that victory is birthed from calamity…I need to stop complaining and fault finding, and trying to defend myself. I need to let God defend me..and thank God and praise Him in ALL things because He works everything for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)…that is the good I need to focus on in the midst of calamity…not the calamity. Then I will praise Him and glorify Him no matter what life throws at me…and that is what I was created to do!

“When you look to Me in truth and sincerity and repentance, you shall indeed see Me, and having seen Me, you wil look upon your brothers and sisters with love and understanding and patience knowing full well the needs in your own heart and life…”

“I will withhold my chastening rod when you turn to Me in repentance…”

“The heart that grieves over sin shall experience genuine comfort. There is nothing like it in any of the comforts of the world. If you bathe My feet in your tears, I shall clasp you to my heart in love. I cannot describe to you My love. I can only give it to you.”

This truth has been proven in my life over and over and over…and now again. His grace is truly sufficient and the only perfect love is God’s love.

I am reminded today of 1 Thessolonians 5: 16-18

Rejoice ALWAYS
IN EVERYTHING give thanks

Jennifer Knapp Returns to the Stage

Author: Susan L. Prince

On Wednesday, November 18th, I experienced something that I had waited many years for. I drove the 2.5 hours from Jackson, TN to The Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN to see and hear one of my favorite musical artists ever, Jennifer Knapp.

I know I wasn't the only one in the theater absolutely bubbling over with glee that Knapp is back on the stage to use the wonderful gifts and talents God has given her. The woman has been out of the music scene since 2002 when she left the stage and basically vanished from music, leaving a gaping hole in the hearts of her many die-hard fans, of which I am one.

In 2001 Katie and I had the privilege of meeting Knapp in Memphis when she was the opening act for Jars of Clay at the MidSouth Fair. While it was exciting to meet the boys of Jars, we hurried past them to get to who we really came to see! It was a blast to be able to talk with her and say "you rock!" She was kind and gracious and looked at the both of us and said "this is great!" while she listened to us share about the impact her music has had on us and shared small bits of testimony. It is a memory I hold very dear.

Since the day Knapp re-entered the music world I have been following her on Twitter and MySpace. People keep encouraging her to do the Facebook thing, but apparently with all the imposters out there, she has run into some trouble "proving" she is indeed the real JK. You better know I will be her "friend" as soon as I learn she's on FB!

I received a tweet one day from Knapp that she would be performing at The Belcourt and I was all over that! I wanted to go see her, but there are some logistical things to consider. I would be working that day, need to drive the 2.5 hours to Nashville, back again and work the next day. I had made prior arrangements to have Friday off that week to see Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) so I was not privy to another day off. I wondered if I could handle all the traveling and work and all my other commitments that week. Also, I really would have liked to have Katie go with me, but now she is married and living in Alabama, starting a new job, too, so that didn't seem like a possibility. This would leave me driving back and forth alone and attending the concert by myself.

I posted on FB about the concert and that I would be going alone, and my friend Debbie saw that post. She inquired about when and where and while we shot posts back and forth, she visited The Belcourt Theater online, bought tickets spontaneously, and came back with "I'm going, too!". So, we had our first road trip together to go see Jennifer Knapp! It was so much fun!

Knapp received a standing ovation as soon as she stepped on stage. The place was energized with fans all excited that she was about to play only her third show in seven years. She opened with "A Little More" and another familiar tune and the place was all abuzz with enthusiasm!

Knapp made it no secret that she felt a bit inept on the stage. She was obviously very rusty and awkward not knowing where to place herself, "what to do with her hands", and failing to "be cool" and flick a pic into the audience. She poked fun at herself for not really getting into the "rock and roller" thing and said "I can't even be cool and flick a guitar pic right" and as she tried the thing fell at her feet. She tried again and it dropped in front of her. It was hilarious!

An audience member called out and asked for a pic and Knapp obliged. As she was about to flick it in that direction the audience member said "let me come up and get it". We all laughed as Knapp nodded and said ok, walked to the edge of the stage where she handed off the pic to the fan who came up to retrieve it. It was classic! I laughed!

Thing is, none of us fans care how awkward and rusty Knapp is on the stage. All we cared about was the fact she was there playing her inspired music for us. I loved the performance, and in fact, the awkwardness visually just made it all the more endearing to me. It was raw and it was REAL. It was Jennifer Knapp!

She has such a rapport with the fans and it was like having a close friend visit, chatting over song in the living room. I adored her performance. She played some old familiar tunes and invited Amy Courts to sing with her on some stuff and that was absolutely wonderful. Most of the evening however we were introduced to new stuff Knapp has written. What a treat! After all these years, hearing new stuff was amazing! The new songs have the Knapp familiarity, yet they are new and fresh, and I was all giddy! You can hear two new songs on her Myspace, "Letting Go" and "Mr. Gray" which represent her sound very well.

I am so looking forward to her new album which is tentatively set for a release early in 2010. After getting a sneak preview of the new songs, I can NOT wait for this CD to drop! It is going to be amazing and Knapp will not be playing such small venues much longer.

I plan to get to her every performance within a reasonable driving distance. Hopefully, one of these day, Katie and I both will attend her show together. It will be a double blessing that day! Woohooo!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Calamity Gives Birth to Victory! (Author: Katie)

The last 2 years of my life have been what seems to be a trail of one calamity after another. I have battled spiritually until I have found myself completely on the brink of a mental/spiritual breakdown. But instead of collapsing into oblivion of mental illness, I ran to my Father and collapsed in His arms. I battle…this warfare…daily and I am not so blind as to believe this struggle will ever end this side of heaven. This is life on Earth… a preparation and teaching time for eternal life with God.

Calamity teaches us how loved we are and that God is always there, in control and always with us. It teaches us how much we need Him and that He is the only One we can truly depend on always. The biggest thing I am learning is said quite perfectly in my devotional book, “Come Away my Beloved” by Frances J. Roberts. One sentence sums it all up in a nutshell….

“There can be no permanent loss in the life of My children, for out of the seeds of every calamity rises a whole crop of new victories.”

The author writes from God’s perspective, as if He is talking to his children…through His love letter…where He really does talk to us. It goes on to read…

“[This] is the way I have made it. The greatest evidence of this truth is Calvary.”

This is His story...for His glory....

I am experiencing a new crop of victories birthed from the chain of heart breaking events. He is healing me…and growing me…and blessing me….slowly but surely and eventually, completely.

I only want Him to receive the glory for the great things He has done. Apart from Him I am nothing and I can do nothing…but in Him…all things are possible.

By God’s grace I have a new and wonderful victory that keeps multiplying….I am Mrs. Katrina Dunkin!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Today Wasn't Just Another Sunday

Author: Susan L. Prince

I awakened this morning like I do each Sunday, although this day I was not working and looked forward to heading to Northbrook Church to gather with my church family and worship together. Northbrook has been my home church since 2001, so I have a large family!

There are many things going on personally in my head and heart that I can't share here, but I will share some things today because my experience at church was so profound. It is difficult sometimes to share this stuff because what is so deep and meaningful to me may sound trivial and "stupid" to the reader, but it is a risk I am going to take. This blog is meant to glorify God and today He really did surprise me with some things and I just need to document it in some way.

When I walked in the door at Northbrook this morning I was greeted by name with smiles and hugs from my brothers and sisters in Christ. It was such a warm feeling of love in the air. :) It just seems sweeter now that I live alone to have people genuinely happy to see me.

I chatted some and then headed in to take my seat, third row in the section on the right side, second chair in from the aisle on the left. I noticed a couple behind me that I had not met so I introduced myself and met Gina and Raymond. I said "hello" to a few other family members and watched as other Northbrookers made their way over to greet Gina and Raymond. It made me remember my first visit to Northbrook and how I immediately felt loved. I hope Gina and Raymond experienced some of that today.

I took my seat again and observed that the elements were reverently on display at the front. Honestly, I have not partaken in the sharing the Lord's Supper the past few times the opportunity presented itself. I chose not to partake on those occasions because my heart just wasn't "right". The Lord's Supper is something I revere and take very seriously. There are times I literally shake when I hold the elements and consider what Jesus Christ did for me on that cross and think about how much love it took to stay on that cross, suffering and dying. I think hold me Jesus, I'm shaking like a leaf.

When I saw that my Northbrook family would be sharing in the Lord's Supper today, before the service started I sat and reflected at my seat. I was thinking that my heart is there, it is ready, and it is His. I thought, today I will be able to partake.

The service started with a single voice singing strains of a hymn and then we heard scripture read by many different people and children. All these scriptures shared the truth about God's love and how much He does love us. It was impactful to me because I had already been led to ponder all that.

As the praise and worship music started by the band on stage, the wife of one of the band members came up next to me and asked if she and her family could sit in the row of seats next to me. Of course! So, I quickly moved my stuff from the seat that was to my right, but realized that wasn't quite enough room and then I had to leave "my" seat and move to the seat on the end.

This doesn't seem like a big deal, but to me it was. It was a very big deal. That end seat was "Katie's". That was my friend Katie's seat. I sat next to her for eight years as she worshiped. So, it felt weird. It felt so different to sit there, in "Katie's seat". I was somewhat befuddled.

When the band finished, the woman's husband came and sat next to his wife, which was next to me, in "my" seat.

Suddenly a wave of emotion overcame me because it was now "official"; the era has come to an end. My entire framily is gone and Katie wasn't there and life is marching on. I've even been "kicked out" of my seat. It was symbolic. It really got to me. I think it is finally sinking in how different my life is now. I know the both of us are in God's will, and that is all good, but my heart has finally accepted that I am enduring a major life adjustment. In a way it really surprised how it all started to hit me. My life as I knew it is over. God is moving me onto new things. God is moving Katie onto new things.

Chuck, my pastor, then stood before us to present the elements, that which represents Christ's body and blood. My eyes were already welling up and as Chuck began to share a word with us, he got choked up. He couldn't speak because he was overcome with emotion. I have seen this in him before when we partake in the Lord's Supper. It is a very meaningful time and it seemed extra special today for some reason; at least it was for me.

When Chuck finally spoke he said "Have you ever just been so overcome with the realization that you are loved?" He continued on to share that he feels that way when we share in communion, when he thinks about his family, when he thinks about the church, when he thinks about his wife, etc. It was impactful to me because I was really feeling the love today. As soon as I entered the Gathering Place, brothers greeted me, I found sisters to get hugs from and talk with, listened to people share about how much God loves me and then I was about to do something that Christ commanded us to do in order to remember His sacrifice, which was totally done out of absolute, never-ending, pure love for me.

It was powerful. God reminded me that Christ took on the form of a man for me. He is the Almighty, yet He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Can you imagine confining yourself to live in a feeble body covered with skin, when you are an omnipotent, eternal being? As a man he endured the hardships of life we all deal with, and much more. He lived a perfect life and then died a death like any common criminal of that day. The people who cheered Him waving palm branches as He entered the city at the beginning of the week were sorely disappointed by him by the end of the week and even spat on him and cursed Him. Then He laid down His life. Yes, man crucified Him, but that would not have happened without his permission. He literally laid his life down! He did that for me. For YOU! Bloggles the mind!

That is true love. Agape love. He died for the very people that spit on Him, curse His name, and nailed Him to a tree. He died for me. Me.

So, I sat reflecting on that as well as the framily that I was so desperately missing, knowing that I have loved deeply and knowing that I am loved deeply. It was so very humbling.

Chuck asked anyone willing to serve to come up and pass out the elements and so I took of the bread and I took the cup. We waited to eat together and then to share of the drink. As I crushed the bread between my teeth, I envisioned the body of my Savior, broken and dying as He hung on a cross, and as I drank of the cup I understand that He poured his blood out as a sacrifice for my sin.

After sharing the Lord's Supper Chuck delivered an inspired message on the scripture about Jesus washing the disciple's feet. I want to share more about that in another post, but one thing that stuck with me is something Chuck said about foot washing, he said "it is humbling on both sides of the water."

It was an emotional day for me as I remember life and what it was like these past ten years, and how it is now and that I can trust God for a future rich with opportunities to serve Him.