Walking Through Advent In Song

Join me over on my FB page {Melanie Self} where I am walking my way through Advent in song! Melanie

Monty and I stood in our driveway late last night anticipating a view of the SpaceX Satellite. I was overwhelmed with emotion. What an incredible experience it was as it appeared and took up such significant space in the night sky. The wonder of technology and its display brought me right back to Christmas.
To the sky where the star pointed the way to the baby Jesus and to the manger where our Messiah and Savior lay.

Could those who followed the sign in the sky have ever imagined the galaxies and all that it holds in this way? The King of the heavens, the creator of it all continues to draw our eyes upward. While I am absolutely astonished by the wisdom God has given to mankind, I felt more compelled to fall on my knees and worship HIM. The words from the simple song “Away In A Manger” kept playing over and over in my head.

“The STARS in the sky looked down where He lay, the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.”

When God the Father scattered the Milky Way and hung Saturn’s rings in place, He thought about Christmas. As God the Son, working in unity with the Father, fashioned the lumbering oxen and the gentle cow with His creative power, He thought of the day when the Father would speak and He’d become flesh. On that day He would gaze with “baby eyes” upon the very creatures He had made.

God the Holy Spirit, moving as a shadow upon the face of the waters in Genesis days, knew one day it would be necessary to move again. This time He would overshadow Mary’s womb, that “the Holy One” to be born of her should be called the “Son of God.”

Isaiah told us that God’s gift would come via special delivery, a son born of a virgin. This son would be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Four hundred years later, as an elderly Elizabeth was thinking about the promised gift, God was busy wrapping His Christmas present from heaven in human flesh. And Christmas came early for Elizabeth. When Elizabeth welcomed her cousin Mary, the outcast, ostracized, pregnant girl, God pulled back the wrapping to let her have a peek at His present. Elizabeth’s own baby leaped in her womb for joy, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit, saying:

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:42-45)

Encouraged and strengthened by her cousin, Mary also prepared. She knew the anointed One was coming soon—as she was the earthly vessel for God’s divine action.

God couldn’t have a Christmas without a Mary. He needed more than just a devout person, someone who attended synagogue and said her prayers. The child Christ needed a body to live in! So Mary offered the gift of hers:
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)

Christmas is a time for giving. The prophets gave their promises. Elizabeth gave her praise. Mary gave her body. Joseph gave his reputation. The innkeeper gave his stable; the shepherds, their time. And God gave His Son. Tell me, do you see your present there?

What are you giving for Christmas?

By His Wounds We Are Healed

Suffering and Healing

“….after you have suffered a little while, the Lord will restore…..” 1 Peter 5:10

Now for the rest of the story…..

The Lord began to speak to my heart early Thursday morning- LAST Thursday morning that is. Just after midnight, I experienced tightness in my chest as I went to bed. I followed the protocol: aspirin and two nitro with no relief. So I woke Monty and we left right away for the hospital.

As we would learn, it is all a bit complicated and something that I have quietly battled off and on for two years. But praise be to God that we have answers for future direction and that my friend is answered prayer.

This particular Thursday morning, we were to leave for work with MRO in Watkins Glen. As the Lord would have it, I was exactly where I was preordained to be that morning. By 7:30am, all of the tests were starting. Echo, bloodwork, nuclear stress test, etc….. A long and arduous day but one filled with so many opportunities for faith conversations. While it was no walk in the park as they tried to figure out what to do first, I knew such peace. Truly, the peace that passes understanding. The Lord covered me with such mercy and every caregiver that I had was kind, compassionate and gracious.

By the end of the day on Thursday, three souls would all in some way share in each other’s woundedness, never in total, but enough to faithfully carry another’s burden. Hearts and bodies war-torn who bear scars, brokenness, healing, challenges and all still battling right now in some way.

Throughout the day I went over every story and conversation. Three separate storylines alongside of mine that connected us heart to heart. And the thread of gratitude that bound our hearts, was all about Jesus- healer, comforter, provider, way-maker, messiah, our peace….They were there to serve me but we all cared for each other. And oh how I carry them with me close in prayer daily.

We all bear wounds and scars in this life. Some seen. Some unseen. Physical. Spiritual. Mental. But my heart kept beating with the rhythm of “by His wounds we are healed”.

Just so you know, my physical heart is diseased but the Lord continues to protect me from damage and they smile when they say- you have a very strong “little” heart.

Truly the only part of this story that really matters is God’s great love for us in sending His son Jesus to carry the burden of sin mankind inherited after the fall.

He was wounded for our transgressions.

He was bruised for our iniquities.

When I consider HIS scars and HIS woundedness, nothing we will ever experience in the way of suffering this side of heaven can compare to the scars/wounds that Jesus endured so that we could have a relationship with Him.

The following are words that I wrote throughout the day on Thursday and Friday until they transferred me to Concord. I simply share the following as a way of reminder of so great a love and the agony He endured for our salvation.

After His resurrection, after the piercing and the crushing, after death gave way to glorious life, Jesus appeared to the disciples. I don’t know about you, but when I imagine a perfected body, I don’t picture scars, wounds, or bruises. But Scripture doesn’t say Jesus showed up with perfect skin and perfect hair and a perfect smile. No, Scripture says that in response to their fear and doubt, Jesus shows them His . . . wounds.

“Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.

Luke 24:38-40 (NLT)

We don’t know exactly what Jesus’s resurrected body looks like, but Scripture is clear on this: Jesus still has scars. It’s His wounds that show it’s truly Him, His scars that the disciple Thomas wanted to see (John 20:19-29).

I wonder if one day we’ll lean in close to see for ourselves, only to find His still-scarred hands reaching out for us.

I wonder if we’ll look for a wound and discover the scar is in the shape of our very own name, inscribed forever on His palm (Isaiah 49:16).

(I wonder if I’ll cry at the sight, and chances are good since I’m crying now just writing this sentence.)

Perhaps it’s worth saying:

Scars are signs of survival, a mark of a cutting open that didn’t end in brokenness but in healing. Your scars show what you’ve been through, yes, but they also show that you made it through. You’re still here.

If Jesus didn’t leave His scars behind, if He chose to keep them for the rest of all time, maybe we can choose to see our own as something beautiful instead of something to wish away. I’m talking about the ones we bare on our bodies and the ones that can’t be seen on our skin.

I’m not advocating that we all walk around showing everything to everyone or sharing every part of our story with complete strangers.

But maybe we could simply say “thank You” next time we look in the mirror. Maybe next time something that bruised us deeply is bumped by words or actions or the date on the calendar, we could bring our hurt to the One who truly understands. Maybe we could begin by asking the Healer to help us see our scars through His eyes.

Precious one. You are loved and cherished by our Lord. Nothing is too difficult. Like Paul and the other disciples, we must keep fighting the good fight. Keep the faith. Everything we do, no matter how hard, doing it all in the name of Jesus and for His sake.

Need a friend? Need to say it out loud and wrangle through it? I promise to be there.

MRO Community Center Bible Club Paul and Silas

Let’s Go God’s Story: The Old Dallas Jail

Paul and Silas

https://youtu.be/h7OHB6sg3I4

Note: There is a lot of background noise that I could do nothing about. Lean in close. I know that God’s message to you today is a powerful one!!!

Acts 16:25-32

“Now about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains were unfastened.

When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, thinking that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul called out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” And the jailer asked for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas; and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of God to him together with all who were in his house.”

Check out this gospel blues song based on Acts 16:25-31: Paul and Silas in Jail

God’s Story Paul and Silas in Jail:

MRO One Summer Edition

Natalie Grant

MRO One “Summer Edition”

One serves as a time to pause during the busy season, worship together and to be filled with hope and faith. Due to Covid, things will be different than in years past. We are excited to try a new venue in downtown Kannapolis, The Gem Theatre. There will be no dinner served though. Tickets are $20.

Purchase tickets https://www.go2mro.com/event-details/mro-one-summer-edition

Time & Location

Jun 23, 6:30 PM. 111 W 1st St, Kannapolis, NC 28081, USA

About the Event

Motor Racing Outreach is pleased to announce, Christian singer Natalie Grant for our MRO One Summer Edition. It is a signature event, formerly known as Summer Caution, which ministers to women in the racing community, whose involvement ranges from broadcast, public relations, marketing and Motorsports charities to being mothers, wives and sisters of men who work in the sport.

MRO Bible Club Kansas

God Loves You

The birds were singing sweet songs the day I made this video. I did not realize just how much until watching it back today. 🤗

I always loved spring. New life. Flowers of every color now warmed by the sun popping up through the cold, dark brown dirt of winter. Miraculous. Baby birds chirping as they await mama birds return with food. All of the many moments of spring remind me of time with my grandmother who was larger than life and a soul with more mystery and beauty than the brightest star I have ever seen.

From a young age, she would sing songs that I had never heard. One of my favorites songs she ever sang was one about sparrows. The discovery of a new nest each spring would stir the words and she would sing- “I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’d free. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.”

She taught me so much about Jesus, not always in words but with her life. I longed for the joy the smallest thing would bring to her. The wonder of it all still draws me to pursue Jesus daily.

She taught me about God’s love, the beauty of creation, to be grateful and give thanks in all things.

Jesus was truly her portion and constant friend. Could not share this video today with you and your children without thinking of her and living once again even for a moment in her gracious ways. I know God’s love and care because of moments walking right alongside of her. I can still hear her voice singing…..

When Jesus is my portion. A constant friend is He. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26

You are so loved by God precious one!!!

Let’s Go God’s Story- After The Tomb

MRO Bible Time for Martinsville

“…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

The beauty of new life in Spring reminds me of the moment that I accepted Christ as my savior. We spend a Sunday in Spring each year to remember the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even though we are sinners, Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. So what do we do AFTER the resurrection? Once the tomb is empty?

For those of us who have accepted Christ as our Savior and accepted the free gift of eternal life- We are to spend our days growing in our relationship with Christ in order to be more like Him.

This week we will look at how our lives are much like planting seed, bulbs and plants that will grow and bear fruit IF we nurture and care for them.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made with a beautiful purpose that God desires you to live out through your life.

Isaiah 61:3 says it like this:

“…the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified” Isaiah 61:3

Grab your Bible, read it every day. Spend time praying and listening for God’s voice so that you will grow and become the beautiful you that only you can be!

Let’s Go God’s Story- After The Tomb

DIY Easter Story Stones

Easter Story Stones

How to Make Easter Story Stones

Easter story stones (also known as resurrection story stones) are a fun and creative way to tangible engage with the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. A wonderful way to help you tell the Easter story.

Easter is one of my absolute favorite time of year. We get to celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin and death, the promise of resurrection, and the promise that God will one day restore everything that is broken about our world.

One way to keep the real meaning of Easter at the forefront (instead of it getting lost amidst all those chocolate eggs and bunnies) is to tell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection each year with your kids. If you do this in a fun and creative way, it will make the experience more memorable and more likely to stick with your kids.

Easter story stones are a great way to get your kids tangibly engaged with the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. They can play with the stones, and they can use them to retell the story in creative ways.

What are Easter Story Stones

Easter Story Stones are small rocks, or stones, painted with symbols from the Easer story. They are super simple to make, even if you have little artistic skill, and they add a great visual and tangible element to telling the Easter story.

Here’s a picture of the Easter story stones.

DIY Easter Story Stones

How to Use Your Easter Story Stones

You can use your Easter story stones in all sorts of different ways that will get your kids engaged with the Easter story. Here are some ideas.

• Grab your favorite Children’s Bible Story book or read straight from the Bible.

• Use your Easter story stones instead of Resurrection Eggs and have an egg (rock) hunt in your backyard.

• Hide them around the house on Easter morning and have the kids find all the stones. Once they’ve gathered them all, you can use them to tell the Easter story.

• Make your ow Ressurection Eggs with those empty plastic eggs that you can buy at the dollar store) and use your story stones instead of scrounging up all the items needed for the eggs.

• Have the kids put the stones in the right order as you tell (or read) the Easter story.

• Have the kids play with the stones and make up their own version of the Easter story. (This is great for working on remembering the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and for putting it into your own words.)

• Make a set to give as a gift.

• Use your Easter story stones during Sunday school or other kids’ ministry to help tell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

How to Make Your Own Easter Story Stones

Making your own Easter story stones is super simple. All you need to do is select some Bible passages and symbols (you’ll find everything that we used for our set below) and paint some rocks to help illustrate the story.

Materials needed:

• Rocks/Stones

• white paint if you are using dark stones

• Paint Markers or Sharpies

• pencil

• Fabric bag store your stones (optional)

• spray sealant or Mod Podge (Dollar Tree)

You can buy craft stones that are ready to be painted, or you can gather some stones from nature (which adds an element of adventure to your story stone project, and it saves you some money).

Directions:

Here are the stones that I included in our set, along with Scripture references for each symbol. You can use this as inspiration for your own set of story stones and make the same ones, or get creative and add your own symbols.

• donkey with palm fronds – Matt 21:1-9

• bread and wine – Matt 26:17-30

• praying hands – Matt 26:36-39

• money – John 18:2-3

• sword – John 18:12-14

• crown of thorns – John 19:2

• cross – John 19:17-18

• three crosses – Luke 23:32, 39-43

• temple veil – Mark 15:38

• boulder – Luke 24:1-2

• empty tomb – Luke 24:3

• angel – Luke 24:4-8

• fish – Luke 24:36-43

• risen Jesus – Luke 24:50-51

Gather all your supplies. Rinse your stones in warm water and let them dry completely. If you have darker stones (not the white ones), give them a few coats of white par stones using a pencil. You can purchase the white rocks on Amazon. They are ready to use if you’d prefer bypassing the painting.

Use your paint pens (permanent markers work too)to fill in the details of your stones. To makes your stones really pop, outline all your symbols with a black paint pens or permanent markers.

Beautifully DIY Easter Resurrection Rocks

Optional: once your stones are completed and dry, give them a coat with a spray sealant or Mod Podge. Your stones are complete! Now use them in creative ways to engage with the Easter story.

Keep them in a simple bag or box to create
an Easter tradition for many years to come!!

Telling the Easter Story with Story Stones

We like to use our Easter story stones to tell the Easter story from memory. You can use yours to do the same, or you can read the story from a Bible or your favorite age appropriate children’s Bible.

Here is the basic sequence of events in the Easter story, along with the corresponding Bible passages for each story stone.

Jesus’ Entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday)

Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter.  When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, people laid palm branches on the road and sang “Hosanna”, which means saviour. (Matt 21:1-9)

The Last Supper

The night before Jesus was crucified, he shared a meal with his disciples and told them that one of them would betray him.  He shared bread and wine with them, and told them that the bread represented his body and the wine represented his blood.  His body would break, just like the bread, and his blood would pour out, just like the wine, but this is the way that God would rescue the world.  Through Jesus’ death, he would wash away all their (and our) sins, and heal God’s broken world.  (Matt 26:17-30)

The Garden of Gethsemane

After his last supper with his disciples, Jesus went with a few of his closest disciples to a garden to pray.  He prayed that he wouldn’t have to suffer crucifixion and death, but he also said that he wanted to do his Father’s will, and not his own.  Jesus said that he would be crucified if that was God’s plan. (Matt 26:36-39)

While in the garden, some soldiers came to arrest him, after Judas (who was bribed with thirty pieces of silver) told them where to find him. (John 18:2-3; 18:12-14)

Jesus’ Crucifixion

The soldiers led Jesus away to be crucified.  

They made a crown of thorns and placed it on his head, calling him “king of the Jews”.  (John 19:2)

They nailed him to a cross, between two thieves. (John 19:17-18)  

One of the thieves insulted Jesus, but the other one defended him.  The second thief asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom, and Jesus promised that that day, he would be with him in paradise.  (Luke 23:32;39-43)

When Jesus died on the cross, the veil inside the temple – the veil that separated the place where only the priests could access God from the rest of the temple – was torn in two, from top of bottom, signalling that there was now no barrier between people and God. (Mark 15:38)

A man named Joseph took Jesus’ body down from the cross, after he had died, and laid it in a tomb.  Roman soldiers rolled a giant boulder to block the entrance to the tomb and guarded it, to make sure that no one could get in or out.

The Empty Tomb

On the third day, just before sunrise, Mary Magdalene and some of the other women went to the tomb to wash Jesus’ body.  When they got there, they discovered that the stone that was blocking the entrance had been rolled away. (Luke 24:1-2)

When the women entered the tomb, they discovered that it was empty: Jesus’ body was not there. (Luke 24:3)

They encountered an angel who told them that Jesus was no longer there, that he had risen from the dead.  The angel told the women to go tell the other disciples. (Luke 24:4-8)

Later that day, Jesus appeared to the disciples.  He let them touch him to show that he was real, and he ate a meal of boiled fish with them. (Luke 24:36-43)

The Ascension

After Jesus stayed with the disciples for a while, he told them that he was going to leave and return to heaven, but that the Holy Spirit would come to be with them. Jesus blessed them and he was taken up into heaven. (Luke 24:50-51)

Morning Twenty-Eight: A Morning Prayer of Praise

28 Days of Morning Prayer Focus

We did it!! We have stayed our mind in prayer and we have much to be thankful for. Thank you so much for sharing this journey with me. I pray that your morning prayer time has been enriched.

Keep an eye out for our next journey through 2021. God is doing amazing things. Blessings on your day of praise as you go!!!

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Hebrews 13:15

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His.” Daniel 2:20

“I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.” Psalm 34:1

“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.” Psalm 150:6

Father, I praise You today for all that You have done in my life. You are faithful even when I am faithless. Your love pursues me even when I am unlovable. Your forgiveness covers my sin and frees me from its penalty. I praise You for your love and faithfulness to me. Your presence in my life changes everything, empowering me to live each moment of every day, content in knowing You are in control. As I face today, Lord, remind me that no matter what happens, I can praise You! In Your Name, Amen.