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Archive for June, 2012

I Am B.A.D. (Blessed And Delivered)

Jesus Set Me Free!

by Amber LeggetteAldrich

 

Our church youth group returned from Youth Camp this past weekend. I had been reading some of their posts on Facebook about their experiences, and I could feel the excitement and joy in their hearts. It has always been a tremendous blessing to me to see our young people so full of fire and enthusiasm for Jesus! And their willingness to openly share what God is doing in their lives is something that I deeply admire. These young people are not just talking about God, but they are walking the walk as well.

 

At the Wednesday night service several of the youths gave testimonies about what they had experienced at the camp. As each one shared, I found myself crying inexplicably. It wasn’t out of sadness, but more from a deep sense of thankfulness. Before long I began to realize that I was remembering what my life had been like before Jesus set me free. There was so much bondage in my life, mostly from my own doing. I can’t even begin to explain the deepness of the gratitude I feel for what Jesus did for me. But when I think about it, and how I have been changed by His love, there is a joy that just explodes inside of me, and I want to share it with the whole world!

 

Each new day is another opportunity to let that joy shine into the world. I don’t have to wait for something to stir me up. I only have to think about what the Lord saved me from, and how much He loves me. I can find His goodness in the promises of His Word, and I know where I am going when my race is finished here. My God is more than enough for me! He is bigger than any storm I face! And I am no longer a slave to sin!

 

I am not perfect, yet. But God is working in my heart, changing me day by day, moment by moment. And I will be made perfect when I enter His gates! Knowing that gives me an assurance and contentment, as well as excitement. I no longer live in condemnation, but in liberation.

 

Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:” (Galatians 4:3) Things like anger, unforgiveness, doubt, fear, drugs, rebellion, hate, hypocrisy, enviousness and more, were all chains of bondage to me. No matter how many times I tried to change, no matter how hard I tried, I could not do it. Maybe for a day or two in one or two areas, but it never lasted.

 

But then I began to learn about Jesus. “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)  “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) Through learning the truth about His pure and unconditional love for me, I began to trust in Him. I called out to Him for help, to set me free. The chains that had held me hostage for so long were broken. I repented and was baptized in Jesus’ name. My sins were forgiven and washed away. As I opened up my heart to Him, He filled me with His Holy Spirit and great love, and my life began to change.

 

My journey since then has not always been easy. Many trials and temptations have come my way. But the freedom I have in Jesus replaces the fear I once had with peace and comfort. He is always with me, and He gives me strength and courage to continue on. I remember what my life was like before He saved me, and I won’t go back. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1  I may fall down and scrape my knees, but He helps me to get back up and keep fighting. He gives me the heart to love others, and to forgive as He has forgiven me. I put my life in His hands, and there’s no better place to be! He has shown me the wonders of His love, and profound miracles too. I AM SO B.A.D. because Jesus has set me free!

 

(Our youth group performed this skit at camp. The song and the skit brought out a lot of emotions in many, and was the main inspiration for this post. The song is “Set Me Free” by Casting Crowns. I hope you enjoy it!)

 

 

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Are You Too Busy For God?

By Amber Leggette-Aldrich

How often do you ask someone “How have you been?” and get the reply, “Oh, I’ve been so busy”? I hear it all the time.

Recently I began watching what people are being kept busy with. Our children are being raised by TV and video games and the internet, involved in a deluge of sports and classes of every kind, or hanging around in the malls or on the street. Adults are away from home, working to pay for all of the necessities and luxuries we have, or trying to find a way to escape from all the stress of life.  For me, it seemed like I was always on the go, running errands, working, going to appointments, and being a shuttle service for my family and friends. In addition to that, there were the day to day chores. Things like taking care of my son, dishes, laundry, cooking, paying bills, tending gardens, feeding the animals, cleaning the house, chopping firewood, etc. along with phone calls, emails and texts. My relaxing time was mostly spent on movies, facebook & other internet sites, or spending time in idle chatter with my friends, if I even had time to relax. Many times I was busy from the time I got out of bed in the morning until I got back into bed at night. Of course I would squeeze in time on Sundays and Wednesdays for church, but it was almost like another appointment I had to plan into an otherwise already busy day. And my energy was soon drained. Even when I had an opportunity to do something for fun, I didn’t enjoy it anymore. My mind was still flooded with all the thoughts of things that needed to be done or taken care of.

Individually, there wasn’t anything bad or evil about the things I was doing. And for the most part, I didn’t mind doing most of these things. What was bad, was that my life was so flooded with so many things that it kept me distracted from building an intimate relationship with Jesus. I had a really hard time trying to figure out how I could balance things out in my life so that I could have time for Him.

Then it hit me one day. I was listening to a tape from a bible study, and the verses, “And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring” (Numbers 15:39) & “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”  (Mark 12:30) I thought to myself, “God doesn’t want some little part of my heart. He wants all of my heart! He doesn’t want to be squeezed into some small corner of my busy schedule to occupy my mind for a few seconds. He wants my mind to be consumed with thoughts of Him!

One thing that God showed me in my heart was that Satan is very smart, and very patient. The enemy has a plan to keep us separated from God. An essential part of that plan is in keeping us so busy, so occupied with what we call ordinary things of life, that we don’t have time for God. Satan keeps our minds so full of unnecessary junk, in order to prevent us from being focused on what really matters…our Savior! We are constantly bombarded with the ways of the world. And we are continually focused on ourselves. The bible tells us that we are to put God above all else. But our minds tend to think about everything according to what we want or think we need, instead of Jesus. And that’s just what the devil wants.

The devil knows that if he can keep us busy enough, he can keep us from being focused on God. Sure we may still go to church and read our bible occasionally, and pray when we need something. But we are not focused on a deep and meaningful relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. When the world looks at us, they don’t see much of anything that is showing His Holy Spirit dwelling in us. We might still make it to Heaven, but it’s not very likely that we will be inviting many other souls for God’s Kingdom.

Consider what you spend most of your time thinking about. Is it Jesus, or yourself? When we truly love God with all of our heart, soul, mind & strength, then our thoughts are most often on Him and not on ourselves. We must remember that it is Jesus who has the power, and is the power, it’s His great love that reaches out to us. It has nothing to do with who we are or what we can do. It’s about our personal relationship with Christ, having the desire in our heart to want to know Him and fall in love with Him, becoming willing to follow His leadership. We need to be consumed by His Spirit, letting ourselves be completely given to and for Him!

We do that by spending time with Him, reading and hearing His Word, and through prayer. We do it by opening our heart and letting Him fill us and dwell in us. And when we do that, His light shines through us. Our thoughts are transformed, and therefore our hearts. Our words, actions, attitudes…our lives are changed. Then the ways of the world are not so appealing to us. “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”. (Romans 12:2) We must resolve in earnest to make this “renewing of our mind” consistent, and constant. The power to do this comes from God. It takes hope, faith, courage and determination, not in ourselves, but in Him who is all powerful!

It wasn’t easy for me to let God change me, and I know I am still not perfect. But the first thing I had to learn was that I cannot change myself, only God can. I had to choose to want Him to change me, and then to let Him change me. As I began to fall more deeply in love with Him because of who He is, I soon realized that a lot of what my time had been spent on before no longer mattered to me. My heart and mind now belong to Jesus, and I am so blessed!

We can find the time or make the time for what we consider important to us. So perhaps the first step is asking, “How important is my relationship with Christ to me? Am I really willing to give myself up to Him completely?”

If you want to know where your heart really is, just look where your mind goes when it wanders. Is your life too “BUSY”…Being Under Satan’s Yoke?

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Lessons In Faith & Hope

By Amber Leggette-Aldrich

 

 

 

Recently our Pastor posed a question to the congregation: “Why do you love your church?” There were as many different answers as there were people. I had a few reasons that came to mind that night. For one, it is where I began to learn about God’s truth. One of the first scriptures I studied that had taken a strong hold on my heart was Proverbs 3:5 & 6 “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

 

For most of my life I had put my faith and trust in myself, believing that others would only hurt and disappoint me. I had believed that it was up to me alone to make myself happy and to provide for myself. But no matter what I did or how hard I tried, things just never seemed to be good for very long. My life was not working out in the ways I had planned.

 

After I began hearing God’s Word, my heart began going through many changes. One of the most important was from learning to put my trust in Him. It was very hard for me to do at first, but I soon found that the more I put myself in His hands, the better my life became.

 

Shortly after I joined our church, my faith and my commitment to follow Christ was tested in a way I could have never imagined. I had to choose to hold onto my faith, and it was not easy. But because I did, I was blessed with peace and comfort that helped me through that trial. Even in the middle of my distress, I could feel God’s presence with me and it gave me strength to go on.

 

My faith became stronger over the next few years. As I learned more of God’s Word and believed what it said, my trust in Him began to grow as well. It was still hard at times, because I had to learn to let go of believing that I was in control.

 

God used my youngest son, Christian, to teach me some very important lessons about faith and trust. I have been surprised many times with the ways God uses people, places and events to teach us. As an adult, I had never thought I would be taught as much as I have from a child. But as Christian was being brought up in the church, he exhibited a profound faith and trust in God that I truly admired. Even as young as 3 years old, he had an assuredness in his spirit that everything was in God’s hands and that He was taking care of things. When Christian prayed, no matter whether it was for himself or someone else, it was a done deal to him. He knew his prayer was heard and was sure it was taken care of. I felt rather puny in my faith compared to his! But it caused me to grow more in mine.

 

I began to pray more from the center of my heart, and I gained a deeper understanding of the messages our Pastor preached. I learned what it meant to submit myself to God’s authority, and from this I was blessed with more security. I was learning the message that God is in control. My trust in Him was also growing, and I began letting go of the fear that I had for so long, the fear of being hurt. But it still took time to fully let go of the desire to try to be in control of my own life. Even though my heart and my life had gone through many changes and God was blessing me far beyond my wildest dreams, deep inside my heart I was still holding onto the notion that I was in control of my own day to day living. I still made my own plans, and lived my life according to what I thought was best. Then came time for another test and time of learning one of the strongest lessons of my life.

 

When things are going good in life, it’s easy to give God praise and glory. But it gets harder when things start to go wrong and the trials come. I had been in the habit of reading the bible and praying first thing in the morning, and most days it helped bring me peace throughout the day. But there were times that things would happen during the day, and I found my peace had dwindled away because of the circumstances. I was aware of this and had been praying for God to help me to become stronger.

 

When Christian’s accident occurred, everything happened so fast I didn’t even have time to think about it. As I watched my son dying in my hands, my first reaction was to pray like I had never prayed before! I was so utterly helpless to do anything of my own accord, except to pray and put it all into God’s hands. I remember the first words of my prayer were “I believe in You, and I trust You completely”. And that was true, and from every cell of my body, I called out in Jesus name. The next words I spoke were “I know in my heart, that You will heal him and make him whole again, if not here on earth, then in Heaven”. I can’t explain how I knew, but I did. And for the first time in my life, I also knew that I’m not in control. Right then and there, I put not only my life but my son’s life into God’s hands alone and I felt complete confidence in trusting Him.

 

God gave us many miracles that day. He brought Christian back to life. A tremendous revival of faith and love began to grow, and is still growing. And the beginning of a remarkable journey began for many. Throughout the following days while we were in the hospital, my faith never wavered, even when the doctors said it was likely that Christian would not survive. Watching the amazement in their eyes when he not only survived, but recovered fully in such a short time, strengthened my praise and faith even more.

 

I had reached a point where I didn’t think it was possible for my faith to be any stronger than it was. But when Christian told me that he had been in Heaven, sitting in Jesus’ lap, that was the moment when my faith was made whole and complete. Whatever doubts there may have been in my heart had been completely and permanently erased.

 

Over the next 18 months there were still more trials that came. Sometimes it seemed that the more I tried to share about God’s miracles and goodness with others, the more trials and temptations came. Many times I questioned why these things were happening.

 

Through reading God’s Word and hearing many sermons, I continued to learn God’s truth. I began to realize that God’s blessings aren’t only about when good things happen, and it’s not always the enemy attacking when bad things happen. I began to understand that a major part of life is about learning, and then responding to what we learn by putting it into practice in our life. One of the things I have learned is that trials can be counted as blessings too, because they can help us to grow closer to the Lord. They can help us to become better than we were. And they can prepare us to be able to help and bless others who need it. Whatever trial or hardship I may face, I know God is with me and He will make a way for me to go through it. I know that it will be used to help me in some way, whether it is for my own personal good, or to equip me to help someone else.

 

Our Pastor has taught me about God’s truth through his preaching. There have been many in our congregation who have encouraged me and helped me. I have found genuine peace, comfort, support and love in our church. But I think what I love most about my church is that it was where I first knew the love of God, and then I fell in love with Him.

 

In my heart I know that God is using my life to encourage others in faith and hope in Him. I believe that it is a part of all of our lives, to be a help in some way to others. And that is my prayer for today, that faith and hope in Him grows, spreading like a wildfire that cannot be put out. May you find peace and comfort as you put yourself into His mighty and capable hands. God bless!   – Amber

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For Jason

By Amber Leggette-Aldrich

The temperature outside was in the 90’s, something I was not accustomed to. The air inside was much cooler, but I did not want to go in. I remember the room was filled with so many people, ranging in age from 7 to 70 plus. They were all very kind and most seemed very caring and friendly. Some I knew, others I did not. Music was playing softly, but I did not hear it. My eyes were focused on the floor as I was led to my seat, I didn’t want to look.

A man began to speak, but I couldn’t focus on what he was saying at first. My thoughts were drifting somewhere else. A flood of memories was filling my head, memories of the first time I saw you, and the last. It seemed like it had been forever, so many things had happened. My head began to clear a little and I began to look around. The faces were all very somber now.

The man speaking was the youth pastor. He was talking about what a treasure you were to the youth group, and how your smile would light up a whole room. He spoke about how enthusiastic you were, not only in the group, but in the services too. He said your dedication to serving the Lord, the church and the community was inspiring to all who knew you.

Next, the pastor got up to speak. He was an older man with a soft and gentle way about him. He talked about how it had always touched his heart to see you at the door greeting the congregation as they entered. He said you were always one of the first to arrive, and one of the last to leave. He shared a story from just a few weeks earlier, when you told him you were looking forward to going home. He said it was apparent you were speaking about Heaven, but he said he smiled and told you that you still had many years to come. Tears began to fill his eyes as he said, “but looking back, I think Jason knew”. He couldn’t speak anymore, and the choir was asked to sing.

A short while later we were all gathered outside. It was a beautiful setting, and there were lots of flowers. One arrangement that caught my attention had been made in the shape of a saxophone, your instrument of choice. I remembered the private “concert” you and Daniel had put on for the family when you were first learning to play. As hard as I tried, I could not swallow the lump I felt in my throat.

Standing there beside your final resting place, I could not fully absorb the fact that my firstborn son was gone. I was consoling myself with knowing that you were in Heaven, but it still felt as though I was in a bad dream and I kept waiting to wake up.

From the moment I had received the news of your death until after the funeral, everyone around me seemed so concerned about the possibility of my grief causing me to lose the unborn child I was carrying. For their sake, your brother Daniel’s, and your unborn brother’s, I tried to be strong. I even managed to smile as people came up to me to give their condolences. But in truth, I had just gone numb inside, and I wanted to stay that way. I didn’t want to think about anything.

After the funeral I was kept busy. There were still unfinished projects to get ready for the new baby, and the salmon runs were beginning. That meant it was time to get all the smoking and canning stuff out and ready. Even though I hate salmon, I looked forward to filling the jars and the smoker. It kept my mind occupied. I worked until I was too exhausted to stand anymore, and then stayed up half the night on the computer. I didn’t want to sleep because I didn’t want to dream.

Just over a month after your funeral, your brother Christian was born. And when I looked at his shining little face the first time, I saw you. The last words you had said to me the day before you died were, “I’m really looking forward to meeting my new little brother”. As I was thinking about those words, a feeling came over me and it was like you were there with us. I felt peaceful for a moment, filled with such a strong love. It was overwhelming.

I never told anyone but the night Christian was born, when no one else was around, I cried for you even harder than I had when you died. And part of me felt guilty. I was being torn between the extreme sadness of missing you, and the extreme joy of having this precious new baby. I didn’t know what I was supposed to feel, but my insides felt scrambled. I thought about some things that I regretted not doing with you or not saying to you when I had the chance. It taught me to never miss an opportunity to say “I love you”.

Ten years have passed as of today, and I still miss you. But I know I will see you again. When Christian died and came back, he told me he met you in Heaven. I have no words to describe how that made me feel, but something tells me you already know. God has given me strength when I didn’t know how to go on, and He’s given me comfort and a peace that only He can give.

God blessed me with 3 beautiful boys, and I am thankful to have had the gift of being your mom, even if only for a little while. I am glad beyond words that you found Jesus and hung on to Him in faith, and that you are there with Him now. I know that you are alright, and it helps make me alright. You brought so much joy to so many, and inspired many more with your love for Jesus. I will treasure that always.

Jason, you were my precious firstborn, and you will always be in my heart. Not one day in 10 years has gone by that I haven’t thought of you, and loved you and missed you. It took a while for me to see it, but God has taught me that you have always belonged to Him. He only let me borrow you for a time. He sent you here for a purpose, and then He called you home. While I may wish that you could have stayed longer, I have come to accept that things must be in God’s time and in His ways. I believe His ways are perfect, even if I can’t always see it. In your own way, you helped me to learn about what real faith and real love means. And I am thankful for that. And I am doing the best I can, with God’s guidance, to help pass that faith and love on to your brothers. I will love you always Jason! – Mom

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