Some of you might be watching the “American Bible Challenge,” which is now in its second season on the Game Show Network on TV. I have been one of the many who has found myself answering the questions along with the contestants as I watch and then mumbling comments as the show progresses. I have found it brings out the competitive Bible trivia quizzer in me.

One of the show’s categories has to do with what someone might have posted on a person’s Faithbook page if something like social networks existed in Biblical times. Of course, Faithbook is in reference to the popular social network Facebook. I thought the name for the category was cute and fitting, especially after I attended a recent concert by artists Brandon Heath and Mandisa.

Mandisa took a few moments that evening at the concert to talk about the timeline of her life— when she auditioned for “American Idol,” the date she reached her weight loss goal, and finally, when she came to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. I thought it was ironic that she spent so much time talking about her timeline and her time on this earth. You see, Facebook uses the word “timeline” to identify a user’s page and everything that gets posted to it. In that moment, I thought about this idea of “timeline” and what it would look like if I outlined what my Faithbook page would look like if such a page existed on the Internet.

So thanks to Mandisa and “The American Bible Challenge,” here is my Faithbook Timeline:

September in the 1980s: I was born to two loving parents. (I have omitted my exact birth date for privacy reasons).

Fall of 2002: I made my faith my own while sitting on the large, braided rug in the center of my college dorm room. Friday nights were set aside for time with my Best Friend.

March 27, 2008: I gave my CD release concert at the Hazelnut Tree, and for the first time, I heard God’s voice as He spoke to me about His plan for the music and ministry I would share that night.

October 10, 2008: I made the decision to go back to school to pursue a Masters in Ministry Leadership. I had increasingly felt God’s call on my life and I wanted to go out to the world and “do something.”

July 30, 2010: God spoke to me for the second time in my life as I competed at Immerse in Nashville, Tennessee. I felt a calling on my life to use my voice and musical gifts to serve beyond my earlier dreams of obtaining a record deal and traveling far and wide to share my songs. I was content to serve where planted and go home to a church and community who loved me.

April 3, 2011: I gave a concert at my local church which doubled as a graduation celebration and a showcase for a local record company. I thought this was going to be the next step in my journey toward music ministry, but God had other plans.

November 15, 2011: My first day in the office at FRC! I was hired as music and worship director at the church, and I felt like I had finally found my place in life and ministry.

Out of all of these dates, there is one date that is missing, but it is the most important day of all. You see, when Mandisa shared about her Timeline, she gave a specific date and time when her conversion experience took place and she gave her heart to Christ. I also have had a conversion experience, but I was too young to remember the date and time. I think it was some time in the summer of 1993 or 1994 when I was nine or ten years old. But although I can’t recall my age or what date I came to Christ, I can remember where I was and how I felt.

I had gone to chapel while at summer camp one evening, and after the service, my cabin-mates and I came back to our cabin to have Bible Study with our counselor. It was then that my camp counselor shared the plan of salvation, and I opened my heart to the love of Jesus.

Sometimes I look at my story— my timeline— and wonder why such a significant date and time in my life could go so long without being recognized. So many people can remember the day they became a Christian while I cannot. I know the date and time really doesn’t matter; what really matters is the commitment I made and how I lived my life in the days to follow. But I am disappointed that I don’t have record of such a pivotal experience.

Either way, that day and time exists, and God knows exactly when He wrote my name in the Book of Life. He forgave me of my sins and came into my life with a lavish love and provision that has been the center of my life since my childhood. As we enter into Holy Week and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, I look at my timeline and think of my faith journey. I have a long way to go, but I know where I am going when my timeline comes to an end and I can spend eternity with Him. At that time, I will be in the presence of the Risen Christ all because of His sacrifice and the fact that He came to earth to save me so I could come to Him that night as I sat on the cold, cement floor in that cabin. I praise Him for His love and mercy in each step along the way.

Center Stage

Okay, readers— you might as well consider this post as part two to last week’s story. After coming out of a particularly stressful week, I realized just how busy my schedule had become. As I moved into the weekend, I had a conversation with a dear friend who encouraged me to look at my commitments. She said something like, “Now Cassie, I know you wanted to be busy and have an active schedule, but maybe its time that something just has to give. You can’t be responsible for everything or you’ll go crazy.”

I thought about this throughout each struggle and disappointment— as the car broke down and the tow truck came, when I thought about how I had missed attending a concert I had looked forward to for a long time, as I struggled to find a driver for my work trip to Madison. I found myself asking God why things weren’t working out for me. I had put so much effort into everything and suddenly I was hitting a barrier. Why?

On Monday morning, I weeded through staff applications for the camp I direct. I fought with my computer and printer, and all the while, the frustration built up to a breaking point. I decided I needed to stop, take a breather, and have some lunch. After my brief lunch break, I still didn’t feel completely at peace, so I logged onto my church’s website. I had missed the worship service the day before, so I was eager to hear my pastor’s sermon. It was one of those times that I found myself in the words he spoke to the congregation.

Pastor Tim talked about the Israelites as they returned home to Jerusalem during the time of the prophets and how the building of the temple had been delayed time and time again. The Israelites had started the project but didn’t quickly see completion. Pastor Tim considered this to be in direct result to a lack of commitment to God— a refusal to put God first in their lives. As he continued to speak, he talked about the importance of making sure God is always at center stage in our lives.

The stage is a fitting metaphor for me in my life since I have spent many years performing and leading worship from up on the platform. I think of the new TobyMac song “Steal my Show.” The song asks God to come in and steal the show away because it is Him that the audience has really come to see— not TobyMac or any other performer. As Pastor Tim talked about the importance of showing others what we’re about at FRC, he stressed the importance of letting God come in and take the driver’s seat in the midst of all of the busyness in our lives.

This resonated with me because I often feel like I’m too busy to let God take complete control of my life. I am focused, driven, motivated— eager and willing to follow through on what I have set out to do. But sometimes I get so bogged down in the details and planning that I forget to seek out my Savior and put Him first. When I take the time to spend a few moments in His presence, I am revitalized and renewed. So if quality time with my Best Friend produces such an incredible experience, why do I put Him off so often?

It all comes down to just being too busy to recognize that He is waiting for me to come to Him. Pastor Tim’s sermon quoted portions of Jeremiah 29, and I would like to share the promises contained in these verses as I close today. Perhaps these are words you are needing to read today to motivate you to seek Him above all else.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Big Enough

A challenge from Pastor Tim’s recent sermon is resonating closely with me today, and I can’t put his words from my mind. “Is your God big enough?” he asked the congregation last Sunday. “How big is your faith?” From where I was sitting last Sunday, I considered that sometimes it was difficult to react to certain situations with complete faith. I am one who is a solver and a fixer; I have to figure out how to rectify a situation before I can move forward. I could be asking God to come alongside of me and walk in faith, but so often, I resort to thinking I can solve any problem that comes my way.

It was so fitting that Pastor Tim spoke of God’s strength and power last week, for as I moved into the coming days, trouble hovered just over my horizon. I was scheduled to meet with a colleague to iron out details for the camp I direct, but she forgot about our appointment and I was left by myself at the coffeehouse. Initially, I was frustrated. Now what was I going to do? In order to move forward, I had to wait another two weeks until another meeting could be scheduled between the two of us. Our meeting didn’t have to be held at a certain point, so there really was no hurry, but I just wanted to be on the same page with this person. I just wanted to move forward.

Within 24 hours, I received a phone call, letting me know that the driver I had hired for an upcoming work trip to Madison had backed out on me. Again I asked the question, “Now what am I going to do?” I was so frustrated that I gave into tears; this scenario was playing itself out all over again. It was always such a struggle to line up transportation to Madison, and now a week before my presentation, I was without a driver. I wasn’t exactly panicking, but stress was certainly taking hold.

I went on to my Facebook page then and made a desperate plea, hoping someone— anyone— would be available for the trip. But hours passed following my post and I was quickly losing hope. But I had to smile when I saw a post from my dear friend Kate. She expressed how much she wished she could help, but that she would be praying someone would come through for me.

I had plans to head out of town later that evening, so I gathered what I would need and met my friend outside my apartment building. We had a lovely dinner along our way to our destination, and soon we were heading to a concert I had anticipated attending for a long time. We were still miles from our destination when my friend’s car broke down and we found ourselves stranded in a Fleet Farm parking lot. This was not exactly the way I wanted to spend a Friday evening. My day was quickly going from bad to worse.

An hour later, we were on our way back home in a tow truck— no evening out, no concert, no fun. My thoughts quickly turned to the news I received earlier that day. I wondered if anyone had responded to my Facebook post, and I prayed that I would finally have some good news awaiting me when I returned home.

Well, good news was slow in coming. I went to bed completely exhausted— emotionally, physically, and spiritually drained. In all actually, I had given up and just wanted to see the day come to an end. As I drifted off to sleep, I thought of Kate’s prayers on my behalf and the challenge from Pastor Tim’s sermon. Kate seemed to believe that God would come through for me, so the question resurfaced: “Did I believe my God was big enough? Would he intervene on my behalf?

I wish I could say that my friend’s car received miracle repairs and that situation was set to rights, but time will tell as far as that goes. But when I woke up and checked my Facebook page, there was a post from a friend who was interested in the trip to Madison. I was so excited, relieved, and just plain grateful that my prayer of gratitude was practically a shout of praise.

To many of you, the events of my week may not seem overly stressful, but I was facing incredible adversity. In the end, God was big enough for my challenges and strong enough to protect me and bring me through. I looked at the bright side and had to smile then. At least we weren’t caught in a snow storm on that highway and the engine didn’t blow up. We pulled over early enough so there wasn’t cause to worry about our safety. Just seeing the tow truck pulling into the lot was a relief in itself. And when it came to my trip to Madison, I think the arrangement that I’ve settled on now was actually how things were supposed to pan out all along.

In the end, my God was big enough; I just had to have the faith to see Him at work.

Infusion (Updated Re-post)

January 26, 2009

On these cold, winter days, there is nothing more comforting to me than a warm cup of tea. I carry my travel mug with me everywhere, and when I am relaxing, my tea cup is never far from my hand. Not only does the tea provide a bit of energy on a long day, but it also has the ability to bring relaxation during a stressful time. I place the tea bag in the water and watch the steaming water become infused with the tea.

I have read Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow several times now. This book carries the reader through a twelve-week Bible study designed for the driven, stressed, anxious, and perfectionist woman— basically me described to a “T”. At one point in the book, an illustration spoke to me in a powerful way. Dillow uses the image of a tea bag to represent our lives being infused with Christ’s strength through the power of His love and Word. Just as the tea inside the tea bag seeps into the water and creates tea, so Christ’s love enters into our hearts and strengthens us for the days ahead.

But as I contemplated that illustration, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had truly been allowing Christ to infuse His strength in me. So many times, I move forward in life, battling fear, uncertainty, and many other crippling emotions. I am ashamed to admit that my first reaction in times of difficulty is to panic, when I should be turning to Him immediately instead. Why do I try to go it on my own when I could be so adequately supplied with His incredible strength?

My mom and I were talking one night about a series of books we had both read. The characters within the books faced debilitating struggles, but at every turn, they went to their Heavenly Father before doing anything else. “Let’s pray about it,” was their immediate response, and then they would pray for the Lord’s direction or help in that circumstance.

To be infused with the Lord’s strength is such a comforting place to be. I have felt this stronghold about me on numerous occasions; I can’t even begin to explain the peace I felt when I knew without a doubt that He would hold me up at the platform the day of my first speaking engagement. That particular day was a perfect illustration of God working in my life, just as a tea bag infiltrates a cup of boiling water. I did not speak through my own physical strength that day; everything I said was given to me by Him. It was Him speaking through me, and I communicated the words He wanted me to say.

So as I sip from my cup of tea, I think about His all-encompassing love, and I marvel at the strength He gives me to face each new day.