Butterfly Sparks Designs

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Emmaus.

Luke 24: 13-53 
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, "What are you discussing together as you walk along?"
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, "Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?"
"What things?" he asked.
"About Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see."
He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, "It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon." Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have."
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, "Do you have anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.
He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Christ meets us on our own road, wherever we are.  The Spirit walks with us even when we don't recognize Him.

I will be celebrating this story this weekend as I serve on a Walk to Emmaus team.  Would you please pray for us?  About 113 ladies will be walking and talking with Christ this weekend, laying down our phones, computers, and watches.  Renewal and refreshment in Him.

I can't wait!

I'll catch up with you on Sunday evening, and I have a feeling I'll have a lot to write about.  In the meantime, I encourage you to read this story again and again.  Allow him to meet you where you are.  Feel your heart burn within you.   Hear what He has to say.  Receive His love.  Receive His grace!

De Colores!

Monday, March 22, 2010

She Remembers.


The Garden is a ministry in Atlanta that provides homeless women and children with temporary shelter while they find jobs and permanent housing. The ministry assists the women in both spiritual and professional development. Jason Sebren, the outreach pastor at The Vine, has a special heart for this ministry and has been working with The Garden for quite some time. It is indeed a very special place.

I have had the privilege of leading the ladies in a few of their Monday night Bible study sessions. They are such beautiful women. Their stories of trials, perseverance, faith, and strength will truly melt your heart.


LuvBug Photography. Copyright 2010

Belle Marie is a woman that could easily be a co-worker of yours or mine. A woman working as the principal of a school who fell ill and after a time, her insurance and disability ran out. She had nowhere else to go. Zu is a beautiful soul who left the life she knew out West to come here to start over with her children. The temptation and influences at home were too great. She walked away from everything to make a new life for herself and for her 2 small children.

These women could be any of us. Statistics show that most Americans are one to two paychecks away from being homeless if financial disaster struck.

And sometimes, it strikes.

And sometimes, leaving everything behind is worth it to make a new, safe, honest life.

LuvBug Photography. Copyright 2010

He makes all things new.

During my first trip to The Garden, when I nervously spoke to the women with a message on that very Scripture, I shared a small portion of my testimony. Part of my story involves a song that holds deep meaning for me in my journey. It was the song that moved me to walk down the aisle at 11 years old to accept Christ.

"In moments like these, I sing out a song,
I sing out a love song to Jesus.
In moments like these, I lift up my hands,
I lift up my hands to the Lord.
Singing I love you, Lord…
I love you, Lord...I love you Lord…
I love you, Lord. I love you."

A simple chorus with a beautiful melody. A song I would never again hear until 20 years later, after running from God for twelve years. Nine years ago, driving home from a bar in the middle of the night, there it was on my radio. And everything changed.  I found my way back Home.

He makes all things new.

At the Garden that Monday night a few months ago, we all sang the song together. It was beautiful to hear their voices lift to Him such a sweet love song. I was so nervous that first time at The Garden, and I left feeling disappointed in myself.  For the most part, it seemed that the women weren’t very responsive. I felt as though I had failed to connect and that I didn’t make any real impact.

Fast forward to last month. The Vine sent a team to The Garden just before Valentine’s Day to lavish some love on these women and children in a very special way. On a special Saturday, the kids did crafts, played on inflatables, and enjoyed lots of fun games. The women were treated to a day at the salon – we did their nails, had a team of hairdressers to do their hair, and a team of makeup artists did their makeup. Here’s the really cool part: Jason’s wife, Nikki is an incredible photographer (LuvBug Photography, check her out!), and she took their pictures. You see, these women have lost nearly everything on the streets, including their family pictures. Think about what your family photographs mean to you.

Consuela, a shelter guest at The Garden, sat down at our nail table and extended her hand while I did her nails. As I held her hand to start her manicure, she began to sing…

“In moments like these, I sing out a song…I sing out a love song to Jesus...”

I didn’t recognize her.  I didn't make the connection. I said, “Hey, I know that song, and I love it.” She said, “Yes, I know. You taught it to us a few months ago, and now I sing it every day. Do you remember?”

Do I remember? Yes, I remember. I couldn’t believe SHE remembered.

God WILL make Himself known. Whether we “feel” it or not, His Word brings impact.  It truly is the sword that cuts through the darkness.  The darkness that falls when you have no home of your own.  His Word cut through her darkness.  And mine.

He opens ears and hearts and minds when His love is shown and when Truth is shared. It doesn’t matter if we feel it. It’s there. And they remember. 

I remember.

She remembers.
LuvBug Photography. Copyright 2010
  *Photographs included with express permission of LuvBug Photography.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Face of Worship.


A few weeks ago, I walked to the front of our church, a little nervous but mostly expectant. Expecting God to move in big ways in the hearts of His people. This was my first time doing this. This, what I was about to do, is my HEART, my passion, my desire. A day I’d waited for, longed for. That next little/gigantic step into what He revealed four years ago that He has called me to do. As I walked to the front, I silently and earnestly prayed for the Spirit to lead me in ministering to those who needed encouragement, healing, or truth.

My pastor had delivered a powerful and compelling sermon, and the call was given for those who needed to confess, pray, or accept Christ for the first time in their lives. The last song started as I turned around to face the congregation, to pray with and for those who were led to respond. I stood, not all prepared for what I would see. Or for what He was about to reveal.

Our stage lights in the worship center are bright from the stage itself. The rest of the room is dark, so the stage lights cast a soft glow across the congregation. It took my breath away. Faces that I see every Sunday, coming and going, from my vantage point at our Guest Services desk. Many faces that I have looked upon in small group, over coffee, or in my home as they shared their stories, their praises, their struggles, their pain, and their joy. These faces are my family.

But in this moment, as they marinated in the Truth of God’s forgiveness and love, they were radiant. These familiar faces were transformed in worship.  The countenance of some revealed worship from a place of joy, and others revealed worship from depths of pain. Both bring freedom through His grace and love. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, and I wonder if it is just a tiny glimpse of what heaven will be like. I hope I never forget it. Lord, please don’t allow me to forget this. I felt as though I should look away, as if I was looking in on a sacred, private moment between each heart and God. Yet, I was drawn in and couldn’t look away.

I wonder . . . Is this what worship looks like to Him?

Imagine how much more deeply He delights in the beauty of His children as they direct their hearts toward Him in authentic worship.

How it must take His breath away.

How He must delight as He looks upon His children receiving His grace.

How He must delight as He looks upon His Bride.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

No Ordinary Brunch.

My Italian roots have bred in me an innate need to feed people. I can thank my Mom and maternal ancestors (and a few of my Dad’s, too) for that genetic wiring! From a very young age, I observed my Mom doing this. Creating a beautiful and warm home from simple things, and creating beautiful dishes for all to enjoy was and is something that she loves to do. I love to cook, but even more than that, the experience of bringing people together in a warm environment for great conversation and fellowship makes my heart sing. I love to connect with people and equally cherish seeing others connect with one another.

I first realized my passion for entertaining and hospitality when I was traveling through Europe on one of many overseas trips I took in my twenties. I was with a group of friends backpacking from Geneva, Switzerland into the quaint rural towns of the Swiss countryside. I laugh when I realize how carefree and adventurous I was back then…not a worry in the world that I was the only one in our group who spoke French or that we had no idea where we were going. As we traveled, we encountered small-town European families who lavishly welcomed us into their homes for wonderful meals, conversation, and shelter. I absolutely melted in that, and it was then that I realized despite my late-teen and early-twenties years of rebellion toward my Mom, that I was much more like her than I thought!

So here we are, twenty years later, and the passion is still here, even more prevalent than all those years ago. But still very different. In my years apart from God, it was just a fun thing to do. Now, and for some time now, my heart-view of this wiring inside of me is that is can be a form of ministry.

This past holiday season was a rough one. It was early December, and I was sitting at my dining room table, choosing a date to invite women to my home for a special Christmas brunch. I was exhausted. The year prior had been a rollercoaster of emotions…joy, falling in love, engagement...and then wounds. And only a few days before this morning at my table, I had said goodbye. I was broken, puffy-eyed, exhausted, with nothing left to give to anyone.  But the press to host this brunch was hard and unrelenting. Truly, it was a God thing. He was calling me to do ministry. You have got to be kidding, God.

“God, no…not now. I can’t host a party.
You know I’m in pain, broken, scared, empty. I can’t do ministry right now.”

“Melissa, I can still use you. I love you, and I am with you.
Do this in my name. Walk in obedience, and trust me.”

With a heart resembling a two year old throwing a tantrum, I forced myself to go through the motions of planning the menu, writing out names, and creating the e-vite, all at the pace of an inchworm. I finally realized that with Christmas fast approaching, dates were limited. It was only about a week from the only day that was feasible to host these women, so I figured no one would come. So, I doubled the guest list, thinking that if I invited 20 people, maybe about 6 would actually show and it would be worth the effort of cleaning my house, setting the table, and cooking a full brunch. My finger hovered over the “send” button for what felt like 30 minutes…but it may have been longer! And I’m pretty sure I actually prayed for no one to be able to come.

Not more than ten minutes after I sent the e-vite, Cyndi, our worship leader’s wife called me. “Melissa, do you mind if I bring someone? Her name is Stephanie.  She and her family recently moved from California, and I was just on the phone with her when your email came. Stephanie was crying, homesick, missing her friends and family, asking me to pray for comfort for her. She was grieving over not having been to one single Christmas party this year. I couldn’t believe it when I saw your email right at that moment.”

Oh my goodness. My entire perspective changed in that moment. “Yes, yes, bring her!”

In that moment, I understood why He was calling.  For her.  For me. For Him.  The tears are flowing as I write this several months later, because of the powerful way He revealed Himself that day in the midst of pain, brokenness, and bewilderment.  In the following 24 hours, 6 more women would call me with personal stories of how much they needed this time of retreat as a gift to themselves. I couldn’t believe the heart-heavy stories they were telling me! This was no ordinary brunch.

I know that God doesn’t “need” us.  He fulfills His purpose whether we respond “yes” or not. But I am so glad that I said “yes” and received blessings beyond measure. Yet for this time I said “yes”, there are so many times that I resist and say “no”. I hate to think about the opportunities and blessings I have missed, and have caused others to miss.  It's also pretty important to note that if Cyndi hadn't been obedient to God's nudge on her heart to invite her, this would not have happened! 

Stephanie showed up that morning with a big smile…along with 18 others!!! I opened the door and saw her beautiful face enter my home, and I’m pretty sure she had a great time. She lights up a room with His light, and it has been a privilege to get to know her more since then and to serve with her in our church.

That time with those beautiful, strong, women of God that morning was a precious gift.  And I thank God for using them as instruments of His love and peace in my life every day.

My friends, if you feel that urge to serve, say “yes”. Receive His healing as you serve others. Read the verse at the top of this blog. His power is made perfect in our weakness.

Your Stephanie is out there.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What’s in a Name?

In my last post, I mentioned that God has refreshed and renewed in me His vision for this blog. Why continue writing? What does He want me to say? What’s the point of it all, really? Does anyone really even read this thing?

As is often the case when we begin to question that about which we were once certain, it is simply best to go back to the basics. What compelled it to become in the first place?

The title of the blog is very significant and meaningful to me. I chose it intentionally and with purpose. In 2002, not long after I had returned to God after a 12 year absence, I was at home listening to some Christian music. You see, after 12 years away from anything God-related, including music, I was rather unfamiliar with “contemporary” Christian music. Can you believe it -- I completely missed the Carman and Petra era [bummer]!!! For me, the jury was still out about contemporary Christian music, and especially anything that sounded too “rock and roll”. I had grown up with organ music and hymnals, after all! Hymns had always been special to me, but I wanted to give this new stuff a try, too. I felt awkward listening to newer music which was drastically different than 12 years before. I could still hear the deacons’ voices scolding us, calling it “young whippersnapper music”! Up until that day, I had not been brought to an authentic state of worship during contemporary music, so I thought of it more as a novelty, rather than a vehicle to sweep me away to the throne and face of God. I was sorting through a mountain of CD’s my friends had loaned me, and I slid one in to the player…

"There's a place that I lose myself within,
There's a place that I find myself again…
Dancin' with my Father God in fields of grace...
There's a place where religion finally dies,
There's a place that I lose my selfish pride...
Dancin’ with my Father God in fields of grace...
I love my Father, my Father loves me,
I dance for my Father, my Father sings over me
And nothing can take that away from me."**

In the middle of a Christian “rock” song, I was brought to a beautiful state of worship. And this chick DANCED!  And 8 years later, it still takes me there.

My committment to this blog has been intermittent, at best.  I can't lie...this past year has been the most difficult of my lifetime.  And I confess...I focused on my circumstances instead of Him.  In the pain, I stopped dancing.  But in His healing, I begin to sway to the melodies of grace He sings over me.  As His love envelops me, I just can't help it.  I dance. 

So the vision for this blog is that it would be a place for me and you to come and dance in His grace. To receive His love. To trade religion for a relationship. To get real about questions and struggles and blessings. To celebrate the days when we endure through His grace in our weaknesses, and to celebrate the days that we blissfully ride on His grace in the victories. 

Will you dance with me?

**"Fields of Grace", 2002 version by Darrell Evans, remade in 2008 by Big Daddy Weave



Sunday, March 14, 2010

Blog Makeover.


Check out my awesome new blog design! 

Vanessa at butterflyspArks is incredibly talented. I highly recommend her! I can also confirm that she might just be the most patient woman alive – as many of you know, I can be a bit … picky. I prefer to refer to myself as “reasonably selective”. However, others may disagree. (ha ha)  Anyway, Vanessa listened intently, was thoughtful and mindful of the concept that I desired to convey, and she was committed to excellence through the process.

So…why a new design? Well…there is more to come about that very thing. God has birthed a renewed vision in my heart for the ministry of this blog. So you’ll be seeing more posts, more often. Check in tomorrow for some more details about that and about what is coming soon. I’m so excited about the new season, and I hope you are, too!

Until then...receive His unending grace, my friends. 

(And please leave a comment...let me know what you think of the new design!) 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hands of the Healer.

I sit staring at my screen, because any introduction that I could write to this video is simply futile.  Hear Zac's story.  Pray for his healing.  Inhale his message of Truth.  God is God.  And always, God is good.


The Story of Zac Smith from NewSpring Production on Vimeo.