Wednesday, January 31, 2018

#BREAKTHECYCLE (feat. Jonathan McReynolds' "Cycles")

On January 26th, Jonathan McReynolds released "Cycles," a track featuring DOE (formerly of the gospel family group "ForeverJONES), from his highly-anticipated live recording Make Room, available March 9th (pre-order here). After listening to this song, the only cycle I don't plan on breaking is, well, listening to this song. If you're at all familiar with Jonathan's music, you know he's a lyrical genius, and this song definitely lives up to that reputation. After a killer opening run, the song begins:

Didn't I conquer this last year?

Tell me what I missed, 'cause I fear

That it's comin' back up again

Must be something I ate

Some song, some show, some hate

Jonathan McReynolds - Make Room (2018) / Amazon

We all have cycles, things that we deal with over and over again. The world often causes a proverbial reflux in us. Just when we think we've got that situation/person/place/thing down, he/she/it comes back up with a vengeance, triggered by memories associated with things we encounter in our every day lives: songs we listen to, shows we watch, etc. Whether internal or external, the fight against the cycle sometimes feels like a never-ending battle.

The first verse continues, "The devil wants to extend the game, free throws / And when it ends, he wants to make the sequel." I'll let Jonathan explain that "free throw" metaphor himself. He broke it down in a clip on his Instagram:

Basically, the point of the "free throw" distraction is to "throw" you off course. If Satan had it his way, the cycle would never end, and when it finally does, he tries his best to create a part two that seems ten times worse than part one. "Cycles"'s hook reveals the enemy's secrets, "See, the devil, he learns from your mistakes, even if you don't / That's how he keeps you in cycles..." Satan keeps a track record of our weaknesses. He pays close attention to what entangles us and sets traps that are almost guaranteed to catch us every time...unless we make a conscious decision to break the cycle.

Break The Cycle 4-Day Challenge flyer / Married and Young

If you feel like you're going in circles, stuck in a hamster ball of constant disappointment, doubt, insecurity, and anything else that is not in line with God's plan for your life, I'm here to tell you that you don't have to stay in that rut. You don't have to be continually ensnared in the enemy's traps. There is a way out! I'd like to personally invite you to join me for the FREE 4-day #BREAKTHECYCLE challenge hosted by Married and Young. Change starts with you, and it starts a chain reaction! To learn more about the challenge, click here.

Let's break some "Cycles" together!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 21

In an earlier post on Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional, I focused on how a horizontal relationship with people was an important reflection of a vertical relationship with God. Today's section however was all about going "Vertical," how to begin a relationship with God and how to keep it consistent.

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store 

Todd explained in this section that the primary way to keep the spark alive in our relationship with "Our Father" (today's "Medicine Music" by Bethel) is to make time to pray. This devotional has been instrumental in teaching me how to do that more effectively. Using "Decrease" as a guide has made my prayer life more clear-cut. Over the course of the last 21 days, I've used each section, especially the "Pray This With Me" portion, as a springboard for my own personal prayer time.

Another thing Todd pointed out is that we have to use our prayer time to speak God's Word over ourselves. In the devotional, each day's lesson is, of course, grounded in scripture. It helps that each section opens with a specific passage that fits that particular message. I often find myself using the opening scripture as a point of reference when I go into reflection/prayer.

As you can tell from these posts, each day's reading gives me something new to think about while strategically building on the previous day's message. Each of Todd's points stacks up and then folds nicely into one cohesive overarching theme: Decrease. I said it before, and I'll say it again: "Decrease" is more than just a declaration, it's effort and dedication. If you really want to go "vertical," you have to lift Him higher--higher than your own will, higher than your own wants, higher than your doubts, confusion, insecurities, and every other force in your life that wants you to stay where you are.

I turned the last page of this devotional today, but the book doesn't close here. I plan to continue to apply the principles I learned in these 21 days to several areas of my life. I'll reread this devotional whenever I need a reminder that God is ALWAYS bigger, stronger, and more important than anything I'm doing or dealing with. I want to minimize my desires so that God can maximize His light in my life. I hope you'll do the same.

Let's close this out with a prayer:

Lord, do a clean sweep of my heart. Remove everything that tries to keep me from Your promises for my life. Teach me how to fully submit to You. From now on, I'm making You my top priority. No more excuses. I apologize for all the times I failed to put You first. I place my heart, my plans, my hopes and dreams in Your hand where they belong. Don't let my will get in the way. Purge my spirit of every thought and desire that is not in line with Your agenda. Maximize Yourself within me so that when people see me, they see You. Let my declaration of 'Decrease' be an action word that I put in motion every day of my life. Thank You for the work that You have done, are doing, and will do in and through me. In Jesus's name I pray, amen.

Check out yesterday's notes here. Also, I made a playlist of all of "Decrease"'s Medicine Music on YouTube. If you purchase the devotional (If you haven't, what are you waiting for?!), it makes it easier to have all the music in one place. Listen to the playlist here.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 20

Are you happy with who you are? More importantly, are you happy with who God called you to be? Do you know what your calling is? The answer to all those questions should be "yes," but if you answered no to any of them, don't beat yourself up. Instead, build your confidence up, confidence in yourself and confidence in your Father. Today's section of Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional, called "Happy With Me," encourages us to walk boldly in who we are in Christ.

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store

We were made in God's image, so if He's wonderful, amazing, beautiful, strong, courageous, magnificent, and every other word that means "good," guess what? We're all those things, too. We might not feel like we are all the time, but even on your worst day, you're still good and you're still worth it simply because He said so. In my very first (official) post on this blog, I posed this question: If God is the ONLY one who likes what you do, will you still do it? If your answer is yes, you've found your calling.

You're incredible at what you do. If your first thought after reading that sentence was, No, I'm not, let me remind you who our God is. He's a "Good, Good Father" (shout out to Chris Tomlin for today's "Medicine Music"). He is perfect in all of His ways, and one of His 'ways' was creating you! He makes no mistakes. He knew exactly what He was doing when He endowed you with the gift of doing whatever it is you do best. No one on this earth has the ability to cancel your God-given assignment. They don't know your beginning or your ending, and they don't hold the keys to your destiny. They can overlook it, speak negatively about it, and even deny it...and at the end of the day, your gift and your promise will still be yours because He said so.

If you haven't yet discovered your purpose, but you feel drawn to one specific thing, that could be your calling. Pray about it and go forth. Start. Don't wait until they (whoever "they" are) cosign on your vision. They may not ever get on board, but if God is for you, who can be against you? No one! As long as He signed off on it, you've got the green light!

Day 20 takeaway: I hope this post has encouraged you to go after the dream that God has placed in your heart. One of my dreams was this blog, and I'm so grateful that I followed His lead and started it. I'm a living witness that God rewards those who recognize that He is the only validator we need. Less of me, more of He.

Check out yesterday's notes here.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 19

Too often, Christians deter non-believers from getting saved by making salvation seem like a lofty, almost unattainable goal. We present a relationship with Christ as a conditional thing. We act like we've always had it all together, and expect new Christians to dot every "I" and cross every "T" from the beginning. This post is for every non-believer, every unsure person who wants to be a Christian, but thinks that being saved is hard. I'm here to tell you, you don't have to be afraid to go to God broken. Today's section of Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional was called "For Good?"

Todd Galberth -"Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store

Whether you believe in God or not, He already knows exactly who you are. He knows all about everything you did from the moment you were formed in your mother's womb to the second you read the last word of this sentence. He already loves you. He always has. He's just been waiting for you to want to love Him. He is not a conditional God. He is love, and He said in his Word that love keeps no record of wrongs. It doesn't matter what you did ten years ago, a week ago, or even five minutes ago. When you come to Christ, your slate is wiped clean and you are made new. There's no special thing you have to do to purify your life before you give Him your yes. No matter how unworthy you think you are, He still wants you. He can turn your broken mess into a beautiful testimony (Medicine Music - "Brokenness Aside" by All Sons & Daughters).

Holier-than-thou Christians want you to think that their paths have always been straight, but the truth is, our paths only appear to be straight because God allowed them to be. Truth be told, we are all unworthy of the unconditional love afforded to us. Even while we call ourselves Christians, we fall short of His glory every single day and He STILL gives us new mercies. Who wouldn't want to love and be loved by a Father like that?

I know a lot of unbelievers feel like they can't give up the lifestyle they currently live. Guess what? You can. In fact, when you let God into your life, He'll begin to allow you to let go of things you never thought you could let go of. You'll just let go, and you might not even realize why. When you walk with God, your old habits fall by the wayside. You won't even crave the same things/people/places anymore because He'll change your appetite.

Maybe you've been thinking about getting saved for awhile, but every Sunday, you keep putting it off. You don't have to wait until Sunday. You can start your walk with Him right now. Pray this prayer:

Dear God,

Forgive me for my sins. I believe in my heart and confess with my mouth that Your Son Jesus died on the cross for my salvation. From this moment forward, I turn away from any and everything that is not of you, and I accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and the Lord of my life. I give my life to You and ask You to fill me with Your Spirit and Your love. Take control and use me for Your glory. Thank You for saving me. In Jesus's name, amen.

Day 19 takeaway: If you sincerely prayed that prayer, you've just made the best and most important decision of your life. If you've truly given your heart to Jesus, you've been born again. I encourage you to join a Bible-based church and find a community of people who know what it means to really love God. You've got a long journey ahead, but trust me, it'll be well worth it when you hear Him say, "Well done."

Check out yesterday's notes here.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 18

Have you ever felt inadequate? Have you ever looked at everything everyone else had--their gifts, the cool jobs they landed the first time they applied, their perfect relationships/marriages in the perfect house with the perfect spouse and the perfect 2.5 kids--and wondered, When is my time coming? If you have, you're not alone. I've been there, too. Not that I'm coveting it, because that's unhealthy. All I'm saying is I'd like to be there one day. Constantly seeing images of seemingly perfect scenarios can make us feel like we're not measuring up. That's not the case at all. Today's section of Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional was called "You Are Enough."

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store

Multiple times on this blog, I've mentioned the pressure to be cool from social media as well as the pressure to be in a relationship--even if that pressure is 'healthy' and we want to be in a godly one. We've heard enough about what to do when the world tells us we aren't enough. Today I want to flip the script and talk about what we are good enough for.

You are absolutely enough for the assignment that God has called you to. Maybe the reason people don't think you're cool is because they can't see the gifts you possess. Maybe you weren't the right type for the last girl or guy you were interested in. Whatever the case may be, maybe you weren't enough in their eyes. That doesn't matter. It may feel like it matters now, but trust me, it does not affect your value. It says nothing about the essence of who you are. Your worth is not measured by what people see or don't see, what they acknowledge or overlook. Your worth is the measure of Christ's love for you, and that quantity cannot ever be measured. His love for us is infinite.

You are more than enough for the specific anointing that God has placed on your life. The only validation you need is His. Nothing anybody (including you) says or does will ever veto His stamp of approval. Nobody else can walk out that calling except for you. You can try to talk yourself out of your purpose if you want to. You won't be able to run away from Him for long.

Satan wants to belittle your gifts because if you really understood the weight of what you're carrying, you'd know that he is no match for you. If you really knew what a powerhouse you are in the Kingdom, his threats would mean nothing to you. If you only knew your own strength, and more importantly, the strength of the One who lives in you, you'd know that everything the enemy has ever told you is a lie. You can't stop now.

It doesn't matter what everyone else says about who your family is, where you come from, or what you've done in the past. Your gift is still necessary, the promise is still yours, and you are ALWAYS enough! Today's Medicine Music is Todd Galberth's "The Curse Is Broken." If you keep following God, the toxic cycles will end with you. You could be the curse-breaker in your family. Your perseverance in this season can set your entire bloodline up for greatness. That's how important it is for you to know that you are enough.

Day 18 takeaway: You've made it to the end of this post, but you still might not be convinced that you really are enough. I know the feeling. It took me a long time to get there, but there's no greater feeling than when that belief fully sinks in. You might not be there yet, but in the meantime, speak what you seek until you see what you've said. Everyday, speak "enough" over yourself until you walk like "enough", talk like "enough" and act like "enough." Embracing the truth of "enough" will completely change your outlook on life. It definitely changed mine. Less of me, more of He.

Check out yesterday's notes here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 17

How many excuses have you made today? It's okay, you can be honest. This is a judgment-free zone. We all do it. We say we're going to make time to do something, and then we find a reason to back out of it, like "something came up," or, "I was busy," or my personal favorite, "I'll do it tomorrow." Next time you use that one, ask yourself this: What if tomorrow never comes? Today's section in Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional was called "Excuses, Excuses, Excuses."

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store 

Humans are the biggest oxymoron ever known: inconsistent creatures of habit. We have a horrible habit of not sticking to things, putting off until tomorrow what can easily be done today. Stop wasting time on "Will do's." Before you know it, "Will do" turns into "Should have." The longer you put things off, the more likely you are to never get them done.

I'll use myself as an example. 78 days ago, I started a 61-day Bible plan, one of those guided exercises on the Bible app that tells you which scriptures to read every day based on a certain topic. I was supposed to be finished with it on New Year's's now January 17th and I'm 95 percent finished--and the thing about it is, I know better! That makes procrastination even worse. It's an act of deliberate negligence of the thing we know we're supposed to be doing. No more excuses! In fact, I'm using this post as a reminder to finish that Bible plan today. This devotional is really helping me improve on my follow-through. It's making me realize that I can't expect to be "Moving Forward" (today's "Medicine Music" by Israel and New Breed) if I don't make time to look to God for direction. "Decrease" is more than just a declaration, it's effort and dedication.

Day 17 takeaway: I'm eternally grateful to serve  a consistent Father, and I don't even want to think about where I'd be if He decided to "put me off" until tomorrow. You and I need to visit Him more often. Less of me, more of He.

Check out yesterday's notes here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 16

Today in Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional, the topic was singing as a form of worship. It was a call to action for readers to sing in or out of tune, regardless of circumstances, in reverence to God. I could go on and on about why singing is my favorite type of worship, but I'll try to keep it as short as possible.

Todd Galberth - Decrease devotional / Todd Galberth online store

So many people think I'm quiet, but those who really know me can attest to the fact that I sing 25/8. I got it honest; when my mother was pregnant with me, she sang all the time. I was a premie so I stayed in the NICU until I was three months old, and my mom and aunt would sing "You Are My Sunshine" as they sat with me. To hear my aunt tell it, shortly after I learned to talk, I randomly started singing "You Are My Sunshine" without being prompted...and I knew all the words. To this day, I can listen to a song for the first time, and by the chorus, I'll be singing along. I know that sounds crazy. You'd have to see it to believe it.

Music has always been a source of joy in my life, no matter what I'm going through. Whether I'm mad, sad, or on cloud nine, I have a song for every occasion. In the middle of a conversation, I can hear someone say something, and whatever they said will make me think of a song I know. To be honest, I'm pretty sure I sing more than I talk. I feel like I can express myself better that way.

I've been to over 40 concerts in my lifetime thus far, and I appreciate all types of music, but my favorite genre is gospel/inspirational/CCM. I hesitate to put this music under one specific category because I love so many diverse artists, so I'll just say my favorite type of music is music that glorifies God. I love Jesus music because it helps me sing what I can't say. Have you ever heard a song that speaks for you? I have, too many times to count. Sometimes I'll start singing happily, and by the time I'm finished getting lost in the music, I find myself in tears. Singing is the purest form of worship, in my opinion. It is a release. It allows me to empty my emotions at the feet of the Father, to feel every note, even if I didn't write it. I'm so grateful for all the artists who pour themselves onto paper and melody and echo the sentiments of my heart.

Day 16 takeaway: In addition to my appreciation for eclectic Jesus music, I'm also grateful for devotionals like this that recognize that God is EVERYTHING, not just one sound, not just one idea, and definitely not just one style of writing. I'm glad Todd Galberth stepped outside of the box that the music industry might try to put him in and decided to write this book. It's helping me "Decrease" and discover cool music along the way (speaking of, today's "Medicine Music" is "Fall In This Place" by Planetshakers). I pray that this devotional reaches people of every nation who need to know who God is.

Less of me, more of He.

Check out yesterday's notes here.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 15

In Exodus 20:17, the tenth commandment states, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (NIV). Since this commandment applies to everything that belongs to your neighbor, you also shouldn't covet your neighbor's gifts. Todd Galberth explained how to press toward "His Mark" on day 15 of the "Decrease" devotional.

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store 

No matter how great our own gifts are, we all want what someone else has. We always think their lives, their talents, their stuff is bigger, better and/or perfect in comparison to ours. That's not true. First of all, nobody's perfect, and secondly, your gift is yours because you're the perfect person to carry it out. God trusted you with it for a reason.

Coveting other people's gifts is wrong for a lot of reasons. It's unfair to you because it'll constantly make you feel like you're not measuring up, and more importantly, it's a disservice to God. We need God ("Medicine Music": "Oh How I Need You" - All Sons & Daughters), and He needs us to pursue our purpose. He called you to your gift because when you do your thing your way, it activates something unique in His Kingdom. We're all pressing toward His mark, but your gift is specially marked for you, and mine is specially marked for me. Every gift is different and every gift is necessary. If we're all focused on each others' gifts, we'll all neglect our assignments. If we don't do our work, who will? Remember, somebody somewhere needs what you've got!

The next time you see someone else doing their thing, even if that "thing" is similar to what you're called to, instead of coveting where they are, be happy for them and be content where you are. When we stand on God's promises for our own lives, we're not threatened when other people's promises are fulfilled because we know our time is coming. Your best is never in competition with anyone else's best. You are an asset to the Kingdom. We all are. Nobody can "do you" like YOU!

Day 15 takeaway: I am gifted, and so are you. It's perfectly okay to acknowledge that and walk humbly in my lane. There's no need to get jealous of what others have, and no need to apologize for being great. God made us all amazing. No matter what the world says, as long as I'm pressing towards God, I'll never miss the mark. There's room for everyone to win! Less of me, more of He.

Check out yesterday's notes here.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 14

In my earlier notes on Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional, I said I wanted my wants to line up with God's will for my life. In conjunction with that principle, today's section of the devotional was called "I Choose You." God has already chosen us to carry out a particular assignment, but it's up to us to accept that calling. If we're serious about aligning our wants with God's will, before we want anything else, we have to want Him.

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store 

Yesterday I posed a question: Can you remember a time when you chased God with everything you had? I can. I'm doing it right now, as I type this. I gave God my 'yes' for the first time almost 18 years ago when I was only six years old. Back then, that 'yes' was based on who my family told me He was. I gave Him a slightly louder 'yes' when I was in undergrad at a crossroads between majors. That 'yes' meant something entirely different for me because I gave it to Him when I needed Him. He used that 'yes' to teach me who He was exclusively for me.

Now, I find myself telling Him 'yes' again, except this time, it's not the little girl 'yes' or the 'yes' of an unsure college student. This time, I'm telling Him yes because I feel Him stretching me, calling me higher. He's telling me that His Kingdom needs my gifts. I'm believing that the 'yes' I'm giving Him now, as a confident adult who has known Him in the past and who knows Him in the present, will be the 'yes' that unlocks the door to my destiny. I feel that way because for the first time in my life, my 'yes' is so big, it's scary...scary, but necessary. This 'yes' is fully given by my own free will, but it requires complete submission and strips me of all control.

God gives us free will, but we have to make a conscious decision to allow our will to bow to His. If we don't make that decision, He will allow things to happen in our lives that force us to bow. I don't say that to scare you, but it's true. God will always assert His authority, whether you want Him to rule or not. We should be honored to be chosen by someone as magnificent as the God who loved us enough to show Himself to us in human form and give His life in exchange for ours. Who are we to be called "child" and "friend" by such a merciful Father? The least I can do is answer His call.

Day 12 takeaway: Last year, I asked God to take my hand off the doorknobs of doors that were meant to stay closed. This year, I want Him to fine tune my ears so I'll be able to hear loud and clear when His opportunities knock. Before I walk through any door, I have to know without a shadow of a doubt that God is the one opening it. This year and beyond, "I'll Just Say Yes" (today's "Medicine Music" by Brian Courtney Wilson) to Him and Him only. I'll say yes, and mean it this time. Less of me, more of He.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 13

Day 13 of Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional was called "Keep That Room Clean!" Today, Todd shared that his mother taught him, "It's easier to keep a clean room clean than a dirty one." That's true in so many of life's situations, but it's especially relevant in relation to God. In Day 11's notes, I said that in order to be prepared for the next level, we have to get in the praying position. In today's section, Todd explained that it's not enough to just get there; when we get there, we have to stay there.

Todd Galberth - "Decrease"devotional / Todd Galberth online store

In order to move from glory to glory, we have to make time to glorify God. To find our 'next thing,' we have to seek Him. In the gap between glories, He's checking to see where we are. Are we constantly at His feet? Are we on our knees? Or are we everywhere else? In life, we make time for things that matter to us. Make sure you're making time for God, not just when it's convenient, but all the time, even when you don't feel like it. If God dropped us when He didn't feel like it, life would be hell on earth. Be thankful that He is a God of grace.

We owe God the best parts of us, not leftovers. We should always give Him the first fruits of everything we get, not just our tithes but our time, the first part of our day. He should be the first thing we think about when we wake up and the last thing we think about before we close our eyes to sleep. If we really desire to know Him, we have to be consistent. We can't just pick God up whenever we need Him. It's not a "call whenever you feel like it" type of deal. It's a lifelong commitment. Show Him how much He means to you.

Communication is key in every healthy relationship. If you want a relationship to work, you have to put in the work. As the saying goes, "What you do to get a person is what you'll have to do to keep them." A successful relationship requires constant maintenance (today's "Medicine Music" is "Maintain" by Jonathan McReynolds). The same applies to our relationship with God, but with Him, it holds even more weight because it's the most important relationship we have.

Day 13 takeaway: We need to get back to how things were when we first wanted God. Can you remember a time when you chased Him with everything you had? Can you remember why you stopped running? I don't kmow about you, but I'm challenging myself to start running again, and this time, I won't ever stop. Less of me, more of He.

Check out yesterday's notes here.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 12

Knowingly or unknowingly, we all bow to something. We all have at least one thing that can prevent us from reaching our full potential if we let it, but as Christians, we have the power and authority to speak directly to our worries and command them to bow. That was the main point in "Faith Over Fear," today's section of Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional: Either you bow to your fears, or your fears bow to you. It's your choice.

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store

As children of God, we control what gets to us. We have to stop giving fear access to our lives and our gifts. The Bible says we are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14). We were made in the fearless and wonderful image of God. Fear does not have dominion over us because the One who lives in us has overcome the world. The idea of fear is a threat that the enemy puts in place when he knows you're a threat.

The devil tries to tell you what you can't do or be because He knows full well what the God in you is capable of. The mere thought of you being all that you can be in Christ shakes Satan to his core. He tries to keep us scared because as long as we're scared, we'll stay stagnant. The truth of the matter is, he can't handle who we are. It's too much for him. God has already promised us in His Word that we would be protected. Don't let the threat of weapons forming make you believe that they can prosper. No matter how bleak your current circumstance may look, challenge yourself to live by Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go" (NIV). Whenever you feel afraid, remind yourself Who you belong to (and listen to some "Medicine Music," like Bethel Music's "No Longer Slaves). Faith > fear, always.

Day 12 takeaway: Ultimately, we choose what rules our lives: the promise attached to faith, or the problems attached to fear. That choice may make the difference between destiny and deferment. Choose wisely. Less of me, more of He.

Check out yesterday's notes here.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 11

Today's lesson in Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional was entitled "The Proactive Life." It essentially added on to what I mentioned yesterday about detours, saying that not only can they be a good thing, they can also serve a very important purpose. As I read this section, I kept hearing a word that echoed in my spirit all throughout 2017: Positioning.

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store

Numerous times on this blog, I've touched on the importance of posture during the waiting period. No matter what you're waiting for, car, house, job, spouse, whatever it is, before God lets you have it, He looks at how you're preparing for it in advance. Human nature is selfish. We are naturally inclined to put ourselves first and all others second. If we really want to live a proactive life, we must always put the Giver of Life before everything and everyone else -- especially during our detours.

Today's "Medicine Music," "You Have Me" by Gungor, struck a chord with me for a lot of reasons. The first thing that caught my attention was the beauty of the unique sound, but the lyrics would still be hard-hitting even if they weren't set to music. The whole song was wonderful, but my revelation came from the last two lines, "You have me / You have my heart completely." The declaration "You have me" is two-fold.

God always has us, always covers us, but we choose whether or not we have Him. It sounds sanctified and holy when we tell God, "You have my heart completely," but the truth is, sometimes He doesn't. Sometimes other things crowd the space in our hearts where He should be. Living a proactive life means that we have to eliminate the clutter and give Him room to just be God. If you want to be prepared for what's next, get in the praying position! Detox your spirit and seek Him. Move worry, problems, confusion, and whatever else hinders your surrender out of the way. Take a chance on God and let Him show you who He is. He has your heart in the palm of His hand. You can trust Him to be careful with it.

Day 11 takeaway: The next time I say, "God, You have me," I need to mean it, and I need to live like I mean it. Actions speak louder than words. Less of me, more of He.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 10

We've all been there: Had plans to go somewhere and then all of a sudden, something came up. An unexpected detour took you off your scheduled route, and you ended up arriving later than you planned. What if your late arrival was God's way of protecting you? In day ten of Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional, he explained "The Inconvenience of Convenience."

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store

The premise of today's lesson was the importance of allowing God to move you outside of your comfort zone. In this section, Todd emphasized that often, great things are birthed out of uncomfortable situations. As I was reading, God gave me a word that tied in more directly with yesterday's lesson on vision: If you want your vision to match His vision for your life, you have to be specific when you ask Him for guidance. Go beyond "how," "where," and "why" and ask "what time?" Todd is right, greatness usually requires us to venture outside of what we know, but I'd like to add on a word of caution: If you feel like God is calling you to go somewhere or do something new, get excited, but be careful. Your destination might be right, but the timing could be wrong.

Yesterday I said that sometimes we feel like we're following God blindly. Well, if you can't see where you're going, you also won't be able to see what obstacles lie ahead. The good news is, the God you're following is omnipotent. If He can see where He's taking you, He can also see what you'll be up against along the way. The situation you thought was an inconvenient detour, the thing you're complaining about having to go out of your way for, could be God's hand of protection in disguise. There's a reason He's making you wait. Remember, He promised you the "what." He didn't specify the "when."

When God begins preparing you for a change of direction, make sure you use discernment. Sometimes He takes us out of our comfort zone twice: If He allows us to endure an uncomfortable, longer detour now, we won't be surprised when He takes us out of our comfort zone again as we get closer to our destiny. Don't let the detour of your "right now" make you feel like you have to dive into a new thing head first. Just because you don't jump immediately doesn't mean you'll miss the promise. Delayed doesn't mean denied. Don't make life-changing decisions on impulse. Submitting to God's will means doing what He tells you to do when He tells you to do it. If you're sincerely praying "God, 'I Want To Be Used By You'" (today's "Medicine Music" by Deluge Band), you have to give yourself time to really hear His voice. Sometimes the scenic route is necessary.

Day 10 takeaway: When God tells us where to go, we have two choices: We can either go right away without knowing how much road work lies ahead, or wait until God gives us the signal that he's finished paving the way. I know which option I'm choosing. Less of me, more of He.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 9

Day nine of Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional hit home for me the most thus far. It was called "Worshipping in the Rain," and it perfectly summed up what I'm going through at the moment. In my last post of 2017, I talked about how last year was a trying year for me, how it left me no choice but to call on God. I know we all have rainy seasons, but in this case, I couldn't tell if it was a rain or a drought. Sometimes, it felt like the rain was drowning me, and other times, the land under my feet felt dry and unyielding.

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store

Ironically, a couple of months ago, I tuned in to a Facebook broadcast of Travis Greene's church, Forward City, and the guest psalmist was none other than Todd Galberth. That night, not only did he sing, he also shared a short, inspiring message that I now know was derived from his devotional. I'll attempt to paraphrase it, but it's one of those messages you have to experience first hand in order for it to really sink in. Todd said that some people feel like they're standing in the rain. It's pouring, and it seems like it's never going to stop, but it will eventually. He said that the Lord would move for us in due time, but while we wait for Him to move, He would give us an umbrella to shelter us from the storm.

When I heard that, I burst into tears. It spoke directly to my situation and reminded me that in spite of the hardships God allows us to go through, He's still good because He makes a way through every time. I blog to encourage others, but in the process, I'm also encouraging myself. This platform has been my "umbrella" in so many ways. It pushes me to seek God more and draw nearer to Him in order to share what He gives me. I pray that each post shows you who He is, the kind of God He is to me, and who He can be for you if you let Him.

Day 9 takeaway: Maybe the reason why God allows us to stay in the storm a little longer than usual is because He wants us to "Decrease" before He brings us into our destiny. Like I said yesterday, He's already planned our future (Today's "Medicine Music" - Israel Houghton's "You Hold My World"). Maybe the extra rain is necessary because the seeds that God has planted in us need ample water to grow to their fullest potential. Maybe more water = a bigger harvest. We'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, I'm learning how to dance in the rain. Less of me, more of He.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 8

Yesterday in the "Decrease" devotional, Todd Galberth explained that when we take God out of the box, He'll take us out of the box. Today's lesson added a condition to that "unboxing": Before God can trust us with a larger territory, more money, influence, etc., we have to show Him that we can follow "Directions." That was day 8's title.

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store

Today's "Medicine Music" was KJ Scriven's "Lead Me." I had never heard the song before, so I had to look it up on YouTube. At first listen, I thought it was beautiful, a cry out to God for guidance, but it became even more poignant when I noticed the cover art. It's a picture of KJ walking through a wooded area with a blindfold on. That spoke to me in two ways: In this life, we either feel like we're following God blindly, or we have 20/20 vision. In both instances, He still has to lead. Let me explain.

KJ Scriven - "Lead Me" - single (2016) / Amazon

Oftentimes, God gives us instructions that we don't understand. Sometimes it will feel like we're blind because we can't see what's ahead of us. There's no way for us to know ahead of time what He has planned, but we have to follow Him anyway, trusting that He will lead us in the right direction. On the other side of the coin, God can give us dreams, ideas, and goals that seem ridiculous to the people around us. If you tell your friends and acquaintances about the vision that God has given you and they look at you like you're crazy, it's because the vision is only clear for you. While you're seeing things 20/20, they'll try to convince you it's impossible because they don't understand it. Here's the thing: It's not meant for them to understand.

The blessing attached to God's purpose for your life has your name on it -- nobody else's -- so if God tells you to do something, do it. Don't ask questions, don't think twice. The more time you spend thinking about it, the more you'll try to talk yourself out of your miracle because it 'doesn't make sense.' It might not make sense to "them", and it might not even make sense to you right now, but continue to lean on God. No matter what it looks like, He still has plans for your life. It's up to you to believe that. Trust what you can't see (or what "they" can't see) and follow directions.

Day 8 takeaway: Even when I don't know where I'm going (Hint: We never know where we're going until we get there!), God has already mapped out my journey and secured my destination. That's why the root word of destination is destiny. He knows exactly where I'll land. Less of me, more of He.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 7

I've been reading Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional for a week now, and I've learned a lot thus far: How to surrender to God's will, how to make Him a priority, how to develop a relationship with Him that extends into my relationships with others, how to move out of His way, and most recently, how to take Him out of the box. Today the devotional taught me that taking God out of the box allows Him to take me out of the box. Today's section was simply called "Use Me," but the message was profound.

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store

We know from yesterday's notes that we can't limit how God moves in our lives. By the same token, we can't limit how he has us to move in the lives of others. Since we as Christians are called to be his hands and feet, we often have to go where our earthly hands and feet may not want to go. It's part of the assignment. When we wholeheartedly tell God, "Move however, whenever," He not only shifts our thinking, He expands our gifts beyond our comfort zones to include people and places we never thought we would encounter. Our full surrender, the declaration of "I'm Yours!" (today's "Medicine Music" by Casey J) activates the enlargement of our territories.

We are all, to some extent, aware of the gifts we possess, although we may not be entirely aware of the magnitude or scope of those gifts. Since we serve an immeasurable, unfathomable, indescribable God, we should not be surprised when he exceeds our expectations. We should, of course, walk humbly in following Him, but when we're positioned for overflow as I mentioned yesterday, we should be prepared for our levels of influence to increase and our minds to be blown.

When you try to tell God when and how to move, He'll either take you in a totally different direction than the one you planned, or He'll extend the waiting time on your breakthrough -- or both. Either way, you'll have no choice but to trust Him. Keep the faith! If things aren't looking great for you right now, don't worry. Instead, keep praying, keep praising, and rest on the promise of a "suddenly" God. If you "suddenly" find yourself doing things you never thought possible, don't worry about how it happened. It happened because God rewards those who serve Him faithfully. Those things that come as surprises to you are simply a part of His regularly scheduled programming.

Day 7 takeaway: My gifts are not life is not mine. I am God's, and He blessed me (and you!) with unique tools to be a blessing to others. Putting limits on where, how, and when He uses me goes beyond just being selfish. Keeping myself in a box is a form of disobedience to God. Somebody's life depends on what I've got! Less of me, more of He.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 6

Yesterday in Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional, the topic was moving out of God's way. Today's lesson was directly related to that, because a huge part of moving out of His way involves moving Him outside of our boxes. This section was called "Something You've Never Seen."

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store

In yesterday's notes, I said that it's time for us to get used to having our plans flipped upside down because our will is oftentimes very different from God's agenda. By today's standards, that's a crazy idea. As humans, we all pride ourselves on being "in the know," but with God, everything we know can be thrown out the window without our permission. God doesn't need us to give Him the green light to move. He does whatever, whenever, however He wants to. It's impossible for us to put an unfathomable, immeasurable, indescribable God in a box, because as the Bible says, "Nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).

Today's "Medicine Music" was "I'm Getting Ready" by Tasha Cobbs Leonard (featuring Nicki Minaj). I know people (myself included) had a lot to say about this song (read my commentary here), but the lyrics are relevant when it comes to thinking outside of the God box. If we truly are ready to see something we've never seen, we have to position ourselves for overflow. Since we serve a God Who meets us where we are, if we want Him to do something different, we have to do something different. If you really want Him to blow your mind, you have to change your mindset.

Day 6 takeaway: In order for God to shift things in our lives, He needs to see a shift in posture and perspective. We need to shift from pessimism to positivity, to focus less on problems and more on praise. In this Christian walk, I'm learning that God is a promise keeper, but the fulfillment of those promises requires me to hold up my end of the bargain. He wants to see that I'm trying. It's hard, but I'm doing my best to give Him something to work with. Less of me, more of He.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 5

Day five of Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional, entitled "Get 'I' Out of the Way," referenced one of my favorite scriptures, Matthew 6:33:

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (NIV)

I've cited this verse a couple of times on this blog, but my main focus in those posts was the latter half of the statement, "...and all these things will be given to you as well." That's the problem that Todd addressed in today's section. The King James version of Matthew 6:33 replaces the word given with the word added. Without realizing it, I zoomed in on the "additions" so closely that I almost completely overlooked the first (and most important) part of the sentence, "But seek FIRST his KINGDOM..."

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store

When I mentioned this scripture a while back, I said that if we go to God first, He will add bonuses to our lives. That's still true, but Todd's message made me think of something very important that I neglected in my explanation: How hard it is to 1) Set aside time to actively seek God, and 2) Accept what He tells us when we seek Him. We all set goals for ourselves, and that's a perfectly healthy practice. We can even go to God and tell Him we want to do X, Y, and Z. In fact, we're supposed to make our requests known to Him (Philippians 4:6), however, there's a catch: even while we're telling God what we want, before we get consumed by our ideas and try to force things to happen, we have to acknowledge that He is still sovereign. We have to open ourselves up and allow our plans to be shaken, stirred, or even completely destroyed to match His will. Even when it seems like He's turning our world upside down, we can rest in knowing that He will supply all of our needs. Today's "Medicine Music" was the title track on Todd's album, Decrease. I've been listening to it since September of last year, but the lyrics, especially the chorus, hit hard every time:

Don't let my will get in the way

Don't let my flesh drive You away

Lord, I decrease

Have Your way through me

Todd Galberth - Decrease (2017) / Amazon

Day 5 takeaway: I want my wants to line up with God's will. My thinking, my paradigms, my goals, everything I thought I knew, it's all shifting and changing...and surprisingly, I'm okay with that. I have to be. I'm relinquishing control. However God chooses to move, I'm all in. I'm moving out of my own way, and more importantly, I'm moving out of His way. Less of me, more of He.

Click here to read yesterday's notes.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 4

I never knew a book could read me until I started reading Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional. It knows me so well already...and this is only day four. Today's topic was, again, right in my wheelhouse. It's called "Relationship Goals Part II." I've written several posts about relationships on this blog, so I assumed Todd's message would be along the same lines, like, "Don't worry about a romantic relationship right now, God is all you need..." You know, the usual. I was wrong. Todd put an entirely different spin on the topic, expanding on yesterday's commentary about relationship over religion. He pointed out that being a Christian is more than just having a "vertical" relationship with God. He said it should also extend into "horizontal" relationships with the people we encounter in our every day lives.

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store

I read that and instantly thought, Okay, God, I hear You. I've always been somewhat of a loner. I was bullied when I was younger, but as I grew up, I was a loner by choice. Most people think I'm quiet, but that's not the case. I'm selective in who I choose to open up to. I have a VERY small circle of consistent friends that I am so grateful for (shout out to y'all), but I used to make excuses for why I didn't really need friends, using the comfort of solidarity as a crutch. The truth was, I just didn't want to make the effort to put myself out there. It takes a lot of energy. If you're an introvert, you know what I mean.

A few months ago, I put in a very straightforward request with God. I told Him point blank, "You and I both know I suck at making friends, but at this point in my life, I realize I need them more than I thought I did. Surround me with more like-minded people that I can pour into who will pour back into me." That very same day, a friend I hadn't talked to in over a decade reached out to me, and now, we're keeping in touch. God knows what and who you need, and He'll always send them at the right time.

Day 4 takeaway: Today's "Medicine Music" was Jonathan McReynolds' "Christ Representers." As Christians, it's our job to represent Jesus well in everything we do. We are His hands and feet. He won't move until we do. Sometimes, I have to remind myself to reach out to people, friends and strangers, even when I don't feel like it. I might be the only example of Jesus they see. Less of me, more of He.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 3

Wow. Day three of Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional met me right where I am, so much so that it picked up right where yesterday's takeaway point left off. This section was entitled "Relationship Goals," and it echoed exactly what I mentioned yesterday about how I desire relationship with God more than religion. What I mean by that is, adding to how Todd explained it in the book, I don't want to get so caught up in the four walls of a church, so absorbed in the doctrine taught there, that I forget that the God they fed me is the same One Who will sustain me throughout the rest of the week. Don't get me wrong, a home church is absolutely necessary in the Christian walk, and sound doctrine is always important, but we have to supplement Sunday service with a consistent relationship with God.
Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store

I was raised in church, so I knew what mama, grandma, granddaddy, auntie, etc. taught me about who God is, but it wasn't until college that I learned the difference between knowing about Him and knowing Him personally. For example, if you base your opinion of someone solely on what you've heard about them without meeting them yourself, you miss out on who they really are. The same applies to your relationship with God. Sure, you know how great He's been to them, whoever they are, but what has He done for YOU lately? Who is He to you? Abba? Father? Daddy? Friend? For me, He's all that and more. When He allowed me to go to a place so low that I had no choice but to call on Him, I called Him all those names and then some. I learned who He was and is for me, to me, and in me (in fact, I'm still learning), and while I'm learning about Him, I'm learning about myself. I'm so glad I serve a God who is gracious enough to meet me where I am. This is why Todd's "Medicine Music" of the day, "First Loved Me" by Covenant Worship, resonated with me so much. Jesus is the ultimate blueprint for how true love should be. He loved me (and you!) unconditionally before time even began.

Day 3 takeaway: Today and every day, I'll make a conscious effort to talk to and hear from my first love and truest friend: Christ. My relationship with Him should always be my top priority. I owe Him more time. Less of me, more of He.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 2

Today is day two of Todd Galberth's "Decrease" devotional. After reading this section, I think it's safe to say that an alternate title for this book could be "Talking with Todd." His diction makes readers feel like he's sitting across the table from us chatting about life. That's essentially what this devotional is--it's relatable, and most importantly, it's relationship to the Father. In fact, that was the topic for day two, a section entitled "2nd Place."

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store

Day two's reading was, naturally, a tie-in to day one. It explained that in order for God to rule over our lives, He has to take precedence over everything else we value. All too often, we look to God as a last resort after we've exhausted all of "our" earthly resources. I put the word our in quotation marks here because the resources we take credit for finding/getting on our own are given to us by God. We may think we made it happen, but the truth is, it's never just us. He is the source of everything. We need to start giving credit where credit is due. Today's "Medicine Music," Housefires' "One Thing", was beautifully fitting. God truly is the One and only thing we need. Put Him in first place and He'll make everything else fall into place.

Day 2 takeaway: If I put God on the back burner, I don't have the right to complain when/if I feel burned out. I want more than just religion and ritual with Him; I want relationship. Less of me, more of He.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Todd Galberth's "Decrease" Devotional Notes: Day 1

Happy New Year, everyone! I know I usually post on Wednesdays, but I'm trying something different. First thing's first, let's start the new year off right, by being honest: We all make ridiculous resolutions that we abandon within the first week of every year. I don't know about you all, but this time around, I needed to make a tangible, realistic resolution I could actually stick to. So, I bought Todd Galberth's 21-day "Decrease" devotional as a Christmas present to myself, and I started it today. Granted, it's only day one, but so far, I think it's a great investment.

Todd Galberth - "Decrease" devotional / Todd Galberth online store

The "Decrease" devotional is based on Todd's song/album of the same name, released in September 2017. Let me pause and insert a shameless plug here because...when I tell y'all this album--especially the title track and "Lord You Are Good"--had me WRECKED...listen, if you don't have the album, you need it in your life. Get it here. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. The premise of the devotional is to teach readers how to decrease to allow God to increase in every area of our lives. Todd's writing style and tone is very conversational and familiar, which I appreciate (probably because I like to write that way, too), but he makes it clear from the introduction that he's going to teach us the concept of decrease the way God gave it to him.

Todd Galberth - Decrease (2017) / Amazon

Day one of the devotional, entitled "Lord?", speaks to how to surrender to God fully and allow Him to not only be the God who saves us, but also the God who leads us. It focused on how to make God the "headship" of our lives. The section was a short but "meaty" read, exactly what I needed, and it reminded me of my previous post in so many ways.

As if you needed another reason to purchase this book, here's one more cool thing: If you're familiar with Todd's music, you know he's a phenomenal songwriter in his own right, but I was pleasantly surprised that he featured other artists' songs in the devotional's "Medicine Music" section. Day one's song was "I Surrender" by Hillsong, a perfect fit for the message he shared.

For the next 21 days, I'll be using this blog as a journal as I reflect on and pray about the topics discussed in the "Decrease" devotional. If you have a copy, feel free to read along with me and post your thoughts in the comment section. If you don't, I hope these posts inspire you to get one. Let's decrease together!

Day 1 takeaway: In 2018 and beyond, I want to focus less on my hardships and more on God as my headship. In everything I do, I want Him to go before me. Less of me, more of He.