Friday, August 26, 2016

My Anything (2016)

Three Summers ago I participated in an online study called "Anything"'s what's happened since, here is my Anything...

Following that Summer of surrender, longing for more, obedience, risk, and boldness for Jesus I began a journey, a journey full of joy, tears, humility, peace, mourning, and contentment...yes, all those things and more.

My Anything began with God calling me to step out with the gifts He has given me, to make music for Him, for His Glory.  It started with a simple call to fill in as the interim worship leader at my church (which I always say I was not very good at) but God used it to reveal more gifts, more things He wanted me to do.  A few short months following, our small 4 person Celebrate Recovery band led praise and worship in a prison gymnasium.  Our now 5 person band travels to various prisons a few times each year.  During the last two years my aunt and my mom have been diagnosed with breast cancer, I haven't always had a close relationship with my mom but it has been during this time God led me to really be there for my mom.  Dr appointments, hospital runs and stays, and loving her more have been God's task for me during this time of her life.  Along with that God has strengthened my music abilities, He showed me in late 2013 that I could play for myself and has grown and is still growing that gift exponentially.  He has called me to be a worship leader, I enrolled in a certificate program in Worship Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary last fall (2015) and should finish in Spring 2017.  In November 2015, a dear friend and former inmate asked us to join him in a Friday night prison service. I led a worship service in a chapel of 100 incarcerated men and knew this was where I was supposed to lead worship.  Unbeknownst to my husband upon going in this first time, it was at this service in November that God called him to prison ministry.  He has struggled over the last few years wondering if God would ever call him to be a pastor at a church, he has had a couple opportunities to take churches and lead them but didn't do it and wondered if he had blown it.  And now we know why...he was called to preach in prisons.  I had believed I would be called to a church somewhere and maybe someday I will be but here, now...this is where I am supposed to lead people in the worship and praise of our Savior.  In December my husband and I filled out our applications to become Volunteers in Corrections (VICs), the process was a little grueling with recommendation letters, interviews, training...etc but in early February we were official and since then we have been in prison practically every Friday night leading people in praise and worship and my husband preaching the Word, and our friend testifying of Jesus' life-giving and life-changing gift of salvation.  We go into prison every Friday and other prisons throughout the month and have seen hundreds of broken men give their lives to Christ...what a privilege.  In March 2016, I wrote down a few song lyrics, not many but it was a start of something I could only imagine.  In April, James and I went on a little vacation and I had the intention of trying to write one song, I wrote three and led them in prison for worship the following Friday and several times since.  I met a new friend that is a song writer, I met missionaries from Alaska, and made another new friend while on vacation and she has become a great source of encouragement and promotion for a new ministry that was born through all of this.  We (my husband, our friend, Johnny, and myself) have seen miraculous and powerful things through this team of three and have started a ministry doing "prison services" everywhere.  It was named after the second song I wrote called "Sing for the King", whatever you do, do all for the Glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31...I sing for my King, He gave me this gift and I am going to use it to Glorify and Honor Him and Him alone.  So, Sing for the King Ministries was born, there have been difficulties but more so amazing blessings and incredible connections.  Inmates that we have ministered to have begun telling people they know about this ministry, I have received two calls from sisters of inmates that would like us to come to their church or event, one in Seattle, Washington and one in North Carolina.  The sweet sister in North Carolina is working on flights and hotel reservations right now to bring us there in October.  Maybe we will book a service in Seattle on our way to Alaska.  Who knows where God is going to take us but it is a pretty incredible journey to be on.  We have also had some battles which is to be expected, the enemy is going to attack us.  One of the more difficult things for me was giving up my job, I was trying to work full time, schedule events, go to multiple prisons each month along with our Friday nights, but I wasn't writing songs, I hadn't since our vacation and I knew this was the next step, saying goodbye to a job I loved, goodbye to the people closest to me, I am thankful I go to church with them but it has still been hard and I did a lot of selfish crying over it and I'm sure a lot of people think I am crazy for giving up half my family's income by quitting but I know God will provide.  Since then, which was just last month, God has flung open so many doors, I have been in several churches telling them about prison ministry, about my story, about surrendering everything they are to do what God has called them to do.  I wrote a song last week called "Anything" and have led it in worship several times already.  I have been given the opportunity to go to a recording studio and record my songs, hopefully that will be by the end of this year or beginning of next.  We did a service at a rescue mission last week, I led worship at a men's conference on Saturday, I am singing for Relay for Life next month and marvelous is our God?  I just want to be obedient...yet sometimes my flesh doesn't...and I try to stay eternal minded and not focus too much on my comfort, my loneliness (because sometimes I am lonely) and remember this is what God has called me to, what God has called us to do so I will not be afraid, I will carry on because I was bought with a price and I want to continue to live anything every day.  Anything You call me to, Lord...Anything.

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Anything Study ~ Week Eight Wrap Up

This is it...the end of this study but hopefully for all of us the start of something more, something beyond ourselves.  I hope you have completed and at least pondered Project One.  I have written my anything story before but I plan to bring it up-to-date in my next blog post.  I have to confess, this IS harder than I thought it would be, even the littlest acts of obedience I sometimes question or balk at, boy am I human.

Anything has made me look at the world, at this life, at MY life...differently.  I am living more eternal minded than I ever have, longing to do what God has called me to do more than ever, and seeking Him for brave moments, asking Him for divine appointments, trusting Him for things beyond my control.  Sweet friends, I pray that God has done a work in your heart these last few weeks, He sure has mine.  I hope this study has blessed you, I hope you are being called to brave and wild things for the Glory of God!  If you have prayed anything and know what your anything is, big or small (in our eyes, God has a plan for all of these things) then do Project Two...and answer the conversation card questions, maybe answer those first.  Blessings to you and yours, now go live your anythings!

Conversation Cards:

Who might not support the decision to pray this prayer in your life?

What are you letting go of?

What is God calling you toward?

Can you pray this prayer? When did you or when will you?

How do you imagine this will work itself out in your everyday and ordinary moments?

What is your big takeaway from this experience?

This week's recipe:

Strawberry Coffee Cake

~ Ingredients ~
3 Large egg whites
1/3 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or low-fat milk)
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup vanilla or plain protein powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sweetener that measures like sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups diced strawberries, divided

~ Directions ~
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a medium bowl whisk together the egg whites, yogurt, almond milk, oats, protein powder, baking powder, vanilla, sweetener, and salt until everything is well combined. Fold in one cup of strawberries. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the rest of the strawberries over the top. Bake for 28 to 32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cut into 8 portions and serve warm or chilled.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What is Too Much?

Are we afraid God is going to ask for something that will cost us too much? At least in our own eyes? Are we afraid we won't let go of our easy, comfortable lives and we will actually tell God no? If we choose nothing then that's what we are, to our invisible, almighty, incredible God. Is the cost too great? What if we lose our health, spouse, children, homes...what if in our obedience souls are won to Christ and the kingdom of God is built on our sacrifice to obey His calling?

"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:8

This all seems so big, so overwhelmingly difficult but yet we know that this is what we are called to as children of God...obedience, a willingness to follow Christ regardless of where it takes us - not out of duty but out of love for our Savior.  I want to love Him like that, with everything that I am, willing to do and go wherever He wants to lead me.  I must admit, I have moments of shrinking back in fear instead of boldness and faithfulness.  Lord, let my faith overcome my fear.  I wrote a song last week called "Anything", and that line is included "let my faith overcome my fear".  Here's the last part of this song recorded by my friend as I led it at a worship service at the Henry County Rescue Mission.

There's more than this. "Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world" John 17:24  The next day after those words, Jesus would go die the most brutal death possible. But that paled in light of the glimmer he held in his eye that night he talked to his father.  A day is coming when our eyes will close and there will be no more chaos.  No one will be preaching or writing books about God to help us remember, because we will be alive in that world with him forever.  Anything is nothing in light of that. In light of forever. In light of him. - Jennie A.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Anything Study ~ Week Eight

Week Eight! Wow! God is really something, He keeps me in awe all the time.  Things that may seem small to someone else make me doing this study, at precisely this's been pretty amazing to me, that I've been living out my anything prayer before you, before me!  At the end of this week I want to talk about our anythings...or at least my anything, I want to bring you up-to-date with what God is doing and has been doing in my life.  He is so faithful and I have some fun stories to share.  But let's get started with week eight.  Don't we long for more?  Don't we have better dreams than what the world has to offer?

We itch inside until we live for more than the gathering. I don't want to get to heaven and see what I could have been a part of but missed because I was numb or selfish or scared. - Jennie A.  

You see, God will get His will accomplished, He doesn't need lil ol you or lil ol me...He's God! But He desires to use us for His purposes and His plan, I so want to be used by Him, to give away what I've been given, to see people come to faith in Him, and grow closer to Him in the process.

There are a million ways to give our lives away, God is just waiting. Where does God want to take your plenty and pour it out? - Jennie A.

This week:
Read chapters 19-20
Study 1 Peter 1:2-9
Do Project One

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Anything Study ~ Week Seven Wrap Up

I used to try to live a medium life and if I'm honest I'm still trying to find my way out of that medium life mindset.  If I really want to live a sold out life for Christ then I have to surrender those medium/mediocre dreams to Jesus (the comfortable lifestyle).  Even today as I was on the road headed to lead worship at a Men's Conference, of all places, a thought crept in..."is this really what you want to do Christy?...get up at 4:30am, be on the road, live an exhausted life?"  Sometimes...I don't, but I want to serve Jesus more, I want to live for Him and that means I can deal with these small sacrifices to serve Him.

Do Project Two and answer the conversation card questions.

Describe a time you have felt all hell was coming against you. What perspective do you have today about that time?

Do you talk about God more than you obey Him? How could that change?

Who is someone you need to forgive to move forward?

What would be the most effective way for the devil to shut you down?

Read Matthew 16:25, what does it look like for you to "lose your life"?

What does your "medium" look like? How does that idea shape the decisions you make?

This week's recipe:

Curried Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches

~ Ingredients ~
1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
2 Tablespoons of mango chutney
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups diced, cooked chicken
24 thin slices whole-wheat baguette
1/2 cup chopped almonds, toasted
1/2 cup flaked coconut, toasted
1/4 cup green onions, diced

~ Directions ~
Mix together cream cheese, mango chutney, curry powder, salt and pepper until well combined.  Fold in chicken.  Spread a heaping tablespoon or so of chicken salad on each baguette slice and top with a sprinkle of almonds, coconut, and green onion.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Follow God, Caution is Ridiculous

This week has been beautiful and difficult at the same time.  God is at work and I have to remain focused on what He has called me to do.  I marked and underlined so many things in these three chapters, here are a few that touched me.

Once God was free in our lives, he was loud and clear, and following him was not that complicated.  Especially because he kept showing up.

We have become such a pragmatic society with our pros and cons and schedules that when we get to matters of radical obedience, it's easy for us to talk ourselves out of it.

"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God....Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" 1 Corinthians 1:18,20

What if you had been too afraid to obey me?  Look at what you would have missed.

We grow through suffering. And most of us need to grow up.  I've learned to quit wishing away the hard stuff, because I don't want to miss all the good stuff that goes with it.

I've been so programmed to perform as a 'follower of Christ,' and all God ever wanted was for me to surrender, to set aside the agenda and to follow.

At some point, our faith and our words must become our actions and lives.  Do we talk more about God than we obey him?

Our caution makes us look ridiculous.

Jesus prayed his guts out for us, our joy, our mission, our future with him...and twenty-four hours later he bled out on a cross for us.

I cried today thinking about this last Jesus gave his life for me and I hold on to ridiculous caution...the Creator of the Universe, Giver of Life, All Powerful and Miracle Working God died so I could be free and do His will and I shrink back afraid of what???  How silly we must all look to Him, when will we learn to trust Him?

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Anything Study ~ Week Seven

This means war.  Being sold out to Jesus puts a big target on our back, the enemy wants to keep us down and defeated, thankfully we serve a King that has already won the battle!  Keep in step with Him, stay focused on Christ and on the Kingdom and the mission He has for you.

Let me just share my heart for a moment...I began praying anything three years ago, God moved me into many roles, grew me in crazy and amazing ways, and walked beside me through difficulties.  It's these hard things that we are scared of and I think I have just begun to realize how my surrender had to be fought for.  The devil attacked my family in numerous ways, my boys drifted from the Lord and my marriage almost destroyed...but because of Christ in me, I hung on for dear life refusing to give up, declaring to my family the faith God had given me, and that because of Him everything was going to be okay.

I have felt at times, like Jennie, not worthy to be doing the things He is allowing me to do.  I have felt inadequate and ill-equipped, silly and small.  And then I remember...I was bought with a price, that I can do all things through Christ, and I know He will never leave me nor forsake me.  Praise Jesus for His truth and promises!  God is good, He is coming, and this is worth it!

This week:
Read chapters 16-18
Study Ephesians 6:12-18 and answer questions
Do Project One

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Anything Study ~ Week Six Wrap Up

My life is not my own...I was bought with a price.  I hope we are embracing this!  When I am invited to a church and do a service I want to leave the people with two things...first - the gospel and second - to live the life they are called to live, to live eternal minded, to fully surrender themselves to the God of the universe.  Take time to answer the conversation cards...even if it's just for yourself.

Conversation Cards:

What do you want most?

What do you think God wants most?

Look back at Project One. Talk about how you view God.

How does believing this life is short change the way we live it?

When you read John 17, is it difficult to process the weight of the calling you have as one who knows and loves Jesus?

Tell the story of when you trusted Christ for your salvation, if you haven't, talk about what is holding you back.

This week's Recipe:

Mini-Caprese Bites

~ Ingredients ~
1 pt. grape tomatoes, halved
10-14 fresh small mozzarella cheese balls cut into thirds
32 toothpicks
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

~ Directions ~
Thread 1 tomato half, 1 piece of cheese, and another tomato half onto each skewer. Place skewers in a shallow serving dish.
Whisk together oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Drizzle oil mixture over skewers; sprinkle with basil and salt and pepper to taste.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Our Purpose

There are so many things in these two chapters that are about our purpose...
Glorify God! Proclaim His Glory!  God is most after his glory.  God's glory is "the holiness of God put on display" - John Piper
What if we wanted what God wanted most? What if we wanted, like Jesus, God's glory above every other thing?  What if the true motive of my life and my heart were to make God known for a few years on this earth?
Compel others! God is asking us to go compel people to him.  To compel means to have a powerful or irresistible influence in the lives of others.  We avoid compelling anyone to God because it may feel cheesy or annoying. Well then, we have to find ways to compel that aren't cheesy or annoying.
God will give you what you need to accomplish His will.
God knew I could never do this alone.  He always gives us what we need to accomplish his purposes. God has placed people and used circumstances in my life to guide me along the path that can and will be used for Him and His Glory. It has been different people and situations over the past few years, whether my Pastor, cousin Jenn, Johnny Allen, or a chapel full of inmates...He has used these and more in my life to humble me, push or compel me, and teach me how to be used by Him.
Complete Project 2 - it is simple yet a precious reminder of how much Jesus loves us and calls us to live.

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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Anything Study ~ Week Six

Jesus' Anything - Wow! Ever thought about that?  Jesus' act of obedience to the Father is greater than anything we can possibly imagine, let alone accepting and following.  His willingness to do anything for us should bring us to our knees and remind us that He is so worth doing anything for.

John 17:18 "As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world."  vs. 20-21 "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me."

It's our be on mission for Jesus, to declare His Glory!

Jesus' example should compel us to pray anything.
This week:
Read chapters 14-15
Study John 17:1-25
Do Project One

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Anything Study ~ Week Five Wrap Up

"The call of God is not a reflection of my nature; my personal desires and temperament are of no consideration. As long as I dwell on my own qualities and traits and think about what I am suited for, I will never hear the call of God." - Oswald Chambers

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Conversation Cards:

From the list you wrote this week of anything prayers, what is the most difficult thing to release?

Do you think of a walk with Jesus as war? How could that change the way you live?

If God actually told you what He wanted you to do, would you be afraid to do it?

There is a temptation to think surrender should look like the radical, crazy stuff everyone can see.  What small quiet obedient step is God calling you to right now?

How has someone in your life's small obedience fallen into your life like a domino?

Ephesians 2:10, how does the truth that God prepared good works for you to do in advance affect you?

This week's recipe:

Warm Cheesy Spinach Dip

~ Ingredients ~
1 (10 oz) bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Pinch of salt
Pinch of black pepper
1/4 cup of water
1 (5 oz) can sliced water chestnuts, diced into small pieces
1 1/4 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, divided
2 tablespoons, crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Pita chips, or sliced veggies for serving

~ Directions ~
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a small baking dish (8x8 inches or smaller) with cooking spray. In a sauté' pan combine the spinach, onions, garlic, salt, and pepper with the water. Cover the pan to steam until the onions are soft, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and continue to stir and cook until the water is completely evaporated. Add the water chestnuts and stir to combine. Turn off the heat. Add the cottage cheese, 1/4 cup Parmesan, and feta to the sauté' pan. Stir to combine. Pour spinach dip into the prepared baking dish and top with mozzarella and the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and lightly golden brown on top. Enjoy warm and serve with optional pita chips or vegetables if desired.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Play Your Role

It's difficult to live our lives and play our roles and not want to think about "us".  We are selfish creatures but if we really want to live in freedom and live how God has called us to live then praying anything is a must.  Let's live radical lives for Jesus!

Project One is kind of intense...lay out your anything prayers...the things you are holding onto, the things your have to give away, your gifts, talents, possessions, people, fears, hopes, plans??  What's so amazing about our anythings is that they are all unique, that's the God we serve, He has the best plans for us, He has a role for us to play in His great show His Glory!

Chapter 13 talks a lot about the Holy Spirit's work in all of this, He is necessary and we have to listen for His voice.  I underlined this..."Without the Spirit of God to lead our anythings, we will only be do-gooders with our own agendas."  How crucial it is to follow the Spirit's leading and not our own.

My anythings have been revealed over the last 3 years and they are growing and changing and morphing into things I never imagined!  I cannot do this on my own, I don't want to, nothing good can come from Christy Hoagland but Jesus can do remarkable things with my life.  His ways are higher than my ways!

Project Two: Who has helped you love God more?

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Monday, August 1, 2016

Anything Study ~ Week Five

Suffering, sacrifice, what does God want from me?  He wants everything...He wants my willingness, He wants an undivided heart.  I want to hold on to this life and live for the next and it just doesn't work.  I love the reference to Mary, the mother of Jesus as she says "I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" Luke 1:38.  Oh, how I want to live like Mary, I want to live for eternal significance...whether in my own home and family, in front of hundreds of people in prisons or churches or one person on the street or one may ever see God's calling on our lives or what He does with our surrendered lives and that's OK, and again we are's not about us.

This week:
Read chapters 11-13
Study Philippians 3:7-11
Do Project One

Embrace the chance to participate in eternity!

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