The time is now…

Legacy

billyIt’s a word that I am seeing a lot today as we celebrate the life of Rev. Billy Graham as he has completed his earthly life and is now living in the presence of Jesus. Social media is flooded with photos, videos and quotes that share of his deep devotion for the gospel of Jesus Christ being taken to the masses. I kept seeing posts about his crusades and his movies and the great man of God that he was and the example that he was to our nation. But one post that I read from a facebook friend this morning stuck out to me: “Let us pray God raised up someone to fill his calling.” Now, I recognize that this friend was likely referring to Rev. Graham’s calling to be a mighty warrior of an evangelist but the comment didn’t quite sit well with my spirit because I’m afraid that it’s a question that is lurking in the hearts of many.

The truth is, God has already raised up someone to fill his calling. The calling on Billy Graham’s life is the same as the calling that God has given to each of us who claims Christ as Savior. The question is: are we walking in the calling that we have received? Billy Graham recognized the calling that God had placed on his life as someone saved by the blood of the lamb.  He recognized the weight of sin and he recognized the weight of redemption. He recognized that his time on earth was limited and that he must use his time on earth to proclaim freedom to the captives. And the same is true for us, we have no time to wait. The time is now.

I have the honor of serving on a college campus with a campus ministry where I get to see students stepping out and sharing Jesus boldly with their classmates and their professors. I get to see them step out on faith and commit their breaks from school to travel to geographical areas deemed “unsafe” by society for the sake of the gospel. I get to see students who came into college with plans set for them by worldly standards, and even their parents agendas, boldly changing course to pursue the direction that God is leading them. God is raising up an entire generation to fulfill the same calling that was lived out by our beloved Billy Graham. But that calling isn’t simply for these young adults who are rising up to take their place. It’s for all of us who have put our faith in Jesus. And we can’t waste any more time in our “busyness” to keep from sharing this message of truth and freedom that is available through the cross of Jesus Christ.

You may never preach the gospel to thousands of people in an arena and you may never be on staff at a church but your calling remains the same. I challenge you today to look at the earthly life lived by Billy Graham and ask yourself how God is calling you to walk in light of that same calling? How can you share the love of Christ and the gospel message of Christ to those you encounter on a daily basis?

I know school teachers who arrive early to their classrooms in order to pray for each child that enters their classroom by name. I know nurses who are constantly being invited into spiritual conversations by their patients and who take the time to share Jesus and to pray for them. The family owned flower shop where I grew up was always a place of refuge for patrons to pull up a chair and sit and talk for hours with my mom and grandmother and they always left with their shoulders feeling a little lighter. I have worked in the corporate world with brothers and sisters who have the joy of Christ spilling out of them onto every person they encounter. God has placed his people in strategic places for the sake of the gospel but it’s up to us to be obedient to walking in the calling we have received and to be an encouragement to those in our churches and in our homes as they set out to live out our calling as well.

One of the many posts I read this morning was an excerpt from a conversation between Kathie Lee and Megyn Kelly about Kathie Lee’s relationship with Billy Graham and the impact that he made on her life. Read and watch the interview here.

 

 

 

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College Students: Why Missions?

A few months ago I took a leisurely stroll through Target. You know the one I’m talking about. I have 45 min to kill, I’m going to grab a cup of coffee at Starbucks and take my time walking up and down every aisle. Naturally, I found myself looking at shoes and I stumbled upon the cutest pink faux suede slip on sneakers with a bow detail. I immediately loved them, found them in my size, tried them on and had to have them. But then came the dreaded tag flip to see the damage – $7.48. I could have cried right there in the Brentwood Target! But I pulled it together and I took out my phone and I snapped a photo and posted it on my instragram stories for everyone to see the deal I had scored so that they could run to their own Target and snatch those babies up! What can I say? I am my mother’s daughter!

Whether you’re scoring a killer deal on shoes or you’ve just heard the news that Chip and Joanna are having baby #5, you go tell someone! You share the link or the post – It’s what you do! So naturally when I have exciting news like the kind that is wrapped up in the gospel message of Jesus Christ – of how he lived, died and rose again to free us from the chains of sin to walk in his abundance here on earth and live eternally with him in glory – you go tell someone. Because the life change that occurs when you accept Jesus as your savior is far better news than any post we’re sharing on social media. That’s why missions. Because if this message has changed our lives, we should not hoard it to ourselves or within our churches. No. This is a message that empowers us to go and tell everyone because this message of redemption is for everyone.

And if the calling from Jesus himself to spread this message wasn’t enough, the act of obedience in the going and in the telling of this message is just as life changing. And that’s why we can’t stop talking about it. Outside of accepting Jesus as my savior, there is nothing else that I have done that has impacted me as greatly as serving in missions. In the short one week trips and especially in the summer experiences I had in Maine, Argentina and Nepal – I saw God move in my own heart and I would not trade any of those experiences for anything that the world can offer. And it’s because that’s how God had ordained it from the beginning.

God in his perfect plan has chosen to use broken people like you and me. There is nothing special about any specific trip or opportunity to go and serve – it’s in the obedience. It’s obediently listening to that tug in your gut to share your story with your classmate and it’s in the obedience to sign up for the disaster relief trip to Texas. It’s in the obedience of taking ownership of the same scriptures that have been driving this message for generations before you and will continue for generations until Jesus returns. God’s work in reaching the nations with the Gospel will continue with or without you but you have the opportunity to be a part of it and that is not something to ignore. It’s something to explore and the time is now.

Our obedience will take us to far greater places on this side of Heaven than we could have ever planned for ourselves and yes, there are trials along the way. But in saying yes to Jesus to go and take his message to the ends of the earth and everywhere in between, we are placing our trust in his plans. And that takes guts. It takes bravery. It takes hard conversations with our family. It takes saying no to other things that the world will tell you are more of a priority. But there is no job, class, internship, wedding or vacation that will grant you the life giving and life changing experience that comes from taking a step of faith in walking in obedience to God’s clear call in scripture to share the gospel where we are and to take his message around the world.

Saying “yes” to serving in missions is 90% of the prep-work; the rest is just logistics.

If you’re reading this and you’re at all curious about ways you can serve in missions, email me here and let’s pray through opportunities available for you to serve in missions.

Celebrating Freedom

Today is special. Today we celebrate a ministry milestone on it’s 1 year anniversary. Of course this wouldn’t be a Casey story without giving you all of the backstory. You know me better by now.

Since college I had known that God was calling me to do something bigger than myself and I still had no idea what that looked like or how that would play out. And for nearly 10 years I had been in a season of waiting whether that was waiting through college, or waiting for a job, or waiting to get married.

In 2013, I knew God was moving me toward a physical move to Nashville from Jackson. I had prayerfully applied for countless jobs and had asked God to place me in the job where He wanted me. I ended up in the middle of the cell phone industry where I worked in retail and business sales for 3 years. This time was good for me and I know that was God’s way of providing financially for us. In those 3 years I bought a car, I got married and was able to pay for our wedding, we paid off my husband’s student loans and a large portion of mine and we bought a house. Those things would not have been possible without my time working in such a fast pace sales environment and I’m thankful for that time yet along the way, I knew God was moving us toward something different.

In August of 2015, another benchmark in my faith journey, I attended a conference with a couple of friends and I felt the Lord drawing me in to seek him in what would be next for me. I shared with one friend that I just didn’t know what God was calling me to do but that I was ready to move forward in whatever that was. That’s when she said something that will stick with me forever. “I think you’re always going to wonder what it is that God is calling you to do until you just take a leap of faith and do something.” And there is was. Just do something. My waiting season was nearing a close and I was pressing onward toward something and I had no clue what it was. I had prayerfully applied for a few ministry jobs that I knew would be ways I’d love to serve but none of them worked out. But I knew I just had to do something. I had to take a leap.

Based on my pay schedule, I knew that July 1st was the best time for me to leave my full time job in pursuit of what was next and so I did. I had no plan other than I knew I was going to do something. I said goodbye to my team during a Friday morning meeting. A few of those closest to me knew I would be saying goodbye and I’m so grateful that our store leadership allowed me the opportunity to share with my team that I’d be leaving in pursuit of what God was calling me to do, even if I didn’t have that part figured out just yet. I said goodbye, gave lots of hugs, turned in my badge, my work issued iPad and phone and that was it. 3 years of hard work and stress was over and I had never felt more free!

That same friend that spoke those words into my life in August had been praying with me through this 11 month process of figuring out what “just do something” meant. She wanted to meet me for coffee to celebrate this big step I’d just taken and so we met at a local place and chatted for about 2 hours. Then her tone changed and she said “I came to celebrate with you but I also came to talk to you about something. I want to offer you a job.” As I’m sure my jaw was wide open, this dear friend shared that through her praying for me, she had also praying for a few months about who God wanted to come serve alongside her part time in campus ministry and she couldn’t help but see God aligning those two pieces together.

Two hours after taking the biggest leap of faith I’d ever taken in my life! It was like Jesus himself was sitting with us and whispered, “This is it. This is what you’ve been waiting for.” I called my husband in tears and we prayed about it for a few days but I knew that day that my answer was yes.  He knew that day that my answer was yes. As this same friend likes to put it, “my yes had been on the table” all along, for nearly a year, I just didn’t know what we were agreeing to until July 1, 2016.

So today, on the one year anniversary of that leap of faith, we celebrate freedom. The freedom that we have through faith in Jesus and the freedom that comes from obedience to Jesus. We often get this idea in our head that when we are in control, we’re more free to do whatever we want but it’s the opposite that is true. When we are in control, we are caged by our own limits of what we can do. When we release control over to Jesus and “put our yes on the table” to whatever He is calling us to do, there lies the true freedom because we no longer caged by our own limitations but set free by a limitless God. Children playing in their backyard don’t have to worry about anything because they know their moms and dads are taking care of them. When we walk in obedience to what God is calling us to do, we don’t have to worry about controlling anything because we recognize that God controls EVERYTHING.

As we take the day to soak in the peace that comes from knowing God’s taking care of us, we enjoy things like staying in our PJs and repeat cups of coffee. We celebrate freedom by welcoming our best friends into our home where we’ll undoubtedly eat too much food and play cards all night. We celebrate freedom in playing with Bailey and watching her sleep in the middle of our living room floor. And we celebrate freedom by thanking Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith and our freedom for it is by HIM that we are set free.

College Students: Why They Don’t Serve Pt. 2

maine4In August of 2005,  my mom along with my aunt and uncle made the 2.5 hour haul to my new home where I would attend college as a first time freshman. I really had no choice but to experience enormous growth as I learned how to become the independent, responsible adult I was raised to be.

As the baby of the family, my parents had gone through this before – this was not their first rodeo. They lovingly had a “sink of swim” approach to parenting. Of course I always knew they would be there for me but I was expected to take care of things all on my own. For instance, a few weeks into that first semester I noticed that my bank account was a little lower than I’d like after purchasing all of my textbooks. I wanted a little extra money to go out and spend time with friends off campus. My first thought was to just give my mom and dad a call and ask them to put a little extra money in my account – ha! Totally kidding! That thought NEVER entered my mind! No, I went on campus and found a job. I knew they would have a good laugh at that request. I had a place to sleep, I had a meal plan, anything outside of those essentials I could work to earn on my own.maine

As I mentioned in pt 1 of this series, my faith came alive for me as a college freshman and my parents could see that. When I told my mom that I wanted to go down to Biloxi, MS just 6 weeks after Hurricane Katrina to do relief work, she was supportive but very skeptic of what I’d be able to do to help these family whose homes we would be gutting so they could rebuild. To be honest, I was skeptic too but I wanted to serve. When I returned, she told me she could see a real change in me. And she was right.

Now fast forward a year —> I shared with my mom that I felt I wanted to go and serve in missions somewhere for the whole summer. She replied, “Oh I don’t know Case, you really need to work. You have bills to pay… Hey! Why don’t you go back to Mexico for a week like last year? You loved those kids and had such a good time!” The time came around and I applied for a one week trip like we had discussed. My mom was right. I needed to work again that summer. Except she wasn’t right at all. My mom was a great mom who helped me keep my head on straight and make logical decisions but this was no matter of logic, it was one of faith.

maine5I arrived at summer missions interview weekend ready to tell a panel of campus ministers why I felt led to go on a one week trip but it wasn’t long until I realized that wasn’t true at all. God had impressed on my heart to give my entire summer to serving Him, not just a week. And so on faith that’s what I told the panel. And at the end of the day, I had been selected to spend my summer in Maine, where there are more evangelical churches within a 5 mile radius of my current Nashville home than in their entire state.

When I got home, I sat down with my mom absolutely terrified as I told her what happened at Interview Weekend, where I would be spending my summer and laid out my plan of how much it would cost, how much I would need to save to cover my bills for while I would be gone and how I planned to raise all of the money. I just knew I would hear her lists of all the reasons why I needed to stay home and work but instead she said, “ok”.

My mom knew that this change in me that she had seen for over a year was not going away. She knew I was an independent, strong, determined woman and that I would find a way to make this happen because that’s who she raised me to be.

I write all of this because during my time in campus ministry, I have been heartbroken for students who do not have that same support from their Christian parents when they feel God calling them to serve in missions.

maine3And so I write this to parents of college students. I can only imagine what a tough season this is for you. You have raised these babies under your roof for their entire lives and now they’ve moved away from home and they are making all of these big plans and life altering decisions without you. But I beg you to take a step back and look at the child you have raised. All of that pride that you feel, you should because they are strong and beautiful and God has created them for a specific purpose. Please don’t stand in their way. Trust that you have raised good kids who are now adults and you have to let them be just that and let them make their own decisions.

You children are going struggle with not having your full support because they have honored you as God commands their entire lives but it is God who has ultimate authority over their lives. When they go and do these things without your support, they are not being disobedient to you – they are simply being obedient to God. You have to step aside and allow them to follow God’s direction for their lives even when it is different than what you think is best. This is just as much a step of faith for you as it is for them. Trust that just as God has taken care of you, so He will take care of them.

maine2Before I left to serve in Maine, I received a couple of checks in the mail from churches I had never attended. I had no idea how they had learned of my summer in Maine and so I asked my mom if she knew anyone from these churches. She said, “Well I didn’t want to tell you and get your hopes up incase no one sent you any money but I made copies of your support letter that you sent to our church and I sent it to every church in West TN.” Even when it didn’t make sense, she supported me whole heartedly. And when I got home from Maine that summer, she asked, “so where will you spend next summer?”

I often question what my life would be like if I had just went on a one week trip that summer. Sure I would have worked and made money but God worked in my life that summer in ways that have completely shaped me into who I am today. I will forever be grateful that my mom took that leap of faith with me despite our best logic. God took care of every detail and is still taking care of me today just as she had always prayed He would.

You have raised incredible kids. Now let them rise up into adulthood and follow God’s will for their lives like you have always prayed they would.

College Students: Why They Don’t Serve Pt. 1

It was during my freshman year of college when my faith truly came alive. I went on my first mission trip that first semester and I was hooked! I began applying for every mission trip that I could and I truly fell in love with serving God in missions. And I wanted everyone else to experience it too! (Just ask my husband!) I made friends across the  state through our state convention’s college missions program and I would encourage them to seek God in how He could be leading them to serve.

I truly believe that has played a vital part of how I came to this place of serving in campus ministry today. Now, through my time of mobilizing students to serve, there’s always one reason that always comes up of why students don’t feel they can serve – money. And of course they don’t have money. They are in college where they have limited time to work a minimum wage job in which the majority of their expenses occupy the entirety of their paychecks.

nepal3As I spent time encouraging students to serve, I heard two different responses in regards to the money issue. 1. “I don’t have the money but I know God is calling me to do this so I’m going to talk to my church, work extra hours, start a couple of fundraisers and do whatever it takes.” I was in that boat. I wrote support letters, sold tupperware and worked long hours to pay for each endeavor along with the bills that would come due while I was gone. But then there was a second response that I would hear in regards to money and that was one simply of defeat – “I don’t have the money nor do I have a way to get it.” And I have to be honest, that response always broke my heart because I knew that God is faithful to provide our means when we step out in faith to walk in obedience.

Today as I work in campus ministry, I still hear the same thing and get the same response but I see it in a different light. Even last week as I was having coffee with a student and I shared with her the various missions opportunities available this year. I wish I could show you a picture of how her eyes lit up with every detail that was shared. She has felt God stirring in her heart to serve yet the question came up, “Do you feel like your church would support you if you talked to them?”

No. She said,”no, they’re very tight with their money and they never go or send others to do missions.” And that broke my heart even more and I began to wonder if that was the sense of defeat that I felt from those students just a few years ago. Maybe they, too, grew up in a small, country church that kept to themselves and only did VBS every year as their way of reaching out to the community. Or maybe they attended a larger church but didn’t feel they had any grounds to ask for support. nepal

Church, there is a real problem when our young people do not feel supported. And I must say that burden does not only fall on the shoulders of church leaders but on each of us. The Lord has blessed us greatly and we should give greatly back to students in our churches and to organizations that are sending students out to spread the Gospel.

In 2010, I was preparing for a summer abroad and I had never been so sure in all of my life that God was calling me to go to Nepal for that summer. Yet, it was two weeks before I was flying out and I was $1000 short of what I needed to cover the costs of my summer. I had exhausted all of my resources and had no idea how God would show up but I knew that we do not serve a God of confusion and that He would prove himself faithful.

It was Mother’s Day 2010 and I promise, I will never forget this day as long as I live. I had just visited my mom when I received a call from my friend Laura. I had just talked with her the day before and asked her to pray with me that God would provide the remaining funds needed for my summer in Nepal.

nepal4I was walking next door to visit my grandmother when my phone rang. Laura shared with me that that morning she felt God leading her to go up in front of her church and tell them of my need. She asked them to pray for me and that if they felt led to give, they could come see her after service. I remember her saying, “Casey, I don’t even know what happened exactly but all of a sudden, I had all of these people walking up to me with checks in their hands. I just stood there crying with my hands stretched out. So I’m going to need your address because we need to send you this money – it’s $1200. Does that get you close to what you need?”

That summer after I returned from Nepal, I had the beautiful blessing of visiting that small, country church, sharing with them all God had done in Nepal because of their support. I hugged sweet old ladies and shoot hands with older men and thanked them with tears in my eyes that trickled down my face. And that my friends is the church! They did not know me, nor any of my story but they knew I had stepped out on faith and that God had given them an opportunity to impact God’s Kingdom work by sending me.

Church, how can you rally around college students and young people in your community and support them as they step out on faith in obediently responding to God’s call for this season of their life.

Maybe you were that student who stepped out in faith and God provided in miraculous ways for you to serve in missions? It’s time for you to give so that others receive that same blessing.

Or maybe you were the student who didn’t feel supported and never served. It’s time for you to rally around those young people who feel God calling them to serve and make sure that they do not miss out on these opportunities.

And maybe you don’t have any college students in your church but you want to give, PLEASE contact me and I will give you faces and names of students who are desperate to serve and who are stepping out on faith just waiting for God to use someone just like you to provide the way. I will gladly come stand in front of your congregation and share how you can support college students who are willing and ready to go.

We have been praying for workers for the harvest and that spirit is alive in today’s college students! Let’s empower them with our support and send them out with the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.nepal2

Don’t Miss It…

The snow came through Nashville yesterday and I sit cuddled up in my “window seat” with my (now) cold coffee and my Christmas tree still lit <– I have no shame–> As pictured, Bailey thoroughly enjoyed her first snow! I woke up this morning with a message on my heart and I could not wait to put my pen to paper (yes, I still do that!) and hear what God was writing on my heart.img_7287

This message is for the 20 something girls both single and in a relationship as a plea to not left your life pass you by. As I write this, I pray you take this as a word of encouragement from a big sister. The one who is still processing and learning from the mistakes I made in my early 20s. The one whose heart and true intent is to inspire, encourage and to empower women to seek God’s best for your life over all of the things that this world – both the secular world and Christian world – say is best for you.

Sweet girl, I say this with so much sincerity and truth:  your singleness is not a disease. Some of you are rolling your eyes at me and that’s fine, I get it. It’s hard to hear that from the girl that’s married with her cute little Nashville house and her perfect dog… I get it. But really lean in and listen close. God has gifted you WITH this season for a purpose. I hear you say that you’re just waiting for God to bring the perfect man into your life but your worth is not in the love found in a man that may one day be your husband. And I’m afraid that if you are not careful, you might miss out on a whole big, full life you could have because you were waiting/searching for a man.

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Sister, you were created for more than that! You have gifts and passions that are in you for a purpose! Don’t waste them or this time you’ve been given. God gives us seasons of waiting but it’s what we do in the waiting and what we learn in the waiting that are often the lessons that really stick with us if we’ll take the time to just listen.

I went off to college with a feeling in my gut that I would find my husband. I had my list of qualities I wanted in a man practically laminated in my back pocket ready to whip out against any guy that made a pass at me like a 20 questions measuring stick. Yall, I WAS THAT GIRL and maybe that’s why I feel so inclined to write on this topic. But it’s not just to the single girls. You may be in a relationship right now but I beg you, listen in. This message is for you too.

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So here’s the thing, that purpose that I keep talking about that has been crafted within each of us… it’s so much greater than just being someone’s wife. And when we are living out the purpose that God has for us, sometimes our paths cross with someone else who is also living out God’s purpose for their life and you might come to a place where God shows you both that maybe you’re supposed to live out this journey you’re on together. {Because the man you’re praying to come into your life to be your husband was created for more than that too.} And it’s not a guarantee and sometimes we think that we are entitled to a spouse and we get frustrated that God hasn’t brought that person into our lives and what we’re doing is putting all of our hopes and dreams and all this stock into another {imperfect} human being when God is looking down at your sweet face saying, “My beautiful child, won’t you just lay all of that down at my feet and follow me?”

At the age of 20, I met a guy who I thought would be my husband. I had everything planned out, my whole life around this guy. Everything was perfect until a year later when he ended it out of no where. And then for another year, I held onto this hope that our story wasn’t over. I look back at that time of my life and I don’t even recognize that girl! That was until the summer after I turned 22 when I went and served in Argentina for two months. I lived with 5 other college students from 5 different states and all with different gifts. We had no internet, no cell phones, we had a roof over our heads, running water (most days), no appliances, no real beds – just leaky air mattresses and a pump without working batteries. We walked everywhere except when we took a bus to the city. And every day I wonder what it would be like to go back to my little village and live in my concrete hut where all I had was Jesus, His word and the purpose he had given me.

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That summer, I fell in love with myself,  who God had created me to be and the life God had created me to live. And when that old boyfriend emailed me after I returned and eluded to the idea of us getting back together once he returned from his time abroad, I heard God remind me, “You were created for more than waiting on a man.”

So I didn’t. Instead I lived the life God called me to live. I got plugged into a new church where I was loved and empowered to serve. I invested in others like I never had before. I made strong friendships with people who still today are the ones I refer to as “my tribe”. I spent the next summer in Nepal with sweet friends telling precious men and women about the love and redemption of Jesus Christ. It was there that God prepared me with His strength for the hard journey that awaited me when I came home where I lost my mom, and then my dad, and then both grandmothers and an uncle all in 3 years time but He never left my side. And neither did that tribe of folks He gave me – one of which became my husband way down the road but it wasn’t because I sat around waiting for a perfect man – No, it’s because I got up and followed a perfect man who walked me through some high highs and some low lows and he hasn’t left me yet. Me and my Jesus have been around the globe and this ride I’m on as a daughter of the Most High King, living out the life he created me to live has been so much more than that perfect fairytale love story I was striving for. Even now that I’m married, living out this #wifelife for Jesus is so much more than I had ever dreamed before.

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So sister, don’t miss it. Don’t miss the wild adventures that God wants to take you on whether you’re waiting on a ring or a man himself. All of those passions that are like a fire in your belly – don’t ignore them. Seek Jesus and the journey He wants to take you on and I promise that He will show you that a life more abundant doesn’t start with our eternal life promised in Glory but in letting His abundant Glory transform your life today. Don’t miss it.

You can spend your days just going to class or work or binging shows on Netflix just waiting for your chance to be someone’s wife, maybe even “preparing” to be someone’s wife or you can recognize the beautiful life God has already promised you as His child. Go live your life and do it fiercely in the light of God’s grace! And if along the way, you find that your road intersects with a man also seeking the life God created Him to live and you both feel God leading you to do this thing together, then do that. And do it fiercely. But the more time you spend searching for a husband is time your eyes are not on Jesus and girlfriend, that’s not living in the freedom of God’s grace.  Live out your life with the purpose God planted inside of you and I promise, it will be so much more vibrant than you could ever capture on instagram or save to your pinterest board. You don’t want to wake up one day, take a look around and wish you’d lived a little more in your 20s while you had the chance.

You were created for more, sister. Don’t miss it. img_7205