Redeemed

Recently, after discussing some of my thoughts together, a leader of mine asked me if I blog?  I wish I could have said a confident, “Yes!”  The truth is, I had started something a while back, but life caused me to gradually let it go.

A few years back,  I began FOREVER YOUNG, my blog, after being prompted in a service at church to write my thoughts.  I wrote a few more times, and then baseball games, ballet, tennis, work, vacations, boys wanting to date my teenager daughter, conferences, work, dinners, cleaning days, and so much more got in the way.  But – My heart as a writer hasn’t stopped beating.  So, thank you, nameless leader, that your question ignited the fire once again.  So now…. I write.

I asked the Lord what to pen on this day of beginning again, and he reminded me of a song that He has begun to give me, and I felt the release to share.  It’s a song of victory because of His blood.  What Jesus has already accomplished for us will cause us to accomplish things we can’t even imagine for Him, and that is why I write anyway.  So, here is my fragile and precious grouping of lyrics, that until now, I had only shared with God.

Redeemed

lyrics by: Ami Young

Oh, the moment I finally see the answer

Now, my eyes are open to Your grace and

Joy, fills my heart to overwhelming

I am not deserving

 

But I walk through Your blood right into VICTORY

Through Your blood defeating my enemies

Such a foolish thing some think of that I bow at the cross in praise

But in Your name and through Your blood I am REDEEMED

 

Yes, I surrender to Your calling

This prayer, that I’m covered with the offering of

Your blood, more than a sacrifice

The power that saved my life

 

But I walk through Your blood right into VICTORY

Through Your blood defeating my enemies

Such a foolish thing some think of that I bow at the cross in praise

But in Your name and through Your blood I am REDEEMED

You rose from the grave and put my guilt to sleep forever!

Through Your blood I’ll wake in righteousness forever!

 

Let me speak through Your blood

Let me dance through Your blood

Let me walk  – through the blood of Jesus

Let me speak through Your blood

Let me live through Your blood

I’ll enter eternity –  through the blood of Jesus

Advertisements

So THIS is LOVE

It’s tradition in my family to go to the front of the movie theater during credits & dance along to the exit music.

It would have been perfect if today the song had been, “So this is LOVE….”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnxupEXxrTI Smiles were beaming and hearts were thrilled as Cinderella began spinning in a hue of pink and blue and was dressed in the most becoming blue ball gown with glass slippers placed on her feet.  We had excitedly made our way to the movie theater to watch Disney’s new and real life Cinderella.  After settling into our seats for a bit, my best friend nudged me and said for me to look down the aisle.  Sitting just a few seats from us, was the epitome of princess fans.  She had to be around 3 or 4 years old and was dressed from head to toe in her best Cinderella costume with matching crown.  Her eyes were bright and her smile was plastered on her perfect little face and I realized that she was in LOVE. The kinds of love that this tiny Cinderella girl knew, was most likely the love of parents and family, but she was experiencing something new:  a love of the arts, music, fantasy, thrills, beauty, and the delights that this cherished fairy tale holds for so many.  Maybe she imagined that she was the one jumping into the pumpkin carriage or dancing with the prince at the ball.  Whatever her thoughts might have been, she was captivated and she felt something….it’s called LOVE. My parents used to sing a song together with that very title… IT’S CALLED LOVE. The lyrics of the chorus say these words:

When I was lost, He came and found me…It’s called mercy.  And from my guilt, He then unbound me….It’s called pardon. And when He sees the way I live and He can still say “I forgive,” There’s only one way to define it…

It’s called LOVE.

I was drawn in as well with the love of this story and throughout the movie, I found myself captivated by the beauty and splendor of the scenes, and I was filled with joy knowing that there would be a happily ever after.  The familiar characters merging with new melodies were intriguing to me, and then the messages being brought to the forefront made me examine myself along the conditions that Cinderella’s mother had set before her at the beginning of this adventure.  Her mother had said, “Have courage and be kind.” It was obvious that Cinderella was abiding by her mother’s exhorting words, for it was her courage and kindness that won in the end. I glanced over at the little girl down my aisle once again when the stepsisters and stepmother were locking Cinderella up to keep her silent, and I wondered if her smile would return to her face?  I pondered if she even understood what courage is and for that matter what real kindness is? After a few laughter filled moments and the anticipation of whether they would find Cinderella to try on the glass slipper, it was returned to Cinderella’s foot and the sparkling grin returned to my little Cinderella friend’s face.

And then, I heard the words that revealed Cinderella’s courage and kindness. “I forgive you.”

As her Prince began to escort her out of the house that had kept her bound, and from the stepmother who had belittled her and stolen from her, Cinderella turned her face back to the stairs where her stepmother sat in dismay and said, “I forgive you.” I felt a lump in my throat.  I didn’t remember that phrase from my childhood copy of the book, nor from the cartoon that I’ve watched repeatedly with my sweet daughters at home.  But now, in that moment, those words became the theme of the movie for me, and I believe it brought a smile to all of our faces sitting in the theater, because we knew what that was called….a combination of courage and kindness….It’s called LOVE. As we all received the courage & kindness of Cinderella in those words she uttered…forgiveness…I know we all smiled because we felt something  from this part of our beloved childhood story. It wasn’t magical kisses created by Disney or unrealistic relationships dressed in royal costumes. It was something real and raw….it was forgiveness…It’s called LOVE. Jesus lived a life to bring smiles to peoples’ faces by revealing the promises of God through Himself.  His life was filled with courage and kindness and although Cinderella had to rely on a bit of “magic”, Jesus had the power of the Holy Spirit to bring to brilliant color and life the hope and comfort that God brings to each of us here on Earth. A verse of that old song of my parents would say:

Why did He go to Calvary? What did He see in worthless me?

His precious life He gave. My sinful soul to save.

Just as Cinderella’s prince sought her out and saved her from the peasant life she was trapped in, Jesus came and went to Calvary to save us.  Cinderella looked at her prince and asked if He would take her as she was, knowing that she was not royalty.  And because of LOVE, he took her by the hand and led her away from her past and into his palace.  God knows that we are not deserving and yet he sees our worth and accepts us as we are and His word says He will take us by the hand, and it promises an eternity in Heaven which I am sure is grander than any royal ball we could imagine!!! The most important words that our God has spoken to us is “I forgive.”  And we must accept that from Him to receive the LOVE that comes with what He has done for us. And we must also forgive.  There was no earthly reason why Cinderella had to forgive her stepmother, but there was a heavenly reason.  Her mother had said to “have courage and be kind.”  Cinderella wanted to honor those wishes of her deceased mother and when she spoke, “I forgive you,” as Christ does to us, we feel something new….It’s called LOVE.

Dedicated to my precious parents, David & Colleen Young, who have sang this song to all of us for years and have made all of their girls feel like Cinderellas.

And special thanks to Mr. Neil Enloe, a dear family friend, who wrote IT’S CALLED LOVE.  This song has been cherished by my family for many years.

Happy 8th! Mr. Michael

photo copy

“Are you a Christian?’

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“Do you like cars?”

These two little brats came walking into my after school program, bugging me and asking too many questions. I shoved them away and told them to hurry and sit down and start their homework.  Halfway through working on their math, they came back up to me asking…. “Do you sing?” “How old are you?” “Do you love Jesus?” All of these random questions were really aggravating me and I told them again to please go and sit down like all of the other children.

I was 19 years old and was in my first years of college.  I had just started teaching the after school program at a nearby elementary school to make some extra money, and homework time during the after school program was valuable to me because it meant I could study a little bit for my own classes….but these two boys, 8 & 9 years old, were making things difficult for me today.  They were brand new to the school and had just moved from Panama City Beach, FL to my quaint, little, country hometown of Dahlonega, GA.  They were so adamant to chat with me, but I kept sending them away.  As I sternly told them, once again, to go back to their seats, the last thing I heard them say was…

“SHE is Mr. Michael’s wife.”

“Ummmmm….excuse me?”

Now, I was engaged in this conversation.  “Who is Mr. Michael?”

For the remainder of the afternoon, I heard about this guy that used to take care of them in PCB before they moved here.  I heard about how he led worship at their church and was a school teacher.  He loved to drive fast cars and he rode jet skis in the ocean.  Apparently Mr. Michael was the funniest guy they new and they were never bored with all the adventures he would take them on.  He lived with their family, and since their parents worked a lot and traveled, they had Mr. Michael taking care of them and had hoped he would move to GA with them some months ago, but he had not come with them because he had no reason to move to Georgia….yet. 😉

Even from all of this simple minded conversation I had with little Timmy and Justin that afternoon, Michael Young seemed like a really neat Christian guy, but I honestly didn’t think anything of it, until the next day at after school.

The boys had went home and been so obnoxious to their parents about me and how they thought I was the one for their amazing “Mr. Michael”,  that I think their mom & dad came in to the school that day to pick them up just to get them to stop talking about it and say they had met me for themselves.  I really will never forget the looks on their faces when they introduced themselves to me.  Twinkles in their eyes and grins on their faces….they asked me to start babysitting for them and I agreed.

After a few weeks of babysitting and loving working for the O’Brien family, I had finished helping the boys with their chores and taking care of the horses, we had cleaned up from supper, and they had showered and were starting to get in the bed.  The phone rang and I answered.  I heard this voice, and my heart skipped a beat…seriously.  I felt like I knew him and I didn’t even know who it was on the other end.

“This is Michael.  Are the boys home?”

“Oh!  Mr. Michael,” I began to say.

“And you must be, Ami?”

Those little devils had been working us both…and had told Mr. Michael to call that night, knowing I would answer.  We started talking and couldn’t stop. We talked about so much and found common ground in our beliefs and desires.  It was a sweet time and now that I look back, it was a time that God had called us both to listen to HIS voice and trust Him.  That’s what we were doing.  Everything was new, but everything was good.

By the end of the phone call, and countless times that I heard little feet sneaking in to hear my conversation, Mr. Michael had decided to come visit his boys, their parents, and their new babysitter.

It was Friday night, February 7, 1997 and even though the O’Briens didn’t need a babysitter, I was on my way to their house to meet a visitor they had coming up for the weekend from PCB.  As I started out the door, my dad stopped me and said, “Now, Ami, I know that it’s not supposed to be about how people look, but if you meet this guy and he’s not, you know, good-looking to you, just be nice and smile, and just come home and tell the O’ Briens you’re not interested.” I kissed Dad on the cheek and raced out the door.  I had been listening to a tape of him singing that the boys had given me.  With a voice like that, he had to be cute!!!!

When I got to the O’Briens, bad news awaited.  As Michael had started to leave to come up to GA, he had been robbed and had not left to make the trip.  We were all so sad and worried, but Mrs. O’Brien had a plan.  She told Michael where to get some extra cash she had stashed in their beach home and told him to not let the enemy ruin this weekend. He agreed that the next morning he would make the trip…

Saturday, February 8th.

We did not know the significance of that day, but it would prove to be the most significant date of our relationship. Michael arrived at the O’Briens that Saturday and I drove up right as he was walking up the drive with the boys to open the gate.  My first thought as I saw him through my car window, wearing his black leather jacket was…..I couldn’t wait to tell Dad not to worry…. and to tell Mom how cute he was!!!! (I later told her, he looked like Michael J. Fox!)

Michael grabbed my hand at one point that weekend and told me, “I’m not going to kiss you.  I mean, I don’t plan on kissing anyone unless I think I will marry her.” I smiled and squeezed his hand tighter.  It took 2 weeks of Mr. Michael driving up to visit on the weekends for us to start talking about marriage, and it didn’t take much for me to stare into his eyes one night as he leaned in…. and kissed me. Well, I kissed him too and it was electrifying!!!!  We both smiled, he said “whoops?!” and then we both knew, he kissed me and we knew what that meant.

Michael later told me that one Sunday night when he left to drive home to PCB, he heard God whisper the words “spiritual womb”.  While driving and praying, he began to think that what it meant was that our relationship was in a womb of sorts.  A baby is in the womb for 9 months before it is born, and Michael knew what to do.  He was going to check his calendar when he got home, and if it was 9 months from the day we met, February 8, to a date on a Saturday, (when most weddings occur), then he knew God was saying to get married.

After many weekends of drives back and forth from Panama City to Dahlonega, Michael and Ami Young were married on November 8, 1997….9 months from the day we met…. and so the 8th day of both February and November had become the happiest dates of our lives!  Our new slogan became….Happy 8th!

There is so much more to our story.  New chapters and editions have been added and there are plenty more to come.  Eighteen years later, 5 children later, and countless kisses later and still Happy 8th comes around every year to remind us that God had a plan and nothing was going to stop it! God has a plan for each of us, for you and for those you love.

Enjoy each day, be nice and smile, and kiss the one you’re gonna marry!  Anyone can have a Happy 8th….just listen to the voice of God and don’t despise the little ideas of young boys…sometimes they are right.  I WAS Mr. Michael’s wife!

Tomorrow is February 8th, so Happy 8th! Mr. Michael…. I love you. – Ami

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Hide & Seek

READY OR NOT- HERE I COME!

These words, from our favorite childhood game, ignite the superpower within us to be the ultimate ninja that can stay hidden until the very moment that an explosive bolt towards home unveils our ability to leap across any obstacle, dash between trees, and outrun any opponent! Whew! We make it safely to the designated spot and declare that we could stay hidden until just the right moment to dash right in front of our opponent! Yes! Victory awaited with just one touch to home base! I could never completely decide if it was more fun to be “it” or to hide, but either way, this game has been a favorite on the playground for many children over the years and provides some good life lessons if you learn to play both Hide and Seek.

Hide and Seek. The secret to the enjoyment of the game, is to just decide to play. You might “hide” first, but you find yourself at times, trying to get caught just so you can “seek”. And when seeking, you use your prior knowledge of those secret hidden places to help you catch those running.

When I was entering into high school, the best  of all youth pastors (in my tween opinion) had decided to move on from our church and become the senior pastor of another church in the area. I sneered at the young couple walking down the aisle to be introduced as the new faces of our youth ministry. Who did Russ & Jill Butcher think they were? I sized them up for a few weeks, but I didn’t expect them to seek & catch me as quickly as they did and recruit me onto their “playground”. It was as if I started to run, and from out of no-where they had already tagged me and was claiming I had been chosen to be “it”.

Jill took me grocery shopping with her. We made cookies for events at church, or we sat and watched Little House on the Prairie before sitting at the piano to sing together. Sometimes I helped her clean, or we took a visit to see a church member. We listened to Russ practice some of his teachings & laughed at his silly teeth he would use to transform into a character. On Sundays, I would sit with her for service, or  help with setting up for discipleship classes. All the while, I never even realized how much seeking I was already doing.

One day, Jill shared with me her Tupperware box of index cards that she used to memorize Bible verses. She had it organized into daily verses, weekly verses and monthly verses, and she would consistently add new scriptures that she wanted to memorize into the box.  I searched the Bible for verses to keep hidden in my box. I would spend time writing them neatly on a card and reading over them daily, then weekly, and finally, once a month, until they no longer were just in the box, but in my heart. So now the words of God, His word, was hidden in me. That is when I began to play Hide & Seek with my Savior, Jesus; Hiding His word and Seeking His face.

It was as if every drive or conversation that Jill and I had was in preparation to seek God’s will for my life and to seek out others to share with them the joy of serving Jesus. We were seeking His will for our lives and He was causing us to seek others for Him to draw into the Kingdom. I had been called to the ministry from then on.

The life-giving words of the scriptures became known to me. They were not words on a page, but tools in my hand and heart to achieve something and to equip me for any situation. I began to HIDE those words in my heart; memorizing them to be able to speak in an instant when needed. When I had repeated the same verse countless times in many situations, I would find myself wanting to SEEK for something new from the Bible; a fresh word. Playing this new version of HIDE & SEEK became a lifestyle and would prove to be the foundation for the next phase of my calling; worship.

When I met my husband, Michael, he introduced me to a whole new world of worship music. With the training of my parents and the guiding of my husband, my whole life had been about learning what I believe to be the two types of songs: ministry TO our Lord and ministry FROM Him.  There are times where we sing to the Lord to worship Him and there are times that we sing about Him to others and allow Him, through our songs, to minister to the lost, the hurting, & the broken.  I discovered that through worship there were times I wanted to HIDE in Him and simply worship and I found that at times, He would SEEK through me and cause me to be HIs hands and feet to reach others with His mercy & grace.

I remember the first time I was asked to lead “worship.”  I had sang all of my life and was content being a part of a team and singing along with others leading the way.  Michael and I had not been married long but had gotten very involved in a small church where we enjoyed the music program and served with such talented and humble people.  One Sunday, we walked in ready to take our spots in the choir and our pastor’s wife grabbed my hand and pulled me into a Sunday school room.  She began to tell me that circumstances had so happened that our worship leader wouldn’t be at service that morning, and at about 10 minutes ’til service time, she asked me to lead worship for our church.  I said, “No, thank you.”  She then gracefully, but sternly spoke that she wasn’t asking.  “You are responsible for leading the worship this morning.”  I quickly began to remind her of others that could do this, especially my husband, who is an amazing singer/leader and had much more experience than me.  She calmed me down and I will never forget what she said before she shoved me out the door and told me to go….

“Just do what you always do, Ami.  Sing to the Lord.  Worship Him.  Enter into His presence….just don’t forget to take the people with you.”

I really don’t remember what we sang that morning, but I know that I kept closing and opening my eyes, closing and opening my eyes, closing and opening my eyes…..hahahahaha!   I was singing to the Lord and checking to see if anyone was joining me!  I wanted to HIDE in Him, but I felt the urgency to SEEK those that He had come to save, to deliver, to set free!  Worshipping and ministering became so real to me during that season. I realized that at the end of the worship service, I needed to have shown the people a glimpse of God; a glimpse of a promised home and then allow the Word to guide their footsteps.  They might not all take the same path, but the ultimate goal was to worship God and then He would take on the joy of saving and welcoming people home.  They would be safe and then He could send them out to seek.

That’s true for all of us.  We aren’t saved to stay at home base, but to get up and run and take turns, teaching others, guiding others, laughing, falling sometimes, but getting up and taking a rest when needed, but never quitting!

I am so thankful that Jesus saved me. He let me HIDE myself in His blood and He SOUGHT ME! He plunged ME to Victory as the old hymn says.  I spend my days seeking Him more and listening to the Holy Spirit guide me to those He is searching for, and then what a promise that awaits us all in eternity…. a home (base) that He is preparing for us!

The joy of playing HIDE & SEEK is that anyone can play and the more you have, the more fun it can be!  When it’s your turn to HIDE, find a secret place and enjoy the thrill of waiting.  And when it’s time to SEEK, remember all you have learned in those secret places.  And when it’s time to just RUN…..smile 🙂 because you’re enjoying the game, and eventually you will reach HOME.

The only rules of the game are to HIDE His word & SEEK His face.  We will ALL win!

Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word. – Psalms 119:114

The Call of the Young

“That was an amazing message from Pastor today!” my 14 year old daughter excitedly, but quietly spoke.  His message was on living for God in our youth and hearing the Lord’s call.  Our pastor had shared that there are some sounds one can only hear when you are YOUNG, and he had cautioned our youth to not waste those years…but to seize them and to live them for God….for JESUS!

My husband and I had walked into this church almost 15 years ago and there had never been a time that the message spoken had not been relevant for me, or challenged me, or changed me….ME.  But today, I wondered if it was for me.  I tried to chew on it.  I tried to make it taste good for me, but in the end, I realized that it was something I had already tasted and tried. I was a bit confused and wondering, had I passed a threshold of hearing that call?

I had seen my daughter come to the altar as we were singing and she stood right in front of our pastor.  In those seconds, I remembered a day when I was 12 years old & I sat in a service and knew that God was calling me and setting me apart.  I stared at her and was captivated by the thought that God had chosen me to be the mother of this gorgeous and gifted child… wait…..this woman.  She has become a young woman.

In that moment,  I tried to start an argument with God.  Aren’t I still YOUNG?  And then, with His gracious and loving way, I heard…”Of course you are…..Forever YOUNG.”

That made me smile. 🙂 He always has a way of speaking right to me.

And then I looked at her again and saw her.  She is my YOUNG one, my daughter….but she is my sister in Christ… and we have both heard the Call of the YOUNG.

You see, I was born a YOUNG.  My birth certificate says Ami Colleen Young.  I have always loved my name and thought it was special that I was the youngest of my siblings. So, I was always the youngest of the YOUNGS. It was too incredible that the day I met my husband, he joked that God had told him that whatever girl he would marry, he would keep her YOUNG forever!  The creative orchestration of God’s hand in that statement can never be questioned!  My husband’s name is Michael YOUNG!  I WILL be YOUNG forever…. by name and at heart.

My heart….forever changed by the grace of God and held gently by Him.  I gave Him my heart at a YOUNG age.  I heard His call to me and knew He had set me apart.  And somehow, after all of these years, and after being called YOUNG by name countless times, I have acquired YOUNG as part of my character. Regardless of the years that I’ve been grown up by the world’s standards or even by the milestones of marriage and children in my life, I am still that little girl in the living room of my home with my parents and brother and sisters, kneeling around an old brown stool and repeating the words my dad uttered, to ask Jesus into my heart… into my YOUNG heart.  That moment is the fire that burns inside of me and it’s the voice that calls me daily to stay like a child, in awe of the king of my heart.  I can’t help but feel YOUNG at heart when I remember the sweet simpleness of God’s salvation to me as that child.  I will always cling to that.  I was YOUNG, but came into the knowledge of who HE is, and I grow in knowledge and desire to know Him more, to serve Him more and to hear Him more every day.

I believe He saved me that way to reveal that salvation isn’t based on how well we understand all of the Bible or how wise we are in any way.  He doesn’t ask for us to understand or explain His plan, but to just believe Him.  As a child, that is easy to do, because belief is based on trust.  Salvation is based on being able to know one thing…the name of Jesus. So, when the scriptures say to “come like a child’, I believe it means to coming trusting and believing simply and fully in one thing…the name of Jesus.  When we do that, we all become YOUNG again! So any time we hear His voice, at ANY age, we are like a child. And if we are children of God, we are His YOUNG ones and can possess the youthful character of trusting and obeying to find the sweetness of life.

One of my most favorite testimonies I ever heard was from a sweet lady at our church who had waited many years before being baptized and stepped into the waters of the baptismal one night exclaiming all of the good things the Lord had done in her life.  Our pastor asked her how old she was, and she confidently and purposefully stated, “I am ageless.”  I loved that!!!  Once our eternity is sealed by the blood of Jesus and the word of our testimony, we step into confidence of knowing we are ageless!  Therefore, categorizing young and old, really doesn’t exist because no one would know where to draw that line and make a distinction.  It is the character of youthfulness that the Lord wants us to have…to be eager and active, to be strong and hopeful of the future, and to seek Him that we may find Him.

So, the Call of the YOUNG is for all of us. It is for my precious daughter who is now learning how to use the gifts God has given her for the first time, and it is for me, this old YOUNG girl, who will never grow up to know it all, but will live joyfully loving the Lord and hearing His voice say to go left or right as His word promises He will do, holding my hand the whole way.

And, the call is for you.  Become YOUNG again, in the name of Jesus. He is calling you.  Trust and obey.

 

“Let no man despise thy YOUTH; but be thou an example of the believers in word, in conversation, charity, in spirit, in faith, and in purity.”  – 1 Timothy 4:12