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Thursday, 05 July 2018 21:52

Let Freedom Ring

I laughed at my wife yesterday when I asked her what song she thought was stuck in my head on this 4th of July holiday!  I'll give you a hint...it's in the title of this blog. She went from Country to 90's hits that every kid had to learn in elementary school. She even sang these words....

"...and I'm proud to be an American!
where at least I know I'm free...
and I won't forget the men who died
and gave that right to me
And I proudly STAND UP...."

Anyone born between 1976 & 1987 knows that song well! You probably started singing it as you read the lyrics. I'll be honest, I am proud to be in this country, proud to be an American, and humbled that God would choose this time frame for me to live in. I think if I had the choice to live during any age of American History I would choose the here and now. A part of that is simply because of God's perfect timing in all that He does. Another honest deep rooted part of that contentment is also because I'm a Black Man. I can't lie, things aren't great as a black man in America, but they are far better than they have been over the last 200 years.

Although I'd love to have been able to March with Dr. King to Washington and worship with Mahaylia Jackson right before he gave his iconic "I have a Dream" speech. I would've also have loved to have been a fly on the wall when my ancestors finally found out that they were free 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. I'd maybe want to go back in time and meet the first Black man, woman, or family of mine that stepped foot on American soil from the Benin Kingdom to find themselves shackled into slavery. I wonder if I still look like them or if one of them or more fought for their freedom, maybe one of my relatives actually met Harriet Tubman in the underground railroad, or stood up for what they believed in. I'd want to meet the first preacher in my family and hear them share the story of how they met Jesus. It would've been incredible to sit in the same auditorium and see the iconic performances at the "Motown review", or even hear Ray Charles sing "What I'd say" for the first time in concert! It would be amazing to swing dance with some of the best dancers in the world, or listen to B.B. king play "The Thrill is Gone" in some old juke joint, or Johnny Taylor play some of my dad's favorite songs.

I think if I could go back in time, these are surely things I'd want to know or see, but I've come to this realization. I am where I am, I live where I live, I love what I love, I do what I do because God wanted me to be here, and be here now in this present day and age. There was purpose behind my birth and reason behind my time frame of life. Just like any man I want to live long life, but in the end I want to be remembered as a man who spoke about true freedom. True freedom I've received from salvation and this knowing Jesus as my Lord and savior.

Freedom from just being know as another black man in a broken America. Freedom in knowing that I live in a "free country" knowing that my freedom didn't come from ink penned to paper. It came from a Savior purposefully living a life that was sacrificially atoning, bringing about the most perfect reconciliation ever known to man. I love Jesus, He's captured my heart, He pursued me, He's worthy of my life, my praise, my song, my gifts, my worship. 

Salvation...liberation....freedom didn't come from man, but because of the only man that could actually give it. Jesus Christ.

So on this day of freedom, this week of remembrance of my American Independence, I remind myself of the one who gave that freedom. The one who gave that true freedom and I proclaim, "LET FREEDOM RING"! Let the bell of freedom be the clinging sound made to melody, sung with passion, lived out with unction, spoken with humility. Let that freedom ring from these lips that were formed for praise.

So I say it again, Let freedom Ring....not just because that song was stuck in my head, but because I've actually been freed, and there's a day coming when true freedom will be seen by all. That day no one knows except God Himself. 

I leave you with the words of one of the most riveting speeches to ever be spoken: 

".....knowing that we will be free one day. And I say to you today my friends, let freedom ring.

From the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire, let freedom ring. From the mighty mountains of New York, let freedom ring. From the mighty Alleghenies of Pennsylvania! 

Let Freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado! 

Let Freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only there; let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia! 

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee! 

Let Freedom ring from every hill and molehill in Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring. 

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last!
THANK GOD ALMIGHTY, WE'RE FREE AT LAST!""

Nothin' but love, 

Jimmy 

Sunday, 06 May 2018 02:19

Year of Discipline

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

- Hebrews 12:11

Instead of just having new year's resolutions that we'd break in 2 or 3 months we decided to fight for something more life giving. For Staci and I this year has been the "Year of Discipline". I came across this verse today and was reminded of the why behind this resolve. 

I just want to be a better Christ follower if I'm honest. 

God disciplines his kids just like I do mine, but better! He loves us so much that he doesn't want us to just stay stagnant in our spiritual growth or our fight for obedience. In order for a child to not be disciplined they have to fight to be obedient right? They have to discipline themselves to say yes to the good things and no to those things that aren't ok with "the parentals"... So we thought, as Christians, why not discipline ourselves to be more obedient. We're not perfect at all, but we've specifically fought to read our bibles daily, pray, and take care of our bodies to help us endure ministry life. Although it hasn't been easy, it's been so worth it! We've been working out, resting, and eating better. There have been several moments of success and failure, but I'm so thankful we've seen the benefits of saying "yes" to God. Discipline isn't an easy thing to teach or to give when giving it, but this verse in particular reminded me that I want to be trained by discipline. 

This discipline is training me to be a better Christ follower. Parents use discipline to train their kids up in the way they aught to grow. They learn obedience, respect, honesty along with so much more. I see God doing that in my own life in several ways and I want to be a help to that end...so I'm training myself with discipline. 

If you are a believer reading this, I pray it encourages you to fight for discipline in your own life. It's not always pleasant, but it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Nothin' but love, 

Jimmy

Monday, 09 April 2018 16:10

The Gift of A Smile

Often I have tried to bring joy to the face of an infant or toddler, but have you ever thought about how that actually makes you feel? Whether full of gums or 2 to 5 teeth staring right back at you, it does something special to a human being. I'm sure we all know the feeling when you don't actually succeed at that smile too though, right? You can make a fool of yourself by tickling them, making silly faces, and you get nothing. All you get is a blank stare or glare right back at the center of your forehead. When they do smile back though, there's a universal feeling all human beings can relate to, no matter the age! That giggle, that smile, those cheeks... It does nothing but bring you more joy than you had before. That innocent smile gives you this feeling that causes your face to react and your heart to feel something sincere. You are actually seen or noticed, even though it may be a toddler or an infant, for a moment, you get that sense of acknowledgment all humans want to feel daily. No matter how your day has gone or is going that smile does something that we don't always acknowledge, but it really does brighten up your day, even just a little.

I get the joy of seeing this smile just about every single day when I go get my 7 month old baby girl, Mahayla Rae, from her crib. I love that girl with an overwhelming amount of love that I can't even describe. You dads reading this can both understand and relate. I didn't believe all those dads when they said, "oh you just wait until you have that little girl......you'll be wrapped around her finger". I remember thinking, "NOT THIS BROTHA!  NOT ME..y'all are ridiculous, but honestly, that girl has my heart. I can't say I'm wrapped around her finger but I do love her with a different kind of fatherly love. When she smiles at me, it doesn't matter how my days has been, it brings me joy. It goes beyond the subtle look. The smile is delicate, but so jubilant and I love it! It's as if God decided to give me even more than just the gift of her life. The gift of her smile adds that extra bit of goodness and thankfulness in my heart.

I think any of us can relate. Think about this. You know that feeling you get when you haven't haven't seen a family member or an old friend and out of nowhere you see them at the grocery store and you walk up to them and are received by the same elated expression. It's an amazing feeling right? That's what I feel when she smiles at me! It brightens up my day, warms my heart, helps my mind to be present, and just gives me joy. Over the last couple of months now, I've wondered what would happen to most people if we did what my 7 month old daughter does. What if we simply smiled at people and did it often. Giving the gift of a smile can change ones perception of a day. We never really know what people are walking through, so why not give them a gift of a smile.

I believe God gave us this weapon that we rarely see as being just that. Think about it for a minute. Have you ever been extremely angry at someone or about something thing and the last thing you want to do is smile? Your face shows what's going on in you heart, and the longer you think about what's given you this anger...the angrier you get. All of us have been there before. Have you had that cousin, friend, spouse, parent, or child just do something silly to try and make you laugh? At first it makes you a little more angry, but their persistence starts to do something to you though. 10% of the time you'll punch them in the gut or give them that look to actually stop, but that 90% is the kryptonite! You break, and it starts with a subtle smirk and then an all out BIG GRIN on that face of yours. All of a sudden your heart begins to be softened, and that thing that made you so angry is put in perspective. 

Why don't we give this gift often? Have you done that today? If not, the nights still young, and well, tomorrow's a new day. Acknowledge someone with a smile, no intentions except to simply spread some joy to someone else. Make it genuine and authentic. Don't fake it. Brighten someone's day with those pearly whites of yours and you just might bring joy to a broken or calloused heart in need of looking outward instead of inward. We all need to put things in perspective sometimes, so go share this gift and share it often! 

Nothin' but love, 

Jimmy

Monday, 12 March 2018 22:15

The Gift of Teaching

"The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers" - 1 Peter 4:7


This was the text I was given to preach for the first time at my church. Read that again, slowly. This was the text I was given to PREACH. Yeah, PREACH...ON STAGE...IN FRONT OF OUR CONGREGATION. No singing involved. I was shocked when my lead pastor, Kevin Peck, pulled me aside after a Sunday morning service and told me his thoughts on having me preach at some point within the next 2 months. I'll be honest and say that this was not something I had aspirations of doing at my own church. I'm content with where he has me in this stage of life, but unbeknownst to Kevin, I had been praying about the whole idea of teaching for a few years now. It all started when my wife pulled me aside and told me that I had the gift of teaching. I didn't believe her. I started comparing myself to every man I knew that was a teacher and clearly stated to my conscience..."You are not that". I trust my wife, so I added it to my list of prayer request. While asking God to reveal to me if I had the gift of teaching, I decided to say yes to the opportunities...if they came. Crazy things happen when your prayers are in line with God's will. You get answers, and in this circumstance those answers came very quickly! I started getting asked to teach at different things and as I saw the doors open, I fought to simply say yes.

Almost every Friday, I would pray "God reveal to me if I have this gift and grow me in it if I do". It's not often you get to see a prayer answered the way I got to over the last 4 years. This prayer I was praying was answered in this message that was given. I honestly didn't even want to post about it, but "it ain't about me", so why not just post it.

Halim Suh, a brother of mine that I've had the privilege of being shaped by, was a huge help in prepping this message. Preparation wasn't easy by any means and my respect for pastors that do this week in and week out has truly grown. It was convicting, rewarding, fun, hard, challenging, and so good for my own personal walk with Jesus. As I preached that day, I felt both empowered and humbled to stand and teach this congregation that I lead worship for, but this Sunday it was through teaching, not singing! I love my church y'all! The main reason I started going to this church back in 2003 was because of the teaching, and here I was doing the thing that made me fall in love with The Austin Stone. I remember leaving that Sunday in awe at the fact that God would give me the opportunity to teach at my home church. Seeing my Elders, Pastors and other leaders in the congregation that day was even more humbling for me. Even when you get some affirmation about how something went, you still may question whether or not you're gifted in that area. I'm not sure if this happens to you, but it happens to me with singing, and it definitely happened after this message. Folks told me I did a good job, but I still was unsure if I had the gift. 

I got to sit with Halim later for feedback and expected him to dissect the heck out of this message. Tears unexpectedly filled my eyes as my elder, pastor, mentor, and friend affirmed what I had been praying and asking God the last 4 years. God knew I needed to hear it from someone who's been doing it and been affirmed himself in order for me to actually begin to believe it. Halim affirmed this gift of teaching and encouraged me to continue down this path of using this gift as often as possible.

So now I simply want to share my first message to ever teach at The Austin Stone. Below you'll find the audio of the actual message. At the beginning you will hear our Lead Worship Pastor, Aaron Ivey introduce me. I can't believe I get to do what I do and get to do it with men like Halim and Aaron. God continues to use these men to help me grow in these gifts and talents God's given me. I pray this message blesses and convicts you like it did me.

"Praying in the End Times"

 

Nothin' but love,

Jimmy 

As Black History Month comes to a close I want to take the next couple of blogs to both thank and recognize a few influential African Americans in my life. I grew up seeing several heroes that I could look up to. I was a fan of Thunder Cats, G.I. Joe, Spiderman, X-men, Knight Rider, Speed Racer and just about any other cartoon character that would save the day. Just like my son I'd imitate them..."Hey Kit..." "Let's go Joe...I'll save you...PSHHHHH PEW PEW PEW PEW!!!". Although those heroes still have me going to the movie theatre's today, I'm not talking about characters from cartoons or movies. I'm talking about real life heroes. Those who have walked through the sufferings of this life and are still admired today. Everyone wants to be revered in some shape or form and looked up to as a heroic figure. Think about it, who are some of your heroes from your youth? Seriously, think about it? Who did you look up to? Whether male or female, these heroes were people you saw that impacted and helped shape your own thoughts about humanity and the influence you could actually make in your lifetime. 

I've had several heroes of different ethnic backgrounds, but it was different when they look like me. I remember in elementary school learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and from the moment I heard about him I wanted to be just like him! He was well versed, distinguished, known, remembered, and just like me, he was named after his dad! I remember calling myself Dr. Jimmy Ray McNeal Jr. and thinking I could be the first black President of The United States of America. I had a dream! Just like many kids, the life changing dreams were modified here and there as I got older. Either way I still learned a great deal from this Hero of mine and I want to take a moment and share 2 things I learned from Dr. King! 

1. Service and Sacrifice Shape Good Leadership

I can't say that I've done this extremely well over the years, but as I watched and read about the things y ancestors had to go through, I'm still so thankful for men like him that did just that. He non-violently fought for equal rights and sacrificed so much for men and women of color. He stood up for what he believed in! Not just for himself, but for others. He along with thousands of men and women served their black brothers and sisters by sacrificing time, effort, security, a way of life, and much more. I honestly don't think he did it to gain a name for himself. Had that been the case I think he would've quit after a near death experience, multiple arrests, and thousands of threats and phone calls against himself and his family. In a time where he could've just done nothing and went on about his life, he sacrificed everything and courageously served those in need. Even in his death he went to help those considered as the forgotten, sanitation workers in Memphis. He said, 

"The question is not if I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me? The question is if I DO NOT help the Sanitation workers, WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THEM...that's the question". 

He sacrificially served the least of these even in his death. Which leads to something else I learned from him in that very speech.

 2. God's will should be a Want in your Life

The last words of a dying man always seem to be life changing for the hearer. I can't say that he knew he was going to die there in Memphis, but his last speech is one of my most favorite speeches of all time. I found this speech a few years ago as I was reflecting on all the ways God had used this heroic, but sinful, man to do so much good in the world. It's a speech I listen to every MLK day. The last 10 minutes will take any human being to church, but if you listen, you catch words that I know have been written on my heart. He wasn't perfect by any means, but I believe sobering amounts of suffering brought him to this conclusion. 

"Well I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead, but it really doesn't matter with me now, because I'VE BEEN TO THE MOUNTAIN TOP... Like anybody I'd like to live a long life. Longevity has its place, but I'm not concerned about that now. I JUST WANNA DO GOD'S WILL..." 

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
"I've Been to The Mountain Top" 

I find myself in that same place today. I simply WANT TO DO GOD'S WILL, whatever the sacrifice, whatever the service, whatever the way he calls me to lead. I want to do His will and lead by example like Jesus did. God put men like this on this earth to encourage us to fight to be like Christ. Even the death of Pastor Billy Graham and other influential leaders should make us ask the question, what kind of legacy are you leaving behind?

This hero of mine makes me proud to be a black man, proud to be an African American in the United States of America, and humbled to be living in the time that God ordained for my own life. In April, it will be 50 years since Dr. King was assassinated, and sadly, the words of this speech can still resonate well with the times we're living in now. A lot has changed, but many of the roots are still sown deep into the American soil. I encourage you to take a listen, whether it be the entire 43 minutes, or the last 10 minutes, I guarantee you it will be well worth your time. 

Nothin' but love, 

Jimmy 

 

Wednesday, 28 February 2018 00:00

Black History Month Heroes: Mahalia Jackson

Dictionary.com defines a hero as a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character; a person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal.

We named our daughter (Mahayla) after this next hero of mine. Funny story about us country folks in Texas, we all have a little twang in the voice. They call it a "southern draw". If you're wondering why my daughter's name is spelled different, it's because my family always left out the "I" and added a "Y" and then moved it around and made it sound the like this "Muh-Hey-Luh". My whole life I thought the "I" was silent, lol, until I heard Mahalia's friends actually say her name. Either way, Mahayla Rae McNeal is named after this artists and civil rights activist who effortlessly fits this definition a hero of mine. She's hands down, the best Gospel singer to ever live! For some of you this is the first time you've been introduced to her. YOU'RE WELCOME! Mahalia Jackson was known as the Queen of Gospel music, and in my family, she was the Matriarch of Gospel music. Thousands of men and women admired her and absolutely loved her voice, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and my very own "Granny". Mahalia was my grandmothers favorite singer and has been one of mine since the day I heard her impeccable voice sing these words from the depths of her soul...

"Precious Lord, take me hand. 
Lead me on and let me stand.
I am tired, I'm weak, I'm worn
Through the storm through the night
Lead me on to the light"

- "Precious Lord Take My Hand" 

The day I heard that voice, I knew that I not only wanted to emulate it, but also use it the way she did. She had a way about her that easily displayed her belief in the lyrics she sang. She could even command a room by humming, yes humming! She didn't even have to speak and folks would just go nuts! Here are 2 things I learned from this incredibly gifted woman! 

1. Use the Voice God Gave You to Encourage Others

Did you know that the "I Have a Dream" speech by Dr. Martin Luther King wasn't planned? I didn't either until last month. Mahalia was the first voice heard at the March on Washington on August 28th 1963. The atmosphere that day was filled with worship as she sang "How I got Over" and the crowd joined in with loud shouts while clapping of their hands. Dr. King wanted that time to begin with her voice because it was always an encouragement to him. He was always spurred on by her voice and the way in which she would remind him of the only anchor in whom he could trust, Jesus. She did that several times in his lifetime. While preaching at a church in Chicago about Justice and Equality the video footage showed how his heart was heavy and burdened as he was about to preach. Before he could say a word she simply noticed and started shouting the words to "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho". As you can visibly see in the footage, she led the congregation in song and Dr. King's entire posture changed. She used her voice to help him persevere that day. She also used her voice not only to encourage him through song, but also to inspire at just the right time. Many of the men and women on the stage, the day he gave the renown "I Have a Dream" Speech, witnessed Mahalia be the spark to that flame. Before he said the words that made that speech famous, Mahalia shouted out

"Tell'em about the dream Martin, Tell'em about the dream".

Dr. King then looked at her, slid his notes to the side, and the rest is history. Other folks would've not even said a word as he was speaking that day, but there was no fear on her end. She wanted the people to hear about the dream he had shared with her and others. Mahalia spoke words of encouragement that day, but many know her because of the God given ability that she had as a singer. Which leads me to the next thing I learned from her.

2. Acknowledge the Gift Giver

Mahalia traveled all over the world. Everywhere she went it was obvious that she had an ability and talent that only God could give. Dr. King said, "I think I can say concerning our friend, my great friend Mahalia Jackson; that a voice like this comes only once in a millennium". One of the most amazing stories that I've ever heard about her was from Della Reese, a famous actor and singer. Della Reese shared something she learned at the age of 13 when touring with Mahalia. She would always find Mahalia in the corner whispering before every event or concert they did. She snuck up behind her once and listened to hear what she was doing.  These are the words she heard

"Father, come up through me, to me. Let me express like you want me to. I'm leaving it all in your hands" 

She was praying, begging God to use her. She acknowledged the gift Giver before she walked on any stage and surrendered her plans and even her thoughts. Have you ever asked God to use you in such a way that people see His work through you instead of letting the applause or critique of man move you? That's what Mahalia taught me. I don't compare my gifting to hers, but I do see it as God given. The voice I have, just like many other men and women in this world, is a gift from God. Although I most certainly have, I don't want to use it for my own gain. I'd rather it be used to encourage people and be reminded often to acknowledge the gift giver. Whether through blog, spoken word, or song. I pray God would use me to bless others by way of this gift he's given me. 

Nothin' but love, 

Jimmy

Here are few videos that I referenced in this blog: 

Mahalia singing before Dr. King Preached

 

The story of the I have A Dream Speech

 

 

 

 

Monday, 30 October 2017 17:00

A Sobering Reminder

Have you ever had that moment where you realize, you just missed out on something special. Maybe you looked away during a spectacular play, or when your kid took that first step. No matter the case, we all have those moments where we look back and think man I wish I would have chosen differently. I felt that this week while trying to play a game with my son. Follow me on this...

So my son Jackson is 3 years old and we like to play this game of hide and seek where he gives a little high pitched squeak to help us find him whenever he's hiding. He had just woken up for the day as Staci and I were "joyfully" already awake with our 8 week old. He walked in our room and asked, "Where is dad"?! So I decided to give him "a little squeak" thinking we could play the game and he could find me. I squeaked and squeaked, but heard nothing. I did this about 6 or 7 different times and then he said..."No, I don't want to play dad, I don't want to play". At first I thought, maybe he's doing something, I'll wait a minute and do it again. I waited, did it again, and got the same response. "NO Dad, I don't want to play"!  I'll be honest, my feelings were hurt just a little bit. I was like, I'm dad, you never say no to me when I want to play with you. What the heck! As I sat there in my hiding place as dumbfounded as I could be I had sobering thought.

"I wonder how often I've done that to God."

How often has God wanted to meet with me early in the morning and I've replied, "nah, I don't want to". Heck, even that morning I woke up early and had the thought to read my bible, but what did I do? Yup, you guessed it, I did the exact same thing Jackson did. Nah God I don't want to spend time with you, I want to check the score of the game, my email, Instagram, and possibly even go back to sleep. There are several days, moments, and hours I've missed out on sitting at the feet of Jesus that just slip on by. Now I know I'm flawed, I have failed and will fail at this again, but today, this week, I want to choose to first spend some time with my Dad, and not simply say..."I don't want to". Even if I don't "want to" it's worth it. I can't tell you how often I've not wanted to read my bible, and that day I read something that I reflected on or even shared with others throughout that whole day. If you are a Christian reading this, I wonder if you can relate. Side note: If you do say you're Christian and don't read your bible, I'd say, you may want to ask yourself some hard questions about your own faith. Do you really know or want to know Jesus? I honestly asked myself that question that morning.

"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." - Psalm 16:11

Nothing brings more pleasure or joy than being with God. Absolutely nothing! No matter the season, no matter the state of mind, no matter things on my list. Anytime I wake up to a new day, I can choose to spend time with my heavenly Father. Honestly, the only way I can truly choose to do that in this season, is by asking God to help me to do so. So Lord, I beg you to help me choose you early in the morning, and if I don't, which is very possible; bring me to a place to stop what I'm doing and spend some time with you through prayer and reading scripture.

If you now feel the same way that I did, I to encourage you to simply stop reading this blog, and open up your bible. Whether it's an app on your phone or a book on your shelf, take 5, 10, maybe even 15 minutes to just read, examine, and ask God to teach you something through reading His word. I mean, you could even read Psalm 16! I pray we all beg God to make this a daily choice! 

Nothin' but love, 

Jimmy

Thursday, 21 September 2017 21:02

4 Years and Praying!

Today marks 4 years of being married and devoted to my best friend. Y'all, I LOVE MY WIFE! Our marriage story has not been easy, but it sure has been worth it! From the trials and tribulations, to the disagreements and late night belly laughs that once caused both of us to pass gas. I blame the pizza we ate that night. Either way I wouldn't change one argument, great memory, or season. I'm closer in my relationship with Jesus because of my wife. I'm a better man because of my wife, Im' a better father because of my wife. I'm a better Worship Pastor because of my wife. I could go on and on about how God has used her in my life, but I truly am thankful for this woman I have the privilege of calling my bride, best friend, babe, companion, "Baby Mamma", pretty lady, and 2nd love. We both strive to put Jesus before each other knowing that he's the one who makes our relationship better. With that said, I want to share a passage I feel led to pray over my own marriage today. If you happen to be a Christian reading this, I'd encourage you to pray this over yourself as you read it as well. 

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated a the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with it's practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and , if one has complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed , do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."  

Colossians 3:1-17

 

Nothin' but love, 

Jimmy

Monday, 28 August 2017 19:57

She's on her way!

Y'all, my wife is having our baby within the next 24hrs. I repeat, my wife is having our baby in the next 24hrs.

What the heck....

I'm feeling all the emotions and having all the thoughts. Excitement, fear of the unknown, joy, doing my part in the delivery room, do I really remember how to swaddle, bottles, pumps, did i forget something at the house, sleep, bath, did I shower today, pacifiers, is this really happening, baby clothes, bows, and so much more running through my brain today. I've watched the clock tick away as this day closes in on what will be a life changing night for Staci and I. 6pm we'll go in for the induction, who knows how long the delivery will be, but I'm guessing that by tomorrow night or early Wed. morning I'll be holding Mahayla Rae McNeal for the very first time! 

I've prayed for this little girl, honestly, since our last miscarriage back in July of 2016. Once we lost our 2nd baby that year I wondered if God would bless us with anymore biological kids and simply prayed that He would. I can't tell you how happy Staci and I were when she showed me a positive test on New Years Day! Appointment after fearful appointment I prayed we would just hear and see a heartbeat for our little baby. I'm humbled to write today because this road hasn't been easy, but Lamentations tells me this....

"...But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. "The Lord is my portion", says my soul, "therefore I will hope in Him."" - Lamentations 3:21-24

I read this yesterday and even now, I sit in awe of the way God has chosen to love us in this season of life. He is my portion and all that I truly need, but for some reason He has chosen to give us another life to steward and I'm grateful and thankful. I know for a fact I see His mercy played out in every breath, but how sweet it will be to see my daughter take her first. Thank you Lord. 

I know I'm not promised perfect health for both of my girls. Wait, did I just write, my girls...y'all, I'm having "a girl". What the heck!? Ok, deep breath, alright. I know there are several things that can happen within the next 36 - 3 trillion hrs, but right now I'm just going to be thankful. I thank God for the grace to be able to write again. I thank Him for the boldness to be honest, for the blessing of seeing my baby girl on a sonogram, the joy and anticipation of holding her hand, the joy and pains of childbirth, Factor 5, Dr. Garza, my wife being ready to get this baby out of her, me laughing at her seriousness but not laughing, our last family day as a 3 person household, and the honor and privilege I have to steward another little life that's not my own. I praise God from whom all blessings flow, even the ones that don't look like blessings in the moment. This day has been a long time coming. A song by Hillsong United keeps playing in my ears because it was the song that I listened to over and over again when we lost our Hattie Mae and Ezra Lee last year through miscarriage.

Even when my strength is lost I'll praise you
Even when I have no song I'll praise you
Even when it's hard to find the words, louder then I'll sing your praise...
Even when the morning comes I'll praise you
Even when the fight is won I'll praise you
Even when my time on earth is done, LOUDER THEN I'LL SING YOUR PRAISE

"Even when it hurst" - Hillsong United

So no matter what comes my way, I have learned to trust God. I don't know what tonight holds, but when there's joy, excitement, tears of hope, pain, even when it hurts, I'll trust you, I will always sing your praise Lord.

Y'all, I'm about to have a baby girl! I can't tell you how happy I am right now. I'm full of mixed emotions, but they all sit under the shadow of Joy today! I praise God for this joy and His faithfulness to being the God He says He is. I don't deserve anything He gives Staci and I, but like you, hopefully no matter the stage or season of life, we can be thankful. 

Nothin' but love, 

Jimmy

Monday, 20 February 2017 22:26

The Gift of Cerebral Palsy

"Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!" - Psalm 95:1

Even now as I type these words one of the best worship leaders I've ever been led in worship by comes to mind. He's never sang on a stage, played skillfully on an instrument, nor held a mic in his hand. He sits in the audience every Sunday. Confined to his wheel chair, that can barley keep him tied down, he belts out every lyric to every singe song. To the worldly eye and ear his voice sounds like a man in pain and anguish that has no hope, but to the Christ follower it is one of the most moving sounds they've ever heard. Especially when you see who the joyful noise is coming from. His countenance screams "I'm loved by Jesus". His song exalts the rock of his salvation, and his life is lived out daily with purpose.

My friends name is Roger.

He has Cerebral Palsy.

In the link below you will see and hear him share in his own words why he "chooses to worship Christ not in spite of his disability, but because of it".

"The Gift of Cerebral Palsy" 

 

Nothin' but love, 

Jimmy

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