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Just Thinking

Aug 23

Eight and a half months into this year that seems to be flying by at the speed of sound. At the beginning of each new year, I create a list of goals or "resolutions" if you will that I hope to achieve. I try to be as realistic as possible with these goals, and typically I do fairly well with accomplishing them. This year, I started off strong, as you would imagine. I got up early every morning and spent my regular time in God's word and studying my devotion. I also added to my list of "spiritual goals" that I would set aside at least one afternoon a week in private worship time with God; this was in addition to my worship time spent at church, and individual prayer time each day. I would simply come home one afternoon a week, sometimes turn on some worship music or sometimes just enjoy the silence, and simply raise my hands and being to worship Him. This new special time I was having with The Lord stirred something inside me. It made me fall even more in love with Him, and I feel my intimacy with God grow stronger each day.

In March of this year, I began my annual 21 day Daniel's Fast. This is something I look forward to every year. While it has its' ups and downs and some days I may dread it, I always love how refreshed I feel in my spirit when it is over. This year, however was quite different. The very first week of my fast, the spiritual attacks began. I woke up every morning so down trodden, for no reason whatsoever. My spirit was completely broken, I was discouraged everyday. My commutes to work became more and more difficult, as I would begin every day in tears. I had never experience anything like this before. The best way I know to describe it is, it felt as if I was nursing the worst broken heart I had ever had. By day 21, I was spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. I was so relieved when the fast came to an end, and to be honest, I kinda gave up a little bit. I said to myself, "Thank God this is over. I have fought my fight, and now I am done". How naïve of me to think that just because my time of spiritual discipline was over, that I was done fighting?

The next few months began a whirlwind. A complete roller coaster of emotion overtook me on a daily basis. I was hit harder and by more things than I ever thought possible. I began battling loneliness and worthlessness. My mind was constant battlefield of thoughts, such as "you are forgotten", "your presence doesn't matter to others", "you no longer impact people in your work or ministry", etc. I was legitimately convinced that if I never fulfilled my work responsibilities (which I love), or never sang another song again, it would not matter.

On the days these thoughts did not overtake, I battled a life of insignificance; feeling as if I was living a dead end life. Nothing I did had purpose. I tried to tell myself every morning that I was destined for bigger and better things, with no clue as to what that may be. I craved a place where I could feel worthwhile. I was 100% completely and totally lost.

I began praying harder than ever before for God to give me the strength to overcome; to help me find my worth in Him, and to be confident in my worth in Him. Then one afternoon, after a very long, emotionally taxing day, I began singing this song that I had known for a while, but had forgotten. I was reminded of my true purpose in worship. God created each and every one of us so intricately and so special, with an innate drive to live a purposeful life. We were created by Him to worship Him. When I have questions, He has the answers. He heals all wounds, supplies every need, and His strength is made completely perfect in our weakest moment. I began to tell myself that I am defined by HIS greatness; not in the accomplishments or accolades I may or may not receive on the job or at school. I am DESTINED to live each day to love Him, and to show others His love through me, no matter the circumstance. I designed to pursue Him with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength; to know Him as I never have before. This is the greatest accomplishment anyone can achieve. It is my destiny today, and forever more to worship Him in spirit AND in truth, with a humble and broken spirit, so that each encounter with my Lord is one in which is molding me into who He wants me to be.

Ephesians 1:4-6
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having PREDESTINATED us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise and glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

May 27
Hayley Masters

Hayley Masters grew up in Northeast Louisiana, loving the outdoors, God, and music. At 7 years old, she wrote and recorded her first song. Captured on a vintage Playskool recorder, the song spoke of her belief in the providence of God. Singing in church for most of her life, Hayley quickly realized that music is a powerful thing.

During high school, Hayley participated in a local singing competition, and an independent producer approached her with the idea of recording a project. At that time, shy about sharing her own lyrics, she chose cover songs for her 2008 debut album, "Seasons of Change". As a fan of artists ranging from Britt Nicole and Natalie Grant to Natasha Bedingfield and Taylor Swift, she draws from a rich palette to create her songs. In 2011, Hayley released her sophomore project "Lead Me". Having received extremely positive reviews, the records opened the door for her to perform all over the country, as well as live appearances on radio and television.

Beyond that, while juggling higher education, a career as a medical professional, and her singing/songwriting pursuits, Hayley has also made guest appearances on several tracks, including Ryan John's "Remember Me" and Byron Hypolite's "Redemption". Louisiana Allstate Youth Choir's live album GLAD features Hayley on her song "Breathe Over Me" and "Set A Fire". Her love for Christmas music is evident in her pop version of "O Holy Night" which has received major radio play.

As a university graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree, Hayley works as a full-time Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant and is able to share her musical talent with the residents. "It's my gift to give," says Hayley, "and if I can somehow brighten their day with a ray of hope through my music, then my mission is accomplished."

It was the end of summer about five years ago when Hayley penned a few words and began working on an infectious catchy melody that she knew would be positive and empowering. She and long-time producer John DeNosky were in the prayer room of a church where they had been brainstorming ideas. The simple phrase, "oh from the bottom of my heart and my soul, I love you" spawned the open hearted, powerful tune that actually hinges on the first commandment recorded in scripture:

Mark 12:30 King James Version (KJV)

And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

Sparked by Hayley's deep-rooted love for God in the face of everyday life, she continued creating a glowing love song with passionately convincing lyrics. Further inspired by her work with individuals with challenges, whether emotional, physical, or social, she wanted to give her fans a musical message that would shift perspective and actually change lives for the better.

"The single 'Control' is not only my journey, but everyone's," explains Hayley. "It's not just about God's love, but it's about loving God and giving Him complete control of our plans, our dreams, our past and our future." Taking the song's intent forward, Hayley masterfully arranged the deeply honest lyrics and soulfully delivered her breathtaking vocal range to persuade others to propagate the love of God to hurting humanity.

The relaxed image on the cover supports the message of the song. "While we know that God is in absolute control, we have to GIVE Him full control, and when this happens," says Hayley, "we can be at peace in our spirit and in the beauty of His love, and enjoy watching His promises fill our day, and ultimately show His love to the whole world."

"The songs I write are usually reflective of situations that I'm experiencing. It's cliche' but true that life happens, so I know that everyone is going through something at one point in time or another. I want the songs I write to bring hope," she says, "I try to write songs that will help people to sing what may be hard for them to say."

The young talent has a genuine connection with her supporters. After events, she loves to meet and talk with her fans. Some of her most inspiring moments are when people tell her, "Your music spoke to me and helped me." Hayley knows that, "if I give a voice to my silent prayers, then I give voice to the silent prayers of others."

While working as a medical professional and simultaneously pursuing a musical career, singer/songwriter and independent recording artist, Hayley Masters is also working to help raise awareness about human trafficking by forming The Turquoise Mission.

As always, Hayley loves sharing her music. She will keep singing the songs of hope and wants you to sing along.

Apr 3

As Christians, the Easter holiday is one of many emotions. During this time, we experience laughter and make great memories through our family activities or through church sponsored Easter events. We also experience grief as we take time to reflect on the cross and the solemn day in which our Savior was crucified for our sins. And lastly, we experience immense joy, knowing that Jesus rose from the grave and defeated sin and death so that we do not have to live a life in bondage.

Every Easter, I become more and more grateful for the sacrifice my Jesus made for me on the cross. Knowing that His infinite love was tested in such a manner, and that He overcame, gives me hope. It leaves me speechless to think that He sustained such suffering just so I may know Him. His love was poured out. He paid the ultimate price. He sacrificed His life so that I can feel His closeness everyday. During the Easter season, I challenge you to study and attempt to comprehend the pain and suffering Jesus went through so that He could be our Saviour...our Healer...our Deliverer. And ask yourself this one question: What love is this?

Jesus reached down to save us as INDIVIDUALS, so that we each may have a personal relationship with Him.

Mar 17

On this cold night in March, I am sitting in my local Books A Million. Actually, I thought I would take advantage of some quiet time to catch up on some reading. However, during the past 20 minutes, I have been distracted by a couple in the cafe who appear to be in a Bible study with a minister. I have been so captivated by their innocence, if you will, with regard to matters of the Bible, and the salvation that is offered to us all. To watch, firsthand the joy that comes across one's face when they finally understand why Jesus died on the cross, that He did it to save EVERYONE, and that His sacrifice has made allowances for them to lead a life free from the bondage of sin is invigorating.

At times, I think those of us who have been a part of the wonderful journey that is Christianity for the majority of our lives fail to remember the joy that is at our immediate disposal through God's salvation. We become down trodden with the trials of everyday life. We accuse the enemy of stealing our joy, when really our joy is accessed through salvation. We go through the motions of a "Christ-like" life, and we forget what it feels like to be captivated by the presence of the Most High where we experience pure and uncontainable joy . It is time we revisit the altar where our walk with Christ first began and pray as the Psalmist prayed: "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit."

Feb 5

The LOVE month is here! I am so excited about February. Valentine’s Day is my absolute favorite holiday, and I also have a birthday this month =). While most find it difficult to become excited over a holiday they view as frivolous, I am bulging with excitement to spread the LOVE! Yes, this holiday may be mostly about letting your significant other know how much you care, but it can also be opportunity for us to live out the mission we were placed on earth for… to spread God’s love to every person we come in meet.

People often ask me why I love this holiday so much, and the answer is quite simple. I am called to LOVE… we all are. I think a day that is set aside for humans to focus solely on love, while the majority of our day-to-day lives are filled with hate and malice, is a wonderful thing.

The world needs to know they are loved… that no mistake nor anything else can separate them from the overwhelmingly unconditional love of God. He was the first to show the world what an act of true love is all about. Sacrifice. He made the ultimate sacrifice, waged a war on death, and won! How glorious is that!

I challenge you all to spread the love this Valentine’s Day. Show the world what a love that is true. Show the world the power of love. Let the world know there is hope and peace through the love of Jesus.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Jan 2

I hope that everyone’s holiday season was spectacular! Of course, we all know the new year is a time for goals and resolutions. This year, I set a goal to trust in God and hope in His plan more than I ever have, being completely open to His plan, knowing He will guide my footsteps through times of joy and pain. I challenge you all to do the same. When we put our trust in God during good times, we are saving up for the bad times. Our hope in Jesus Christ endures the worst of conditions. It’s more than our optimism. Let your hope be unchanged throughout 2015. Put all trust in God. He is God with us; all sufficient.

Nov 28

During the season of Thanksgiving, it's easy to be thankful, especially for family, friends, and feasting. But it's not so easy to be thankful for things like a flat tire, an empty wallet, or a gloomy day. And what about when that so called friend brings on hurt feelings? Or when a doctor speaks a dreaded diagnosis over your symptoms? Sometimes, the simple word no makes it difficult to be thankful.

Last Thanksgiving, something tragic happened that made it very hard for my family to be thankful. My mom's cousin was walking his dog that brisk morning and suddenly fell dead. Doctors and nurses tried all they could to revive him, but he had crossed over. How could this happen? And on Thanksgiving Day? Only God has the answers for situations like this, but all we can do is what the scripture instructs us to do in I Thessalonians. "In every thing, give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

One day out of 365, we are encouraged to be thankful. So I suppose it's a day we shove out all of the things that would strip us of gratefulness and clothe ourselves with the cloak of gratitude. What would happen, however, if we made every day of the year a day of thanksgiving? In spite of all the negatives, such as the wilting economy, the homeless, the abused, can we plow through with a spirit of thanksgiving? Being thankful is more than cliche'. It's disciplining our mind and our spirit, that no matter what comes our way, we will be thankful… everyday… in every thing.

Sep 19

I was driving to church this past Sunday morning and I could not help but roll my windows down, breathe in the crisp morning air, and take in the early signs of fall, fast approaching.  I do love this time of year, for it is the time I am really able settle down after all the happenings of summer and get into a routine.  A huge part of my daily routine is getting my form of exercise.  I am a huge fan of the outdoors.  My favorite physical activity of all is cruising on my bike down long, winding, country roads.  However, on days I am not able to ride my bike, I will either go to the gym or go for a run.

Discipline in bodily exercise and living a healthy lifestyle is Biblical.  Third John 1:2 states "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be n health, even as thy soul prospereth."  We have all heard references to our body being The Lord's temple and that we are take care of it, but even more important than physical health is spiritual health.  Having a disciplined walk with God does not just entail a blessed life, it also leaves us with the hope of an eternity with Jesus.  Paul spoke of physical health in retrospect to spiritual health when he wrote Timothy.  First Timothy 4:8 says "For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise for both the present life and the life to come.'  So, yes, live a healthy lifestyle; exercise, eat healthy, and do not be afraid to enjoy yourself every once in a while. But most of all, pray everyday, read you Bible and search for God's will in your life....prepare for the life that is to come.

Aug 18

HOT! HOT! HOT! Whew! The weather is hot! It is that time of year when it has become almost unbearable to spend an extended amount of time outdoors. Thankfully, it is also the time of year for watermelons! My favorite fruit! I love being able to eat a cool, juicy, delicious watermelon on an August day. However, I do not love it so much if it is not a seedless watermelon. I do not like the extra effort a watermelon with seeds makes me exert. Every bite requires me to have to spit seeds out, and if I am not outside, it requires me to have to take the effort to find a container to spit them in. It makes me so happy going to the grocery and being able to buy a hassle free, seedless watermelon.

In our lives, we sometimes go through situations that leave little black specks on our heart, just like those dreaded black seeds in an otherwise perfect watermelon. When people we invest time, effort, and energy into say things or do things that hurt us, we have a tendency to avoid them due to the blemishes, or black spots. We go on the search for people who appear spotless… or seedless. We keep that feeling of betrayal inside us, so that we remember not to trust that individual again. However, this is not the way we were instructed to live our lives. Matthew 6:14 states "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you." The lesson of forgiveness is a very difficult lesson to learn because it requires us to let go of our pride in order to let the wrongdoing go. Forgiveness is an opportunity for growth. Just like those black seeds take some effort, once they are "let go", they hold with them the opportunity to let something new grow and flourish. So, take this opportunity that has been afforded you. Go to a brother or sister who has wronged you, forgive them, let the situation go, and watch the things God will let flourish in your life.

Mar 12

Hello all! Well, spring is finally on the horizon! I love this time of year. I get to ride my bike, go to the park, and participate in all kinds of outdoor adventures! :) I also love spring, because it has always been a time of refreshing and renewal for me.

Most people I know love spring time, however, I do know a few people (including myself) who are not too fond of the "spring forward" time change. Nobody likes to lose sleep!

Just like in our everyday lives, God has a season that He wants each and every one of us to "spring forward" and move on from past hurts and past mistakes. Personally, this is a very difficult thing for me to do, and I'd like to think I'm not alone in that. But, it is paramount in our relationship with God that we do move on, so He can spring us forward into bigger and better things. We cannot let grudges and bitterness from past experiences hold us back. God has a divine plan for each and every one of our lives … so take the leap … spring forward and see what amazing things God has in store for you!