Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Love




I never knew the fullness life could have until I experienced the complete joy of having children. When your life is your own, before covenant love marriage, and before life bearing gifts, one is lost to the wonder of cultivating a family. My children have filled me with such laid bare love I never knew I could contain, and I still don't know how my heart holds the fullness. I have done things for my children, that I would do for no other (besides my Lord), and I would do anything for them, to see their happiness, to hear their delight, to feel their love, and know their joy.



This reflection of my Father's love for me, for all His children. Oh, how he longs to see our joy, our passion, our delight, our growth. But how much more His love for His own dear, beloved, only son. Forever one - Father, Son, Spirit - but one must be sent. Alone for a time. To save the lost, sinning, hurting children. How the sending must have hurt. How the watching and the knowing must have burned.






And now here we are at Christmas, hanging our colored festivity, dripping opulence on doors and banisters and souls in the name of celebration. But, for all who were truly there that first holy night knew the pain of Christ-coming. Joseph - road weary, anxiety laden for his pregnant bride, responsibility burdened to keep safe the Saving One. Shepherds - society scrap, poor, wandering, lonely care givers to foul smelling grazers. Mary, beautiful Mary - her pain one of the greatest, teenaged mother, honor scarred, travel sore, searing hot contractions, alone among the burden bearing beasts, giving all, giving life to her Life Giver. The Father - watching His ONLY Son born, into this sin loving, law forsaking world, but born to be the sacrifice for the hating, cursing, hurting ones, that He loves. Oh, the pain and the joy all wrapped in one swaddled baby.




Let us not forget the sacrifice of Christmas. In our remembrance, what will we sacrifice? What will be our Gift to the Giver? Helping the hurting, as He did; laying down our idols of selfishness, or pride, or culture love; or just adoring and worshiping this baby king made Messiah made Savior. Reflect on the pain as well as the love and know that our Father sees our pain and loves us unconditionally, for we are His children.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?
Mother Teresa

Read more: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/m/mother_teresa.html#ixzz1bwtGO2Mc



'Do I know my next door neighbor?'  Well, of course they are the ones I smile and wave to as we're getting our mail or piling in the car to go to church.  I know some neighbors better than others, the ones who are friendly and easy to talk to. . .  I'm not sure about the new neighbors though - I've seen their teenagers smoking behind the house and staying up late on the weekends blaring music.  I don't want my children to be influenced by them, so it might be best to just ignore them for now. 

I must admit these thoughts have slowly crept into my pharisee plagued brain lately.  Perhaps the neighbors I need to speak with the most aren't the most lovely or likeminded, but the ones who need to know the love of God, and I sit here in my comfortable house keeping Him all to myself.  Christ commanded us to love our neighbors that means our 'homeless, Muslim, black, white, Jewish, Christian, atheist, gay, racist neighbor' (taken from Christian t-shirt).  And I know I have all of these and more just in my own neighborhood alone, yet my neighbors don't even know me or know that there is a God who cares for them. . and how will they know unless they are told.

My sweet husband is in Kenya right now ministering to souls hungry for the Gospel.  I am so glad he is there seeing hundreds come to a saving knowledge of our Lord.  And I long to go one day too. . . but perhaps my mission field has been given to me on my own street.  Perhaps the courage to tell the world about Him starts when I tell the one beside me.

So love your neighbor, as I love mine.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011




My words have not fallen here in quite awhile, so they spin inside my head.  I began this blogging journey in hopes to encourage and enlighten, but most importantly to bring glory to God.  The words found here were originally an overflow of my love for Him and my search to know Him more.  But, alas I have drifted. . . we all climb mountains and walk valleys on this journey and recently my road has turned its way through the valley. 


As David wrote, "What is man that you are mindful of him?"  More and more I am amazed that He is mindful of me.  This sinning, struggling, heart breaking wanderer, leaving the God who gave all to seek its own.  And still He reminds me that, "while we were sinners, Christ died for us."   Not while we were beautiful and pure and lovely and pleasing, but when we were broken and black and bruised.  He loves us as we are, however confused or lonely or battered.  He loves us and wants us to know Him more.  He wants to teach us wisdom and grace and love.  And 'even in the valley, God is good.'  Even when He seems silent, He is there and He is loving us.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Comfortable Christianity

                                                                   (see the bubble :)



Inside this bubble I have created, life is contained.  I only allow things in here that I know, people that I agree with, thoughts and ideas that conform to my own.  Staying in this bubble is easy, comfortable, peaceful.  Living here too long however has made me short sighted.  I tend to only see the people I like, do the things I feel are pleasant or important, see things from my perspective always.  How dangerous. . .


In my growing years I was very sheltered.  My parents took great care that I did not see the shame of the world, and I am grateful for their care, but it also caused me to be a little naive.  In this, I believe that most people see things the way I do. . . that most believe in God or go to church, that most live morally pure lives.  I have created a home where speaking of the Lord is second nature, church plays a vital role in our outside activities, and our homeschool friends are like-minded as well.


Lately, though I have come to realize I am just light shining with the light, and all of our light is hiding in the closet.  We fellowship and Bible study and talk in our circles of faith, but that is where we stay.  Most of the world does not know our Savior.  There is a very real and present darkness all around us, yet we choose to keep our light to ourselves.  The hopeless, helpless, dying, sinning world needs so desperately the love of a Savior.  They need to know there is meaning and joy and life abundant in a caring and faithful God. 


We chose to pop our bubble today.  We took a very small step out and intentionally met with a group of mothers and children whom we knew were not Christians, and looked at our Christianity as offensive.  I will admit I was nervous and a little on edge.  We were able to chat on a few subjects and build a small foundation of a relationship which I hope will soon grow deeper and concern matters of faith.  But, we took a step, and tomorrow maybe we can take another.  Even if it's hard and brings uneasiness, that is what we are called to do. 


The light doesn't need the light.  The darkness needs the light and the darkness rarely comes seeking the light.  It is we who must seek the darkness.  We must go and tell.  After all, our greatest example, Christ chose to live right among those who were dirty and shamed, greedy and guilty.  The religious crowd offended Him with their pride and self righteousness.  I want to be where He is, not seeking myself or my own comfort, but giving all to share His story.




Thankful today for. . .
220.  New opportunities
221.  Bravery in Him
222.  Crisp, fall air
223.  Hot chocolate
224.  Mums on the front steps
225.  Hard days (so the good ones are appreciated more)
226.  The kindness of a sister
227.  Apple scented candles
228.  Skies proclaiming the work of His hands!
229.  Deep sleep

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On Mission




These words struck me today as I was reading Sally Clarkson's book "The Mission of Motherhood."  I hope you find her words as inspiring as I did. . .

"Over and over again in the Gospels, we read that the disciples were "with" Jesus.  Our Lord developed the hearts of his followers by spending time with them - instructing them, advising them, modeling right behavior.  He spoke with them one-on-one and in small groups.  He included them in his ministry and in his daily life.  But what he almost never did with his disciples was to sign them up for activities and programs.

We are on the go for God.  We are busy doing many activities and going to this meeting and that seminar.  Yet all of the going in the world will not make us or our children spiritually deep or alive.  It is only by coming to the living God and developing intimacy with him that we will really draw near in our hearts to Christ.   

Jesus didn't meet with his disciplies once a week for Bible study and then say, "I'll see you next week!"  He gave his disciples his whole life.   He lived with them, slept with them, traveled with them, and lived out a life of godly maturity before their eyes.  Having the personality of the God who created the universe living with them every moment for three years gave them an understanding of his ways that nothing else could do.  They observed him in the private times of friendship and eating and sharing and being exhausted and buying and preparing food as well as in public ministry - teaching, healing, worshiping, confronting, encouraging.  There was perfect integrity between the words he spoke and the life he lived.  Thus his disciplies could learn what righteousness looked like in all situations."
                                (taken from The Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson)




What implications this has for us as mothers!  We have the beautiful opportunity every day to live out the Gospel and be the hands and feet of Christ.  He was the perfect example of how we should interact with our children.  He carefully and purposefully guided them in truth.  He shared and illuminated the ways of God in such a way that they could understand and grow in the knowledge and wisdom of the Holy One.  We are to do the same.

These little ones come to us ready to be molded and taught.  They learn not only by the words we say, but the way we live our very lives.  How we respond in traffic, the tone of voice we use at the end of the grocery shopping trip, the joy or sorrow we display, it is all seen and heard by little souls who will reflect this behavior. 

I pray that in my teaching, in my exhaustion, in my worship, in every waking hour my children will be able to see a small reflection of the righteousness of Christ.

Monday, September 5, 2011

God Comes in the Quiet



One of my favorite passages of Scripture comes from I Kings 19:11-13.
We find Elijah completely exhausted, running for his life, and wanting to die. He had just walked for forty days and nights across barren land and was hiding in a cave. Then the Lord speaks, "What are you doing here Elijah?" What was he doing there? Was he just needing a little peace and quiet? Did he really want life to end? Was he tired of listening to wicked queens and idol worshiping prophets? Was it all just too much? Do I go cave dwelling too?

The Father says, "I want to show you something, go stand over there, on the edge of the mountain, for the LORD is about to pass by." (taken from v. 11)

Then a powerful wind shatters the rocks, a mighty earthquake ravages the earth, and a raging fire storms the land. But the Lord was not in these. No, the Creator came in a "gentle whisper." The very presence of God was revealed in quiet breath floating across the air.

He has revealed Himself in this way all along, or do we forget the breath of life that gave Adam his beginning. The very name of Yahweh - YHWH- the sound of a whisper. Noah's rainbow covenant stretched across the winds' breathy home. The pillar of cloud moved by the windy breath of God to lead His people out of bondage to the Promised Land. This intangible mystery - the breath of God - the Almighty is here and He speaks (to us).

So often I am too busy watching the whirlwind, the earthquake, the fire to stop. . . to listen. . .to wait. . . for the whisper.

God comes in the quiet.

He comes when we stop the busyness and dwell in the solitude. He wants to be alone. . .with me. He wants to tell me so many things, but rarely do I slow my wheels, turn off this ever running engine and listen. Even if I do pause, sometimes I'm afraid. Afraid of what He might say, because I know it will demand obedience or refusal on my part. Sometimes I want to dwell in my cave a little longer and soothe my own hurts, seek my own self. . . but He is the answer to all of those hurts, He is the balm that soothes the soul.


What now? Wait. . .

Wait some more. . .

When the time is right, when the soul is calm, when the whilrwinds are over He will speak. . .

Listen. Obey.

I have heard His voice before and I am always taken by surprise at the peace, authority, and love it breathes over me. He is speaking, if only I will hear. . . His words. . . the Word.


---------------------------------------------------------------------------

"We like to listen to personal testimonies, but we do not desire that God Himself should speak to us. Why are we so terrified lest God speak to us? Because we know that if God does speak, either the thing must be done or we must tell God we will not obey Him. . . Lord cause Thy glorious voice to be heard in this place and in my soul." - Oswald Chambers


                                                                                             (repost)



Thankful today for . . .
210.  Children feeling better after long sickness
211.  Alone time with my girl
212.  The opportunity to honor others
213.  Singing Christmas songs in September - happy expectation!
214.  The scent of fall trying to creep in
215.  Gray cat and spotted dog snuggled up for an evening nap
216.  Freckles and dimples
217.  A leftover, "Hold me" from my baby boy, still tired from being sick
218.  Cat now licking dog - friendship kisses  :)
219.  Home

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Always Good




I watch the slow breaths of my little girl as she sleeps, troubled, coughing, on her heart covered bed.  Resting on love, even in pain.  The stripes of her rainbow cotton dress rise and fall as she dances through the land of dreams.  Today marked the fifth day of her temperature climbing to 104 and beyond.  Tomorrow means more doctor visits and tests.  I don't know which is worse, the parent or the child hurt.


How can this be good?  Seeing a little one so changed by sickness.  Energy and joy drained, crying, hurting. . .  But I know this will pass, the infection will come and go, antibiotics will do their work and restore health to my sweet one again. 


What about the ones who suffer with no hope of healing?  The stage 4 cancer, the Parkinson's diagnosis, AIDS in Africa. . .

I am brought back to the quiet Wednesday night prayer meeting, where the small group of 30 or so meets just to talk with the Savior.  The tall lady with dark hair stands to pray and praise, "Lord I am thankful for cancer," you can almost feel the whispered gasp rise in the air.  She continues with emotion as she prays with upturned face, "I am thankful for cancer because without it my father would never have known You.  If he had died suddenly, he never would have had the time to think about eternity.  Thank you Lord, for giving him cancer so that You could give him salvation."  Collective sighs and tear misted eyes fill the room.


He knows our pain and He knows the joy that will come out of that pain.  And maybe dying isn't the worst thing that can happen to a person if it secures their eternity.  And maybe He knows how it feels to walk the road of affliction.  And maybe He put that promise in His Word to encourage us and help us through our afflictions and teach us to fully trust Him. . .


       "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love
         God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
                                                                           Romans 8:28


       "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering
        produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character
        produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love
        has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has
        been given to us."                                  Romans 5:3-5  (ESV)


God is always good and even in trouble, even in pain, even in sickness, even in death He works it 'for my good and for His glory.'  
(This old song comes to mind.)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ud_g_tWHplA&feature=player_detailpage



FOR MY GOOD AND FOR HIS GLORY recorded by The Hayes Family
Written by Rebecca J. Peck
(c) Copyright Thomas Peck Music (BMI)

VERSE I
I MUST ADMIT
THAT I DON’T UNDERSTAND
WHY GOD WOULD LET ME FACE
THIS PAINFUL CIRCUMSTANCE.
ALL I HAVE TO CLING TO IS HIS WORD AND HIS NAME,
BUT THAT’S ENOUGH,
SO I WILL TRUST.

CHORUS
IT’S FOR MY GOOD AND FOR HIS GLORY.
THIS TRIAL’S NOT THE END OF THE STORY.
THERE’S A BIGGER PICTURE GOD ALONE CAN SEE.
FAITH WILL TAKE ME THROUGH THIS SORROW,
FOR I KNOW HE HOLDS TOMORROW,
AND HE ASSURES ME
IT’S FOR MY GOOD AND FOR HIS GLORY.

VERSE II
BECAUSE I LOVE THE LORD,
HE’S PROMISED ME
HE’LL WORK ALL THINGS FOR GOOD,
AND THROUGH MY TEARS I BELIEVE
THAT HIS WAYS ARE HIGHER THAN ANY OF MY OWN.
THOUGH MY HEART ACHES,
HE MAKES NO MISTAKES.
BRIDGE
THOUGH I WOULD NOT HAVE CHOSEN
THE SUFF’RING THAT HAS COME.
I’M WILLING NOW TO SAY,
“LORD, NOT MY WILL BUT YOURS BE DONE.”


Thankful for. . .
200.  Suffering that produces endurance. . .character. . . hope
201.  Medicine you can get right off the shelves  (not so easy around the world)
202.  Sweet snuggles from my only girl
203.  Movies on the couch together
204.  Safety in the storm  (Irene)
205.  A willing husband who helps our neighbors
206.  A doctor who calls to check in on us
207.  Bringing Christ glory. . . it all goes to Him!
208.  Electricity and small doses of none (to make us thankful)
209.  Warm chili on stormy days


  
                                         

Monday, August 22, 2011

Great Day!



Today marked the first day of our homeschooling year for 2011-2012.  I was a bit nervous, didn't feel completely prepared, and wondering how the children might respond to a few changes, but I am glad to say it was a great day!  Our God is so good!  He knows our weaknesses and worries, He knows the little fears that nag us and the anxieties the come, but He can calm them all - He is our Prince of Peace.  All glory goes to Him for giving His supernatural peace, strength, and love to this little family today as we embarked on our educational endeavors.


Things are a little different this year.  We have joined a local Classical Conversations community and are looking forward to our first meeting with them, so this changed our curriculum choices.  We used Bob Jones curriculum for the most part last year and the children seemed to enjoy it and learn quite a bit, and we did decide to use their reading curriculum for our second grader, Grace again this year.  Isaac, in first grade will use ABeka reading, for a stronger phonics base.  We have chosen Saxon math (which I already love) and A Reason for Handwriting and Spelling.  For science I am reading from Apologia's Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology and having the children narrate from that.  History includes timeline cards and an American History textbook for narration as well.  I made some homemade geography notebooks for the kids, which are very simple regional maps of the United States.   Art appreciation will come from library books this year and they are taking a music class to learn simple music theory.  I am so excited about the changes we have made this year and can't wait to see how the children will grow and learn.


I have to say my favorite part of the day is how we begin our mornings.  Last year we had a Bible curriculum that we followed, but it felt too much 'like work' having a workbook for Bible time.  So, this morning we met on the couch in the schoolroom and prayed together, then we read a short children's devotion.  Then each child took a Bible (or Bible storybook) and a notebook, and they found a quiet place by themselves to talk to God.  They could read the Bible, pray, write a letter to God, or write down a list of prayer requests.  I played some soft hymns with harp music on the CD player and set a timer, so they knew when to come back to the schoolroom.  They loved it!  Isaac curled up on the couch, Grace found a corner chair in the dining room, and little Sammy looked at his Bible about half the time and then joined me in the study, so I could read it to him.  I was able to start the day in quiet peace reading on my own and praying (until Sammy joined me) and it was so refreshing!  I must say the most surprising part was when we came back to talk about what we learned about God and the children started confessing sin and saying how they wanted to do better for God.  They were sorry for being selfish and mean and wanted to be nice and share to make God happy.  What joy!  I only hope our T.A.G. (Time Alone with God) time will be as fruitful and peaceful as it was today.  Praise be to God!

I am so thankful today for. . .
190.   His presence, us drawing near
191.   candlelight and math
192.   quiet times
193.   focus and direction
194.   freshly sharpened pencils
195.   turning back brand new pages
196.   excited eyes
197.   husband leadership
198.   magnet calendars
199.   they didn't forget everything  :)


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Forgive as He has forgiven

Forgiveness comes hard when the wounds cut deep. 

When you are the one who has been hit, when you are the one who has been
demeaned, belittled. . .

When the biting lies are about you, and the character you've worked so hard
to build up is crushed with the careless words of a few. . .

When anger and rage are pointed at you, laced with screaming words. . .
When you are called names and treated unfairly with malice and hate. . .

When it is you who are the victim. . . what do you do?


What did He do?

After lashings and screamings, after being spit upon and hated, after this. . .
He stretches out His arms on a wooden cross. . .
He says, "I love you this much". . .


He forgives.

He begs the Father to forgive.

He gives His very life for us. . . the angry, screaming, sinning ones.
He loves where we have hated, He heals where we have hurt, He forgives where we have held bitterness. 


So, when He asks us to turn the other cheek (even when little brother has just hit us), He is not asking us to do anything He did not do. 

When He asks us to walk with the Roman solider 2 miles instead of just one, it is because He walked that mile first.  He has loved and given and poured out all, never despising the road, but walking it with joy.

And when He asks us to forgive, it is only because He has forgiven all already.

Because of His example and gift of salvation, we have the power in His Spirit to forgive anyone and anything.  It's the least we can do for the One who gave all.



Sunday, August 14, 2011

Covering



I love how refreshing it is to attend church and have your eyes opened to the mystery of His Word.
I believe the Father has hidden so many lessons in His revealed Word and He is just watching and waiting for us to discover them.  He wants us to know Him in a very real and deep way, so His purposeful phrasing or stories told, reveal His ways.  Only by studying, meditating, and praying can we discover His beautiful mysteries and unravel the tapestry of His story.


                            "Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made
                                     tunics of skin and clothed them."
                                                                         -Genesis 3:21

I have probably read this verse 50 times and thought nothing about it.  If I did ponder the message I may have thought, "How nice, God made them some clothes to wear from some poor animal."  Nothing too deep.  But God is intentional, He has a reason for doing things in His will and in His way. 

First, our God is a God of compassion.  Because of the fall of man into the world of sin and death they knew. . . they knew good and evil. . . and they knew they were naked.  Holy innocence lost, shame and embarrassment enter.  Mercifully, he provides clothing for the hiding, crying humanity.


Then one ponders, that God Himself caused the first deaths on earth.  The man and woman should have been the first to die, after all wasn't the punishment for eating of the tree death.  The price of disobedience was the loss of life.  But God the ever merciful one, chose life before death.  He allowed them to live for the moment, but their eventual death was sure.  Instead He picks one of the creatures to die to cover the sinning ones. 


An animal is chosen.  One of the creatures who gently walked up to Adam in the garden.  He stood there confident and trusting, allowing the man to stroke his hair, to admire the beauty of one creeping on the earth.  Then Adam gives him a name. . . a definition. . . an identity.  And the animal roams the garden still trusting in man's authority and care for the creatures.


Adam remembers the day he named this one.  How he had admired its deep eyes, his powerful muscles, and strong legs.  How he had known he was to care for these animals, to keep them in peace,  but now all had changed.  Now Adam watches as the Lord himself takes his beautiful creation aside and takes its breath from it.  Then God uses the skin meant for protection and warmth and beauty and fashions a garment for the man.  Peace is lost.  Trust is gone.  The sacrifice made for sinning man.


Now Adam bears the skin as an emblem of sacrifice.  Something once loved slaughtered on his behalf.  The blood spilt to cover his shame.


This reminds me of someone.  Someone who sacrificed His very life, gave His very blood, so that I, a sinner would be made clean, covered by grace.  His blood was spilt to cover my shame.  He had to die, so that I could be reconciled to the Father. 


Isn't it amazing how the beginning of the story and the redeeming of the story all began in the mind of God?  He knew the ultimate sacricfice would have to made for man and that the sacrifice would be His beloved Son.  That is why He shows us throughout Scripture in a tangible way, what sacrifice really is.  We see it in the garden, we see it in Isaac, in the Passover Lamb, temple offering. . .life given to cover the sins of man.  All this preparing us for the greatest sacrifice of all time.



I am thankful today for. . .
180.   the covering of His grace
182.   mysteries revealed
183.   smiling, wet, grass covered kids
184.   little arms that wrap around your neck for welcome home hugs
185.   getaways with my sweet husband
186.   dinner by the water
187.   holding hands
188.   sweet grandparents caring for little ones
189.   surprise gifts


Monday, August 8, 2011

VBS



"Did Jesus really die?"  The brown eyed girl asks as she looks up into my face at Vacation Bible School.  

"Yes, He did."  I tell her. "He had to die on the cross to pay for our sins." 

"Did it hurt?"  she asks.

Wow. . . I think, did it hurt?  How can I explain that His pain was more than anyone in the world has ever endured.  Did it hurt as they drove the nails and whipped the flesh and pressed the thorns on tender brow?  Did it hurt when friends betrayed and disciples lied and mother cried?  Did it hurt as God turned and Father forsook Son?  Oh, it hurt. . . more than we could ever know or imagine.

I tell her simply of the nails and the thorns.  I tell her of the cross as she looks at me with wide eyes. 
I tell her that He died for her.

"But that's not all,"  I whisper, "three days later He rose from the dead.  He is alive again and now He lives in heaven."

We have hope because He lives!  He has defeated death and hell!  Praise Him!
But the cross came before the crown, the pain before the praise, death before life.

"You can believe on Him and be saved," I say.

Her heart is not quite ready to open and let Him in.  But now she knows.  She knows of the love of a Savior who loved her enough to die for her.  She knows, and the seed of that knowledge I pray will grow into the fruit of salvation in her life.  I pray one day she will give Him her life, because He already gave His life for her.


Thankful for . . .
170.  Vacation Bible School
171.  Fun songs to praise Him
172.  Meeting new little ones who already want to hold your hand and sit on your lap
173.  Making crafts and memories
174.  Sign language
175.  Message giving joy
176.  Sweet tea for a wake me up in the morning
177.  The smell of new tennis shoes
178.  Faith stories



Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"A merry heart does good like a medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones."
                                                                             Proverbs 17:22


Dry bones hung around here today.  Summer boredom can creep up on me when I least expect it and change my attitude around in a matter of seconds.  I have learned too often in my life that sin breeds sin and love breeds love.  When I allow the smallest sin in my life it leads to another sin that's just a bit bigger and another bigger still until my heart and attitude and actions are sorrowfully sin'full.' 


The creeping blackness of sin usually enters my mind first, a wrong thought, a feeling of self-pity, impatience with little ones.  This is how the enemy works.  It's how he tricked Eve.  He planted a small seed of thought in her mind.  "Did God really say?"  Can He really be trusted?  That seed of doubt led to a choice that led to an action that brought on the sin of the world. 

How careful we must be with our thoughts!  The mind is very powerful and leads us to works of good or evil.  If the mind can be discplined to take captive thoughts that will lead us to harm and focus only on what is profitable for good then we can be pleasing to the Father. 

Tonight, my focus changed simply because I made up my mind to turn from ruin to joy.  My only hope is that I can be disciplined enough to do it tomorrow when life goes crazy again and frustrations come and little ones cling.  I can choose joy because I choose Him.  He is good for my heart.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Africa

$20.67 for lunch at Pizza Inn today for our family.  My husband wanted to treat us after church and we were happy to oblige.  Filling growling tummies with fresh salad, heaps of pizza, and of course dessert.  We had all gained 3 pounds by the time we headed out the door, back to our comfortable home for a nice Sunday afternoon nap.

Sunday night conviction hits.  Africa pictures and stories of mothers carrying starving babes 60 miles or more for some scrap of food the refugee camp can offer.   A music staff of ribs seen on thousands of children, but the songs played in their lives is that of poverty, drought, neglect.  We see the pictures and hear the stories, but are we moved?  Heart may fill and tears may well, but do feet go, or do hands reach deep into pockets to give?


The money comes so freely when we are seeking ourselves, looking to fill our own stomachs, paying the price they require is easy.  The distant pain pierces a little differently.  Someone else will help, we have this bill coming up, maybe later. . . But what if that were me?  What if I lay there bone thin, lips cracked from dehydration, ribs showing the sorrowful song of starvation?  What if I had given my last bit of rice to my children and the decision came to die in our home or try to walk the hot, dusty miles with no strength in hopes of reaching the camp of hope?  What if I hadn't eaten in 5 days and woke to cockroaches stuck to my mouth seeking moisture?  What if. . .


God has given me much, and much is required.  Today I will give.  In October, my husband goes.  Our sacrifice is nothing.  Men and women die everyday sacrificing their very lives for the sake of the Gospel.  These small steps of obedience, of small sacrifice draw me closer to the One who sacrificed all, who obeyed to the death.  Pray today what you can sacrifice for our Lord - time, money, yourself -  it becomes even more precious when given away.


Africa is hurting - http://www.worldvision.org/news.nsf/news/kenya-hunger-drought-200909-enews 

http://www.unicefusa.org/work/emergencies/horn-of-africa/?utm_campaign=MS%20-%20Horn%20of%20Africa%20Emergency&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=Bing&utm_term=Kenya%20drought



Thankful today for . . .
170.  food - within arms' reach, everyday
171.  air conditioning
172.  medicine
173.  my comfortable country
174.  awareness
175.  money - to give
176.  a computer, to see the world
177.  compassion
178.  workers who feed the hungry everyday
179.  guest preachers who open the eyes


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fragile Days



Time is so fleeting.
Today you are braiding your little girls' pigtails and
Tomorrow you are zipping up her wedding dress.
It flies away and no matter how hard you grasp for the wind
It blows out of your hands and is forever gone.
Make today count.
Don't forget that life's moments can't be relived.
Once this life is over there are no second chances.
The seeds you sow today will impact tomorrow when you are gone.
Take the opportunioty to nurture, love, till the fertile soil of young life.
You will never have it again.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Bubble Bursting



My new desire is to be intentional as a parent.
I must admit, I can be a bit scatter brained at times.  I am a fly by the seat of my pants kinda girl.  I don't plan well, because I forget what I've planned most of the time.  I usually make my goals for that day in the morning or the night before and complete them one day at a time.  I am terribly forgetful about deadlines and never ask me to get stamps at the grocery store because I will never return with them, even if they are on my list in bold letters and highlighted. 

Sometimes I let this spontaneous living seep over into my parenting style.  It's easier to have fun with my children than to take the time to teach them character traits.  But, the easy road is not the best road.  I have become somewhat lazy in my parenting this summer, finding distractions in entertaining my children rather than discipling them.  We find our time filled with swimming pool days and popsicle time, picnics and park play.  While this is great fun and wonderful bonding time for our family, we neglect the task of teaching. 

So, our parenting journey is taking a new turn, beginning our day in prayer and Bible study and living the Gospel through service projects the kids can take part in.  We are starting slow (because I often get excited about something and jump in too strong only to get overwhwhelmed and forget the project altogether).  We were able to make cards and bake cookies for a lady in the nursing home this week.  She was grateful for our visit and the children learned about caring for those who are lonely or hurting.  My sweet Isaac loves to hug and was hugging people all up and down the hallways, as the elderly ladies commented on his curly hair and asked for more hugs.  He was happy to give them and all three children left feeling glad to be able to bring a little cheer to others' lives in the name of Jesus.



Tomorrow, thanks to an idea from a friend, we are planning to drive around the city passing out water bottles to anyone who may be outside in the heat.  We are bursting out of the bubble we have made for ourselves and hoping to share the Good News of Christ while bringing a little joy to the lives of others.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What am I worshiping?

In our Bible lessons, we are studying with the children, we are going through the book of Exodus.  The wide-eyed child wonder is contagious as we learn and really think about the Israelites wandering through the desert, sustained on heaven sent manna, evening quail, and Elim's deep waters.  But it seems His people are ever complaining, imagining their life in Egypt when they had warm homes, plenty of food, markets full of cloth and spices - convenient living. 

Traveling through miles of dusty wilderness God stops them at Sinai's base to give them His rules for living.  Moses ascends the mountain, as the rocky giant quakes in the presence of the Lord.  Thunder, lightning, and smoke cover the Most High and Moses speaks with God.  The commandments are given and the messenger tells the Israelite nation God's laws.

"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything..."  Exodus 20:4

"Do not fear, for God has come to test you. . . so that you may not sin."  Exodus 20:20

His perfect law is sent, so that we may not sin, so that we will know right and wrong, black and white rules spoken by the voice of Almighty God.  Then Moses returns up to the mountain to gaze on Glory and receive more instructions for tabernacle worship.  The leader lingers, the people wait. . .and wait. . . and wait.  Their eyes and hearts and minds wander from the things of God.  Impatience reigns, boredom creeps in, idol thoughts quietly settle into their minds. 

"Come, make us gods that shall go before us," the people cry. Exodus 32:1

"Bring me your gold,"  Aaron replies.  Aaron - who once defied Pharoah, stood beside Moses as he led them across the Red Sea, leader of worship - and now molder of idol.

We all know this story how the chosen ones of God forsake His Word and His will and worship the golden calf.  They pour all that is precious to them into this god symbol, their gold, their sacrifices, their souls. 

I judge quickly, these chosen ones.  "You just saw the hand of God deliver you from slavery, carry you through the sea and wilderness.  You saw as He sustained you with food and water, gave you clothes and shoes that didn't wear out, and spoke from mountaintops with lightning and smoke.  What is wrong with you?  Why would you defy His command to not make any graven image?  Why would you go seeking the world when you have the Maker of the world right above you?"

Then I remember . . . I am the same.

All too often my hours are spent watching man made objects.  The world calls through television or music or the computer.  Calling to come and take pleasure, come rest awhile in comfortable delight.  Come and give your time (your life) to golden gods.

Sometimes my idols come in packages that are good unto themselves, but when they take the place of God, it is worship.  Frequently my children are given that place in my heart that should only be reserved for my King.  When my need to fulfill their desires, to lavish and not instruct them, when I love them more than my God, it is sin. 

Lately, food has been erected in my heart as an object of worship.  Without realizing it, I find myself searching for comfort in what I consume.  Ahhh...chocolate. . . who can resist?  I can and I should.  When I search for comfort in cravings and not my Creator, it has become an idol.

The list goes on and on.  Me, a chosen one, choosing not to find my strength, hope, and comfort in Him.  Idolator.  Ouch!

So here I am, an Israelite of sorts, forgetting the marvelous work of salvation and redemption the Lord has done in my life.  Forgetting how He has walked me through valleys and lavished His blessings upon me.  Forgetting to look up. . . and looking around.  Looking for something I can see or grasp in my hands to give my worship unto. 

Only when Moses returns and casts down the idol, grinds it up into dust, and makes the Israelites drink it does the idolatry end.  What a stomach ache that must have been!  And coming face to face with your own idols is a hard pill to swallow, but it must be done.  My idols must be crushed and never looked upon again with the same adoration.  Nothing is to take the place of God in my heart.  Nothing.


(repost)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why?

Question:  "Why do bad things happen to good people?"

Answer:  I have none.


I sit here now living the good.  Snacking on Starburst, sitting on padded chair in comfortable house, driving white mini van, rising with three beautiful, healthy children every morn, sleeping next to strong, working husband between Egyptian cotton sheets every night.  Life now is good.  Trouble and tragedy have visited here before and they will come again, but their visits have been short. 


Still the question remains as my heart aches for others who have been valley walking lately.  Why does the sweet young family get the cancer diagnosis of their one year old babe?  Why do father and five year old die on the water leaving lonely, widowed mother behind?  Why do car accidents come hard and fast, shaking the brain and changing the life?


I've heard many answers to the question - that's just life.  When sin entered the Garden it brought with it destruction, pain, sorrow, death.  Hurting is a part of living and the hurting comes to all, good or bad. 


But why would a good God allow suffering?  He allows it to refine us.  The purest gold is heated in the fiercest fire, to draw out the dross, the impurities rising to the top to be removed.  Suffering strips us of all, except who we are at the very core.  In the heat of the hurt we become gold.  We only realize the essence of life - love, relationship, and glory to God - when everything else is taken away.


I am reminded too of our dear Savior.  Wasn't He 'good people?'  Wasn't Christ the embodiment of perfection?  He was the ultimate example of godliness and humanity existing in whole hearted unity.  Yet, His suffering was unlike that of any other.  Living and knowing that He came to die, to be made a sacrifice, to become sin for us.  Our 'suffering servant' knew everything of pain - emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual.  Rejection by the entire religious community, thrown out of his own hometown, abandoned in His time of need by His closest followers, beaten, stripped, mocked, crucified, separated from the Father.  Our Lord knew suffering and goodness.


So, just because someone is 'good people' it does not make one immune to suffering.  I believe it invites just the opposite.  God followers are to expect trials to come because we have a very real and very evil enemy who is looking 'to kill and steal and to destroy.'  The prince of this world will throw pain our way to make us question and take away our effectiveness for Christ. 


Next time suffering comes your way, 'count it all joy,' and know that you are in good company with saints and a Savior who have endured the pain before.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Following

I am so thankful today for a pastor who opens the Word and reveals the mystery of the Gospel in new ways.
I am thankful that he doesn't gloss over the call to follow Christ.
Jesus never said the road was easy.  He said we must forsake all to follow Him.

          "He said to another man, "Follow me."  But the man replied, "Lord first
           let me go and bury my father."  Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury
           their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.  Still   
           another siad, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say
           good-by to my family."  Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to
           the plow and looks back is fit fot service in the kingdom of God."

                                                                             Luke 9:59-62  NIV

These verses always leave me a bit confused and bewildered.  These men seem on the surface that they have good intentions and a loving commitment to their families, isn't that honorable, aren't their reasons good?  But God sees the heart.  He knows the man who wants to bury his father is neglecting the necessity of now.  If obedience is not immediate it is not obedience at all. 

When I ask my own children to do something, they know I expect them to do it "all the way, right away, and with a happy heart."  (Don't Make Me Count to Three by Ginger Plowman)  The expectation is that they must do the task, whether it is brush their teeth or make their bed or put their shoes on, immediately.  We don't know if the man's father in this verse was very sick or already dead, but we do know that this man wanted to delay following Christ.  Don't I do the very same thing, He impresses on my heart a command and I just put it off or think I will get to it after I have done the laundry or played with the kids.  This is disobedience.  He does not call me to obey when I feel like it, or when I get around to it, the call of obedience comes now and I must act now.  This man did not know His chance was now to follow Christ, for the Lord was on His way to Jerusalem, to give His life on the cross.  He didn't have a couple weeks to wait around for his father to die, if he wanted to follow the Savior while he walked this earth the moment had come.


Christ's call is not easy. . .

         "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man
          has no place to lay his head.
                                                                                   Luke 9:58

His example does not show Him giving all to work 40 hours a week to use the money he earned on a big house or expensive clothes.  His example does not show Him sitting on a couch at the end of every day.  His example shows sacrifice in every definition of the word.  His example shows a man doing the work of the eternal.  His example shows immediate obedience and complete submission to the will of the Father in every step along the way.  When we follow Him we are to walk the road of sacrifice.  We are to put our hands to task, diligently doing the work of the Gospel.  Following Christ means following the will of God in the daily little things and in great circumstances.


Today, I will choose to follow Him. . . to walk in His ways. . . to sacrifice all for the cause of Christ.


I am counting my blessings today. . .

161.  A faithful and wise pastor
162.  Small group fun and fellowship
163.  Ice Cream Socials
164.  Sermon Notes
165.  Sweet Sunday School teachers who paint with little ones
166.  A day of rest
167.  Dimpled girl in seaside dress
168.  Cats who follow you on walks
169.  The peace of His promises




                                        

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Susanna

Humility is found in bending low to do the daily tasks of home.  Doing the necessary work of the ordinary out of a willing and diligent heart.  In these simple things one does not dream of accolades.  There is no audience watching you scrub the kitchen floor.  There is no applause when the children are finally cleaned and clothed and brushed and combed.  But the work is completed humbly, willingly, joyfully, as to the Lord.

These words describe one very brave lady I have been reading about lately.  Susanna Wesley was the mother of John and Charles Wesley the founders of Methodism and the Methodist Church in England, hymn writers, and defenders of the faith.  As you may know, Susanna gave birth to 19 children, 9 of whom died in early childhood.  Just that simple fact alone brings thoughts and emotions of unfathomable grief to my heart.  Imagine the love and connection a mother feels for her children, and to have their young lives taken so early, must have brought incredible burden to her soul. 

Susanna was the youngest of 25 children in her growing up years and was taught well by her pastor father and dutiful mother.  Susanna used what she had been taught to teach her own children Greek, Latin, French, Bible, and Logic.  She believed education was essential to raising godly, wise children, and schooled them every day of the week (except Sunday), for six hours each day.  She devoted her life to raising and teaching her children to believe in the Lord and trust him for salvation.

Her life was not an easy one however, with many mouths to feed and little money coming in.  Caring for the farm animals they owned along with the duties of the home and children, her life was very busy. Their home was destroyed by fire twice.  Babies constantly sick and even dying.  Susannah was often found with an apron covering her head praying to the Lord for strength. 

This strong woman and faith and conviction was diligent and disciplined in raising her children.  She took the task of growing a family seriously.  She was intentional about their education and discipline.  She humbly assumed her role as mother, educator, wife, and Bible study leader. 

In all this work, she never thought that one day the world may know who she was.  When cleaning dirty hands and faces her mind was not on inspiring others.  While teaching the languages of the Bible she wasn't aware that her sons would use this knowledge to lead thousands to Christ.  She was simply dedicated to working everyday to care for her family the best way she could.  She was simply honoring God in the little things and He gave her a great reward and legacy. 

We can see Christ when we see the lives of great women of faith.  Women like Susanna who lived their lives to glorify God and see their children come to salvation through His Son.  May we take up this task of loving, living, praying, studying, glorifying. . . and do it well, humbly, as to the Lord.



-Many facts on Susanna's life found in The Top 100 Women of the Christian Faith by Jewell Johnson.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Seed Planting

I love to read of the lives of great people of faith throughout history, because in a way their story is mine. 

It is through the conviction and passion for our Lord seen in the lives of his saints that the message has been passed through twenty centuries.  And the love and life that I live for Him will affect my children and theirs and those around me who see this great love of the Gospel.  We are all connected through our Maker, we find our center in Him. 

As Abraham's walk of faith seemed small in the beginning but spread to thousands of people in hundreds of generations, so our simple walks of faith now will inspire untold numbers for the glory of the Lord.

Be encouraged today. 
Plant small seeds. 
Water and tend them with intentional care. 
Wait. 
Then see the amazing bounty your faithfulness to Him will produce.
He will bring the harvest!
The reward of knowing and serving Him is never lost!


(Come back tomorrow as we learn of Susannah Wesley and the mission of love she planted in the souls of her children.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Broken

 "Do not think that your work does not matter. In God’s hands, it will be broken, and broken, and broken again, until all who have need of it have eaten and are satisfied."
                                                               -Rachel Jankovich


Today is a day of brokeness. 
I feel as though I am that bread that was spread out among the five thousand.

Motherhood is not easy some days.  Today was one of the broken days, giving and giving and giving.  Giving 3 meals a day to my hungry family, giving popsicles to sweaty sweet faces, giving time as I clean all the sticky waffle crumbs off the floor, giving more time as I chase the dog around the neighborhood when the kids let him out, giving haircuts, giving to a moving friend, giving time to play a new game, giving baths, giving stories, giving bedtime hugs and prayers. . . All beautful things, but sometimes the giving makes one tired.  Sometimes the giving means sacrifice of my own wants, to the needs of those around me. 

So, today even though "I'm all give out" I will thank Him that I am able to give.  I will praise Him for the blessing of giving because these little things I give are nothing compared to the greatest gift of all, my Savior.


Counting the blessings:

151.  Syrup
152.  Neighbor girls
153.  New (to us) tents
154.  Potty training complete
155.  Storytime giggles
156.  Naps with my baby boy
157.  Cool popsicles
158.  Bible study learning
159.  Faithful friends
160.  Music to soothe the soul

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Waves Crashing

"But God is the God of the waves and the billows, and they are still His when they come over us; and again and again we have proved that the overwhelming thing does not overwhelm. Once more by His interposition deliverance came. We were cast down, but not destroyed."
                                                                                                  -Amy Carmichael


We do not have to be overwhelmed by the storms of this life. 

The One who forms the gentle ripples of a stream is the same One who makes the ocean tide and the whirling whirlpool.  The Creator of all, knows all, sees all. 

He is still in control when we are not. 

He is still Sovereign even when the sickness strikes and the job is lost and the child hurts.  He still sees and knows and cares.  He cares enough to store all our tears.  He cares enough to allow the suffering, so the deliverance joy can be great.  He cares enough to walk us through it.  He cares enough to make Himself known in the very pit of despair.  Because He knows that in our weakness, His strength is made perfect. 


Storms, trials, hardships. . . they will come.

The joy comes in knowing that we never walk alone.  He is the eye in the midst.  He is the peace among the peril.


I have known Him best when walking through the valley.  I have felt His spirit more in the darkness of uncertainty than anywhere else.  My faith is strengthened when I am weakest.  That is when He works best you know, when we realize we are nothing, He is everything.  We are but a vapor, He is eternal.  So take heart, 'God is the God of the waves and the billows,' He is sovereign, and this storm may be meant to draw you closer to Himself.

                                                                                                                

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Now is the End

"We have an idea that God is leading us to a particular end, a desired goal; He is not.  What we call the process, God calls the end. . . His purpose is that I depend on Him and on His power now.  God's end is to enable me to see that he can walk on the chaos of my life just now. . . if we realize that obedience is the end then each moment as it comes is precious."       
                                                                                                                     -Oswald Chambers


'Obedience is the end.' 

How I desperately need to learn this lesson!
How often do I focus on goals, on completing my to-do lists, on just getting to the end of the day, so I can find rest and completion.

He does not work at the end.
He works right now.  Right now in the midst of screaming toddlers and broken refrigerators and laundry piles and hot weather storms. 
This moment is all we have, the only real time we can fully follow the Faithful One is now


How often do I see the chaos around and forget the peace within. 

It is only by His power and His spirit can I face the difficulty that suffocates.  He alone brings freedom and hope.  And it is in this moment that I must learn to rely fully on His power.  

"With God all things are possible."

My prayer is that I would live what I believe, to take this moment and devote it fully in obedience to His will.  In stopping to seek Him, His end is fulfilled.  Let the 'precious' moments begin. 


-

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Humility

 "Humility is timid. Write about it, talk about it, and it flees."    
                                                                        -Ann Voskamp


Humility.  What do I know of being humble?
Often I am the one who thinks I have it all figured out.
I am the one who ashamedly tells my husband that most of the time that
'I am right.'

But, humility has no capital I, humility bears no semblance of pride.
Humility lowers self to exalt others, and in doing so exalts our Lord.  

          "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,
           but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 
           Each of you should look not only to your own interests,
           but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should
           be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in the
           very nature of God, did not consider equality with God
           something to be grasped, but made himself nothing,
           taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human
           likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he
           humbled himself and became obedient to death -
           even death on a cross."

                                                    Philippians 2:3-8  NIV


Doesn't that say it all?  Doesn't the living Word of God give us the ultimate picture of humility - the Son of God crucified.

Yeshua - shaper of mountain cliffs and ocean caves, only begotten of the Most High, King of golden lighted heaven - 'made himself nothing.'
He wrapped himself in fragile skin, gave his throne of power to be cradled in the arms of a teenage girl.  Maker of life, making himself nothing. 


Seeking no power, wealth, position of authority, he came to hide himself in humility.  He was the one helping out in the kitchen at Cana's wedding (not to exalt himself, but to serve and obey even his own earthly mother).   He was the one making mud for blind men's eyes, He was the one holding the leper's hand.  He was the one washing dirty disciple feet.  He was the one bearing the cross.


His perfect example leaves me poor.  All my works, all my striving, all my 'goodness,' is as 'filthy rags.'  What I think is gold is really trash.  What I polish and cling to, is really worthless.  

The lesson is learned - I must become less, He must become more.  Serving.  Obeying - as He obeyed, 'even unto death.'  Not seeking praise or power or position, but seeking Him.  Seeking the perfect will of the Father - that is where humility lies.


-

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Freedom

I am learning to appreciate the price of freedom more and more.

The price fighting men pay.  The price of leaving their beautiful wife and sweet children behind to live the long days out, without the leading of their father.

The price of trading a country of free will and comfortable living to stay in a land consumed with unknowns, fear, and enemies.

The price of daily risking their very lives to preserve the freedoms we take for granted.

I am thankful for their willingness to serve our country.

So our family celebrates our freedom and honors those who fight for us.











 We are also grateful to the Creator of freedom, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Without Him we would never know true freedom, our bondage to sin would be fatal, and the slavery to ourselves would be our end.

Thank you Lord, for freeing us from sin and self, thank you for paying the ultimate price of Your life, so that we may live in the freedom of knowing You.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Autumn Life





Autumn.  A time of harvest.  A time of reaping what has been sown in the spring and summer season. 

Autumn brings the glory of crimson leaves, golden wheat fields, land bursting with bright fruits and vegetables.  His own creation celebrating in the wonder of seed bearing life.  Earth's coloring book filled in with the red of apples, orange on pumpkins, yellow corn, green peas and beans - beauty.


Autumn is the sunset of life.  With all of its glorious colors, ever changing reflections of light, sweetness and fulfillment in the ending of day.


I see autumn life in the ones who sowed their seed years ago.  In the faces of the ones who raised, sheltered, taught, loved me.  In the arms of those who nurtured, cared for, loved my husband as he grew.  These are bountiful years for them, seeing the harvest of their time invested in the lives of their children.  Years where the crop has multiplied with the gift of granchildren.  Years of glory and beauty.  Years that also bring a weariness.  Weary bones and muscles, tired from the growing, planting, loving years.  But in their eyes is the light of the sunset reflected so beautifully.  A sparkle of deep, rich, full lives. 


Sunsets of life.  Letting go of it all to give Him glory, to let the beauty of Christ's love shine brighter and purer and lovlier than ever before.


 "Wisdom is with aged men, With long life is understanding."                      
                                                     Job 12:12  (NASB)