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Friday, August 31, 2007

The perfect parent...

"Oh, my goodness! How many times have I told you to pick up your towel off of the floor??" My frustration shows as I grab the towel and hang it on the bathroom rack.

"And, Colin? You've gotta flush!"

My sigh is loud. I wouldn't want anyone to miss it. I quickly move from room to room trying desperately to create some semblance of order. The baby is actually happy in the bouncy seat for the time being. I am well aware that it will most likely be a very short time.

I sort the laundry and head into each child's room.

"Maddy, why haven't you put away your clothes? I asked you to do that three times earlier. You need to do something the first time I ask you! Put them away now please, neatly, and bring down your basket when you're done."

I lift the baby from his seat, get a burp and feel warm stuff running down my back. After a quick check to make sure none got on the floor, I trot downstairs, barely remembering by the time I reach the bottom to wipe off my shirt.

"Someone didn't clear their place from lunch!" I call upstairs to whomever is listening. Probably no one, I think to myself. I sigh again, put the baby on a blanket, and rub my temples.

Why, Lord, can't they remember the things I ask? Why can't they do things the first time? I repeat myself over and over and yet I might as well be talking to the pot rack.

I know how you feel, God answers.

You do?

Yes. Remember last week when I told you to hold your tongue? How many times have I said that to you?

Oh, now you're making this about me? No fair.

Or what about the times I've asked you to not be so sensitive? That's a tough one for you.

You're taking the wind out of my sails now, God. I know I'm not perfect.

I'm only asking you to guide them gently. Shepherd them as I do you. They will learn more by your example than your stern words.

You're the perfect parent, God. Just be with me and teach me...

That's all I wanted to hear. You got it.

"Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." Prov. 16:3

Come visit me at my blog home, Fruit in Season.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Love In War

My brother joined the LA National Guard just months after his high school graduation. He graduated from boot camp and was only home for 2 days when he received the news that he was going to Iraq. His orders were to report to Ft. Hood in Texas where he would begin training with the rest of his unit. He would then go to Ft. Irwin for additional training before he deployed. He would be serving a one year tour in Baghdad.

My brother gave His life to the Lord at the tender age of 12. He began faithfully seeking God and attending church with us. Then, at a weekend retreat, he had a very bad experience. He never stopped loving God or seeking Him but he didn’t want to go to church anymore either. We never stopped praying for Him and he never stopped seeing the hand of God in things. One of the most profound events to take place in our lives happened while he was in uniform.

He called me to say “hi” and “I’m OK” but I heard something else in his voice. I knew something was weighing heavily on his mind and I began to question him. “How was your day?” I asked, only to hear him reply with “fine”. I knew he wasn't telling me everything so I asked how he was feeling. Again he said that he was fine. I then tried one more time. “Did anything interesting happen today?”

There was silence. The only noise I heard was the static caused by the bad connection. I urged him to speak with an ever enticing “hmmm?”

“Well,” he said, “I don’t exactly know how to explain it.”

“Just tell me what happened” I pleaded.

“Well, today we were in a gun fight and my battle buddy starting making some bad moves. I motioned for him to change position and get out of the line of fire. The dude didn’t budge. I started yelling at him. I saw him trying to shoot but he had the safety on and nothing was happening. He wouldn't keep his head down, he didn't go for another weapon, and he wouldn't listen to me! They were moving in on us and I knew what was about to happen but he wouldn’t listen. I kept yelling at him but he wouldn’t listen!”

“Awe gosh sweetie, I’m so sorry. What happened to him?” I questioned.

“Well he got killed. I didn’t protect him. It was my job to keep him alive and I didn’t! I was too busy pointing out what he was doing wrong. Now I have to write a letter to his parents explaining why their son is dead. It’s my fault, how am I supposed to explain this to them?”

I could hear the hurt and panic in his voice. I wasn’t really prepared when I heard this so honestly I had no idea what to say. I wanted to comfort him but all I could do is buy time till I thought of something appropriate to say. So I asked him why he thought it was his fault. His reply was like a word from God.

In a distraught tone of voice he answered, “It’s my fault because instead of protecting my brother I was pointing the finger at him. I should have just shot the enemy myself instead of yelling at him to do it. I was in range. I had the authority to do it but I didn’t. I just kept pushing him to do it. He was in a vulnerable situation. He was confused and unsure of himself and I made it worse by what I did. I should have just shot the enemy and talked to him about his mistakes after the fact. But nooooo, I was too busy being Mr. Know It All.”

That is what he said. But you know how God is… here is what I heard:

We should never point fingers at our brothers and sisters when they are in a weak frame of mind. We must lift them up, protect them, intercede for them, and rebuke the enemy on their behalf. When they are stronger, then we can discuss how they could have better handled the situation. We are in this together. We are to be united in the body of Christ. When one falls we must lift him up. I don’t ever want to have to explain to God why one of his children fell away and all I did was continued to point the finger at him. We must choose not to be self righteous.

“Hello?” he said. “Uh, are you still there?”

“I’m sorry. Yes, I’m here.” I replied in an almost confused sort of way.

“What’s wrong? You know it was just a training exercise. He didn’t really die. I mean, I really do have to write a letter to his parents as part of the exercise and that more than anything has me thinking. Only the Sgt. will read it but it just really bothers me because it could have been real. It could have really happened. I don’t want to be that way in an actual war zone. I never want to have to explain that to someone's father, you know?”

“Yes. Yes, I know. I just really got a revelation from God from what you told me. It was quite the eye opener.”

I explained it to him and he too received the revelation immediately. It’s a good thing we did too. He carried this with him to Iraq. His unit prayed before every mission. His team was just that… a team. They stood together. They prayed together. They watched each other’s back. They all came home alive.

Months later I too had this revelation brought back to memory at a time when I needed it most. A friend of mine was in a tough situation. He had fingers pointed at him in all directions. What he was being accused of was something that I wholeheartedly detested but I remembered what God showed me. I prayed for my friend and stood by him when others cast him out of their lives and out of their church. I fought the enemy on his behalf. I loved him and stood by him when his own family wouldn’t. Today God is using him in a mighty way to reach the lost and hurting.

This world is not perfect now and it never will be. People will make mistakes. We are all in this together. We are the body of Christ. We can’t expect others to meet expectations that we can’t meet ourselves. In order to conquer the enemy for the sake of the people we must fight the war with love, selflessness, and integrity.

I'd love for you to visit me at my personal blog: In Pursuit of Proverbs 31

In Pursuit of Proverbs 31

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I can cause such a stink

Too often I find myself relating to the mother in this cute yet smelly story.

The mother of six children walked into her home one day to see all her children huddled together in a circle. She approached them to see what had evoked such intense interest, and she could hardly believe her eyes.

To her horror, in the middle of the circle of children were several baby skunks. She immediately screamed at the top of her voice, "Children! Run, run, run! Out, out, out!"At the sound of their mother's alarmed voice, each child quickly grabbed a baby skunk and headed for the door. The screaming and panic, of course, set off the instinctual danger alarm in the skunks, and each of them quickly dispelled its horrible scent. Each child and the house itself were doused with an aroma that lingered for weeks, regardless of intense scrubbing and use of disinfectants.

Oh, I have been the mother in this story more times than I would like to admit. I have reacted to a situation with a scream or harsh voice and caused such a stink that sometimes it takes days or weeks to rid itself. The smell of skunk is all too familiar after living in the foothills for five years.

Most often my children receive the worst of my reactions when I am tired, preoccupied, or in a hurry. Yesterday afternoon I had one of those moments. I was tired. My decision to rise early had caught up with me. I was preoccupied with all that needed to happen at the same time. Dinner prepared, two kids to sporting practice, another to a musical audition, my seven year old son's one missing cleat (which I knew had been played with and worn by a two year old) and to top things off the realization that the last time we saw his brand new soccer ball was on Saturday at his brother’s football game in another town. So, here I was like the mother in this story ranting and raving through the house when suddenly I got a whiff, it wasn’t pleasant but I could smell the stink.

I imagined each of my children running for cover and the stink of my words lingering with them not only for days, but weeks and even years. I stopped (this time), "Lord please help me," took a deep breath and said to myself, “what does it matter if we don’t eat dinner until later, or if someone is late, or if he wears tennis shoes to practice and honestly who cares about a silly ball which is so easily replaced. My kids are not. And would you believe that we found the lone ranger cleat, everyone made it to practice and auditions in one piece, my kids did not go hungry and Wal-mart sells soccer balls.

Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18

In Him...Chris

Please visit Chris at her personal blog Come to the table

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Violet or Stink Bug?

Philippians 1:6 “… he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Mark Twain once said, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”

I read that about three times. Such a complex image: so sad, and yet so colorful and aromatic, so … Christ-like—not because Christ was a fragile victim, but because he was so filled with the Holy Spirit that he radiated the essence of the Father even in crucifixion.

I realized that when someone crushes me, I emit an aroma similar to that of a ... stink bug.

Unlike the stinker, however, I may not reek as soon as I'm crushed, but by and by, the foulness will circulate.

For example, if you offend me, I may not speak to you for a while, just long enough to communicate my anger and punish you a little.

Or perhaps I will not come to your defense when someone criticizes you. I may insinuate that you’re a less-than nice person, not to be trusted. Or maybe I will cut you out of my life entirely.

Here's a creative stink: Just for spite, I could become “anti” to the thing about which you’re “pro”: Recently I read about a high-profile divorce where the ex-husband said the first thing he did when the divorce was finalized was flip on every single light in the house and leave them burning. Why? Because his ex-wife was a staunch eco-activist!

What? Could a Christian respond in such ungodly, immature ways?

I'm afraid so. But, because I know that in following Christ there is no room for this kind of behavior, I often sacrifice my right to outward retaliation. Notice I said, "outward," as in "observable by others." Instead, I may hide resentment in my heart. This secret, private grudge allows me to maintain a semblance of holiness for the outside world while relentlessly punishing you (a deception, of course).

Oh, is this an ugly confession, or what?

I’ve been thinking about forgiveness lately because I’ve noticed that there are one or two people who evoke visceral responses when their names come up or if I see them across a crowded room or remember some grievance. It happens before I can even think.

When I recoil, I am reminded that real forgiveness is a process. True, there was a point in time that I made a conscious decision, through the Holy Spirit’s prompting and power, to let go of the offense. But sometimes I find I hit speed bumps if I proclaim, “All is forgiven” before I’ve done the honest, gut-wrenching admission and submission before the Father. And other times I find that memory is a powerful thing, and I must begin again to forgive.

There have been people I’ve completely forgiven, and those I haven’t, and I can feel the difference, if I’m honest. I have come to the conclusion that there are some I will probably have to forgive on a daily basis because my flesh so badly wants to listen to the accuser, Satan.

This article is “messy.” I feel like I’ve rambled a bit, but in a way, that’s appropriate because forgiveness can be messy; it can meander and get stalled and fall apart.

The key for me in combating temptation to hang on to unforgiveness (or any sin) is taking my eyes off of the offender, off of my own broken heart, and looking directly at Jesus, who gave up every right to hold us forever guilty. He loved us in spite of our rejection and mistreatment of him, in spite of every sin man would conceive and relish in embracing. He loved us in spite of … fill in the blank to infinity!

Therefore, when I am not confident my ability to let go, or in the completion of forgiving another, I bring the offense, the offender, my sinful heart and my forgiving process before his throne, and I know that he who began good work in me will be faithful to complete until the day Jesus returns or until I enter eternity, when all crooked things will be made straight, for his glory.

If you are struggling with forgiveness today as I am, join me in turning your eyes toward Jesus and praising him with me as the things of earth grow strangely dim—because He is truly worthy!

Please visit my personal blog at 2nd Cup of Coffee.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Hear the Beauty

I carried our wind chimes in from the back porch; one of the very last items to be packed. Three solid days of careful thought when labeling boxes "apartment" or "storage" had resulted in an empty and echoing house.

As I firmly shut the door, the flapping of the tattered roof of the ancient barn behind the parsonage traveled across our yard and followed me inside. The chimes in my hand rang out and I felt a tugging at my heart for the small town we were leaving. The cows meandering through the pastures, the wheat fields bending in the hot wind blowing over the mountains, the deer bounding through meadows and delighting us on our family bike rides.

This is the only home Eliana has ever known. It is a place where my sons learned to relate to the sweet people who were ten times their age. Where a deeper relationship was forged between my husband and myself, for at times it surely seemed we were the only two people our age for miles.

It will always be so. Home. I did not want to leave.

Eliana came running as the beautiful notes tinkled across our the empty room; I knelt in front of her and watched her face as she breathed, "Ooooooh!" My sister, Maddie, knelt next to her, and we smiled across the little blonde head at her obvious delight.

Then her dimpled fingers reached out and clasped the nickel-plated chimes, and the notes ceased. At her confused and disappointed look, I laughed and gently loosed her fingers, saying, "No, Sunshine, you must let go to hear the pretty!"

The words echoed again in my heart as she settled onto her bottom and clapped joyfully at the music that once again filled the living room.

Yes, Beloved, you must let go to hear the beauty.

Here we are. We have left the tiny town that brought us such joy, led us through such growth these last two years. But my heart delights in the future for that small community; the hope that once again infuses their hearts, thanks be to God, not us.

The notes ring out of my heart in delighted anticipation for what the Lord has in store for us here, in our new home. I've let go my tight grasp that stifles the beauty He longs for me to hear.

And oh, it sounds lovely.

(Listening to and inspired by more beauty over here... )

You are always welcome at my little place - A Path Made Straight

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

He is Near!

I don’t have anything witty or cleaver to share with you today. You will find nothing profound or insightful in the story I am about to tell. Well, perhaps or perhaps not. Let God lead your heart.

This is a cornball story describing an ordinary day, a gal and her dog, and her amazing God. You may roll your eyes when you find out what I am talking about. Hang with me. The ending is good.


Every morning I go for a walk-and-talk with Jesus. I usually take along my dog, Peanut. He is a mutt, Chihuahua-Daschund mix. We head out the door, peanut wearing his red leash, I am in shorts, and carrying a plastic bag. Dog walkers know what we use this for. *grin*

We walk a route in the common areas of our neighborhood. It is a wide loop with beautiful pathways with terrific landscaping. I find myself praising God most mornings as I take in the beauty of nature.

Thursday morning, as we started walking our loop, little Peanut decides it is time. He, ahem, hunches and does his thing. I reach into my pocket; the plastic grocery bag is gone. Rest assured I am a responsible pet owner. I don’t want to leave the evidence lying about.

Along our path there are several doggie boxes containing plastic bags for this kind of an accident. I can pick one up and scoop the doo-doo on the way home.

The entire time I am walking, I am praying about writing a post for today. I have made five attempts to write something and I have deleted them all. I am more than a little anxious. I pray, asking the Lord for the words. I talk to Him about my writers block for 30 minutes. Walking and talking. I completely forget to check the doggie boxes for bags.

I turn the final corner of the walk and remember the dog mess is ahead. I realize I do not have a bag in my hand and there is not a dog box in sight. So, I utter these words, “Lord, could You provide a plastic bag within the next 50 feet.”

I keep walking.

I see something ahead in the grass.

Could it be?

I walk about 20 feet and there on the grass next to the sidewalk is an Albertson’s shopping bag. I hesitate. I reach down and pick it up carefully. It is wet and covered with freshly mowed grass but I shake it out and find it is clean, whole and exactly what I need.

I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or shout, “Hallelujah! It’s a miracle.” I start thanking God. I could almost feel Him standing next to me. He whispered in my ear, “I am closer than you think.”

Peanut and I begin walking again. I am still in shock or awe or something. I use the Albertson’s bag and exercise my pet-owner responsibility. I scoop the poop. We walk it to the can in the park and start home.

I continued praying about what just took place as we walked down our street toward home. I felt God prompting me. I said something like this, “Lord, I can’t write about dog poop.”

“Lynn, you asked me for the words.”

“Yes Lord, and what a story it is.”

“Don’t forget what you learned today.”

“I won’t Lord”

I am closer than you think.
I am near.
I listen, I hear.
No need to fear.
I am near.
–Sincerely, The Lord

By the way, I found my dropped bag a few doors away from my house as I was walking home. God set up this amazing encounter the minute I began to pray.

Please visit me at: Spiritually Unequal Marriage.

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Friday, August 24, 2007

"Until He Was Strong...."

"For he (Uzziah) was marvellously helped, till he was strong."
2 Chronicles 26:15

I will never forget the days when my husband and I were away at college. These were the years when God began giving us ministry 'mileage'. In a movie about Blues Music, this was a term used to describe the tough life experiences that translated into an authentic blues song. You can't sing about being broke and hungry unless you have been broke and hungry!

When we were in college, we were broke but thankfully never quite hungry. After my oldest son was born, we felt led by God for me to become a stay-at-home mom. This was a huge faith step since Luke only made $400 per month. Yes, girls, per month. After our bills were paid, gas was put in the car, and groceries were bought, we typically had around $4 to last until the next payday.

Can I tell you I wouldn't trade those days for $1 million dollars? Why? Because just like in the life of Uzziah, we were always marvellously helped. I distinctly remember a time when our car was broken down and in the mechanic's shop. We needed $150 to fix it with no prospects of getting the money in sight. We told no one but instead called upon the promises of God to provide our needs. The day we were to pick up the car, a plain white envelope was in our campus mailbox with exactly $150 inside. There were many other instances of this same kind of miraculous provision that can only be explained by a wondrous work of the Lord on our behalf.

Though our income is a bit more than $400 a month now, realistically, we are still a family of six surviving on one income in a two-income society. Living in the materialistic age we do, if I am honest I will tell you sometimes Satan dangles the world in front of my eyes and I long for it - especially if it involves a big house, a new car that doesn't reek of chicken nuggets, and yes, a great pair of shoes.

But then I think, "If I had all the world could offer, would God have the opportunity to marvellously help?" If His own people are not content to dwell in circumstances that reveal His wonders, how will His fame spread? Somebody will be famous alright - it will either be us or Him. And because God will not share His glory with another, the name we make for ourself may be one we'd prefer not have.

Paul said it best in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

"But He [God] said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

No matter the source of your hardship, God still seeks to work wonders through it! Only our weakness provides the proper contrast for God's strength. If His people cease to be marvelled by His works, how will anyone else be? I am so grateful for the life I have been given that continuously has me looking forward to a God Show. When is the last time He 'marvellously helped' you?

Dear Father - I will never get over bragging on Your goodness to my family! Oh how I praise you for provision, completeness, and strength. If I weren't weak, why would You need to be strong? Less of me - More of You. Amen.

I would love for you to visit my personal blog, The Preacher's Wife.

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Alisa Hope Wagner

Alisa Hope Wagner gave her life to Jesus at the age of 14 in a small Baptist church in South Texas. All she wanted was to be loved, and she found that love through Jesus Christ. Alisa has never felt unloved since that day!
Alisa has her BA degree in English from A & M - Corpus Christi and her MA degree in English - Applied Linguistics from the University of Houston. She has taught English to every age group: elementary, junior high, high school and college.

Alisa is a full-time mother who is able to write while raising and homeschooling her three vivacious children. She has a God-given passion to write, and she loves to write about what the Holy Spirit is currently teaching her. Alisa has published devotionals, articles and poetry; and she is continuously trying to reach people for Christ with her writing. She has also written her first novel and is currently seeking publication.

Alisa is the chief editor of the Granola Bar Devotional and is always looking for new ways to help people share their faith story. She loves her church, Bay Area Fellowship, and is a member of the JANES Women's Ministry core team. She is honored to teach a discipleship program called One on One with God and enjoys watching God change the lives of His daughters.

Alisa married her high school sweetheart and has been married for over ten years. Her husband is the greatest supporter of her writing ministry. Alisa's twin-sister is her biggest motivator. Alisa's two sons and daughter offer her constant joy and continuous lessons on the Fruits of the Spirit.

Alisa's true hope with her writing is that through it people are brought closer to God!

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

When you struggle with doubt...

Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist. He was a Priest and served God blamelessly, and unfortunately Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth did not have any children. They had prayed and prayed a long time for God to bless them with a child.

To put into perspective the position of Zechariah, he was the Billy Graham, Beth Moore, or ______ (insert name) of their time. He was a man who followed God as closely as a person on earth could.

One day Zechariah was performing his duties as Priest by offering incense in the temple while people were praying on the outside. An angel of the Lord visited Zechariah and said,

"Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth
will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy
and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be
great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented
drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the
people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on
before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the
fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to
make ready a people prepared for the Lord." Luke 1:13-17 NIV

What was his reaction?

Was it one of great joy because his prayers were heard and answered?

No, it was one of doubt. Zechariah responded by saying, “How can I be sure of this?” (vs18) This may seem like a logical reaction, but Zechariah was in the hollies of hollies, in the presence of God and he questions the words given to him. The angel responded by saying:

"I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak
to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able
to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which
will come true at their proper time." (Luke 1:19-20)

My version is Gabriel thinking of all the nerve! And then he politely says, " Zechariah, don't you know who I am? I am Gabriel, one sent by God himself, but yet you doubt! For because of your silent!" (these humans can be so impossible!) Ok all joking aside.

With Zechariah’s background he knew about angels, he knew in the Old Testament they came and brought good news. God called Zechariah to have faith and trust. Many times we have the knowledge of God’s word but we need to make the journey through faith to trust. Trust says logically you have the knowledge, but faith is putting that trust in action. One is in your head the other in your heart.

For example, we share a confidence with a friend, we have the head knowledge that this is a close friend, but once you share your confidence you need to have faith to trust that the confidence will not be shared.

I love the story of Zechariah this story gives me hope. If Zechariah can doubt or question then I to have hope that God won’t give up on me. God silenced Zechariah because of his doubt, but through that God was restoring him back to the faith he once had. Circumstances can be God leading us to trust him, but we can only trust through faith. With Zechariah it was in the stillness and silence that God was cultivating and growing his faith.

To put this in contrast, soon after this happened there was a little girl who an angel came to visit and told her she would bear a child, and he will be the long awaited coming Messiah. Mary had great faith so she did not question the angel.

I am not implying Zechariah did not have great faith, but he did doubt and God restored him. This story is showing that Godly people can struggle with doubt, but God will work to restore those who doubt back to faith. Praise God he does not give up on the ones who love Him.

You can visit me at my personal blog: Laurel Wreath

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

In A Blink of An Eye

“For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” ~ Matthew 25:42-43 (ESV)

When I worked at the church office, many people stopped by to request help. Help for food or for shelter. Some days it was really bad, especially during the summer months. Most of the time I felt compassion, but some days I was ‘bothered’. Before you get upset, let me explain where the ‘bother’ comes in…I didn’t know when people were lying to me. Did they really need the money/food voucher to buy baby-formula or were they looking to get the next bottle of gin. Yes it happened that those vouchers were ‘converted’ to alcohol or even drugs…

The other day I was thinking back to the days when I was short--I had no time to be ‘bothered’ with the needs of others. Did I ever take the time to truly listen to their stories? Why were they on the street? Why don’t they have a job to pay for food or rent? I have to admit that I only listen to the ones that had children. It broke my heart having a family standing in the church office begging for money.

But what about the transit that stopped in? Yes, he might have smelled bad, but I am sure he was not always a transit. I am certain at one point he had family—he had a house and job. To tell you the truth, I wish I would have asked him why he was living on the street. He might have been a veteran who never found his way back into society. He might have been really sick—couldn’t pay the medical bills. So now he has to leave on the streets because they took his home and family. I will never know since I never ask to hear his story.

How about the young woman who was a drug addict? Why was she so broken deep down inside? Why did I never ask her to tell me her story? I am certain that she experienced something terrible in her life—her way ‘out’ were drugs…
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” ~ Matthew 25:35-36 (ESV)

Some days I forget how much my Lord has blessed me. I never had to go hungry, I never had to sleep under the stars (except by choice); I have always been healthy. I have to realize thought that all this can change in a blink of an eye…

“Lord of Heaven and Earth. I am asking You today to open my heart to the needy. Open my ears to hear their story. Help my to show compassion as You have shown me. Lord, I know that You have blessed me beyond words. Thank you, Lord…In the precious name of Jesus ~ Amen.

You can also find me at my personal blog Sting My Heart

This devotion was in part inspired by the song “The Twenty-First Time” by Monk & Neagle

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Those Amazing Gifts We Share

Our church just finished off another week of vacation Bible school, this year it was known as "Avalanche Ranch." It was time to saddle up the old doggy and send the sheep into the pasture. But it was wonderful while it lasted.

I couldn't help but notice the decorations this year, and while I did I wondered who had spent the countless hours putting it all together. The cross with glowing Christmas lights, the forrest of trees, the sherrifs office, the barn, the hay bails, and the wildlife that looked all too life-like for words. It was amazing.

What was even more amazing was the dedication that the crew leaders put in each year. Several adults spend their vacation time teaching our children so they will have a lasting reminder that God is alive. And those who don't work full time--stay at home moms like me--are also there doing their thing, or better said--sharing their gift.

It takes all kinds of people to make a lasting impact. There's the fun loving bald guy who encourages the children to break down the walls of Jerico, as they charge through the field and grass stain their knees, but there's also the grey haired woman in the kitchen preparing the snack. All working for the glory of God.

Outside the walls of "Avalanche Ranch" life is much the same in the family of God. No matter where you are in your life, sister--remember this...God can use your gifts to make a lasting reminder in someone's life. A reminder that God is alive. There's days when we might wonder why we're just a housewife...just a mother...just a friend, but average women might be "just" what God calls us to be, and there's nothing average about being used by the Lord! Whether we're serving at the pulpit, in the kitchen or while tumbling in the grass, we are servants of the Most High King.

From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. ~ Ephesians 4:16

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He Hears

"M-O-O-OM! You're not listening!"

Have you ever been snapped back into reality with those words? I have! Without meaning to, I can drift off to... somewhere else... while my kids are trying to tell me something important. (Well, important to them, anyway!) Many times they assume I'm not listening, but really I am. I'm just not giving them the answer they want! Either way, what they are communicating is that it's incredibly frustrating to feel that you're not being heard.

Aren't we the same way?

Editorials are full of people writing in to have their voices heard on a myriad of topics. Customer service phone lines are busy all day long, taking calls from people who need to be heard, and need some changes. The blog-splosion in recent years attests to the fact that many of us have something to say. Comments affirm us because we feel we've been heard. The evidence that we've been heard in our voting, in our committee meetings, our PTA/PTO boards and church governing bodies, is seeing things change. "Finally! They heard what we were saying and made some changes!" I suppose there's no more frustrating feeling than being in a dire situation and feeling like no one hears your cry for help, especially someone in a position to offer assistance.

How much more frustrating is it, then, to feel that God Himself isn't listening? It's one thing to be ignored by fallible humans, but to pray and pray (to the One Who controls all things!) for a situation to change, and feel month after month, year after year, that nothing is changing. In fact, it's getting worse. Where is He? Doesn't He care?

No one understood this more than the prophet Habbakuk, who cried out to God,

"How long, O LORD, will I call for help,
And You will not hear?
I cry out to You, "Violence!"
Yet You do not save." (Habakkuk 1:2)

In other words, "God, why aren't you DOING something??"

I love God's answer:

"Look among the nations! Observe!
Be astonished! Wonder!
Because I am doing something in your days--
You would not believe if you were told." (Habakkuk 1:5)

Oh, God hears. Habakkuk thought He didn't, but the fact that God gave him an answer proved that He did! And we can be assured that He hears us today. In fact, the answer He gave Habakkuk is an answer for us, too. The verbs "look" and "observe" were plural. Down here in my neck of the woods we would say, "Y'all look! Y'all observe!" We're part of that "y'all." He wants us to know He is doing something in our days. It may seem like He's not at work in certain situations we've observed or in our own circumstances, but He most certainly is. He doesn't "drift off" like we do. I love knowing that!

If there's a situation in which you've been waiting for God to work, and it doesn't seem that He is, keep praying. BUT, while you're continuing to pray, try shifting your focus to some areas in which God's work is clearly evident. You don't have to look far. He is doing a mighty work of regeneration in hearts and lives of folks in your church, workplace, and all over blogland, and the changed lives are obvious! He is doing big things in Asia, Africa, in inner city areas, and all over the globe. Go to some missions websites and see what He's up to. It'll knock your socks off! Take that opportunity to praise Him for what He's doing, and thereby transform your worry to worship. He's at work in your situation, too.

I once heard a pastor discuss the difference between grumbling to God and lamenting to God. (Hint: one is okay, and one isn't!) We know what grumbling is, and the truth is that while we may point a finger at those Israelites for doing it, there are three more fingers pointing back at us because we do the same thing! But, the Psalms are full of "laments," honests questioning of God. What's the difference? The explanation I heard was excellent:

Grumbling calls God's character into question
Lamenting calls God's character into action.

So, what can we do when we feel ignored by God? Praise Him for the acts we can see, and take that as evidence that He's working in ways that we can't see. Rather than question His character, let's call it into action. Let's pray His character over situations that need His intervention. He IS at work. All the time. He is doing something in our days that we would not believe if we were told!
He hears.

Cyndi blogs at One Day More and Mater Magistra.

For more study on the book of Habakkuk, visit Revive Our Hearts to read or listen to the series titled, "Habakkuk: Moving from Fear to Faith."

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Right or Holy?

My family is so lucky they have me. I shudder to think of their floundering about should I happen to disappear. I mean, seriously, without me they wouldn't know the right way to fill the dishwasher, the right way to get to any destination, the right way to say prayers at night, or the right way to organize the pantry. I happen to be blessed with the precise knowledge for performing perfectly every task in our home and then some. Nothing would be done correctly without my presence.

Yikes! When I put it that way, I don't sound very pleasant, do I?

And yet, I have been infected since birth with a very serious personality disorder.

Right-itis: n, a condition common in, but not exclusive to, first-born children that attacks the infected person with an unquenchable need to be right at all times. It often results in conflict with family members. It is not contagious in peer groups but can be spread down generational lines.

I come from a proper Italian family and can argue with the best of 'em. I also do a mean "I told you so...". I enjoy being right, don't you?

As I've gotten older, however, a question keeps knocking at my door:

Would I rather be right, or would I rather be holy?

I don't think I can be both.

Oh, sure, I can be right some of the time. I can even be right most of the time and achieve holiness. But I need to shed the prideful desire to show others that I'm right like a snake sheds its skin. It might take some wriggling and rubbing against something rough, but eventually I will leave it behind.

What, then, does holiness look like?

Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing in God's judgement-hating what He hates-loving what He loves-and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word. He who most entirely agrees with God, he is the most holy man.

Sure, I might just happen to know the best way to the ice cream shop in rush hour traffic, but what does that matter? Is showing frustration when no one puts the toys away in their correct bins going to bring me closer to "being of one mind with God"? I don't think so.

I need treatment for my condition. Treatment that is eternal. I need Jesus.

"This RIGHTeousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus."
Romans 3:22-24

Come visit me at my blog home, Fruit in Season.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Tests, Trials, and Faith

There are definitely times when our faith is tested. I know for me this is one of those times….

My wedding is three weeks away and there is still a lot to be done. I have had to depend on Ryan to get things done lately because my grandmother is in the hospital with an enlarged heart, irregular heartbeat, and pneumonia. She will have a pacemaker put in on today (Friday morning). We have been in this hospital for four days now. I miss my boys. My grandma is miserable here. She wants to go home. It is hard to stay positive when I am hearing so much negativity from her all day long. She is not a happy patient. ;o)

I don’t think either of us has slept more than three hours a night since we have been here. It is taking its toll on us.

I am grateful that I was there when she had the arrhythmia episode and passed out. She quit breathing and nearly went face first into the tile floor. I can’t believe how much God sets things up in our lives. My brother “just so happened” to come over that night to get his eyebrows tweezed (yes, my muscular, military, rough, manly man brother has his eyebrows tweezed by his sister). I can’t say how happy I am that he was there. Because of his military training he knew exactly what to do.

I know that God has a good bit of revelation to give me through all of this. I am just not seeing the big picture right now. I can’t wait to write about it when I do!

There are many more trial going on right now but God is ultimately in control. I can’t tell you how happy I will be to finally be married, have a home again, and go on that much desired honeymoon. Have a great weekend ladies!

Romans 8:28
“All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

I'd love for you to visit me at my personal blog: In Pursuit of Proverbs 31

In Pursuit of Proverbs 31

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Are you heading somewhere?

I love books! Recently I was straightening up and organizing my bookshelves so that I could find things a little more easily when I came across a little book I read about five years ago. It was Stormie Omartian's book, Just Enough Light for the Step I'm On - Trusting God in the Tough Times. Just as sights, sounds, and even smells can stimulate memories of days gone by, books I have read remind me of seasons and places I have walked with the Lord. This book was no different. I quickly thumbed through hi-lighted pages and markings I had made in the columns. I wrote verses to memorize inside the cover and stapled some notes to the back cover describing the place I had traveled while reading through this book. In Chapter ten, Stormie describes a wilderness experience she had in her own life which almost perfectly paralleled the place that I was currently walking in.

Below is what she had shared (in italics) and my own notes I had written about this season of my own life.

"When God is taking us to a place we've never been before, we envision that it's going to be better than where we are. And ultimately, that's true. But often we have to go through a wilderness to get there.
God has a purpose for the wilderness, but it's hard to see it when we're in it. It can be frightening if we don't know what to expect. The most frightening thing about it is the thought that this may be our final destination."

When God called my husband and I to leave Orange County and move to the foothills of Northern California, it was one of the most difficult things I had ever done in my life. I had to leave what I loved and what was familiar to me to go where everything seemed foreign. Not that one culture was better or worse than the other, but they were so extremely different from each other. I can distinctly remember the first time I drove down a dirt road. At the age of thirty seven I had never driven on dirt, blacktops yes, dirt no! There were so many new things to learn and even a vocabulary that was totally foreign. I had to become familiar with a wood burning stove and what it meant to have well water and a septic tank. There were lots of new discoveries like the sight of deer crossing through our front yard, squirrels everywhere and even the stars and darkness of the night was new. I was a city girl. I felt like I was in the middle of a foreign land. It was as though I had left Egypt and arrived in the wilderness.

Even though there was a lot I did not miss about Orange County, there were many things that I still held on to. And even though the foothills were probably one of the most beautiful places in the world, so much was missing for me. I felt like an alien. And, just like the Israelites did when God led them out of Egypt, I grumbled and complained.

"Oh, for some fish and a new pair of shoes like we had back home!" they complained.

"Oh, for the restaurants, amusement parks, and beaches I used to go to!" I moaned.

I didn't know then that although the wilderness may seem like nowhere at the time, it is somewhere if that's where God wants you. For it's there He will prepare you for the good thing He is about to do in your life. It's there you will be thoroughly convinced that you won't get anywhere or accomplish anything lasting without Him.

At the time I did not know how long I would live in this place. All I knew is that I was somewhere. I was to leave behind the familiar, the comfortable, the past successes and accomplishments. The foothills is where God took me to get Egypt out of my heart. He wanted to separate me from all that I craved, so that all I craved was Him. God aimed me in a new direction. I had to let go of what I had always known, be willing to embrace the unfamiliar and trust that He will sustain me on the journey.
God took the Israelites through the wilderness because taking them the direct route meant they would have to fight the Philistines. "Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, 'Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt'" (Exodus 13:17) God knew that the Israelites would have been too afraid at that point to trust Him to fight their battles for them, so He took them on a different route. He took them and me somewhere.

Is your nowhere leading you to God's somewhere?

It's not where we are in life that matters, but Who is with us. Stormie Omartian

In Him...Chris

visit Chris at her personal blog Come to the Table

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Diet is a word packed with a lot of meaning for many people. Many of us have struggled at some point in our lives with body image and dieting. I am currently approaching a 40 pound weight loss, as I began an exercise and healthy eating plan in April. That journey has taught me a lot.

A little history about me. I was always the skinny, athletic girl growing up. I never had to watch what I ate until after I had kids. Not that I always ate healthy--I just did not have to. After having two children and not making a concerted effort to lose the weight, I had crept up about 50 pounds from my college years of playing volleyball.

This was difficult on my self image and more devastating to me spiritually. Food had become a stronghold for me, something Satan was using to defeat me in many ways. I am not saying that you have to be at a certain weight, but I was being unhealthy physically and using food in an unhealthy way emotionally. This past April the Lord gave me the strength to overcome that stronghold--to Him ALL the glory for my victory.

As I continue to exercise and eat healthy, I see my body as a vessel not my own that I am called to bring into submission to honor Him. As I daily assess what goes into my body, I have become more and more aware of what other "influences" I allow into my life. Just as we have to be careful of the quality and healthiness of our food intake, we must discern the quality and healthiness of our intake concerning what we read, watch on TV, etc. Our "spiritual diet" is just as important as our diet of food.

So today, I challenge you to assess your diet. That may be what you are eating or what you are watching on TV. Is what you are putting into your vessel going to bring honor to the Lord and allow you to serve Him better?

God's richest blessings to you today!

In Him,

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"Like Sands Through the Hourglass, So Are the Days of Our Lives"

As I write this, I’m 24 hours out of a heavenly week spent lounging on a beach, sipping giant Icees and devouring two novels. We’ve been vacationing on Anna Maria Island, and I’m already wistful about the satiny white sand cooling my toes and gently buffing my heels, the bubbling waves rolling onto the shore, the seagulls’ cries and the carefree banter and laughter of my children swimming together in the ocean. For one week, we simply existed, without any thoughts toward deadlines, school or work. Read: “Sigh.”

Today, we’re revving up to move into dorms, begin new ministry programs and continue work projects. Time, perhaps our most precious commodity, stops for no one.

--Wait a minute--of course it does! We all have a number of days allotted to us (Job 14:5) and then time becomes a historical phenomenon; eternity stretches on before us.

I’ve been thinking about how I invest my personal allotment of time, about making a difference in my sphere of influence, because soon (we are all merely one heartbeat away) time will stop indeed.

Although it’s not an original notion, I couldn’t help noticing this week how the tide washed away my many “signatures” on the beach: my footprints, my castles, my name in the sand—all of the marks that said, “I’m here!” were relentlessly erased. Before the orange sun dipped into the ocean each evening, any signs of the life-form known as “Linda” were completely gone, reminding me of the temporal versus the eternal, prompting me to wonder: “What imprints of mine will remain after I’m gone?”

I’ve decided there are three eternal depositories into which I can wisely invest my time; maybe they will speak to you, too:

1) Knowing and promulgating the word of God. Matthew 24:35 says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” And 1 Peter 1:25a says, “But the word of the Lord endures for ever.” God’s word is alive and immutable; it’s validity transcends time because his character never changes. So even when there will be a new heaven and earth, his word will remain perpetually consistent. Therefore, when I use my tongue (or my keyboard!) to share his word and encourage others, I contribute to influencing the world for God’s eternal glory. That is exciting!

2) Cultivating relationships. In John 5:24, Jesus promises us “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” The prophet Isaiah proclaimed that Messiah “will swallow up death forever” (25:8). In other words, people (their spirits, the core of who they are) last forever. Therefore, if I invest in people, I’m making an eternal investment. Creating time for nurturing relationships is important, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. Daily duties, personal fears of rejection or feeling smothered can keep me from being vulnerable or available to people. But people matter to God, and they should (and do) matter to me, so I must make time to be relationally present. We are meant to live in community, now and throughout eternity. I want to be the friend who is there in the capacity Aaron was for Moses; I want to be the friend who always points the other to Christ, our one and only Answer.

3) Creating a spiritual legacy. I want to foster a spiritual heritage for my family for many generations to come, including those who will most likely not even know my name in two or three generations. I would love for my grandchildren and great grandchildren to be able to echo the psalmist: “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage” (Psalm 16:6). I recall Paul’s reference to Timothy’s faith-filled mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois, and how Timothy assumed the cloak of their strong faith (2 Timothy 1:5). I don’t have a boatload of valuable material possessions to pass on to my children, but maybe through faithful, intentional prayer, they will prosper spiritually and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s invitation to share abundant life with him. If the prayers of a righteous man availeth much, how much more so the prayers of a faithful grandma?!

In my first sentence, I called my week of languid existence “heavenly,” but I don’t really believe we will merely lounge around in eternity. I believe we will have roles to fulfill and rewards to enjoy. I want to invest my time in things that matter, things that last—promoting the ageless, unalterable word of God, living in community and love with immortal brothers and sisters, and leaving a legacy of faith for those who will carry on after me. And if there happens to be glistening alabaster sand in heaven, I can live with that, too.

Please visit my personal blog at 2nd Cup of Coffee.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Fine Tuning

Come Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wand'ring from the face of God;
He, to save my soul from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

As I sat at the dining room table Sunday morning and prepared a lesson for my children, the words to this hymn poured out of our stereo. And the second line, one I've sung a hundred times, caught me by surprise.

How I have needed a fine tuning of late.

As we prepare for a move to a new state, a new parish, new everything, and the sale of our current home lies dormant, so my soul has closed its' stirring song of praise to the Father. I've forgotten how to remember His grace.

Grace that comes unexpectedly, as in the words to a much loved hymn being sung as background to children playing, birds chirping, laundry running.

It is not easy, this praising Him through the storm, is it? But how lovely, how Providential, that He is the one who can tune our hearts to lift melodious Him.

We fall out of tune when our worship stagnates, its' position stolen by worry, bitterness. Busyness. Without practice, the notes turn sour, when they are actually played. He deserves so much better.

He is a Master, yes? And in His gifted hands our hearts are safe. With every twist of the tuning pegs, we feel pain, but the gentle pressure of His fingers on our heart strings brings such comfort. As a violinist, a cellist, or a guitarist would never dream of sending their beloved instrument into the elements without their cases, so the Father shelters us as we weather these storms. We are not unprotected.

And I felt such peace as I leaned back in my chair, lifting my hands and whispering, "Tune my heart, Father, to sing your grace." And so He does. It hurts, and it stretches, but it is good.

It is my hope that, just as with a stringed instrument, much tuning of my heart will signify the outpouring of beautiful melodies of grace.

Sing away.

You are always welcome at my little place - A Path Made Straight

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Family Tree

This week my thoughts have been drawn to family.

My family is a wacky lot. Our family tree has its share of dysfunction and sub-plots. And on some occasions when we are all together, an elephant is likely to be present in the room. (The elephant is eventually dealt with. Usually with a large dose forgiveness.)

As I reflected on the kooky characters in our clan, I smiled. Our quirks and idiosyncrasies, mannerisms and peculiarity combine to make us a complex, one-of-a-kind, zany tree. I love each of them, always will.

This week I have also thought about my other family. This family tree is slightly more difficult to define. Some of my family members live on the other side of the planet. Many, I met only once. Some of my brothers and sisters, I have never met, never talked to, yet they are a profound influence in my life.

This tree is the family of God. This week in particular I am acutely aware of this subtle family who live among the masses. They are men and woman connected to me through the Holy Spirit and by their love for Jesus Christ.

My brother died on Friday after a protracted battle with Melanoma. He is now living with Jesus. Throughout his struggle, I was privileged to watch God’s family in action. The family of God stepped up to help in our time of great need. The family sent cards, prayer warriors surrounded my brother, emails arrived, and everyone visited the house. I can’t begin to tell you about the hundreds of strangers from all over America who mailed my brother a card. Thousands of people prayed. It made a profound difference. In the two years since his diagnosis, his wife and children became believers.

I don’t think I will understand the fullness of our family this side of heaven. To know that you and I are part of something much bigger than our little part of the world is extraordinary. I am connected with you through God’s Spirit and you to me. It's out of this world! Literally!

The family of God is a mystery to the world. However, as a believer, I know this family is a reflection of our Father and His enormous love. I am humble and grateful to be related to you! I love each of you, always will.

Please stop in at my place for a Sunday Smile: Spiritually Unequal Marriage.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

She Likes Being Nothing ....

"Are your ears awake? Listen, Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches. I'll give the sacred manna to every conqueror; I'll also give a clear, smooth stone inscribed with your new name, your secret new name." Revelation 2:17

This week, my daughter was playing with a new stuffed bear her brother won in a Claw Machine. Exactly what is a Claw Machine? That would be one of those annoying contraptions where you put in $37 worth of quarters to win a $2 prize. Thanks to Claw Machines across the South, we are quarter poor and stuffed animal rich.

Luke asked Sydney the new bear's name. We expected an answer such as Cinderella, Frou Frou, or Sally, but instead she said, "Her name is Nothing. She likes being Nothing." And at that, my heart was immediately broken. Not for the bear, but for the many women I know who enjoy being named, "Nothing". I will bet you know at least one, too.

Oh, she may not introduce herself in this way, but her actions let you know this is the identity she has embraced. She flounders in her faith believing she is unworthy of God's best. She lingers on the outskirts of the sisterhood assuming her friendship is unwanted. She hides her pain for fear it will bring rejection. In some strange way, she finds comfort in her anonymity because with it also comes the lack of accountability. And Satan laughs because this is exactly where he wants her.

God has reserved a new name for those who overcome. The implications of this promise are huge! When a person is named, the one assigning the name is in effect establishing authority over them. It is the same concept as Adam naming the animals in the Garden. In this world where Satan is temporarily prince, he calls us Nancy the Nothing, Wanda the Worthless, Debbie the Defeated. (Disclaimer: I didn't use anyone's name on purpose!) However, Jesus Christ calls us Redeemed. He will give a new, secret name Satan will never be able to defile. I can not wait to know mine. Lisa has been called Loser one time too many.

We don't have to wait until Heaven to embrace a new identity. Paul did it. So did Abraham and Sarah. We can lay aside the symbols of our defeat and embrace the authority of Jesus Christ over our lives. He is holding out the stone, but He can't make us take it. If you haven't yet received this gift from Him, will you?

Because to Him, you aren't 'Nothing'.

You are Everything.

Please visit my personal blog, The Preacher's Wife.

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Friday, August 10, 2007


Tabitha, whose name in Greek is Dorcas, was a woman with a servant's heart. She lived in Joppa, which was one of the earliest Christian cities. Dr. Luke in the book of Acts calls her a disciple or a “learner” of Christ. She was known by her good works, she sewed clothing, she helped the widows and the poor. But she also suffered with an illness. Now let me pause here.

Here was Tabita a woman known for her good works, and she suffered from an illness. We don't know what illness she had, but it was enough to kill her. If you will allow me to read between the lines-here was a woman who had her own set of problems. I am sure she had some form of pain, but each day with whatever strength she had, she was serving others. I get a sore throat and I am in bed, and wondering why others are not serving me! I am joking, but what is our attitude when we suffer from an affliction? Is it one of pity? Do we sit there wondering “where is everybody?” I know I have been guilty of that attitude in the past.

Tabitha did die (Acts 9:37) from her illness. And there was great mourning, many of the widows she helped stood around crying (Acts 9:39). Other disciples heard of her death and sent two men to retrieve Peter. They knew God used Peter to perform miracles, and they could not bear to lose Tabitha. Peter came to see Tabitha, and he sent everyone out of her room. He got down on his knees and said simply, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes and sat up. Through Peter, God used His power to to lead many to Christ (Acts 9:42). This began what is called the Dorcus-Society, a society known for charity work.

Now works do not save you, only accepting Christ as your personal Savior is the only way to salvation. But through Tabitha many people benefited from her servant's heart, and God used her in a mighty way to bring glory to Himself.

How is God using your life to bring others to salvation? If someone never spoke a word to you, but watched you from afar, would they know there is something different about you? Would they see a servant's heart?

Acts 9:36-42

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. 37About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, "Please come at once!"

39Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.

40Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, "Tabitha, get up." She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up. 41He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. 42This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.

Father help cultivate a servants heart in me. Amen.

You can visit me at my personal blog: Laurel Wreath

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

Let Go and Let God...

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." ~ Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

Sunday afternoon I was not in a very pleasant mood, believe me. You know how you plan out things just to scrap (pun intended) all your plans? Well, that was me Sunday...

All week I had planned to scrap some baby pictures of our son. I wanted to create some lasting memories for my little digi-scrap book; since the pictures just have been in a box for over 20 years. I had some of them scanned during the week, picked out the digi-supplies I wanted to use. Around noon time our son came up with the idea that he needed pants, that he needed 'stuff' for his apartment. To top things off, he wanted to keep the student loan payment because he needed to make all these purchases. I almost blew my top...
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;" ~ Philippians 4:4-5 (ESV emphasis mine)

Huffing and puffing I went the bathroom praying..."Lord, really, where is the reason here. Why do I always have to scrap all my plans to be there for Daniel..." -- It never fails - God showed up to change my heart. There was something deeper than just the scrapped scrap-booking project, was there? For goodness sake! The pictures have been in a box for over 20 years.

You know what the issue is/was? I am scared. I am scared that I have failed to raise our son properly. Can he wash his own clothes? Can he prepare a meal other than Raman Noodles or scrambled eggs? He doesn't have his drivers license-how will he get around? Will he pay his bills on time? All these questions flooded my mind.

The 15 minutes I spent in the bathroom praying changed everything. I knew the root of my foul mood. I felt that I did not prepare our son for a life away from home. God calmed my spirit and changed my mood. Needless to say, I enjoyed the time shopping with our son. He showed me that he can take care of himself. We bought clothes together, he picked out some towels for his apartment...we had fun. If you are wondering about the student loan payment...our son gave me the money.
"I can do all things through him who strengthens me." ~ Philippians 4:13 (ESV)

Lord of Heaven and Earth. Thank You so much for changing my heart on Sunday afternoon. I am glad that You are there to guide my heart, mind and spirit. I know that I need to let go and let You take care of the rest. I am trusting in Your mercy. In the precious name of my Lord and Savior, in Jesus' name I pray ~ Amen.

You can also find me at my personal blog Sting My Heart

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Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Releasing the Strongholds

One common thread runs through my family, unfortunately, which is, "money in—money out." I’m bad for that, as are my husband and kids--with one exception. For Graham, a dollar made is a dollar saved. He was just born that way I guess, because while he should have, he didn’t learn it from me. I try to save, but I usually break down the moment I walk into the first home decorating store.

Graham started off earning three dollars a week allowance. Once he saved fifty dollars, I added ten, and once he earned a hundred, I added twenty. I was amazed to see this kid saving $3.00 x 33 weeks without spending a dime. So I raised his allowance to $5.00 this year to match his sisters, who spends like her wallet’s on fire.

The other day we all piled into the car for a Slurpee run. That’s another common thread in our family, which must be genetic, they all love Slupees--just like their dad! Whether it’s 80 degrees or thirty below they pile into the store every Saturday filling their cups with slush.

I heard something interesting this summer, when as usual we pulled into the 7-11 parking lot. While the kids were piling out of the car a little voice broke out from the back seat, “Can I stay here, Mom?” Graham asked.

“Why, it’s hot in here,” I answered. “Don’t you want to come in with us?”

“No, if I go in with you, I’ll just want to spend my money. So, if it’s ok, I’d rather stay here,” he said.

It took that little guy with his big courage to remind me of the path that leads us into temptation, “But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” ~ James 1:14 And the danger we face each time we step into a situation that we know could potentially lead us into temptation.

It only takes one step to start the process of releasing those strongholds, but the same holds true for the opposite. It only takes one step of courage to step back and begin the good fight. Sure we might fail from time to time as we strive to overcome temptation in our lives. In fact human nature tells me that the likelihood is good. But if you take three steps forward and one step back, you’ll still arrive at your destination, right? Keep making the choice to move on everyday.

Our lives our filled with temptations of every kind. Little secrets we hide in our closets away from the world, but they don’t have to remain there. Each little step we take in faith toward those goals set before us add up. If Graham can save a hundred dollars on three dollars a week, you can too. Just keep up the good fight, and remember that God is your source of strength, and through Him we find peace.

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. ~ James 1:12

Visit my blog at: Darlene

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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

"Disturb Us, Lord"

I've been getting ready to start our new homeschool year, busily cleaning out our schoolroom and excitedly organizing our new curriculum. Back-to-school season is exciting, no matter what mode of education you have chosen for your child. I think part of it is the excitement of starting something new. The nervous rush of the unknown- new teachers, new classes, new experiences. During my years of teaching public school, I fondly remember the "back-to-school" feeling and it carries over today, even with my kids at home.

Yesterday in our schoolroom, I found a poem that I printed out last year. It had been quoted in a sermon I heard, so I found it online and printed it for both of my children (and myself!) to memorize. I'd love to share it with you today, as you get ready to embark on a new school year, a new season in your life, or maybe even just a new day. It is a prayer written by Sir Francis Drake, who was the first man to circumnavigate the globe, from 1577-1580. (Have I ever taken on anything of that magnitude??) His words are so powerful to me, especially coming from a man who definitely knew what it meant to embark on an exciting journey, sail into the unknown, make headway through (sometimes difficult) seas and trust in His God. May his words inspire you wherever you are in your voyage today.

The Prayer of Sir Francis Drake

"Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst for the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back the horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future in strength, courage, hope, and love."

Cyndi blogs at One Day More and Mater Magistra.


Sunday, August 5, 2007


Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues,
but the parent of all the others.

In a society where the self is worshiped, it's easy to become complacent and forget that all of life is a gift. After all we deserve to be satisfied, don't we? We can find it easy to take for granted the little things that, contrary to popular opinion, are not entitlements.

Thank you God for the dew each morning that brings delight as my toddler marches gaily in the grass...

We are surrounded by people who will do whatever it takes to be happy, though happiness doesn't hold the depth of joy, nor the burden-relieving power of grace. Happiness as a by-product is a blessing; happiness as a destination is a mirage.

Thank you God for the feeling of warm running water as I clean from the dishes the remnants of a meal with my family...

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity.... It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."
Melodie Beattie

"Gratitude turns what we have into enough..."

Can it be that merely turning from our complaints toward an attitude of thanksgiving is all that is required to bring life from the death of dissatisfaction? Why can't we see that we don't need a life of ease, or a different spouse, or more money, or a bigger house to have enough? But wait, there is something more that is required...

And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor. 12:9

Thank you God for my weakness. Thank you God for your power in Christ that rests on me. Thank you God for problems, failures, and mistakes that are transformed into victories when left at your feet.

Thank you God...

Thank you God...

Thank you...

May gratitude be the pillow I rest on tonight, the ground I tread on tomorrow and my companion in the future.

Visit my personal blog at Fruit in Season.

Tammy Nolan

Tammy Nolan lives to refresh people.

Her ministry of energizing others starts at home. She is a home schooling mother of three children and the helpmate to her husband, Tony Nolan. She serves as Vice-President of TNT Ministries, Inc, a non-profit organization that has a core purpose of sharing the good news of the Gospel and ministering to various Christian music artists, including Casting Crowns, Sanctus Real, Building 429, Steven Curtis Chapman, Jeremy Camp, and Nicole Nordeman.

Tammy is a firm believer that a personal touch fuels positive life change. Hundreds of women who serve in ministry have experienced this firsthand through the letters she writes to them each week. She also pours into others through song with her CD project, entitled The Great Exchange. Tammy is passionate about her intimate relationship with Jesus, which she writes about in her engaging and reflective blog, entitled Steps In Our Journey.

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Friday, August 3, 2007

Happy Camper

A few weeks ago my husband, myself, five very excited children and one happy dog headed out not too far from our home to go camping. We hadn’t “tent” camped since my oldest three were five, three and one. From that experience, I had told myself it would be a long time before we attempted to go camping without a roof over our head. We have been several places in which either a cabin or RV was our dwelling, but our kids wanted to camp with tents and sleeping bags.

So we traded our carpeting and wood floors for green grass and our Serta pillow top mattress for the comforts of a leaky air mattress and sleeping bags. I gave up stainless steel appliances for two ice chests, a lovely camp stove and several plastic tubs for washing dishes. The lighting was sunshine and stars amidst seven chairs arranged nicely around the campfire ring and well let’s just say it was a lovely stroll through the trees to the nearest bathrooms with running water. But I loved it! Yes, you read right “I loved it!” I chose to spend the four days HAPPILY camping. We have all heard the phrase, "If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy."

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Cor. 10:31

Often times in my home or campsite, my attitude determines the atmosphere. As I sat quietly one afternoon with a slight breeze brushing across my face, I decided to be more intentional in doing "all to the glory of God" not only here camping but also in my home. If someone could see inside my home, like they could see inside our campsite, I would want them to see a mother who knows her limitations and the visual imprint left in the floor from all the time spent on her knees. I would hope they notice the chips in all the dishes because of the many uses day after day serving others. I would hope they notice the table with all its scratches and markings from the many hours spent there gathering together to eat, talk, laugh and pray. I would hope they see people saved by the grace of God living to bring Him glory.

My heart was convicted of some things in those few short days of camping. I recognized that I need to be more patient with my children. I have children in different stages and with different needs and I have overlooked some things in my busyness. I recognized I need to make some adjustments in my time and how I spend it.

Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us "Look carefully then how you walk,
not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil."

This verse requires that we take an honest look at what we are doing and how we do it. I began to make a list of how I spend my days. There are only two ways to spend them, wise or unwise. There is no other choice. How will you choose to spend today!

In Him...Chris

Visit Chris at her personal blog Come to the Table

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