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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Change Takes Time

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him.” ~ Genesis 2:18-20 (ESV)

I am a little sore, scratched up and sun-burned today. My Sweetheart and I cleaned our backyard. What a task it was. During the hot summer months, there is not much we can do in our backyard—it is just way too hot. Normally my hubby does all the yard-work, but I thought it is about time I help him. I thought it would be easy to pick up the dead branches that were left from the last spring cleaning…oh was I wrong. My entire body aches.

As I was cleaning with my beloved, I thought about how much God has changed me over the past 25 years—especially the past 2 ½ yeas of our marriage. I realized how much I have been self-centered. It is hard to admit that I have not been always the helper God wanted me to be. The biggest hurdle for me was respecting my husband.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I always loved my husband, but respect is totally different. I used to moan or roll my eyes about certain things. God showed me through His Word that all my actions are disrespecting my husband – ouch.

You see, I always wanted to spend all our free-time together, but my husband needed some time to unwind. And when we did things, they were always what I wanted to do. Not thinking that my beloved wanted to do something else. Over the years we have developed some of the same interests, like photography. In other things we are still worlds apart, especially when it comes to movies.

I still don’t like horror movies…I used to leave the room with pouting and grumbling under my breath. Today I leave the room with a kiss, tell my Sweetheart that I love him but that I’d rather do something else. Just this little change has brought a little more harmony into our marriage…

Lord of Heaven and Earth. Thank You for Your patience with me. Thank You for showing me what it means to be a helper to my husband. Lord, continue to guide me in our marriage that I will be wife my husband deserves. In the precious name of Jesus ~ Amen.

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

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Hand in Hand....

"Remember, we all stumble, every one of us. That's why it's a comfort to go hand in hand."
~ Emily Kimbrough ~

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
"Pooh," he whispered.
"yes, Piglet?"
"Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw,
I just wanted to be sure of you."

I stumbled across this postcard years ago and it has made its way around the house from my bed stand, to the girls desk when they began to share a room. Now it sits in front of me on my desk where I type....When I read this quote, it reminded me that they both say the same thing. All any of us really want, from the day we are born, is to know that there is someone out there that we can be sure of...

We are so blessed as Christians to know that there is one hand that is always extended, waiting for us to reach out for it. We have the Lord's hand any time we stumble....and how amazing, wonderful and full of grace, our God is that HE so often will allow us to sidle up to someone on earth and as we stumble, they hold our hand. As we make our way through the challenges and struggles of this life, what a wonderful feeling to KNOW that God has so perfectly placed those people in our life who hold our hand at the exact time we need it, just to reassure us that we can be "sure."
God sends us those images of Himself in those people in our lives who hold our hand...He reminds us through those friends, the kind of friend HE is, always has been and always will be.

This week, I found myself struggling as another school year begins, with the questions we all ask ourselves, am I doing the best thing for my family, and as a home schooler, there are times when I find myself questioning what I know is right. A dear friend read my blog and sent an email that just lifted me up. It truly was as if the Lord Himself were speaking, and I believe HE was, through her. She allowed me to sidle up beside her, and as we stumble, and we all will....We need to be ever grateful that God places people in our lives to walk hand in hand with...they make the journey easier, they lighten our load and there is nothing more comforting than knowing that you have someone "you are sure of."

As we make our way through this maze of life, we need to remember that we all stumble, big and small, young and old...just as Our Father always has a hand extended for us, we must walk ready to extend our hand to others....He requires only that we "Love," and when we are the one that someone can be sure of, HE smiles.

"Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow...a threefold cord is not easily broken."
Ecclesiastes 4:9 - 12

In Him,

I would love it if you would visit me...

(originally posted aug 7, 2006 for CWO In Other Words)

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Enter His Courts With Praise

Two summers ago, before our trip to Ghana, I was at our African partner church and a woman I'd never met before approached me. She began asking me, in her broken English, where we were going on our mission trip. I told her the region we would be visiting, and named the villages to which we would be going. Her face lit up! She exclaimed that one of the villages I had named was where her brother and his wife lived. She told me he was a pastor there, building a small church. She asked for my address, and a few days later I received a letter from her telling me her brother's name, and a picture of him standing next to the frame of the church they were building. I had no idea if I would be able to find him, and if I did, what exactly I was to do with this information, but I tucked the letter and picture into my journal and slid it into my backpack before we left.

My team worked in two main villages that week, and between the hectic pace, my son's sickness for part of the time, and the sheer volume of work we were trying to accomplish in such a short time, I didn't get to search out the man whose sister I had met weeks earlier. Our last day in the village, I pulled out that letter from my journal and prayed, "Lord, if you mean for me to meet this person, You will need to orchestrate it. I have no idea how to find him." I put the letter back in my journal and left for the day's work. Later that evening when we were back at the small hotel where we were staying, one of my kids came to me and said there was a woman there, looking for my husband. Thinking she was someone we had met earlier in the week, I went to find her, as he had not made it back to the hotel yet. A lovely woman approached me, with her warm Ghanaian smile, clutching an envelope with my husband's name on it, followed by the word, "missionary." That, in itself was enough to make me get tears in my eyes. It turns out, she was the wife of the man in the picture! She didn't know if we were still in the area, but she had walked about six miles from where they live to this small hotel, where she thought we might possibly be staying. She had no idea that this was our last day there! She had apparently gotten our name from her sister-in-law.

We sat under the shade of a hut-like structure and had a wonderful visit. She told of her husband's work trying to start a church in a nearby village. She described what God was doing in their lives, the miraculous provisions He had made, and the daunting work that lay ahead in this particular area dominated by tribal religions. She told me of their goal of starting an orphanage in the area, and told me wonderful stories of babies they had already received. It was an amazing time. She wanted to make contact with us in case we would ever be working in their area again and might be able to help or possible partner with them. I was thoroughly blessed by our conversation. But the blessing was about to be greater.

Before she left, I asked her if we might pray together. She exclaimed that yes, she would love that. Immediately she stood up, straightened her posture, and looked up. She paused, turned to me, and said in her wonderful accent, "I always eentah Heez cawts weeth praise!" at which time she began singing, loudly, a magificent song of praise in her own language. I praised right along with her, feeling very much like we were now officially, "in His courts!" We then prayed together, very much in the presence of the Heavenly Father. I don't know when I'd ever felt more "before the throne of grace." It was so, so powerful.

That moment changed the way I approach my personal prayer time. Like my Ghanaian sister, I always "enter His courts with praise." Now, that doesn't mean that I sing loudly before each prayer (that's a personal favor to anyone who might be near me at the time!) Our church has a separate bulletin each week with the worship lyrics printed, which I keep in the front of my Bible for my own "personal praise" time. Just looking at the lyrics jogs my memory and I can sing, either out loud or to myself as I begin my prayer time. I have my iPod nearby when I have my quiet times each morning, too. This morning, as I was making pancakes for my kids, I was still singing the wonderful strains of "O Worship the King" from "Hymns: Ancient and Modern" (Chris Tomlin and the Passion band.)

So often, after I have entered His courts with praise, I feel like I stay there long after I say "Amen." I encourage you to "enter His courts with praise" as you start your prayer times. That can take whatever form you want it to, from lingering in the psalms, to singing out loud. It will transform your time in prayer!

"Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name." Psalm 100:4

"Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere;" Psalm 84:10

Cyndi blogs (and praises) at One Day More and Mater Magistra.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

When The Snow Flies Again

I wrote this at my blog the other day, and since it's chilly once again, I'm reminded of those days of beauty when I sup with the Lord--just He and I...

Yesterday was a cold morning, and I wondered if I'd ever see another deck day this year before the snow flies, but God heard my thoughts and brought sunshine.

He invited me out on the deck to sit for a spell, and we did. With feet up on the orange lounge chair I supped with my Lord, flipping through pages of Philippians, then 1 Peter, until finally ending our chat somewhere in the pages of Proverbs. He had much to say, while I listened intently. Finally with the warm sun on my face I began to nod off. It was time to pick up King James and head back in the house.

In my Father's house there are many mansions. Little corners, nooks, decks and stairwells, where for eternity we'll sit and sup with our Lord in the warmth of His light. Until then I'll wait Lord, perhaps You'll send some more deck days my way, or perhaps you'll return, before the snow flies again...

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know." ~ John 14:1-4

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His Throne is Still Intact

“…And, yet God, You’re still sovereign, Your throne intact and eternal.”
Lamentations 5:20b

Have you ever had those moments when you just really felt like everything was going wrong, times when life just seems to be spinning out of control? Perhaps it is a health issue with you or a family member. Maybe it’s the loss of a job or just the stress of too many responsibilities. Whether it’s from our own poor choices, decisions made by those around us, or just circumstances beyond our control, we’ve all had times when we just felt like the bottom was falling out from underneath us.

That is exactly where we find the children of Israel in Lamentations chapter five. In this case, they were being disciplined by God, their loving Heavenly Father, for their sins. They had chosen to “buy into the pagan system” of their day (boy, does that sound familiar) and God was grieved and angry. The bottom had fallen out of their lives. They were dealing with famine, war, violence, and complete despair. The writer of Lamentations is drawing the desperate picture for us, and right in the middle of all the discouraging details, he penned these words in verse twenty. “…and yet God, You’re still sovereign, Your throne intact and eternal.” No matter how bad things were, he recognized Who was still in control.

This isn’t always easy, but this is an amazing truth that is often times our only hope. No matter how difficult life may get, God is still sovereign and His throne is still intact and eternal. We can trust Him with our health concerns. We can rest in His sufficiency, knowing that no matter how hard the storm rages, His Anchor holds. Corrie ten Boone said it so eloquently, when she said, “There is no pit too deep, that He is not deeper still”. We are never so far that His arm cannot save us. Our life is never so dark, that He cannot see exactly where we are.

When life seems to be spinning out of control, hang on, my friend, because God, the Creator and Sustainer of this universe, is still in complete control. He is still on His throne, where He will remain for all eternity, and He is working all things (the good, the bad, and the ugly) together for our good and for His glory!

Lord, thank you that you are God and you are in total control. Thank you that your reign is eternal and there is nothing, or no one, that can overthrow you. Thank you that you are, right now, working everything together for our good and we can trust you. Help us to remember when life is hard, whether it’s due to our own sin or circumstances out of our control, that nothing surprises You and nothing is too big for You.

In Him ~

You can read more from Tammy by visiting her personal blog at Steps In Our Journey

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

When Your Child Doesn't Die....

The worst day of my life was in the year 2001.

My second born son, who was then only 3 years old, accidentally hung himself on the swing set. Some neighborhood kids had received a punching bag for Christmas and we had let them tie it to our swing set because they didn’t have one. Unbeknownst to us, when they took the punching bag down they left the string tied to the top. Jacob saw it and on this particular day he had climbed his way to it and somehow his head became caught in it. I heard my oldest son scream, “Mommy! Jacob stuck!”

I turned around to see my little boy twitching from the nearly invisible string hanging down. My heart fell to my knees. As I ran out I screamed for my former spouse who, thank God, was an EMT. I picked Jacob up out of the loop and laid him on the ground. He was blue, twitching and lifeless.

By then, his dad was over him doing CPR and I was running in the house to get the baby and the phone to call 911. All of this happened in less than 90 seconds. By the hand of God Jacob began breathing but he was still lethargic and seizing. The paramedics did not believe he would make it. God didn’t agree.

Jacob came through it with no damage except for a mark around his neck from the string and broken blood vessels. They were evident all over his face, in his eyes, ears, nose, and all over his scalp. All of his veins had burst from the pressure. When the doctor saw the string that had nearly taken his life he was shocked. It was waxed, deep-sea fishing string. The doctor said it should have severed Jacob’s head completely. He told us we were either the luckiest people he had ever met or somebody up there was looking out for us. Five minutes after I got the news that my son would live and that he should be dead, I broke.

I walked outside of the emergency room doors and with people watching from all over I screamed. I sobbed. I cried so hard I could barely breathe. My diaphragm began to pulsate, my eyes and throat swelled up and my head hurt so intensely yet, I couldn’t stop. I cried for three days thinking of the what-ifs.

Jacob had already been hospitalized three times. He had severe cases of RSV and Rotavirus back to back. The excessive use of the antibiotics caused the bad bacteria to mutate and made him so sick that he was hospitalized a third time for well over a week.

I almost lost my child too many times. I couldn’t take anymore. I rehearsed these scenes in my mind so much that emotionally, I felt as though I had accepted his death.

But, he didn’t die.

My Jacob became an emotional disaster. He was moody, irritable, and unpleasant to be around. He always had to be under my feet and in my face. There were times when I found myself trying to escape from his neediness. I couldn’t give him enough attention. It became such a chore to me. He always wanted more and if he didn’t get it he cried until he did. At 5 years old he was depressed. At 6 years old he was a train wreck. I didn’t know what to do with him. So, I fasted and prayed.

It was then, about two years ago, that God revealed to me that I was the problem. I had put up a wall between me and my son. I had become so afraid of losing him that I literally severed my emotional attachment to him. I could not let myself get close to him. What if he died? I couldn’t survive the pain. I loved him too much.

Jacob felt this.

Again I wept. What had I done?

I have seen numerous books written for people who have lost their children to accidents, illnesses and disasters. It tells them all about how to overcome the loss of their child, how to have victory over the pain and how to attempt to move on. God bless these people and thank heaven that there is some help out there for them but nowhere did I find a book that tells you what you can do in my situation. Was I the only one who has ever felt this way? There wasn’t a book to tell me how to repair my bond with my baby. So, I went back to the only thing I knew. I looked to God’s word.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love
does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of
when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever
the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful,
and endures through every circumstance.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is an action. In God’s Kingdom you don’t have to feel it to do it. You must do it to feel it. I had to act on love to feel the emotional bond of love. I am happy to say that God has more than restored my attachment to my son. He has given me a new, deep, ever progressing relationship with him. It is a gift.
God has enormous plans for Jacob’s life. He is a very talented artist, musician, writer and he is very smart for his age. He is still emotional at times but now I welcome it with a calm voice, smiles, hugs, and kisses.

Of my three children, Jacob is the only one that God specifically gave me a name for. While I was pregnant, a woman prophesied to me and said that I should not name him what we had chosen because He had already chosen a name for him. Not long after, God spoke to me and gave me the name Jacob. We had an ultrasound just a few days later and discovered that he was indeed a boy. I used this opportunity to throw out a few additional names to my former spouse just to see what he would say. In the middle of the list of names I added Jacob. After I finished listing the names he looked at me and said, “Let’s name him Jacob.”

This had comforted me years later when I looked his name up in a baby name meanings book while in the hospital with him for the pro-biotic treatment. The meaning for the name Jacob was: 1. holder of the heel and 2. protected by God. Ironic? I don’t think so.

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

I have posted lots of great pictures from our honeymoon in beautiful Riviera Maya, Mexico. Come by and see!
In Pursuit of Proverbs 31

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Monday, September 24, 2007

This Is The Day

Have you forgotten how to greet the day? The knowledge is all but lost to many that a new day is sacred: a gift from God, a rare and precious gift. A new day brings with it a fresh start, to lift your head from the pillow with joy and to observe the clouds peeking through the dark sky and welcome a gift from the Lord.
As a mother of five children from toddler to teen, my days are very full. Often times I am overwhelmed with the list of things that need to be accomplished before the day even begins. If I am given the gift of awakening before one of my children, I quietly head to my place at the table with the glimmering light and my cup of warmth in great appreciation for the new day and an opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus. I open up my bible and begin reading, studying, and praying. I ask God to speak to me, to change me from within, to wash me in His word. I pray for my husband, my children, and for others who I have committed to pray for. My heart is overwhelmed with thankfulness for this time. Often times I don't want it to end.
But I am aware of something else. There have been many many seasons in which stopping and sitting at the feet of Jesus was NOT the first thing I did. I have had seasons in which it worked best for me to meet with my Savior later in the morning due to nursing a newborn or a baby who napped consistently at the same time. But I have also experienced seasons in which I allowed my busyness to prevent me from meeting with my Savior on a regular basis. I somehow had determined that it was "OK". I reasoned that my children were small and it would be easier when they were older. But my own experience has shown me that as my children have grown it does not become easier. Busyness doesn't go away, it just changes or looks different. So, no matter what season you are in, I encourage you to begin today sitting at the feet of Jesus and welcome each new day with great joy and anticipation. This is the Day!

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and
be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

In Him...Chris

Chris can also be found at her personal blog Come to the Table

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Trials of the Flesh

I “heart” chocolate. Virtually all day long, I battle a nagging inner voice whispering, “Get some chocolate. Now.”

Behold my unsuccessful strategies for taming my habit: Cold turkey. One ounce per day. Fake chocolate. Caffeine. Fruity water. Vitamins and minerals. Candy. Chocolate-scented candles. I can’t believe I’m revealing this, but I have even opened up a packet of Splenda—the sugar junkie’s methadone, and poured it directly on my tongue. Oh yeah, this habit is bad.

Yesterday I was jonesin’ for some no-bake chocolate oatmeal peanut butter cookies, my personal tipping point when it comes to chocolate bingeing. I can make these cookies in my sleep. And eat them in my sleep.

I worked my magic. Guess how many my husband and daughter ate? Zero. Guess how many I ate? Whatever you guessed, you’re wrong, because I ate more than you guessed.

The morning after a night like that isn’t pretty.

I promised myself that when I came home from work today, I would not eat the remaining three. Can I just say in my defense that if cookies could wink with a flirty come-on, these did. So I wolfed them down.

Obviously, I cannot have cocoa, peanut butter and oatmeal in my house simultaneously. So I pitched the cocoa into the trash and grieved over it like it was a grave.

In Romans 7, Paul expresses how remorseful I felt in that moment. In fact, he communicates the whole human condition precisely: “I know that my selfish desires won't let me do anything that is good. Even when I want to do right, I cannot. Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong. What a miserable person I am!”

Although eating chocolate isn’t exactly a sin, my habit wields enough power over me to disrupt my life. God is concerned about our struggles because left unchecked, sin kills us, spirit and body. No loving father wants to see his children wither away or hit the wall at full speed.

Some people erroneously believe they must first clean up and straighten out their lives before God will be interested in them. But God is not stunned by our habits, weaknesses, and hang-ups. It’s all old news to him. First, he wants a relationship with us. Then, if destructive forces are compromising our lives, he will reveal them and help us say “no” to one thing in order to say “yes” to the ultimate good thing.

After his confession of moral impotence, Paul offers this hope, “Thank God! Jesus Christ will rescue me! If you belong to Christ Jesus, you won't be condemned. The Holy Spirit will give you life that comes from Christ Jesus and will set you free from sin and death.”

As long as I’m in this body, I will never be completely sinless. Sometimes I’m more successful than other times in battling my weaknesses. But when I find myself in yet another self-dug pit, knowing that a forgiving, compassionate Father wants to lift me up and dust me off gives me courage and hope for the next leg of my journey.

Please visit my personal blog at 2nd cup of coffee.

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Friday, September 21, 2007


Stretch, Beloved. Grow. Be malleable...

He whispers to me when my heart begins to beat faster in anger. Fear. Worry.

From our third floor apartment, the autumn breeze is blowing through the screen door on our deck. We sniff appreciatively and smile to ourselves; our favorite season is beginning.

But before too long, our noses wrinkle. My head begins to ache, and I realize that the cool breezes we were inhaling have been tainted with the smell of cigarette smoke, from the neighbor on his deck below. In irritation, I slam the sliding glass door against the smoke, and, unfortunately, against the beautiful crisp air we were enjoying.

Heads bowed over school books, the dining room is quiet. Eliana, for a moment, is also peaceful in the living room, poring over her board books from the library.

But in a moment, it is over. Through the thin walls, shouting can be heard, and the voices are not kind. I rub Corban's back as he tenses, and gently turn Micah's chin back to his work as he looks up in anxiety. Mama holds it together on the surface, but below the surface, emotion is roiling.

As I stand at the kitchen sink peeling carrots, my boys wrestle in the living room. I smile as they tumble over each other, shouting in laughter; from time to time, someone cries out in pain, but soon they are rolling again. They move out onto the deck to continue their wild play - a 4x8 space that can hold little else but our grill and my husband's bike, and yet they find enjoyment.

All too soon, I think of the home we left. The wide open country spaces, no fences; rivers, trees and tall grasses for little boys to explore. I begin to fret that my boys will be stifled in this small space. I regret that I cannot send them out to run for a fifteen minute break from their books. I feel guilt that I do not pack things up more often for a walk or a roam on the grass down below.

Beloved, I do not send the fear, nor the guilt. I send opportunity.

An opportunity. Yes, Lord. I understand.

An opportunity to smile as I pull the glass door closed quietly, instead of with a bang. As my children look on, I show them how to handle these moments with grace. Stepping lightly to the baked apple pie candle on the counter and lighting it, filling the rooms of our home with delicious, autumn scent.

An opportunity to speak words of truth to my little ones as the voices we hear through the walls bring fear.

When I am afraid,
I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can mortal man do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4)
Let's pray and ask God to help them, shall we? Bowing our heads and offering up our neighbors to His care. Singing aloud the song of David. Remembering that perfect love drives out fear.

An opportunity for creativity in the face of what seems a stifling of that gift. Heading to our storage unit and pulling out a box of games we had packed away for lack of space, making room for these good things. Preparing a schedule that runs the day in a way that makes individual time with Mama a priority, and bringing me to my knees in the morning for inspiration.

Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart. (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20)

I turn my face to the Son, unafraid to send roots down, even here. Bloom, Beloved.

I intend to.

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

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Rabbi and Me!

Exodus 35:1-3
Moses assembled the whole Israelite community and said to them, "These are the things the LORD has commanded you to do: 2 For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it must be put to death. 3 Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day."

Have you ever thought what life would be like if we still lived under the law? How would this scripture apply in the year 2007?

I hope the story I tell you today will intrigue you about the old ways as well as grow your gratitude for grace.


I love my neighborhood. We are an eclectic group of people thrown together by God’s design to “do life.” We enjoy community BBQ’s and Christmas parties. We have our resident gossip, teenagers that drive too fast, and families that help each other out.

One of my favorite neighbors is a Jewish Rabbi. He lives a few streets over with his wife and six children. Their home is also the local Synagogue where the worshipers in his faith gather to observe Holy Days.

Several years ago my husband and I were invited over to the Rabbi’s home. It was one of the coolest experiences ever. Our particular visit was on a winter evening and on the Sabbath or Shabbat.

I remember entering the Rabbi’s home. The first thing I saw was the opulent and beautiful wooden cabinet sitting front and center in the living room. It was massive stretching from floor to ceiling. The cabinet held the Torah when not in use. That evening the Torah was lying open in front of the cabinet on a beautiful table. This particular Torah was a single scroll, perhaps the size of two overly-large rolls of paper towels put together. It was hand written in the original Hebrew language and beautifully ornate. The Rabbi told me he paid $50,000 for it. He handled it tentatively. You could see in his eyes how extremely valuable it was to him.

It made me wonder if I would pay $50,000 for my Bible.

Needless to say, I was Wowed!

As we sat down in the family area I observed many things about this family and their home which mirror Old Testament teachings. The Rabbi’s wife told me the food on the table was prepared from scratch according to the Levitical laws. I wish I could remember some of the names of the pastries. Delicious!

After visiting for an hour or so, I went into the garage to retrieve something the Rabbi’s wife needed for the kitchen. As I returned to the kitchen, I flipped the light switch off. --My mother always told me to turn out the lights when I leave a room.--

Before the door shut from the garage to the kitchen the Rabbi gently said to me, “I cannot ask you to turn that light on.” Now, I knew immediately what he was referencing. To light a fire, turn on electricity, is forbidden.

If I did not turn the light back on, it would remain off until dawn. Therefore, anyone needing to go into the garage would do so in complete darkness. Needless to say, I turned the light on. For a Christian this is not a sin remember we live under grace.

I will never forget this "light switch" encounter.

Since that evening I have visited with the Rabbi on several occasions. I love to pepper him with questions about Israel and the Old Testament. His responses are absorbing and his intelligence is obvious. His zeal for God is undeniable.

I do not hold any judgment in my heart over his beliefs but I see him as one of the many who are yet to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. In this regard he is the the same as my unbelieving spouse. I have hope for them both.

I believe God allowed me to see the Old Testament laws lived out in our modern day society. He wanted me to understand grace in a whole new light.

I do. I am thankful.

Please visit me at: Spiritually Unequal Marriage.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cease Striving

For those of you with multiple young children, you can probably relate with me on how difficult it is to bring the kids a treat of any kind without them coveting what the other received. What I find much easier is buying three of the exact same thing so as to prevent any kind of argument (I'm talking M&M's here, not Playstations). I always know when the bank teller gives me four green suckers that she understands this phenomena and is doing her best to keep peace in my Suburban. Oh, how I love my bank lady.

This week was the Book Fair at our kids' elementary school. You know the drill - your kids beg and plead to pay quadruple for a dollar store toy or book just so they can say they got something from the Book Fair. I could set my foot down and say no but then I'd have to deal with my own issues of looking like a horrible mom for not letting them get something like all the other kids. So, I caved, okay? Each boy was given a certain dollar amount and after school came hauling in their loot.

Even though each boy got to pick out what he wanted, the green-eyed monster got ahold of my Youngest when he saw his Eldest brother had gotten a calculator that looked like a flip cell phone. Let me first say this kid cares nothing about Math, but he loves to get attention so undoubtedly he believed this little prize would boost his cool factor.

The wheeling and dealing began. "Come on, brother! I'll trade you whatever you want! I'll give you a baseball card. I'll even clean your room!" Nothing was working until he said, "I'll give you FIVE DOLLARS for that calculator!"

Big brother perked up a bit. "Five dollars? I only paid two dollars for it...You are on!"

Here's where the trouble started. Youngest didn't have five dollars. He never does his chores and has no prospect of EVER having five dollars especially considering he is always willing to pay dearly today for what will be worthless to him tomorrow. He is already shaping up to be Citibank's best customer.

Or their worst.

What was his solution? He snuck in his dad's wallet and got five dollars and gave it to his older brother. The Eldest completed the transaction with a smile not knowing where the money had come from. All he saw were $$$$. When he told Dad about the profit he'd just made, warning bells went off in his head because he knew Youngest didn't have any money.

Long story short, Youngest 'fessed up to having taken the money. He immediately began crying his eyes out. Dad took pity on him and used it as a teachable moment to explain how bad sin made us feel but that God was gracious when we asked for forgiveness. He then tried to gather our son up to comfort him. However, instead of curling up in his dad's arms, he pouted up and refused to be hugged. It made no sense whatsoever! He'd done wrong, gotten busted, been shown way more mercy than he deserved, and yet he was angry!

How many times have I done that very thing?! Getting called out when we've made a mistake is painful, but what keeps us from accepting mercy when it is offered? Pride from having to admit we were wrong? Shame for having been so gullible? Fear for what others will think of our weakness? The Jewish nation responded to Jesus in this exact way prompting Him to lament,

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." Luke 13:34

It took a while, but my son finally let me hold him as he cried and said he was sorry. It was a heartwrenching few moments for him, but wow, what a burden was lifted for both of us when it was all over. This scene with my own son made me understand just a bit more the love the Father wishes to pour out on us if we will simply cease striving and allow Him to gather us to Him in mercy. It will take humility and perhaps many tears, but O the comfort that awaits those who will allow themselves to be wrapped in His embrace!

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

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

You have fear of what??

Being a devotional writer guarantees two things in your life, one God is going to mess with you; teach you, stretch you, develop you. Secondly, you will go through things in your life so you can make applications. At least I hope that to be true because the story I tell you today I pray that someone will be blessed because I am still trying to figure things out. First off you have my permission to laugh with or at me, but what may come across as funny was not funny at the time.

Fear is not something I really have had to deal with on a daily basis. I know there are some sweet sisters that do deal with phobias, or fear due to failing health of a loved one, etc.. I don’t want to make light of any of that, fear comes in all shapes and sizes. I found in the last few weeks that I had to deal with some fear and God being God had to get my attention in a funny but very real way through two different circumstances. I have to say part of me is embarrassed to share this, but “Lord please let it bless someone else…”

I have had opportunities that have been coming my way. These opportunities are God blessing me, I know, but in reality they are having me step out of ALL my comfort zones. I have always known that the Lord wants to work through me in one way or another, but I am going to have to be willing to step in the water first before He takes over. I have to be willing to jump off the cliff so he can help me fly, so to speak. Well some of these “blessings” have caused me great anxiety. Fear of the unknown, fear of making a fool of myself, fear of failing. I am sad to admit a big part of me wanted to walk away from some of the blessings because they seem “too hard” and frankly I was just scared. How sad is that? It was a battle going through my mind constantly, and fear had been affecting my health and basically paralyzing me. To be honest I think it was God bringing to the surface things I have stuffed down. Like I said God being God had to drive the point home. (I can be so thick headed sometimes...ok ALL THE TIME)

I was doing laundry about a week ago (do you see that it has take me a WEEK to even breath a word of this), anyways I was doing laundry like I always do. My washer and dyer are located in my garage. As I was picking up some clothes to toss in the washer, there sitting on the washer was a spider of epic portions. I have lived in Arizona and now in Florida, but I have NEVER seen a spider this big outside of a glass. This spider was so big it would not even begin to fit through my vacuum hose if I wanted to suck it up, which we do to all the other little spiders we find along the way. I was paralyzed with fear. I dropped the laundry and walked in my house and locked the doors. Hubby went out later in the evening after he got home and could not find the spider, but there were still clothes in front of the washer piled up so I was sure the spider was still there.

That night I had nightmares about the spider. This had truly terrified me!! So what is a girl to do? I head to Target the next day and purchase a Raid Fogger that I set off in my garage to kill anything whatsoever living. You would think that would have given me comfort but it did not. I KNEW I had to do laundry again. So I opened the garage door (mind you this is a day after the spider was found, and AFTER I set the fogger off to kill everything), took a shovel and proceeded very carefully picking up the dirty clothes (with the shovel) because I was so scared the spider was in the clothes and/or under the lip of the washer. I shoved the clothes into the washer, knocked the washer shut and reached over very quickly with the extra hot water setting and washed the clothes. Ran back inside and locked the door. Once the washer was done, I got my tongs I use in the kitchen, laid a shirt over the lip of the washer in case the spider was under the lip of the lid, that way the shirt was blocking it. And I used the tongs to get the wet clothes out and into the dryer. The whole time my eyes were darting everywhere.

Yes it is funny, but I had real paralyzing fear. My poor boys have listened to my screeching about doors being opened for the past week for fear the spider will get back in. Somehow I knew the spider was not dead, I just knew it. But VERY S L O W L Y I have been doing my laundry again. I would be lying if I told you I can walk in to my garage today without a little bit of fear right now.

Well a few days ago, my oldest son come running in the house and yells for my middle son, “You have to come see something really quick. Come fast!!” I was only paying half attention, but middle son runs out of the house. Then a few minutes later he comes back and says, “Um Mom do you have any bug killer?” I said “why?” And oldest son is yelling, “don’t tell Mom she will freak!” See my kids knew about my fear. It turns out the HUGE spider was now in my front yard (think bigger than your hand, including fingers). I wish I could say I went out there to protect my sons, but I handed them the bug spray and as they said, “they sprayed the daylights out of the spider.” And hit the spider with the hose, etc…

God was trying to get through to me about fear. Do you want to know what I came across in my devotional? Sometimes when you want comfort and understanding, you get a quick kick in the butt. The verse said:

The sluggard says, "There is a lion outside!" or, "I will be murdered in the streets!" Prov 22:13

God was telling me….. in fact I felt the admonishment of “GET OVER IT” there is fear whether it is in circumstances or in bugs!!! I don’t feel God was calling me a sluggard, but he was telling me to let go of my (fear, excuses, lack of faith) so he could move in my life. This has been a difficult two weeks, and the “getting over it” is a process that I am, with his strength, overcoming albeit slowly.

God said, “Girl I want to use you, but we need to get over the hurdle of paralyzing fear.” I love how God drives homes points in my life sometimes. How thick headed of me that it had to take a spider of epic portions to do it. Do I know where the spider is now? I think it is dead due to the destruction of three ambitious boys that love to protect their Momma. What about the blessings that are causing me fear? They are still there but because of the spider incident I know I can move forward knowing God is with me always….even in the laundry room.

Do you have a fear that is in the way of being all God wants you to be? Hit it head on girl, the Lord is going to walk you through it. Notice I did not say deliever you from it, but walk you THROUGH IT.

PS- I know you will all be happy to know I did do many loads of laundry this weekend, and yes I was very proud of myself. I know it just would not fly with hubby if I said, "but honey I have a phobia of doing laundry..." Like I said, yes this is a funny story but it has formed one big lesson on my heart. And I had to chuckle because after I wrote this devotional the song, "Dive" from Stephen Curtis Chapman was blaring....

My heart is racing and my knees are weak, As I walk to the edge, I know there is no turning back, Once my feet have left the ledge, And in the rush I hear a voice That's telling me it's time to take the leap of faith, So here I go......

I would love for you to visit me at Book Buzz here on CWO or my personal blog: Laurel Wreath

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Simply Believe

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.”
~ Psalm 103:2-4 (ESV)

Working with over 600 employees at the corporate office (300 in the accounting department), I come in contact with many different faiths. One of my coworker’s I work-side-by-side is Muslim—a devout Muslim. Since this is the month of Ramadan, he is fasting from sunrise to sundown. He is also expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam as well as refraining from anger, envy, greed, lust, sarcastic retorts, backbiting, and gossip.

Driving to work the other day, I though about my own faith. My co-worker’s faith is based on his own works to make it to heaven. Do you realize that Christianity is the only faith on this earth that is not based on works of an individual? All we have to do is to believe. Believe that the work has been done by one Man—Jesus Christ. He stretched out His arms to remove our sins – as far the east is from the west…

“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
~ Psalm 103:10-12 (ESV)

It still amazes me every single day how gracious our Lord is. Even though I have sinned and continue to sin, He removes every single stain to make me white as snow. I don’t deserve His goodness—He continues to love me. His love brings me to tears every single day—I don’t know how to thank Him for that.

Although I am not required to do works, I still want to refrain from anger, envy, greed, lust, sarcastic retorts, backbiting, and gossip. Not because it is my ‘ticket’ to heaven, but I want to thank Him for His sacrifice.

As for my co-worker, I pray for him. I pray that he will get curious about me own faith. That maybe one day he will ask me questions what Christianity is all about? I am ready for his questions…

Lord of Heaven and Earth. I want to thank You today for Your love. You don’t require works from me to spend eternity with You. You have accomplished it at the cross. Lord, I ask You today to open the hearts of the ones who do not know You yet. Give me the words to share, to point to the cross. In the precious name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen.

Do you know Him yet? Do you want to know more about Him and His saving grace? If you are ready to give Him your life, please visit our “Ready” page.

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

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Scripture Memory

In a "Taste and See" article found here in its entirety, John Piper says of Scripture memory:

"First, a few testimonies: I have it third hand, that Dr. Howard Hendricks of Dallas Seminary once made the statement (and I paraphrase) that if it were his decision, every student graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary would be required to learn one thousand verses word perfect before they graduated.

Dallas Willard, professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, wrote, "Bible memorization is absolutely fundamental to spiritual formation. If I had to choose between all the disciplines of the spiritual life, I would choose Bible memorization, because it is a fundamental way of filling our minds with what it needs. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth. That’s where you need it! How does it get in your mouth? Memorization" ("Spiritual Formation in Christ for the Whole Life and Whole Person" in Vocatio, Vol. 12, no. 2, Spring, 2001, p. 7).

Chuck Swindoll wrote, "I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified" (Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994], p. 61)."

Doesn't that sound like a worthwhile endeavor? It does to me!

There are many, many ways to effectively memorize scripture. There are card systems, audio cd's with Scriptures set to music, and curriculum and programs for adults and children alike. All of those things are great, but if you simply have a Bible (something we often take for granted, for there are people in the world who do not have access to written copies of God's Word) you can get started today! Piper shares his own method in a short audio clip here. The keys, he says, are to pray for discipline and to set aside the time. I'll summarize his steps:

*Choose your passage of Scripture, choosing verses that will help your soul. This is not for mechanical memorization, this is to fight the devil, to minister to others when you don't have your Biblewith you... this is to help strengthen you at 3:00 in the afternoon. These are for you!

*Mark an "M" next to the passage in your Bible.

*Read the verse 10 times in your Bible.

*Say it 10 times with your Bible closed.

*Carry it with you on a piece of paper or notecard and review, review, review.

*The next day, add the next verse and repeat the steps.

*All in all, he says, 5-10 minutes a day is all it takes!

Is Scripture memory part of your day? If it is, please share in the comments effective techniques you've found or share which passages you're working on. This is something we should all be doing. Let's encourage each other to do this daily!

Have a blessed weekend!

Cyndi blogs at One Day More and Mater Magistra.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

L'shana tova

L'shana tova

"May you be inscribed for a good year."

Last night and this morning saw the opening of the Book of Life. The days of repentence and renewal have begun. For the next ten days Jews across the world will be celebrating and reflecting back on the past year with the purpose of bridging the gap and solidifying their place in the Book of Life for another year.

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the High Holy Days, open and close this time of repentence.

As a college student I was hired each year to sing in the High Holy Day choir of a large Jewish temple. One year I even directed the choir. Each year I was awestruck by the richness of the structures, materials and liturgy in these houses of worship. Each year I listened, intent on finding out what these special days were all about, why they were so special. Often the messages in these long services were about how to revive the Jewish faith in our country; or how to keep the traditions alive in our culture today.

As the worshipers read through the Hebrew (their books of worship read right to left), I was able to pick out some words here and there and speak along with them. Our texts for the songs were beautiful and the scale used in the songs was one that brought to mind the flavor of Israel. The Torah, carried around and around the seats, was brushed by hundreds of penitent Jews who then touched their lips to transfer the holiness to themselves. It was a holy experience for me. But one that always gave me pause.

Though many Jews no longer believe that Messiah is coming, they rather believe that we are living in a "Messianic Age", I would always have the desire to shout, "He's come, you missed Him! It is Jesus whom you seek!" It weighed down my heart to know that the hope that so permeated the Jewish culture thousands of years ago is all but gone replaced often by resignation and ritual for ritual's sake.

Romans 11 tells us we are grafted into a vine that is already in existence. The root supports us, and we are not to boast. The Jews are the chosen people, we are the adopted sons and daughters. Our relationship is one of history, tradition and a shared love of the same God. I carried this sense of respect with me into every service.

So as we go about our business this season, let us remember our Jewish brothers and sisters. Lift them up in prayer that they may see the light of Christ in us and be changed. For we know without a doubt, that our life is secure in Jesus, the Book of Life for us is home.

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

Blessed Interruptions

I find that things out of the ordinary intrigue human beings. Having a picnic on the living room floor, sleeping in the family room with the kids, or visiting a new park are all things that appeal to us because they take us away from the norm and bring variety into our lives.

I try to surprise the kids a few times each school year by showing up at the school and taking them out to lunch. Today was that day. "Get in the car, Babies!" I hollered while we all piled in, excited to explore any road leading from the dullness of same-old-same-old.

I passed our friends truck, and gave them a wave yelling, "We'll meet you guys there!" But as I did, I was stopped by her frantic wave urging me to stop.

We had an issue, and since my mechanic background is limited to the occasional lift of a hood (once to be exact), we were pretty much stuck. My friend’s key was locked in the ignition. It wouldn't turn over--it wouldn't pull out--it wouldn't do anything but remain where it was. All of the kids were excited to go, but it was obvious that we had a big problem to deal with.

It turns out that instead of going to McDonald's as planned, I had to rush through the drive through and get back to the school with food for both families. We ended up sitting together in the kindergarten room while the car with the key remained on the street. It wasn't our ideal lunch date, but it certainly was a road that led from the dullness of same-old-same-old.

If I hadn't slowed down to notice, I would have missed my friend completely, who would have then been stranded with three kids and no lunch. This wasn’t a major issue in either of our lives, but it did get me thinking about the major issues that I do pass by.

Interruptions are a wonderful gift from God. They're the moments that not only remind us that we're not alone in this world, but also that we have opportunities to serve those around us.

Our days are filled with endless opportunities, but too often we rush by, never slowing down enough to take note of a need. One way to change this is to make request in our prayer lives to have an ever-growing desire to serve those in need. Eyes to see what others would miss; ears to hear the cry of ones heart, and hands to hold on to another in pain.

“And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”
~ Luke 10:30-37

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Aloe for the Soul

“Just as lotions and fragrance give sensual delight,
a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.”
Proverbs 27:9

Each year we take a vacation to the beach. Everyday is spent enjoying the sun, splashing in the salt water, riding the waves, and playing in the sand. We soak up this fun from the time the sun comes up in the morning until it sets beyond the horizon in the evening, and even then we are usually taking nightly walks on the beach looking for crabs with flashlights.

By the end of the vacation, we have all usually gotten a little too much sun. Now for those of you that are already thinking, “Why wouldn’t you wear sunscreen”, let me assure you, we do. However, it wears off, and we all tend to forget to reapply it fast enough and then the damage is already done. Most of you can probably mentally take yourself to a place where you were exhausted, sticky from salt water, and stinging from the combination of salt and sand rubbing against your skin. It isn’t until you get cleaned up and are able to apply what we call “the green goop”, but is commonly called Aloe Vera, that you begin to feel relief. This green slimy stuff (that we keep in the refrigerator) can actually be some of the most refreshing gel in the world after a long day on the beach. It soothes, heals, and even sometimes anesthetizes your skin.

This week, I was reminded how friendships can often be the lotion God uses to heal the sunburns of our hearts. There are times when the heat and irritants of our world can really get to us. We can find ourselves feeling exhausted emotionally, mentally irritated, and our spirits can often have a painful sting. I can think of so many times in my own life where I’ve felt this way and God would use a friend to come alongside and refresh me. Sometimes it happens through a phone call, an email, or perhaps a letter in my mailbox. Whatever it may be, it always comes at just the right time (after a long hard day) and it has a way of bringing comfort and even invigorating me to keep going in this journey of life.

Does someone come to your mind that’s been a refresher in your life recently? Did you take the time to thank them and communicate just how God used them to bless you?

What about you? Are you consciously being a refresher to others? Can you think of someone this week that you called, emailed, wrote a letter to, or text with the sole purpose of encouraging them?

We all have moments where life just seems too “hot” to handle and the irritations seem to be rubbing in every direction. Let’s be conscious this week to not only thank those who are used by God to rejuvenate us, but to also take the time to reach out and be that soothing lotion to another parched and weary soul!

Lord, thank you for sending people in my life at just the right time to remind me that you love me and care for me. Thank you for the gift of friendship and for the way you use it to energize and refresh every part of our lives. I praise you that you are The Friend that sticks closer than a brother, and no matter how scorched my soul may feel, you are always there waiting to be my Ultimate Refresher.

In Him~

You can read more from Tammy by visiting her personal blog at Steps in Our Journey

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Picture this. You are walking through an art gallery full of priceless masterpieces. Every one is unique, and each one carries its own form of beauty. Each piece tells a different story. Some have been damaged by time while others seem untarnished.

As you walk through, you begin to critique each piece. You begin to marvel and wonder how something so beautifully and wonderfully made could carry such flaws. You stop by a particular piece and begin to examine it, voicing your opinion about how this work of art could or should have been created better. You hear as others voice their concerns about the art, and you begin to notice the imperfections they see as well. Their opinion becomes your opinion. You move onto the next piece, as the previous piece is no longer perfect or worthy of your time.

As you walk away, it is then that you realize that this piece of art you were so harshly criticizing was in fact your very own reflection in a mirror. The work of art was you; the Artist.... God.

Isaiah 64:8 "Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the
potter; we are the work of your hand."

We are the workmanship of God. We truly are His masterpieces. It is each unique look or personality trait that makes us priceless. It makes us who we are - the person God created us to be. Who are we to judge God's work? Who are we to throw dirt on His craftsmanship? Yet, this is exactly what we do when we judge others and ourselves.

If we are going to walk through God's art gallery and notice the flaws in His sculptures, we need to put our suggestions in the suggestion box instead of criticizing each piece. In simpler terms.... we should pray to the Creator. He is the only one who can make the changes anyway. Only He knows how He intends for this piece to turn out. Besides, do you think He would have paid the highest price for all of us if we weren't worth it?

FYI: I am now Mrs. Ryan Bayliss. The big day was September 8th. I will tell you all about it. We are currently on our honeymoon in Mexico! I'll talk to you ladies when I get home... to my new place!

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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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We Take Nothing With Us

A friend’s daughter just had a life altering surgery with two more needed in the next year while other girls at the age of fourteen are going to school, visiting with friends, and enjoying their youth. A Pastor who we have recently been acquainted with collapsed and died suddenly not only leaving a church in shock but a wife and two young children. A blogging friend just received news of the tragic death of her twenty year old nephew who loved the Lord. A friend lost her husband of eighteen years suddenly and without warning leaving her to the care of two young children. My favorite aunt heard those terrifying words, “cancer” and left us to meet her Savior much earlier than we had ever hoped. A few nights ago, my husband and I sat and listened to a couple who were living in New York City on 9/11 /2001, and who were both employed as flight attendants on one of the airlines whose plane went into the World Trade Center. His wife was working on board a flight that morning heading to the West Coast and he carefully described the moment by moment agony he experienced as he watched and waited to discover his wife's fate. Joy does not describe his relief when he discovered that her flight was still taxiing at the time of the first impact, but was mixed with great grief. They shared that for weeks following the tragedy they were completely numb only able to do nothing but sit and watch the smoke rise from the tip of Manhattan. Since then, they have chosen to walk by faith and not fear, but the scars remain.

Tragedy, loss, suffering and death have impacted my life as I am sure it has yours as well. Often times it occurs suddenly and without warning or preparation. We all know we are not guaranteed tomorrow. The question then and still today often times is, “why?” Why such evil? Why such loss? Why such suffering? Why do so many innocent people have to die? I am not going to try and answer the “why?” question, but could certainly point you in the direction of scripture and others who have looked at the tragedies in our country in recent years and who offer some biblical answers as to “why?”

If you haven’t figured it out already I am just an ordinary woman, wife, and mother. I am a sinner who has been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ shed on a cross. I live in a fallen world corrupted by sin since the garden. God’s plan of redemption was laid before the foundation of the earth. No where in scripture am I or anyone else promised a life without tragedy, loss, suffering and death. And when I wrap my arms around a sister in Christ who is in the midst of deep sorrow and grief, everything in me wants to provide answers and immediately address the question, “why?” But the only hope that I or anyone else can offer is in Christ. He came, lived among us, and suffered a horrific and tragic death, so that I whether given many years on this earth or not, could have life rather than the death that I most certainly deserve. Nothing in this life or on this earth compares to Christ. We take nothing with us and leave only the impact we have on the lives of others.

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:7-11

In Him...Chris

You may visit Chris at her personal blog Come to the Table


Monday, September 10, 2007

Give Away Your Gift


A large family gathered for a Thanksgiving dinner. Sitting around the table are a young boy and seven other family members. Each one of these family members has a particular spiritual gift. While they are eating, the young boy accidentally spills his milk. Following are the responses of each individual:

TEACHER- “If you would set your milk near your plate you would be less likely to spill it.”
SERVANT- “I will help you clean it up.”
PROPHET- “You spilled your milk because you were being careless”
ADMINISTRATOR- “Billy, get a mop. Eddie, pick up the glass. Sally, clean up the table.”
GIFT OF GIVING- “ You can have my milk.”
MERCY- “ I’m so sorry you spilled your milk. I’ll get you some more.”
ENCOURAGEMENT- “ It’s okay. It happens to all of us at one time or another.”

We all have been gifted in different ways and all are important. In our spiritual lives, we must ask the Lord to help us know our gifts and then use them for His glory.
Don’t desire someone else’s gift. Just seek to know that which you have already been given, and use that gift for God’s glory!

In Him,

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Recognizing Our Traveling Companion

One week ago today, I pulled myself away from my 18 year-old son and left him “all alone” to begin his new life at college. Heart-wrenching!

I hardly had time to process my grief because two very beloved cousins whom I had not seen in years spontaneously flew in to visit. Joy! Twenty-four hours later, they zipped off with no assurance or plan for our ever being together again. Sorrow!

Note the events in one week: Sad separation, ecstatic reunion, sad separation. Picture water faucets being twisted one way full-force, then jerked back the other way, then the other way. The water works flowed.

But God is good. He had led me to re-read Luke 24 several times lately, and now I think I know why. Separations and reunions were about to happen all around me, and my loving Lord would prepare me, if I would recognize his voice, to receive his peace.

Luke 24:17 tell us that on the road to Emmaus, the two disciples’ faces were “downcast,” probably revealing confusion, fear of the future, disillusionment. Often the disciples forgot/didn’t understand Jesus’ mission, even though he told them exactly what to expect, and even though the angel at the tomb reminded them, “Remember how he told you ….” Still, I have compassion for these guys. It’s hard to be clear-headed when you’re grieving.

But--there was a reunion at dinnertime: as soon as Jesus broke bread with them, they recognized him with spiritual eyes and in their hearts. Immediately, they went back to their friends with renewed hope, vigor and joy!

This account shows that Jesus cares when our hearts are heavy. If we will recognize him in the midst of our pain, he will renew us, too.

John Piper notes that Jesus’ ascension is called the "Ascent of Joy."

He adds, “Ordinarily when our best beloved departs on a long journey we do not rejoice. We cry. In order for that crying to be turned into rejoicing we have to be deeply assured of two things.”

The first criterion is that we believe the separation is not final. The Lord gave us many promises about being reunited with him, but John 16:22 is very pointed: “You are now very sad. But later I will see you, and you will be so happy that no one will be able to change the way you feel.” He promised us, “There are many rooms in my Father's house. I wouldn't tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together” (John14:2-3).

The second criterion is that “we must be assured that the separation is best for us and best for our beloved.”

And here, of course, is the line that brought all of this together for me: “It has to be more like sending your nine-year-old off to camp or your 18-year-old off to college. And so it was. The ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven at God's right hand was an ‘ascent of joy’ because it meant that the greatest possible blessing would come to Jesus and to his people.”

The Son was returning to his glory with his Father, and we became the beneficiaries of eternal mediation between God and man, provided by the Spotless Lamb. He returned to his rightful place, and we received a blessing we had no right to receive.

This week, my Comforter met me on my own Emmaus walk. Now I’m ready to square my shoulders, turn around and carry on what I was about before, renewed and reminded of his faithfulness.

If you feel as though you’re walking alone today, look up, and recognize your traveling companion. “… For He [God] Himself has said, ‘I will not in any way fail you, nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless, nor forsake, nor let you down or relax my hold on you! Assuredly not!’” (Hebrews 13:5b, Amplified)

Please visit my personal blog at 2nd cup of coffee.

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Saturday, September 8, 2007

Take Heart

Heart, take heart!

I know I am not the only one who needs to speak such words to that traitorous organ, for it makes promises it does not keep, yes?

Young heart staunchly declares independence: I don’t need anyone! Then one dark evening, as the deadbolt is locked, a new and frightening rhythm of loneliness taps throughout our being.

Despairing heart vows to build a breach-less wall and never love again, then pounds out a rhythm of betrayal when a dear friend hurdles the makeshift barrier and changes everything. Forever.

When loss penetrates and then passes, heart soothingly whispers, I am whole again...never fear... And days later, nay moments, a reminder of that loss sweeps over and heart cracks and crumbles, emitting scarcely a quiet thump to indicate that life ever existed at all.

It is treacherous, this heart of mine.

It holds patterns akin to the weather - cold and brittle one moment, warm and comforting the next.

Heart, take heart! I know there are ups and downs, I prepare for them! But heart, you are so easily swayed, and you take me with you.

Let us not make empty promises to each other, shall we?

Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven and you are on earth,
so let your words be few. (Ecclesiastes 5:2)
Let us number our words and speak truth together! Let us behold the mighty hand of God working in us and in those around us, and cling to His promises, His goodness.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)
Let the winds buffet. Heart, take heart!

Let the waters threaten. Heart, take heart!

And take refuge.

In the Hands that will sustain a steady rhythm and shelter us when life bullies.

Take heart!

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

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Friday, September 7, 2007

Let's Be Frank

Over the past two weeks the Lord has drawn my prayers and thoughts to the people who have traveled with me on my journey toward heaven. God has brought to mind people who provided me with teaching, correction, and prayer. These individuals grew me into a deeper love relationship with Jesus.

An unlikely person was Frank. Frank was a colleague at the bank where I were I worked several years ago. Not once in my entire twenty-three years of banking had I worked with another Christian. Little did I realize God was about to set me on a new journey.

Over stacks of loan files Frank and I began to talk about faith and the Bible. He was wise and filled with the Holy Spirit. He began to slowly and carefully teach me new insights into God’s character and purpose for my life.

I know I spent a lot of time learning about the Holy Spirit. Frank brought in books for me to read along with my daily Bible reading. He said to me, “Lynn, read the good ole’ dead guys. They had it figured out long before we came along.”

He brought me books by R.A. Torrey, A.W. Tozer and Andrew Murray. I love Andrew Murray. I am currently reading two books by Murray today. Frank also recommended some of the good ole dead girls as well, such as Hanna Widall-Smith.

Over a course of two years Frank challenged me. He pushed me to discover more of God’s character. He led me to a fresh indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Last week I telephoned Frank to thank him for those years of instruction. I explained how his love for Christ inspired me and grew my relationship with the King. Frank responded like Frank, “Awe shucks.” He was humble and gave all the credit to Jesus.

I think God delights in those ah-ha moments when we realize He orchestrated an encounter, a friendship. It delighted the Father for me to telephone Frank and say, “Thank you. Thank you for sharing Jesus with me.”

Who was your Frank? A pastor, a parent, a neighbor, the grocery clerk? Honor them with a card or a call. Then let's be Frank with someone else.

Colossians 3:16 (NLT)
16 Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

Please visit me at: Spiritually Unequal Marriage.

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Friday Night Lights

Friday nights in Alabama during this time of the year are good for only one thing - High School Football. Though I personally do not understand a thing about the sport, I love wrapping up in a warm blanket on a cool night and yacking it up with all my football widow friends whose husbands find it necessary to hang on the fence and discuss each play as it's being made.

Our boys have not had the best record in the last couple of years. You could say we are a small school with very few players so it is difficult to go head-to-head with teams double in size. Even though the crowds continued to come to the games, there was bad mojo. People were more ready to boo than cheer, more ready to criticize than praise. If I sensed that being a new member of the community, I know the players and coaches did.

This year, for lack of a better explanation, I believe God means to do a work among the kids in our High School and I perceive He is beginning with the football team. We have coaches who are not only concerned about winning ballgames but are determined to build character in this group of young men. We have fathers who are working themselves to death to create a top-notch field and club house. We have moms who tirelessly serve nachos and barbecue at every single home game. We have a community who is coming together to say, 'no more bad mojo - you kids are more important than the scoreboard'.

This past Friday night, something happened that can only be explained as a subtle paradigm shift. There was a lighter atmosphere in the stands, a different buzz among the crowd, a fresh spirit among the players. It was one of those times where everything was the same, but everything was different. And our boys? They played their hearts out! I've never seen them so pumped or the crowd so energized. Football is the most confusing sport to me and yet and I found myself biting my jaws to keep back the tears when our boys scored or got excited over a great play. All I can say to you is that there was a great coming together that night that has set a different tone for this season.

Which is why we were so devastated when we were beaten in the last seconds of the game - over a technicality which made no sense to me whatsoever. But, in a scene worthy of any great movie, our teary-eyed boys raised their helmets to the alma mater and stood proud as the music played. What I pray they know is that the town stood and cried with them.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25:

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."
These guys may have been behind on the scoreboard but what is being built in them will last forever. Boys, you give Friday Night Lights a whole new meaning....You shine brightly and my family is looking so forward to God revealing exactly what He is up to in your midst. Coaches, the investment you are making into these young lives is imperishable. I pray you sense what I do - that something is happening - and it is beginning with you.

I would love to see you at my personal blog, The Preacher's Wife.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Imagine That!

“Laurel close those blinds, we are like fish living in a fish bowl with the blinds wide open,” my Mom would always say. So I would pretend I was a fish and swim over to close the blinds. As a little girl I would lie in bed and look out my window staring at the moon dreaming that my future prince charming was looking at the same moon. I would dream about what he was doing, or where he was living. Also I would dream of my wedding day, what I would wear and who would be there. My imagination carried me many places while growing up.

As I grew and I studied the bible more and more my imagination traveled back through the bible studies. What did the wine that was just water moments ago taste like? Did the wedding attendants realize how special that drink was? Or were they oblivious to the miracle that was just performed? What did it look like when Christ was feeding the 5,000? And did they realize that he was serving with a broken heart because he just lost one of his closest friends, John the Baptist? Was the fish and bread the best they have ever tasted?

Imaginations can be used for good or for evil.

Because I am a dreamer I can get carried away, when things don’t happen according to MY dreams or MY plans, I find myself crying out to the Lord. Or in my imaginations I can predict how someone or something is going to react and I can have a complete argument or plan of action ready before one word is spoken. Then I am caught off guard or disappointed when things do not go according to my imagined will. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor 10:5 NIV) Satan is sly, he can try to capture your imaginations and use them against the will of God, but we need to measure everything according to the knowledge of God. Battle of the mind is something women especially struggle with, or at least I do.

But imaginations can be used for good also. They can allow us to empathize with feelings and thoughts of others. Imagination gives us the heart and desire to reach out to help others. “May my meditations be pleasing to him…” (Psm 104:34 NIV) It also helps to enhance and deepen our prayer life. “…you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my laying down; you are familiar with all my ways..” (Psm 139:2b-3 NIV)

Isaiah 66:18 says, “And I, because of their actions and their imaginations, am about to come and gather all nations and tongues, and they will come and see my glory.” (NIV)

It is just like God to make one of our greatest weaknesses (our mind) and turn it into a strength. Through our imaginations we will see God’s glory. Satan will try to steer our imaginations away from God, knowing this is an area that will help us draw us closer to God. Eve was led astray by her imagination; she imagined what it would be like to be like God. Therefore, it is important to measure everything up against the knowledge of God. But in return, God will use our imaginations to help us draw closer to him and to display his glory.

Why do you think this song is so powerful? Because our imagination is powerful!

"I can only imagine what it will be like, when I walk by Your side...
I can only imagine, what my eyes will see, when Your Face is before me!
I can only imagine. I can only imagine.

Surrounded by Your Glory, what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus? Or in awe of You, be still?
Will I stand in Your presence, or to my knees will I fall?

Will I sing 'Hallelujah!'? Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine! I can only imagine!" ~Mercy Me

I would love for you to visit me at Book Buzz here on CWO or my personal blog: Laurel Wreath

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Holding Fast

“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” ~ Philippians 2:14-16 (ESV)

Saying that I have had a trying summer would be an understatement. I had previously shared that many changes have occurred, still are, in my professional and personal life.

Not only got I a little discouraged with all the changes, but I truly got discouraged with my ‘online life’ as well. I was ready to throw in the towel couple of weeks ago--my email server got hacked. I was denied access by the hosting company to my own email. I couldn’t communicate with my online world as I was used to.

I had to make a decision. Do I really want to go through all the hassle moving hosting companies with my Blogs? Although I am somewhat technical savvy, moving entire Blogs was not really something I wanted to do—or had the time for. Other attacks came too, but I don’t want to go into that.

I prayed, asked a couple of my online friends if I should continue, or just give up. One of my dearest online friends said “Well you could throw in the towel; you would have an easier life, and have more time for scrapping, and doing what you enjoy. But you wouldn't be making a difference in things that matter eternally. You would not be spreading God's word and being a light through this computer screen. The attacks won't stop, the comments won't go away, and the difficulties unfortunately may always be thorn in the side.”

What a wise friend. Yes, we are in the middle of a battle. Sometimes it is seen, other times it is not. Jesus never said that life this side of heaven would be easy. There will be attacks from the world, or even within the church.

Paul is telling us to hold fast to the word of life. No matter what will happen, no matter how hard the attacks get, stay strong, my sweet sisters. It is so worth it! There is so much darkness in this world, but He is using us and the technology of the Internet to spread a little light. With Him we can stand the attacks we face every single day, in real life and online.
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~ Philippians 2:1-4 ESV.

Lord of Heaven and Earth. I want to thank You for sending wise friends into my life. Yes, sometimes it is easy to just throw in the towel, to give up. You equipped us to be the light in the world. Lord, help us to shine no matter what. I the precious name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen.

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

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Monday, September 3, 2007

Shabbat Shalom

Today, is Labor day--a day of rest. And while we're resting, it's a wonderful day to discuss Sabbath rest.

I was corresponding with Ruth from It's True Sighed Roo, and her words were so perfect, I asked if I could share them. I notice that Ruth doesn't capitalize her words, but I'm leaving them because I love the way she writes.

She's truly a beautiful soul, and this is what she wrote me...

i've been remembering the parable of the wise and foolish virgins and seeing my self (unforchunately) so often pulled to the foolish side of the fence. they were all waiting to meet their bridegroom! the dresses had been bought -- the hair had been styled -- the lamps were in their hand......

when i was in israel serving at a christian coffee shop in the old city of jerusalem....i would literally count the hours until i could have my quiet time. i so longed for that intimacy with my creator. i remember getting up at 6 or 7am every day...and going to the roof top and reading my bible and praying and journalling and singing until 12 noon! nearly everyday. my heart was soooo full.

and now, i am aching to get back to that. somehow it slipped away on me. sure,life is different now and i am a mommy and a wife with other responsibilies. but truth be told, i often allow little foxes/distractions to take away moments i should be spendingwith HIM.

may we know TRUE SHABBAT in every part of our that we can be living water to those are are sooo very thirsty. love ya darlene...

A few days ago, Ruth sent me a letter telling me what Shabbat Shalom was...

Shabbat is a hebrew holiday. God gave to Israel in the OT. (GEn 2:1-3 - EX 20:8-11 - Ex 31:12-17 - Lev 23:3 - Duet 12-13) I know you will remember hearing about "Shabbat" in the bible. And traditional Jewish families continue to celebrate this custom today. The Shabbat meal is one of the most beautiful meals I have ever experienced in all my life.

The greeting "Shabbat Shalom" comes from the literal meaning of "SABBATH PEACE" or "SABBATH REST". In israel you will hear the greeting "shalom" wherever you go but on "shabbat" (which begins at sundowon on friday and ends at sundown on saturday) you will hear "SHABBAT SHALOM" as a greeting. On shabbat there is no work allowed. It is to be a day of rest. (Something we know very little of in our culture)

The greeting is meant as a blessing and the definition is heavy with richness and meaning. I've spent some time in israel and it changed me. It's amazing to go to a land you have read about - heard about your entire life and see with your eyes the very places you heard about in sunday school.

And spend time with the very people and the very culture that your Lord and saviour came through.

The feasts in the OT all mirror or forshadow things that relate to the Messiah. Our Messiah and so when we give the greeting "SHabbat SHalom" it means so much more to believers then just the tradtional greeting given once a week. It symbolises the rest and peace and blessing and prosperity we are called to walk in as believers in JEsus Christ. And not just once a week. ALL WEEK LONG. ALL DAY LONG. something i often fail in but I know is possible only through Him.

There's more...but I don't know where to stop with stuff like this!!! ahhh. Shabbat Shalom Darlene. May the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.....the God of Israel continue to lead you in his peace.

Thank you Ruth. You inspire me to dig into Old Testament books!


visit Ruth at her blog, It's True Sighed Roo