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Thursday, January 31, 2008

The God Who Sees Me

Do you ever feel like no one sees you? Not literally, but that no one sees you--who you are past all the surface stuff. Have you ever had that feeling when you are talking with someone who is not really present? You know what I'm talking about--the glazed eyes and "uh-uhs."This can be very painful. We all long to be "seen," to be known.

God created us to be in relationship with Him and with others. He created us each uniquely and "threw away the blueprint." We each have something special to offer back to Him in praise, and something special to offer others, as well.

In studying the various names of God in scripture, one has really jumped out at me in the past year--El Roi, which means "the God who sees." It testifies to His omnipresence, seeing all. This is the name of God that Hagar, a woman in despair and without hope, uses to refer to God. He is the God who sees and cares about all our circumstances, even the ones where we have dug a hole for ourselves by our sinful choices. I don't know about you, but this brings me unmeasured comfort. We serve an amazing God!

R.C. Sproul writes in "The Character of God":

There are many things in my life that I do not want to put under the gaze of Christ. Yet I know there is nothing hidden from Him. He knows me better than my wife knows me. And yet He loves me. This is the most amazing thing of all about God's grace. It would be one thing for Him to love us if we could fool Him into thinking that we were better than we actually are. But He knows better. He knows all there is to know about us, including those things that could destroy our reputation. He is minutely and acutely aware of every skeleton in every closet. And He loves us.

He sees you when you feel so inadequate with the tasks before you.
He sees your dreams and desires.
He sees when you blow it with your children.
He sees when you cry tears of loneliness.
He sees you when you are struggling with the reflection in the mirror.
He sees your victories.
He sees you.

So dear sisters, I pray that you are encouraged that you serve "a God who sees you" and One that loves you deeply. We can not escape HIs presence--He is with us in the heights and in the depths.


Psalm 139
O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain! Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!






Wednesday, January 30, 2008

January 30, 2008

The Internet Cafe

welcomes

Melanie from Big Mama

"Clean Up on Aisle 9"



The other day my daughter Caroline and I were in the grocery store. She rarely wants to ride in the cart anymore unless it’s the monstrosity that is the bright blue racecar cart. You know, the ones that make semi-trucks look small and maneuverable by comparison?

So, since I knew it was going to be a fairly quick trip I allowed her to walk next to me. As we went down the various aisles, I would tell her what we needed and together we would look for it. It was a peaceful, harmonious time until we arrived on the breakfast cereal/fruit snack aisle.

“Mama, I want these!” she said, holding up the box of My Little Pony fruit snacks. If I had a dime for every box of novelty fruit snacks we have bought and then not eaten, well, I would have a lot of dimes. Maybe even two dollars worth.

“Please, I want them. They are so cute and the most beautiful!” she continued to beg. I said, “No, we’re not getting those. You think you want them but you won’t like them. How about these other kind? You’ll like these.”

She continued to insist, I continued to say no and thus, meltdown on Aisle 9 ensued.

I was so frustrated that she wouldn’t listen to me and thought to myself that I don’t know why she won’t let me tell her anything. I know what she’ll like and what she won’t. I am the mama, I know what’s best. I didn’t want her to get fruit snacks that would just go to waste and not get a snack she’d really enjoy.

And in that moment, on Aisle 9, it hit me. God showed up right there among the Honey-nut Cheerios and I saw myself in my child as He said, “That’s what I’m trying to teach you. I am the Father, I know what’s best.”

Let me be clear that God and I have not been wrestling over My Little Pony fruit snacks. I’ve never been much of a fruit snack girl. But I have been learning that His ways are truly higher than my ways. He knows me better than I know myself.

In the last year of my life so many things have happened that I wouldn’t have asked for or planned. The way has looked really uncertain and the path has been rocky. I’ve had so many times of praying for God to do one thing and then seeing Him do another. It has stretched my faith beyond where it’s ever been stretched.

I’ve had moments of confusion, fear and waiting. Waiting to see His hand. Waiting to see Him provide. And He has, but not always in the ways that seemed to make the most sense to me or in the ways that I wanted.

At the same time, I’ve seen doors begin to open to opportunities I never even dreamed of and my life begin to move in a direction that I couldn’t have imagined. And while it still seems like a lot of pieces in a puzzle that I’m waiting to see come together, I can see the pieces. I can see His hand. I can see His provision.

And it looks different than what I wanted.



It looks better.

I was busy asking for my version of My Little Pony fruit snacks and He was nudging me along knowing that just because they might look beautiful, doesn’t mean they are the right things for me. He had something better in mind because He knows me better than I know myself.

He sees the whole picture and all I see is what’s on Aisle 9.

God, help me to walk in your ways. Help me overcome my unbelief and trust your heart even when your hand is moving in ways I don’t understand.

Isaiah 55: 8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”


God bless,


Melanie
bigmama1.com





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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"My Grace is Sufficient for You"

"My grace is sufficient for you, Laura." (2 Cor. 12:9)

That scripture raced through my mind while I sat on the toilet, with a neighbor of mine standing next to me, as my back wrenched in painful, unrelenting spasms. At nearly 6 months pregnant yet too often hoisting my 18-month old daughter, I found that my back stopped working a week ago.

The clenching pain was far more serious than anything I felt in childbirth. I literally couldn't walk for days. My legs wouldn't respond. Any movement exacerbated the pain. Over the last few days, I’ve relearned to walk, and the pain has diminished. But I also know I must take better care of my body if I don't want to face that kind of paralyzing pain again.

(Honestly, if you want to read more, you can click here and here. But read what follows first.)

In this experience I became helplessly dependent on people around me. And they had to help me do things like walk me to the bathroom and pull my pants down for me. It was profoundly humbling. Far from home, an expatriate in the Middle East, I had no choice but to turn to people near me who were willing to help and receive what they could give.

These neighbors were God's gracious gift to this proud and self-dependent soul. We received meals, childcare, and ministering presences over this past week--none of which we could have planned. These "coincidences" awakened our little family to the reality that our Lord knows what we need and will give to us. He will.

Today, you may be facing physical pain, emotional turmoil, marital strife; or life for you might be rather cheery. Regardless, I know with confidence that our Lord is actively at work to provide for you.

But it might not be in the ways you want or expect. I never would have wanted what I've been through. But God opened my eyes to his provisions right in the middle of my pain. He gave me the eyes to see what he was giving me; the pain woke me up to his mighty hand of grace.

My priest prayed this prayer for me when this whole episode began, and I'd like to give it to you: I pray, Father, that you would give (your name) a clear perception of your grace today in the midst of the circumstances in which she finds herself. Let her know that your grace is sufficient, in whatever form it comes. Amen.

A clear perception of grace - that means having the eyes to see it: "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints..." (Eph. 1:18).

Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord. We want to see you. We know you are with us.

Dig Deeper: Pray the prayer above, and watch for God's hand at work today. Pay attention to the small things. Take the time to thank God--and the people he uses--for the ways his grace meets you today and everyday, even if it's not how you'd expect.


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Monday, January 28, 2008

Are You Losing Control?

(This was our first picture of QiuYue, "Lauren Elizabeth.")
In January of 2006 we started the process of adopting our daughter Lauren from China. We were so excited and did all the necessary paperwork, prepared her bedroom, bought her clothes, prayed for her everyday and waited. In September of 2006, we boarded a plane to China to bring home our distant daughter. She was 2 years old when she came home.


Lauren had been found abandoned in September of 2004 as a “red and crying” infant on the steps of a Buddhist Temple and brought directly to an orphanage where she would live until we came to get her.

While waiting for Lauren, I read many books about adopting a toddler and the effects of living in an orphanage during the early years of life. While studying, I learned a new term, “attachment disorder.”


Healthy attachments begin in early infancy. The infant experiences pain, hunger, or discomfort and expresses rage by crying. The infant's primary caregiver (usually the mother) responds to the infant's rage reaction with eye contact, touch, motion, or food. The infant learns to trust his caregiver for comfort and the bonding process begins. This bonding cycle is repeated countless times during the infant's first year of life. Uninterrupted repetition of the cycle results in a strong trust bond between infant and caregiver.


Attachment disorders result when the infant's needs are not gratified. Kathy Miller, founder and president of The Attachment Network in Oklahoma, explains, "When an infant expresses rage and feels no relief for her need, she learns that to survive this world, she must control it. These children actually believe that if they release control to anyone else that they will die."


It has been a long road with Lauren this past year and a half. I have had to deal with and respond to her far differently than I did with my three biological children.

I am thankful to say that Lauren now has a strong attachment to myself and my husband, but it hasn’t been without many tears and trials. She struggled so hard for control, and still does at times. She resisted our love for fear that we would abandon her because she could not trust anyone but herself. Even this tiny little girl had developed survival skills to protect herself. She resisted eye contact often withdrawing emotionally, or raging in anger.


This brings me to my devotional thought. How many of us have not been “raised” with the love of God? How many of us have not gone through the cycle of healthy attachment with our Lord?
We hurt, we cry out to God and He responds with love and comfort. However, many times we are not willing to trust Him and we miss the comfort and security that He brings to our hearts. That in turn cuts off the cycle of attachment to Him.


We struggle for control. We resist resting in His love because we have not grown to know that He is safe for us. We run place to place, person to person, from one vice to another looking for that quick fix and all along it could be found in Him. I believe that many of God’s children suffer with “attachment disorder” from their Savior. And certainly those who have never given their lives to Him most definitely suffer from it.

Getting Lauren through this has been trying at times. I’ve spent countless hours just holding and cuddling her, making eye contact even while at times she was fighting me with all her might. But, through those times, she has learned to trust. She has come to the conclusion that she is not in charge and when she hands over authority to me, she finds security.

If I just left her to herself, to make all her decisions and control every aspect of her life, the result would be a child (and eventually an adult) completely out of control. She would be self-destructive, hurting herself and everyone around her.

Have you ever known anyone like that? Have you yourself experienced this?

He has not left us to ourselves. He promises that He will never leave us as orphans.
His love is unfailing!


John 14:18
18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
NIV


Psalms 36:7
7 How priceless is Your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men
find refuge in the shadow of your wings.
NIV

Psalms 52:8
8 But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God's unfailing love
for ever and ever.
NIV

The Lord has and will do His part, however we have responsibility in this also. We have to be willing to hand over control to Him. To trust Him completely with our whole life.

It’s time for us to lose control, by giving it to Him!

Gal 2:20
20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
NIV


Lord, I pray that You would open the eyes of our hearts to see and know that we can trust You with all of our heart. Heal past hurts Lord and set us free from the fear that paralyzes us. I hand over all control to You and I trust You. Lord, let us walk in Your love and spread that love to everyone around us.


Photobucket Come check out my giveaways this week!

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Sunday Psalm

PSALM 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.

Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.

One thing I ask of the Lord,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.
Then my head will be exalted
above the enemies who surround me;
at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice when I call, O Lord;
be merciful to me and answer me.

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
Your face, Lord, I will seek.

Do not hide your face from me,
do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.

Though my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will receive me.

Teach me your way, O Lord;
lead me in a straight path
because of my oppressors.

Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
for false witnesses rise up against me,
breathing out violence.

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

May your Lord's Day be blessed!

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Signs of Life (part I)

"Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge will give to me on that day and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing." II Timothy 4:8

Memories were flying through my mind last week as I was sitting in a doctor's office waiting for a dear sister to finish her appointed checkup. The waiting room was different than most waiting rooms . The patients were mostly older and with oxygen machines. That visual memory took me back to Miami, Florida where we served the Lord as missionaries.

PICT2193_0188I was recalling the times I would take my beautiful and elderly Aunt to her Doctor's appointments. I wondered then what I wondered last week while watching the patients; where would they spend eternity? What were their young lives like?

I had peace concerning my aunt because she had been the first one in our whole family to receive Jesus Christ as her Savior 65 years ago! She not only received Him but exposed most of our family members to Christ. She had and still has a strong and bold testimony!

"Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, "I have no pleasure in them." Ecclesiastes 12:1

"...then the dust will return to the earth as it was. And the spirit will return to God who gave it." Ecclesiastes 12:7

In that waiting room, I recalled the expressions on the faces of some of the elderly sitting there. While the pains of life, fear and doubt was etched on the faces of some, still others seemed to show great peace and joy even in the midst of their grief.

I believe this is what the author of Ecclesiastes meant.

I began thinking of the verse by asking myself, "Did they remember their creator in the days of their youth? Were they saved? If they were, did they live a surrendered life for Christ? Were they bold? Did they just escape hell?"

Those hard pressed questions ached my mind...

While pondering, I realized that, I too, one day will face aging as they are now. I was thinking about my children's turn to take care of me. Will my testimony speak so loud that I will have that peace from God etched upon my face? Will my children have that same peace, knowing that their "mother" did fight the good fight of faith? I want that, wholeheartedly!

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race. I have kept the faith." II Timothy 4:7

Steve Green wrote and sang a beautiful song about living a life faithful to Jesus Christ. It goes like this...

"We're pilgrims on the journey, of the narrow road and those who've gone before us line the way.

Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary, their lives a stirring testament to God's sustaining grace.

Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run the race not only for the prize but as those who've gone before us.

Let us leave to those behind us the heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives.

Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful! May the fire of our devotion light their way.

May the footprints that we leave, lead them to believe, and the lives we live inspire them to obey.

Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful. After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone, and our children sift through all we've left behind, may the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover, become the light that leads them to the road we each must find!

Oh, may all who come behind us, find us faithful! Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful!

"Faithful" by Steve Green

"My dear Heavenly Father, may we not get weary in fighting the good fight! Give us the strength that you gave those that came before us! May we not take our lives for ourselves as Solomon did when he said at the end of his life, "All is vanity." Give us the boldness to share the gospel with the lost! Help us to leave a legacy of grace, my Lord and Savior!

Thank you my Savior for your promises! Amen!

In Him,

Elaine

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Have you talked to your father lately?



I've been thinking about my dad a lot lately. He passed away in July 2004, and sometimes it seems I miss him more instead of less as time goes by.

Before a condition called hepatic encephalopathy clouded his brain, I used to love having conversations with my dad. I wrote this on my blog in May of 2004, before his death that July:

"As a teen, I often disagreed with my father, but he never belittled me or made me feel like I couldn't express my viewpoints respectfully. It's interesting how, down through the years, I've swung around to his way of thinking on so many things!

"Since my folks have lived in the Austin area, every time I visited Texas, my dad and I would take long walks together. These were supposed to be fitness walks, as he and I both were always trying to lose some weight and become more fit. But even as they helped me physically, they turned into wonderful occasions for long conversations.

"I can recall many times when he would want to go on a walk and I would try to beg out of it, especially when the Texas sun was blazing particularly hot. But I usually gave in and dragged out my walking shoes, because even in those days, I knew that time with my dad was precious and wouldn't last forever.

"Now, I'm so glad I had all those conversations with my dad. I'll always treasure them."

I thought about those conversations a while back when I ran across this article about the daughter of Charlie Chaplin.

Apparently, although she lived in the same house with her aging father, Jane Chaplin didn't have her first and only meaningful private conversation with him until she was 17 years old, and it lasted only about 17 minutes. In fact, the book she is writing about him is entitled "Seventeen minutes with my father."

According to the article, "Jane said she grew up fearing rather than knowing her father, and being constantly told by her mother and by servants that that he was a genius and she would never match him."

How incredibly sad! I can't help but compare it to the many lengthy conversations I had with my dad during the 40-plus years I had with him...too many minutes, too many hours of conversation to even begin to count.

The spiritual application here is glaringly obvious. How many of us Christians live in our Father's house, blessed children of the King, and rarely take the opportunity to speak to Him?

I don't know if Charlie Chaplin would have wanted more contact with his daughter, although he was apparently kind and gracious to her during that seventeen minutes they shared. Obviously he did nothing to try to build a relationship with her. But our Father wants to communicate with us...he seeks companionship with us!

I know I don't take enough advantage of this wonderful benefit of being a child of God. I can't talk with my earthly father now, but I do have a heavenly Father that loves me and wants to speak with me, and He is the creator of the universe.

Amazing and awe-inspiring.

My prayer: Father, thank you that you love me even more than my earthly father did...and that you are vitally interested in everything that concerns me. Thank you for the privilege of being able to speak to you, daughter to father! May I never take this wonderful privilege for granted. In your precious name, Amen.


(Based on a post on my blog from January of 2006.)


--Cindy Swanson

Visit Cindy's personal blog:





Thursday, January 24, 2008

Four Eyes are Better than None

When I first laid eyes on Graham's new glasses, and felt the thickness of their lens, I wondered if his quarter-sized eyes would still glisten like an emerald forest, but more importantly, I feared that his eyes might catch on fire when he looked at the sun.

I was reminded of the first time I met Lacy. She lived down the street, and I knew her both as the girl whose fluffy poodle got swallowed by a German Shepherd, and the girl whose glasses were so thick, her eyes looked like tiny marbles swirling in a pool of water. Everyone knew that when she turned her glasses around she could gaze into the past, and that she was the only girl on the block who could wish upon a star, and see something waving back.

I was surprised to find that glasses have come a long way, and that even the strongest prescription can make a fashion statement. Graham walked into the eyeglass store looking like an average boy, and walked out looking like a child-star who just grabbed the world by the cheeks and said, “Look at me, I’m created in God’s image, and He is adorable!”

On the way home, Graham noticed that trees looked taller, houses looked wider, and of course he noticed that my face looked bigger too. It must be disturbing to see your mother’s face expand before your very eyes, while her airbrushed appearance changes from Grace Kelly on her best day to Danny Bonaduce midway through puberty.

He sat in silence for awhile, looking out of the window, breathing in the beauty of the new world blooming before him.

I felt his excitement, thankful for the opportunity Graham had to observe the world around him. Looking down at the little man in the shiny new glasses, I understood that we’re all given attributes that not only make us different, but that also continually shape who we are. God didn’t make a mistake when he created Graham’s quarter-sized green eyes, but rather each cell of this little being was carefully crafted so that one day, this four-eyed man would glorify God.

In the Psalms, David illustrated the formation of a child within its mother’s womb, telling how God wonderfully crafted each part of our being:

"Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb...bit-by-bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day." Psalm 139:13-16, The Message


The formation doesn’t stop at birth, in fact, throughout life, the Master’s hands curiously continue to shape us.

Life is a recipe. We are given several ingredients to put into our baking pans of time, and those are the things that we sift through, separate, measure, and yes--sometimes those things are whipped and beaten by the world around us. As bad as one thing may seem in this little life growing before me, I see a delicacy that the Master Chef is creating.

I always thought my occupation as a stove would be done after the fourth bun popped out. I hadn’t understood that I would always be an oven as long as my children are rising under my care.

The way I see it, is that I’ll keep the fire burning for as long as I possibly can, and if my pilot light ever goes out, I’ll just hold Graham’s glasses up to the window to ignite that fire again!



Read my monthly column here at CWO:
"Live Well! Reshaping your Body, Spirit, and Soul."

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Any Woman

I love it when God blows me away with the reality of His love, or with the certainty of forgiveness, or with glimpses of eternity. I love it when, because of His infinite patience, sometimes I finally "get it" that He is absolutely in control and will never leave me nor forsake me. I love those high and lofty moments that make me think, "This is what heaven will be like!"

Um . . . This won't be that kind of message. Today, God has really dropped a different kind of message into my heart. Definitely not warm and fuzzy, but girls, sometimes we've gotta hear it. (Tell me I'm not the only one.)

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Any woman can hold a grudge. Any . . . woman. Any woman can be an angry shrew. Any woman can hold another in distain and go through the motions of everyday life, bitter on the inside, "dutiful" on the outside. Any woman can build a wall around herself so as not become vulnerable . . . again. Any woman can concentrate on how 'right' she (actually) is, along with how 'taken for granted' she is, day after day. Any woman can mask discontent with busyness and a fake smile. Any woman can wear her disappointments like sparkling, shiny jewelry around her neck. Any woman can carry a mental, "How I've been wronged" list as ammunition against those who would suggest forgiveness. Any woman can quote scripture that she does not live. Any woman at all. Any woman.

It takes no special training. In fact, our flesh is well equipped with everything necessary to pull off the entire paragraph
above without breaking a sweat. We come fully loaded with an aptitude toward jealousy, anger, bitterness, self-righteousness, self pity, and an everlovin' bucket full of "All of the reasons I have a right to pout."


To be honest, there have been way too many times that I have deserved the title "Queen of Mean" - skillfully displaying all of the above traits with abandon. My fearful heart was the cause of my behavior. But a bruised and battered heart will act like that, too. So will a confused heart. And, over time, habits of behavior form, to protect those damaged hearts, and we become . . . any woman.



But you know, don't you, that we aren't called to be 'any woman' - we are called to be God's woman. God's woman refuses to accept the enemy's description of her situation. She flows in forgiveness, because unforgiveness would place a barrier between her and her God. She doesn't operate in anger, because she recognizes that THAT is a trait of her enemy. She isn't wiped out by life's disappointments because she trusts God to be in control. She is reasonably comfortable with her limitations because she knows that God is aware of them too. God's woman does not hold a grudge - she knows that THAT will never reflect her Savior's image. She is intimately connected to THE Source - Who directs her life. God's woman has learned that bitterness doesn't produce beauty, but vulnerability, in Christ, does.

'Any woman' will continually move farther and farther from her divine destiny.

God's woman will rock her world simply by choosing to reflect the Savior rather than her flesh.

"Let not your beauty be [merely] external adorning, but let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which [is not anxious or wrought up, but] is very precious in the sight of God" (1 Peter 3:3-4 Amp)


* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *


A couple of months ago, I attended a women's conference where Holly Wagner spoke. She made a statement that sticks with me still. She was speaking about the beginning of our Christian walk when the road is wide and full of people. Then, it becomes narrow, and less populated as 'runners' drop out of the race. She said:

"As the road narrows, the crowd thins out. (Not as many chicks still walkin' the walk.) And though there aren't as many women, the
caliber of woman you meet there, on the narrow road, will take your breath away!" (Holly Wagner - paraphrase)

Does our walk take anyone's breath away, Lord? Are we willing to give up our "rights" at the foot of the cross, and allow you to break us, mold us, into Your image? Have we allowed Christ to fill us, so that we finish this race as God's woman? Or are we full of . . . us? Of all the things we've ever wanted to be, Lord - "Any woman" - is not one of them.

Have Your way, Lord. . . Have Your way.




Visit Darnelle at her personal blog:
All Things Work Together

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My box of 64!


Nothing in the world thrilled me as a little girl more than a box of 64!
I imagine that was how it was in the beginning, for God...with many more colors than in my box of 64....
God began with darkness...a piece of black paper ~
stroke by stroke, landscape after landscape, species after species,
and created it all...
the color, the texture, the patterns
ALL OF IT, creatively orchestrated by our GOD!!

That same amazing God created us, each unique in our gifts~

"We all have different gifts, each of which came because of the grace God gave us."
Romans 12: 6

Sometimes we get so darn busy with the duties of our daily lives that we forget that we were made by a CREATIVE God to express ourselves creatively. When was the last time you indulged in something creative....really creative?
I mean something like~
dance,
drawing,
writing,
scrapbooking,
quilting,
sewing,
painting,
cooking....
the possibilities are endless
"WHAT?" you say, "I don't have a creative bone in my body."

Re-read that passage from Romans, we all, not just your crafty neighbor or that fabulous art teacher you know, were created with GIFTS of creativity from GOD...
Creative gifts. It's just that sometimes in the harried lives we live or in the labels we believed as children we let that creativity slip away.

One of the most beautiful ways to NOTICE the amazing creation around us, is to engage in our own creativity. It is in letting God work through our creative spirit, that we can become God's creative masterpiece. If we can tap into that spirit that God has created us to be, then we can serve others through our creativity.

I know it's asking a lot....
We are SO busy doing what we have to, to get through the day.
But I beg you to humor me! BEGGING!!
Just the other night I sat looking through a Paper Crafts Magazine. I have a stack of them that I look at after my nightly devotional....I dream in paper~
I need to make time for that creative outlet, it's a way for me to show others God's creativity in me. I owe it to HIM to use the gifts he so graciously has given to me.

So if you think about it, pick up a box of 64 the next time you are at the store...and while you are at it, roll out some paper on the table and let yourself go....walk by and add to it, add to your masterpiece,
you just might rediscover those creative juices that you had as a little girl will come flooding back to you!!

We are never too old to rediscover that God-given creativity within us. I am reminded of a quote that I once heard,

"and now in age, I bud again." george hubert

I loved it when I heard it, it was so full of hope! Take some time to rediscover that creative spirit inside of you, ask God for guidance, follow HIS voice and not the voice of the world as He leads you where He wants you to go creatively. And pray for a sense of wonder about the world, you may be amazed to see that all things are new in Him. (Isaiah 48:6)

In Him,


most days you can find me over here, at my personal blogspot...
you are always welcome!






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Monday, January 21, 2008

Content To Linger



“We’re in no hurry, God. We’re content to linger in the path sign-posted with your decisions. Who You are and what You’ve done are all we’ll ever want.”
Isaiah 26:8


Do you dream of the day you will become a parent, own a home, make more money, be debt free, or have the job you’ve worked so hard to attain? All of us have dreams. We all have things God is calling us to do, but what should our attitude be as we are on the journey? It seems our society is always in a hurry. We rush to work, we rush our kids to and from their activities, we rush to fix dinner, and we rush through our evening routines, to finally get into the bed, only to start over when the sun rises again. Is this how our journey with Christ should be? Yes, there are things He has already planned for us in the future. Yes, it may be His plan for you to become a parent, to attain that amazing promotion in your job, or to own a home, but even if that is His perfect plan, should we be in a hurry to get to where He is calling us? Should we be in a hurry to accomplish our goals and reach our dreams? Is it simply all about the destination of the journey or the end result of the goals we set?
In Isaiah 26, this verse clearly gives us insight into what our attitude should be. We aren’t to be in a hurry, but rather “content to linger in the path sign-posted with His decisions”. In other words, we should not be in such a hurry to get to the blessing or the “final destination”, but, because of the intimacy that we have with Christ, we should be content to linger with Him in the journey, knowing it is the path sign-posted with His direction. We should be content to follow His pace in the journey simply because He is there. He isn’t just in the destination. He is in the journey itself.
The writer then punctuates this verse by saying to the Lord, “Who You are and what You’ve done are all we’ll ever want”. WOW! Is this our attitude? Do we really believe if He does nothing else for us, that He is enough? Can we really say that if we never reach the goal or obtain the dreams we have, that He is enough? When we can, we will find ourselves content to linger with Him, just knowing that we are on the path that He has marked out for us and that is filled with His presence.
Where are you today? Are you rushing to the next goal, spending all of your time dreaming of finally reaching your goals and aspiring to accomplish all God has put into your heart to do for His glory? I believe that while He wants us to be wise stewards in planning and preparing for the future and in following His perfect will for our lives, His plan is that we “not be in a hurry, but we find contentment in just lingering with Him on the path that He has marked out for us”. Let’s enjoy Him today and instead of rushing to the “next big thing”, let’s take the time to remember His promise and remain (or linger) in His presence.

Lord, enable me today to not be so focus on where you are taking me in my life or what you may be blessing me with in the future, that I forget the incredible blessing it is today to just linger with you. You have saved me, by your grace, and given me “all things that pertain to life and godliness”, and if this is all you choose to do, it is enough. Help me today to not just say that You’re enough, but live like it!



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

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Live the Dream!

To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe. ~Anatole France~



Back in October I attended a women’s conference at our church called, “Live the Dream”. During the conference, wonderful speakers like Christine Caine and Holly Wagner encouraged us through scriptures and testimony to begin to pursue our God given dreams. As I sat there listening to them and feeling God tug on my heart, I knew that it was time to set aside all of my excuses and just begin to trust God with the dream that He had given me.

I kept telling myself that it was not yet my time. I kept rehearsing in my mind that right now I was doing what He desired for me which was to take care of my family and that when my children were older that I would have more time then to achieve my dream, my purpose. But God began to deal with me about what I saw as my priorities and I saw how skewed my view had become. He taught me that my family would still be a higher priority but that all could be achieved simultaneously. That revelation will be the foundation of my first book.

You see… my dream is to help women specifically through writing and speaking. My desire is to help them overcome what has held them back from true freedom in Christ.

God set it in motion long before this conference but I wasn’t getting it. He has arranged occurrences in my life that fueled my desire to speak or to write and starting lighting the fire that is now burning so brightly within me. I am writing for you today here at the Café as a result of one such occurrence. It finally sunk in at that “Live the Dream” conference that this really is what I want to do and this is part of what I have been called to do. And so, I began to pray.

Psalms 57:2
I cry out to God Most High, to God who will fulfill his purpose for me.

Now you ladies know what happens when you pray, right? God begins to open some doors and shut others. I also began to write down some goals that would get me closer to the dream God had placed within me and do you know what? I started to walk towards those things and my focus never shifted from God and my family has not had to take a backseat to my dream either. God is amazing! God is good! God loves me and He loves you and He wants you to walk in what He has for you too!

I challenge you today to fervently pray to God about the dreams He has placed within you. Begin to confess your dreams to God and to others. Write down your goals for achieving that dream and listen for God to guide you.

Psalms 32:8 The LORD says, "I will guide
you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.

Go for it ladies! What is stopping you?




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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Friday, January 18, 2008

Walking the Walk


To know and not to do is really not to know.
-Steven Covey


I have a mind that plays tricks on me. I can, and often do, think myself into believing that I did something when I really didn't. For example, our aunt and uncle travel extensively and will usually send packages for the kids from wherever they happen to be at the time. They'll be kind enough to email or call and tell us that the package is on the way, and I will file it away in my mom-cabinet (you know, the place where all of those little details go so you can retrieve them again at a moment's notice) so I know to be on the lookout. I will think to myself, "As soon as the package arrives, I need to send a quick email to let them know it got here safely." I will think this many times before it even makes it to our doorstep and so by the time it does arrive, I feel as if I've already sent the email! I then go about my business until a week or so later when my aunt calls to make sure we got the package and I honestly answer, "I could have sworn I emailed you!"

This kind of thing happens more often than I'd like to admit...

I can get into the same trouble with my Christian walk. You know that phrase, "If you can't walk the walk, don't talk the talk"? Well, I sometimes am guilty of talking the walk instead of walking it. I tell my children to do things a certain way, I share devotions and discussions at my rehearsals and Bible studies at the church, when asked to pray out loud I've had enough practice to know just what to say. Overall, I can sound really good, and at times even have myself convinced. But I'm still a long way from where I'd like to be in my spiritual maturity level. Knowing isn't nearly as active of a verb as doing as the quote above reminds us.

Reading through Genesis this past couple of weeks ('cause you know, when January 1st rolls around, those programs for reading through the Bible in one year sound really enticing) I came upon what seemed to be a very dry passage listing the people in Adam's lineage. Seth...Enosh...Kenan... Each paragraph gives the lifespan of the ancestor, mentions that they had a bunch of kids, and ends with, "...and then he died". All except one:
And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

Enoch didn't just live, he walked with God. Not in front of him, as I often try to do; not behind him, dragging his feet. But with him. There was obviously something special in that relationship, something that set it apart from the other men in that list. Enoch walked the walk. And God took notice and "took him away" after a long and fruitful life.

I have found myself thinking about Enoch a lot lately. What did that walk look like in practice? I wonder. What were his day to day activities? How did he raise his family? How did he get from thinking and talking about God to actually having a genuine path through his life with two distinct sets of footprints, side by side? Oh, to be a bystander, back in Enoch's day! How did he do it?

What this simple passage shows me is that the exact how isn't all that important, and probably looks quite different for each of us. He wants relationship with us, his sinful children, warts and all. He wants us to say, "Wait up! I'm coming with you!" or "Slow down a bit so I can catch up!" He wants our hand in his, through the good and bad. Knowing isn't enough. The relationship is about the doing. Enjoying day to day chats with God, humbling ourselves (even minute by minute!) enough to ask forgiveness, and serving our brothers and sisters...could it be that simple? Enoch knew. He didn't just live life; he walked it.

Photo credit


A Multiplicity of Patches

In the past few years I have become fascinated with quilts. The heritage of of quilt-making in our nation is rich. Before scrapbooking, stamping, and other popular craft hobbies of today, there was quilting, sewing, needlepoint, knitting, and so on. Initially these "hobbies" were necessary diversions, not just a creative outlet. Women of past generations clothed their families and decorated their homes through these "hobbies"--there was no Pottery Barn, Target, or Pier 1 (ouch!)

I am not saying that I wish to go back to those days, but I do long for a greater connection to simplicity of life of that era-not that is was easy at all, just less cluttered. I love to look in antique shops at old quilts and marvel at the creativity that is displayed. Many are patchwork quilts made from pieces of fabric left over from a multitude of other projects, artfully put together to make something not only useful, but beautiful.

I took a quilt class about a year and a half ago--this was quite an experience for someone who had NEVER sewed in her life. I learned so much and was pleased with the baby quilt that I was able to make for my niece. What I probably enjoyed the most was getting to know other ladies in the class and the ladies who worked at the quilt shop. I was the "young 'un" of the group. It made me think of how women used to get together for quilting bees--what a time of fellowship, a place for women of all ages to connect.

Although we have ladies' groups in churches and communities, it seems we have lost the need to depend on one another like they seemed to years ago. We are more isolated. I think maybe that is why so many of us enjoy blogging--a way to connect. This is a God-given, built-in desire for us. God created us to be in relationship with Him and with each other.

IN ANOTHER DIRECTION . . .I also love the stories that many quilts tell and the metaphors that can be derived from quilting. One of my favorite movies, How to Make an American Quilt based on the book by Whitney Otto, interweaves the story of a group of friends and their lives as they make a wedding quilt together. Here is one of my favorite quotes:


Young lovers seek perfection. Old lovers learn the art of sewing shreds together and seeing beauty in a multiplicity of patches.


Isn't that so true? When we are young, we seek perfection in everything, most often for prideful reasons. As we get older, we learn to be content with where we are in life. I am not saying that we shouldn't strive for excellence, but we should also see the beauty in where God has placed us. I once read, "Contentment is destroyed by comparison." I desire to be satisfied with what God has given me and see the beauty in a "multiplicity of patches."




Thursday, January 17, 2008

What Not to Wear!

On TLC’s fashion makeover show What Not to Wear, a makeover subject is introduced to outfits put together according to new rules designed especially for her by the show’s hosts. If the subject stays within the guidelines and avoids old habits and haunts when she shops in New York City, she’ll do well at her “big reveal,” where the hosts will lavish praise on her for staying true to their directives even though she may have struggled.

When we’re sensitive to the Spirit of God, we too have moments of revelation, seeing ourselves in the 360* mirror of truth--and it’s not pretty.

The Spirit then shows us a new way of living, one that best fits why our creator made us in the first place. If we focus on him and avoid old habits and haunts, we’ll do well in the “big city,” and in the end, God will lavish on us the words we long to hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

In Ephesians 6:14-18, we find familiar “rules” for dressing for spiritual success.

Let the truth be like a belt around your waist, and let God's justice protect you like armor. Your desire to tell the good news about peace should be like shoes on your feet. Let your faith be like a shield, and you will be able to stop all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Let God's saving power be like a helmet, and for a sword use God's message that comes from the Spirit. (CEV)

But we’ve read these guidelines so many times it’s easy to blow across them. So just for fun, let’s flip the passage and look at What Not to Wear, Spiritual Edition.

*Don’t get bound up in hypocrisy and deceitfulness, which are ugly and hurtful. Be straightforward and virtuous from the smallest button to the largest overcoat.

*Don’t slip your feet into grungy shoes that bring nothing but trouble to others— be the one who walks into a room with good news, comfort, peace, compassion and hope. Wear shoes suitable for moving swiftly into spiritual battle for yourself or on behalf of others. Who says sensible shoes can’t be beautiful?

*Don’t wear a flimsy smock of faith. Go for quality and durability. You’ll be glad when you face harsh weather and adversaries.

*Your hat is a banner over you, creating first impressions. Who is your designer? Know your Savior and King above all!

*Your most important accessory? Not your denomination. Not your worship music. Not your financial giving statement. It’s the Word of God. Outside your body, strictly speaking, it’s an accessory, but meditate on it until it’s deep in your heart and first in your thoughts.

*Don’t be lazy about your spiritual attire, returning to old habits and haunts. Stay au current. Notice what God is up to in the world and join him. Be in constant communication with your Life Coach.

It’s OK to look forward to the final “Big Reveal,” but until then, get your spiritual fashion rules down, express your creativity and uniqueness, work with passion, and have loads of fun in the big city!




I'd love for you to stop by my personal blog for a 2nd Cup of Coffee.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Honest to God and to ourselves

My spiritual life was fundamentally changed by a woman in a small group Bible study that I led many years ago.

To put it bluntly, Holly seemed to really know Jesus. It wasn't that she had all the answers or a particularly chirpy personality. She simply lived with a powerful authenticity before the Lord. She had a childlike freedom with him that was startling.

One moment typified how her life in Christ really glowed. I think we had been discussing prayer: how to pray, what to say, that sort of thing.

Holly said, guilelessly and joyfully, "I just tell God what I'm feeling because he knows already anyway. I usually journal all my prayers and I'm really honest in what I write. Because, let's face it, I can't fake it. He knows if I'm really mad at him, or if I'm disappointed about something. He knows, so I just go ahead and tell him. That’s how I pray."

I don't remember if everyone else felt rather stunned by her comment, but I certainly was.

WHAT?!! Just tell God? Everything?

(Won’t he be mad at me if I’m honest?! Am I allowed to be angry with him?!)

For much of my life in Christ, I subconsciously thought God wanted me to put on a good face, and not show doubt or anger. It was easy to get that message, especially as a Christian woman. Basically, I had come to believe it showed the strength of my faith to avoid reality.

But then I started testing Holly’s method. As I read the Psalms, I noticed similar honesty and emotional freedom:

O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture? (Ps. 74:1)


With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord.

I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. (Ps. 142:1-2)

Or, most powerfully, the Psalm quoted by our Lord on the cross—as honest as it gets:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,

And by night, but I find no rest. (Ps. 22:1-2)

As a lay minister of the Lord, Holly gave me permission to enjoy the freedom that I already had in Christ. It changed my life.

We can tell him—anything—because he knows already. He can take it. He’s God. He longs to commune with us in the nitty-gritty details of our day, as mundane, chaotic, or rocked with conflict as it may be. He’s God of the good days, too. Let your praise roll off your tongue, with honesty and joy. He’s God of it all.

Savor the freedom—even the emotional freedom—that you have with our Lord; because it is “for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1).

Dig Deeper: Try writing a journal entry to the Lord. Tell him what's going on in your life, as if you were writing a letter to a friend. Avoid "finding answers" or "learning lessons." Just tell him what's up.





You are warmly welcomed to visit my personal blog: My Quotidian Mysteries

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Two shall be One ~ Tuesday

Hello Café girls!

Wow, two weeks flew by fast. I dearly love getting to know all of you and it has been so fun to meet new friends here.


I have started a series on my blog called “Two shall be One ~ Tuesdays,” so today I’m going to post it here. Here is a link to last weeks, Week 1. I talked about my husband Mark and my “work experience” in marriage ministry and how to "build" on the right foundation.

My husband and I have been married for 20 blissful, uneventful years! NOT!
I interrupt this figment of my imagination for a dose of reality.

Marriage is not always fun. Marriage is work! Marriage is sacrifice.

We’ve been on mountaintops and spent our fair share of time in the valley. I think we’ve also experienced a few times on the sea of life, while a typhoon was roaring through.

In this life, nothing worth having comes easy. There is always a price to pay.
What I have learned about marriage is that the price to pay has to begin with me.
I would like to say that HE (hubby) holds all the responsibility as the leader of the home…and say that if he would just get his act together, things would be fine.
*grin*
I learned the hard way that is not true.

More often than I'd like to admit, I’m the problem. In fact, there are times when we are in a storm and he doesn’t even seem to notice.
Can you believe that?!


How can he just go on as if nothing has happened when he so obviously trampled all over my heart and I am laying here bleeding all over the laundry.

I’m being silly, but seriously…I have spent more hours of my day stewing over something that he did or said that completely offended me and he never even realized that he did it. The argument (that we’re not even having) could be over with and I could stop slamming cupboard doors if I would just let it go.

I looked up the Webster's definition of 'stewing' and it is:
...to be in a state of suppressed agitation, worry, or resentment

Yes, that would pretty much sums it up.

I believe that the strongest marriages are made up of two "forgivers."

Forgive. (Didn’t we talk about that 2 weeks ago??)

I hear you…you’re saying…”oh HE knew what he did, and he meant to do it!”

Well, so what if that IS true?
(I heard you gasp.)

I’m just going to say it again…SO?
So what?

If I choose to let it go, it could be over with. Life could more on. In fact, I could act like it never even happened and possibly have a wonderful day. My kids would be happier, my cupboards would be happier, and I will have done what it takes to make my marriage better/stronger- sacrifice.

Let me just take a little break here and say, I love you all, really I do. I
am telling you this because I know how hard this can be- I've lived it sister!
Please know that I am not pointing fingers... I am just sharing with you what
helped me!

Have you ever watched those shows on climbing Mt. Everest? I would never choose to by my own volition, but my husband loves them.


Do you know what these people go through to get to the mountain top???
Some sacrifice their life! Some of them die on the journey! Some lose fingers and toes or their noses turn black with frostbite.
None of them get to the top of that mountain easily or comfortably. They all suffer along the way.

Are you seeing the picture I’m painting?
The mountaintop does not come without sacrifice.

Being happily married does not come without sacrifice.

Maybe you could not relate to any of my cupboard slamming situations, but I am sure that there have been times in your life when you have "stewed" on things instead of giving them over to God.....MY feelings were hurt, what about ME???


I have often thought that if I could just get “me” out of the way, things would go so much better for me.

Yes, marriage is work, but I like to think about this verse when I consider the sacrifices that I have to make in my marriage.

Galatians 6:9
Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we
do not give up.
NIV



Isn’t that good news?! It’s not all dying and sacrifice…harvest comes! It’s our promise!
Just don’t give up! Oh please don’t give up.

Psalms 30:5
Weeping may go on all night,
but joy comes with the morning.
NLT

I think our nugget to hold on to this week is:
stop stewing!

Let it go, forgive! Yes, that can be hard work, but it's worth it.

A harvest of joy awaits.

I am praying for our marriages!


Photobucket

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Monday, January 14, 2008

The Prodigal Beagle

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety‑nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety‑nine righteous persons who do not need to repent."
Luke 15:4-7





I would like to introduce you to Daisy, the most precious beagle this side of the Mason-Dixon.




(Told ya.)

Daisy was a Christmas gift from Luke and me to our kids two years ago. She began her darlin' life sleeping in the laundry room at night and gradually found a permanent home in our fenced-in backyard. Her body may be penned, but her hound dog heart roams somewhere outside the confines of the chainlink fence alongside the strays who like to taunt her with their freedom. Her breed is prone to follow their noses, run with a pack, and get lost easily so we have to keep a careful eye on the gates so she doesn't take off on a wild adventure.

The careful eye wasn't so diligent on New Years' Eve.

We awoke New Year's Day to the wails of our youngest son crying, "The gate is open and Daisy is gooonnnnneeeeee!"


So much for sleeping in.


Luke reluctantly climbed out of bed to go look for our wayward girl. I cooked breakfast and tried to keep everyone hopeful dad would find her, but in my heart I knew she had to have been gone for hours and there was no telling how far she'd gone. Daisy had gotten out a couple of times before and I knew from experience even if he found her, she was prone to run like the wind in the opposite direction to keep from going back to the fence.


After an hour had passed, Luke came back in to report he had seen her once outside a patch of woods but that when she'd seen him, just like I predicted, she had run into the trees. Luke kept calling but she never came. All he knew to do was come back to the house and wait.


As I whispered prayers for her to find her way home I realized her little escapade was not at all unlike our own.


How often are we safe inside God's boundaries when temptation comes sniffing at the gate? "It's so much more fun out here. We are doing anything we want! There are no consequences. No one will ever know if you sneak outside for just a bit. You are all alone in there but if you come with us, you'll always have someone who understands. What do you say?"


And before we know it we've slipped out. Tentatively at first, we may even walk back inside the fence for a bit before we venture a longer stay. There's the ever-deepening relationship with a male co-worker, hidden shopping loot with hidden debt to match, one week that turns to one month of no prayer or time for God's Word, or bitterness turned to hatred over an unforgiven hurt. The list could go on forever but in each of these circumstances the tragedy is that we often don't realize the exact moment when we got so far away we could no longer fiind our way back home.


For both believers and unbelievers, there is always a Father searching, calling, and hoping the wayward one will quit running, cease striving, and accept His mercy. The strays of the world tell us He is only coming to lock us away and hold us back from a self-indulgent, exciting life. And because our nature is to follow our nose, we run.


Back to my prodigal dog. A few hours passed when our doorbell rang. Our neighbor was at the door and said, "Daisy is over at the house. She's laying down and looks worn out."


Excitedly, Luke and the boys grabbed a huge piece of a ham out of the fridge and went to bring her home. She looked like she might bolt again but the food and the sweet voice of her masters were just too much to resist. Daisy wasn't greeted with "Bad, stupid girl! How dare you run? Why did you break our hearts?!", though that is what she most likely deserved. Instead, she was welcomed by the hugs of three boys and a feast. I wonder if her little doggy self had any comprehension that within the bounds came freedom, abundant food and water, and unconditional love the strays would never experience.


Wayward one, are you worn out and ready to accept the fence is for your freedom and not your bondage? Stray one, do you yearn for a place to belong and be loved? Inside the backyard is all that and more.

Won't you please come home?


Father, I pray for my sister who may be thinking of bolting from the fence. I pray for the one who has barely stepped out. I pray for the one who doesn't quite know the way back home. Keep your watchful eye on each one and reveal yourself to her no matter how far she's roamed. Bring her to her senses and welcome her with the feast of your lovingkindness. Amen.




Dig Deeper:
Do you want to know more about the lengths to which
God will go for you?
Read all of Luke Chapter 15.



Visit Lisa at her personal blog, The Preacher's Wife.


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Saturday, January 12, 2008

My God will hear me....

"Therefore I will look to the Lord;  I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me. I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me." Micah 7:7-8

1234522-R1-E008Micah was called by God. He came from a rustic home to be a prophet of God.  He left familiar surroundings and family.  Micah was instructed to rebuke his people for their disobedience and lack of love for their own.  He also issued several prophetic events that were to take place in the future concerning Israel as a nation.  Those were turbulent times in Israel but Micah trusted the Lord's sovereignty.  He knew that God wouldn't fail to keep His promises.  He had total dependency on the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ!

The last two weeks of the New Year have been a little "turbulent"in our own home too. "My God will hear me.", has been my motto these last two weeks.  I truly have felt that He has everything under control and He knows all things anyway. 

Verse 8 of Micah seven says, "when I sit in darkness."  Micah does not say "if" I sit in darkness!  We believers will go through dark times in our lives.  We shouldn't be surprised when sorrow comes our way for we are told in His Word that it will in this life.  What happens when it hits us right in the face?  Do we crumble?  I have to admit I have thought I would crumble. 

I am not sure if any of you have had a difficult time lately or have felt like I have.  Sisters, I have shed many tears these past few weeks but one thing I do know. My Savior reigns.  Knowing this and His continued promises have kept me going even in what seems the darkest times in my life.  I also knew it is temporary.  God reminds us in another portion of scripture that, "Joy comes in the morning." 

I have thought hard about some of my reactions toward the hard situations that I have encountered. I have not always been as cheerful in those times as others! I have wondered why I doubted that my Savior's sovereignty.  Did I forget He created all things?   He is the Potter and we are the clay.  He and His hands alone mold me.  When a potter begins to work on the clay, he has to fix, tuck and shape each of us in order to form His "beautiful pot." I remember He says His work in shaping us continues until we see Him in His glory.

Sometimes, the dark moments of our lives last only so long as is necessary for God to accomplish His purpose in us. I realized that I needed to trust in His complete sovereignty, even when experiencing darkness. He lord's over the good and the evil. No one can thwart His plans. He makes no mistakes. He is not the God of coincidences but of sovereignty.  God is all together love, mercy and grace in the times of personal doubt and despair.

Some may ask if God is sovereign when a beautiful daughter is raped, when a close relative dies with out salvation, when two of your babies die, when four of your children are living without Christ, when your own blood family and church family turn against you, when your children make decisions that don't always match what you have taught them through God's word. Is He sovereign when you grew up in a home where the parents abused you in every way possible or when your dog dies during the time you are nursing them back to health?  Is God sovereign in all these instances? Yes!

 "'Cause You were there... You were there In the midst of danger's snare. You were there.  You were there always. You were there when the hardest fight seemed so out of reach. Oh, You were there! You were always there!'

"So haven't I learned that my ways aren't as high as Yours are? And, You alone keep the universe from crumbling into dust. You are God and though we would not have understood You, there You were!'

"Hanging blameless on a cross, You would rather die than leave us in the dark every moment, every planned coincidence. Just all makes sense... with your last breath, You were there!'

"You were there during history's darkest hour. You were there. You were there always. You were the Victor and the King. You were the power in David's swing. You were the calm in Abraham. You are the God who understands. You are the strength when we have none. You are the Living Holy One!'

"You were! You are and You will always be the risen Lamb of God! You were, You are and you will always be The Risen Lamb of God!" (Sung by the group Avalon)

This beautiful song puts it all together for us.  You see, our Savior cares about every detail in our lives.  He leaves no thing unattended. He reminds us that suffering will remain a reality until we see Him in His glory. 

"For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow." Ecclesiastes 1:18

This is my prayer:

"My dear Heavenly Father, I want to take this time to thank you for the difficult times in our lives.  These are the times that do mold us into a beautiful clay pot to be used by you.  Father, may You continually fill us with your Holy Spirit to reach out in that beautiful light that you have given us, Jesus Christ.  That we know that the Lighthouse is always there and you just want us to hang on.  We love you so much our beautiful Savior!  Thank you for noticing even when a sparrow falls to the ground!"

In Him,

Elaine

Good News: We have a new beautiful daughter in our lives.  She was "adopted" into our family yesterday.  I will say more about our daughter, April, at a later date!

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How does your light shine?

"Not trying to be snarky... I'm genuinely curious," wrote a commenter who stumbled on my blog not long ago. "Do you only read Christian authors? It seems so limiting to me... I have spent several minutes reading your blog and it just seems like your world is limited to everything Christian. I guess I just don't understand the mindset."

The comment almost startled me. I often take it for granted that most of the regular readers of my blog are Christians, or at least sympathetic to that world view. The reader's comments were a rather jarring wake-up call for me. Non-Christians sometimes read my blog. What is it saying to them?

My life mission statement is a quote that's attributed to Mother Teresa, but is really simple, basic and clear: "O Lord, let your light shine on others through me." I have the quote taped up in my workspace at the radio station where I work. It's a constant reminder that my words and actions--whether it's on the radio, in the blogosphere, or in everyday life--are being observed by others.

I explained to the woman who commented that I do read a lot of secular books--although I admit that I love Christian fiction because it agrees with my worldview, affirms my faith and uplifts my heart.

I also showcase Christian authors on my blog, partly because I know they don't get as much publicity as secular writers, and I want to give them as much of a platform as I possibly can.

But, you know, I make no apology for the "Christian-ness" of my blog. As I replied to the commenter, "As for my blog being mainly about Christian things--well, I can't really separate my faith from the rest of my life. It's not something I put on a shelf and take off for Sunday services. It really permeates everything I say and do, and apparently, this blog reflects that.

"I sometimes come across blogs of people of other religions, or even atheists, who make that belief--or lack of belief--the main thrust of their blog. They are perfectly within their rights to do so, and if people don't want to read it, they don't have to.

"That said, I hope I'm always loving and gracious to everyone, no matter what their beliefs."

I went over to her blog, said some genuine nice things about it, and gave her a heads-up that I had replied to her comment on my own blog. She ended up posting a very gracious comment to me in reply.

I came away from the incident with a re-inforced knowledge. I need to constantly realize that non-Christians sometimes read my blog, even if only by accident. While I want my faith to shine clearly in the things I write, I also need to make sure my words--even when they're offensive to non-Christians--are seasoned with grace and love.

And not just in the blogosphere...in real, every day life as well. The old saying, "You may be the only Bible some people ever read," is more than a cliche.

If my goal is to let Christ's light shine through me, then I need to make sure it can shine as brightly as possible.

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."--Matthew 5:16


--Cindy Swanson

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