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Saturday, May 31, 2008

May 31, 2008


What are some lies out in the world (secular views) today about women that contradict what God says in His word about how women should be/act? Diving a little deeper…What are some lies that are still out there in our Christian circles about women? (Feel free to talk from a single woman’s point of view or a married woman’s point of view)
Today’s question was inspired by a conversation I was having with a Christian friend I am in the process of getting to know better. I don’t know exactly how we got on the topic, but I was telling her about my early days in marriage when I absolutely did not have a clue about what it meant to be a godly, submissive wife. I was giving her an example of a situation that happened with my husband, and how in the end God showed me how I was in the wrong, but after I told the first part of the story the friend agreed with my initial reaction to my husband. The friend didn’t realize how I was going to finish the story, and admit that I was in the wrong. I think in the story she just agreed that my husband had it wrong. I quickly wrapped up the story and tried to still make my point, but later that night I was thinking about that conversation, and then I came up with this question.

The first question today should not be so hard to answer, we are bombarded with messages from the world today that stand in stark contrast to what God says about women, but my second question may take a bit longer to answer. In my past, I know that I have promoted messages about what a woman should be that did not hold up to what God’s Word says, and I am thankful that God has opened my eyes to see where I was wrong in my thinking. I also know that in the “Christian Circles” I still can come across ideas that are not consistent with what God’s Word says about women.

This question is not meant to condemn anyone, but to bring light to a subject that is so important. Personally, in regards to me being a wife, I had a friend that challenged me with God’s Word, and showed me that I had many beliefs that were wrong. Although, I can’t say I was super excited every time I found out my beliefs were wrong, I can tell you that almost every time after our conversations God would convict and show me where I was wrong. I am so thankful for that friend!!! In the end, we all want to be exactly what God wants us to be, and I hope that this week we will encourage and challenge each other through this meme. Let us all listen with open ears and hearts, and then pray to God to see what He wants us to learn.










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Friday, May 30, 2008

A God-Style GPS

A God-Style GPS

Last Christmas I bought my husband one of the latest technology fads for the car: a Global Positioning System (GPS). As a pastor in the Detroit area, he frequently goes to unfamiliar places. A stack of papers under the console, courtesy of Mapquest, evidenced where his day took him. The GPS, I hoped, would change all of that.

This thing is great. Wherever you are in North America, it knows. Tell it where you want to go and it magically pulls up directions. And if reading directions while you drive isn’t your thing, there is a friendly female voice to tell you where to go.

Sometimes our life is like the twists and turns of the large metropolitan area where I live. Some days it seems like everywhere you look there are endless possibilities of where to turn. Which one is right? Other days it seems like you hit nothing but a bunch of dead end roads. Wouldn’t it be nice to have sort of a “real life GPS” to help you find your way through day to day living?

It’s easy to forget in the busyness of our daily lives that God did in fact provide us an incredible set of “virtual directions” in His Word.

As a new Christian in college several years ago, I mistakenly viewed the Bible as a book of old stories that didn’t easily apply to my life. But, as I grew in my faith, I began to see amazing parallels between my own life and much of what was written in the Bible. These people needed direction in many of the same areas that I did.

While you might not find terms like “self image” and “depression” mentioned by name in the Bible, you can see many of the characters struggled with these issues just like we do today. While their exact circumstance may be a little different than ours, the principles His Word teaches through these stories meet us right where we are in life today.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tim. 3:16-17

I have yet to encounter something in life that I can’t find some sort of biblical principle to apply. Throughout my walk with Jesus, I see each circumstance He places me in always has an answer in His Word. My job is simply to open my eyes and find them.

Last week I watched my normally healthy husband be hospitalized for reasons that weren’t entirely clear, even to the doctors. I wondered what God had planned for us during this event. It was no coincidence, however, that my daily Bible reading plan found me in Psalms that week. I was scared and found comfort in the words of David as he cried out to God during frightening times in his life. He knew, just like I did, that God is control of even the most difficult circumstances. His plan will prevail. Those words were like balm to my fatigued soul.

The Word of God is addictive. I used to view Bible reading as just another thing on my “To Do” list that was already a mile long. Something changed in me, however, last year after I determined I would spend even more time reading it each day. Now, I eagerly anticipate what He will show me each day through it. Some days I even “cheat” and read ahead to the next day’s reading. I simply can’t wait to see what is coming up!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always pretty. Some days what He shows me about myself is down right ugly. I am tempted to slam it shut and do something, anything, that doesn’t shine the spotlight on my soul like that.

But, the thought of not seeing that part of myself and staying in the same old sinful habits reminds me to thank Him that He loves me enough to show me such things.

The Bible should not be something we blow the dust off of each Sunday morning. We are missing out on so much that He wants to give us if we allow that to happen.

When you are seeking God daily through His Word, you can’t help but be changed. It moves you into a deeper love affair with Jesus and changes you at the very core of who you are. All of that for just opening the Book and reading a few chapters a day.

God’s Word is the best road map for there is, certainly better than any modern technology device. It doesn’t just help us navigate through the busy streets that are our neighborhoods; it navigates us through the deepest trenches that are our lives.

There is no blaring speaker that offers suggestions of where to turn, instead the words come straight from the heart of God as He gently whispers them to our hearts.

All we have to do is read…and listen.


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Points to Ponder:

  1. What situations are you facing that you struggle to find answers?

  2. How frequently do you read your Bible and ask God to show you the Truth as it applies specifically to your life?

  3. Do you really “love” the Word of God? If not, what can you do to improve your zeal for it? (Hint: It involves reading it!!)

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Please visit Robyn on her personal blog at Overflowing Grace.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Trash Talkin'

TRASH TALKIN'

My Kitchen Confession #4,287: (And, no, that number is not an exaggeration!) I am terrified of the garbage disposal. I am talking “redrum” petrified.


Every morning as I stir my cup o’ caffeine near the sink I am reminded of my fear. I have a constant inner dialogue with that Trash Churner and our talks never end well.

I imagine leaning over the sink to wash my hands or clean a dish or fill my glass with water when suddenly my beautiful wedding band slips off and falls in. Traumatized by the potential loss of my eternity band – I reach my hand into the sink without thinking and BAM! That is when it happens: The Disposal of Despair gets me. Pulls my hand into its maniacal mechanics, churns me right ‘round baby, like a record baby, right ‘round and exactly forty-seven minutes later I find myself emerging in a sewage treatment plant. There I am unable to escape the stench of wasted food and am mourning the loss of my diamonds.

I speak this to my disposal each morning. I also ask it, “What if I still wanted that chicken Eric (my husband) gave you last night? What if the stem of that final rhubarb was the exact stem that was going to make my pie?”

I’ve never baked a rhubarb pie in my life.

Hence the reason both the disposal and my husband roll their eyes every time I speak of my fear. Other than my cups o’ caffeine, I rarely make anything in my kitchen!

Intellectually I know this garbage disposal is really there for my benefit- to help clear out the trash in the kitchen and keep things clean, tidy and smooth sailing.

But my heart always looks at the thing and asks, “But what if I need what was just tossed in there for something later on…?”

I believe we do this spiritually at times. We fear the letting go of unclean things because we cannot seem to part with the idea of “But I need this thing…”

  • To make me feel better about myself.
  • To get me through the day.
  • To ease the pain.
  • To help me forget.
  • To force me to remember.

We all have our reasons for holding on to areas of sin in our lives; sometimes I think we even fear the letting go of it because we wonder, “Where does that leave me?”


Alone, mauled by the scars of my sin’s disposal in the kitchen?

I love the words John the Baptist speaks in Luke 3:16. We find him here, pointing the people of Israel to someone greater than he:

“I am baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama [Jesus], to whom I’m a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house – make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”


Jesus, putting in its proper place what is true.

Sin is a lie. We are told by Christ Himself in John 8:44 that Satan’s native language is dishonesty. It is his mission to dethrone all that is holy in our lives.

And so he speaks garbage disposal fear into our ears…and leads us to believe we simply cannot give that one up.

I am forever marked by the transforming power of Christ Jesus: He is the one who brings sight to the blind, makes joggers out of the lame, brings music to deaf ears, offers hope to the broken and light to those in darkness.

He is the One who takes the lies we believe out to the trash and sets up truth in its rightful place.

I want to encourage you to speak to Him your fears of letting go whatever it is you are holding on to so desperately. I know it all too well because I have been there. I’ve been the one firmly gripping the things of this world that I thought offered me more; offered me comfort and familiarity.

I’ve believed the lie… I’ve embraced Truth.

And believe you, me. You don’t need that old chicken like you think you do.

I promise.

You can read more of Kristen's writing at her site Exemplify or her personal blog, Taste Buds.


Prayer:

Father God, I thank you that in your Son Jesus I have been given a snow-white life! I confess to you today my fear of letting go of [……………..……]. Help me to recognize the lies of the enemy and embrace truth. I want truth; I want you to have your rightful place in my life.

Application:

Are there any specific areas of sin in your life you struggle regularly with? Is it possible you fear the letting go of them?

In what ways can you invite Christ to set truth up in your life? Perhaps through the speaking of a daily verse or the encouragement of a close friend?


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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Organic Spirituality

Organic Spirituality

I have been on a real quest to get healthy. In my quest, I took up reading several books about eating and the lifestyle of health God intended for us to have. All of these books sent me on a search for "organic" foods so I wanted to know exactly what that meant....


The word organic food does not only apply to the food from your own home garden, but also to the store bought food products, in which no synthetic artificial inputs are used. In the contemporary times, the term organic food is usually used in reference to the certified organic foods. It has been claimed by health experts that organic food is more nutritious. Some of the features that can be associated with organic food are more attention to quality, good taste, proper selection of crop varieties etc. Organic foods contain phenolic compounds that protect you from developing heart disease and cancer. Organic food ensures high food quality, which other conventional foods cannot commit. Since organic food is natural and fresh, it boasts off its rich taste.
excerpt from: Organic Food Facts / emphasis mine

To sum it up, organic food is food that is closest to the way God created it. The way He designed it is fortifying and nutritious. It is full of good things that give us energy, vitamins, and minerals and they help our bodies function as they were designed to.

Matthew 12:33 tells us that an apple tree can bear good fruit or it can bear bad fruit. So, that means just because a tree has apples it doesn't mean that they are good. Our apples today are full of pesticides and altered genes. They are not the way God created them. It has become the same way with the fruits of the spirit.

Galatians 5:22 lists the fruits of the spirit and patience is one of them. Does that mean that all patience is good? No. Satan is very patient. He has roamed this earth since the fall of Adam and he continues to wait but that doesn't make the patience he shows "good".

Another example is that a person who exhibits the fruit of faithfulness isn't necessarily good either. Let's say a person is faithful to their spouse until one of them perishes but the reason they remained faithful was due to pride. Does that make the fruit good? Again, the answer is no. The goodness of the fruit is dependent on the condition of the heart.

We must have a right heart to exhibit Godly fruit, organic fruit. The kind that nourishes and is free of harmful things. We want to produce the kind that fortifies the body and helps it to function the way He designed it to.

Oh yeah, God recycles too...

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

Questions To Ponder:

  • In what ways have you been bearing "good" fruit with your heart right before God?
  • In what ways has your fruit been less than healthy and how can you change that?
  • How can you recycle some things in your life to benefit the kingdom?
  • What do you intend to do to walk in a healthier lifestyle, spiritually?

Morning Prayer:

Father, thank you for the wonderful world you have given me to enjoy and tend to. Thank you for the realization that your intention has always been for us to be closest to the way you designed us, like your son, Jesus Christ. Help me to remember to stay pure with my motives so my fruit will be healthy and edifying to the body. Help me to uproot any fruit that isn't good and replant it with seeds of righteousness. In the name of your precious son, my savior, Jesus Christ.



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, May 27, 2008

Lydia's Example

Lydia's Example


Lydia, an exceptional example of faithfulness towards our Lord and Savior! Acts 16:15 says;

"And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us saying "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." So she persuaded us."

Lydia's faith in Christ was real and strong. Studying the book of Acts has made me realize that Lydia was an example of a Proverbs 31 woman! Lydia was an exceptional woman of God.

She was definitely a leader in the community as a business woman but most importantly in the fellowship of believers! Her business was one of luxury in those days, so by reading the scriptures, we understand that the Lord had blessed her financially. Luke also makes it clear that it was "her" household. She was an incredible home manager!

In Acts 16:15 she invited the missionary party to stay at her house. Paul usually did not come alone, so it meant that it did not matter how many people would be staying with her!

I love that about Lydia!

In Acts 16:40 it says that her home served as the meeting place for the Philippian church. We don't know how many believers usually came together but what we do know is that, as Paul was about to leave the city, they gathered at her house. They must have met there everyday for prayer, singi1 Corinthng, and studying of God's Word.

This part of her reminded me not to get weary in well doing as we do our part in the fellowship of believers!


In Acts 16:14 Lydia was described as a worshiper of God. The faithfulness of her walk with Christ was manifested in her worship towards our Savior and Paul's acceptance of her hospitality!


As we remember Lydia in the early church, may we remember that the home that we have belongs to our Savior. Some of us are raising children while others of you are working outside the home - either way, we can use our gift of hospitality to serve our Him as Lydia had.


When I think of Lydia's life, it reminds me of that passage of scripture In 1 Peter 4:8-9 where it says,

" And above all things have fervent love for one another for "love will cover a multitude of sins." "Be hospitable to one another without grumbling."

Close and Personal:

1. Do you know your Spiritual Gift?

2. If you do, are you obeying the Lord and using it?

3. Realizing, as Lydia, are you opening the beautiful home the Lord gave you to give a "cup of cold water" to those in service for Him or for someone who needs a place to rest?

4. Would our homes be honoring to Him if He needed a place to stay?

"My dear Father, may we always remember to be thankful for everything you have blessed us with. May we never forget that you give us the ability to make money and not for ourselves but to help those of the "household of faith."
Amen,

In Him,

Elaine

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Overcoming Darkness


Sitting in the dark, a hot little forehead pressed against my chest, I watch the clock display the passing minutes. It is early, early in the morning and little Zachary has barely slept. He's comfortable now, so I plan to stay right where I am, snuggled on the couch under an afghan, listening to the sounds of our home. His breathing is calm and deep, as is mine. I don't mind the dark. It clothes me thickly and allows me to embrace thoughts I may push out of my mind in the lighter hours of the day. Busyness has no hold on me in the darkness.

Memories of the past year travel lazily through my mind. It seems far away now, but at the time my depression suffocated me and erased any possibility of future happiness. Darkness swept over me and my soul hurt with the weight of it. Looking back, from this physical darkness that feels so much more peaceful, I realize that I was pulled unknowingly through that time by a thread of hope deeper than my own consciousness. I didn't know if God was there. God is light; I was in darkness. How could I reconcile those opposites?

I tried to quote scripture to myself in those dark days. It sounded hollow to my ears, to my spirit, too. So many saints had been through darkness and didn't lose faith, why was I floundering?

The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in darkness
like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.

Psalm 143:3-4

The baby stirs on my chest, sniffles, and settles again, his weight hot and damp. I reflect on the gift that he is, though bearing him and living through his first months resulted in my spiritual valley. I feel grateful, yet aware that I had just passed through a season of complete ungratefulness, and whisper a prayer to thank God for the darkness I experienced. That depression, a common occurrence in our world, but unique in my life, had birthed renewed appreciation for the light that is God's presence. I wished I had thanked God in the midst of it, if not for it, following Job's example...

"You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept
good from God, and not trouble?"
Job 2:10

I carefully rise from the couch, cradling Zachary's little head. His binky slips out of his mouth without incident, proving the deepness of his sleep. I realize as I begin to step toward the stairs that there is a soft, almost imperceptible glow in the room, a precursor to the dawn. I hadn't noticed the light before, but the darkness is no longer quite as heavy. I smile to myself, realizing that my depression had faded just as quietly, in tiny increments, bringing dawn in on tiptoe, until I could once more see the steps ahead of me.

I place the sleeping baby in his crib and head to my own room for an hour, perhaps two, of sleep. No matter. It has been a time of reflecting, of learning, of accepting the lessons brought by the darkness. Sleep comes peacefully, tenderly, and is welcomed.

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze...
Do not be afraid
for I am with you...

Isaiah 43:2,5



  • How have the valleys in your life shaped your view of God? Your sense of gratitude?


  • Are you able to see God in the "darkness", or does it take time and hindsight to learn what God is trying to teach you?


  • What can you tell yourself in future dark times that will remind you that the light will come and you one day will be able to see God in your circumstances? Write yourself a note now to keep for when that time comes.



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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Faith and Time

This past week marked four years since the near drowning accident of our youngest child, Isabelle. I am not one to mark time by dates, and am not usually bothered by dates in general. I noticed many people around me do put a lot of weight on days and dates, anniversaries and milestones. Many friends called to "check" on me as the date approached. I imagine they wondered how I would deal with the knowledge that four long years have passed and although there has been progress made in the overall health and well being of Isabelle, it is no where near the completed product that is being hoped and prayed for. Will the passing of time cause my faith to waiver? The devil is very clever in the way he puts little thoughts in your ear about what these milestones mean. The funny thing is to me they mean absolutely nothing except that we have come this far and are on the right road, leading us on this journey.

If someone had shown me a glimpse of my life, or more specifically my heart just a few short years ago I would have thought it wasn't a possibility. I have to say I rather enjoyed my naive bubble of a life I lived in for so many years. It is nothing, nothing compared to the wild ride I'm on now. I have come to know Jesus as my personal savior. I have come to know God as my deliverer, my everything. Instead of keeping the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit in a little box tied with a pretty bow, He lives!! He lives in my life and in the lives of the people around me. It is an awesome discovery.

I remember a time, years ago, that I almost envied those who were new in the church. I saw the spark in their eyes and the desire in their hearts to serve God. I felt that God was too common place because I simply took Him for granted, having always had Him and having always had "church." This is not true. I took Him for granted because I never gave Him the opportunity to move in my life in a real way. Sure I prayed for things, and even received from God... but that was only a little part of the whole package. God is bigger than that and capable of more. To know that He wants me... ME... to participate in a relationship with Him is amazing. To know that He sent His one and only Son so that I might have life eternal... amazing. To know that He is watching me and cares for me... amazing!

I can't say that I have arrived, I am still traveling on this road. I am excited for what tomorrow will bring. I am happy to think of the people God will put in my path over the next week, month, years... Faith really is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see.


Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1






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Saturday, May 24, 2008

May 24, 2008


What is a positive tradition or godly character trait that you learned from your extended family that you hope to pass down to your own family?
This week’s question was very easy to come up with because of last week’s question. Last week we looked at a sinful habit or negative pattern that we did not want to pass down through our own family line. Let us end the month of May telling of all the wonderful things that the Lord has done in our families and in our own personal lives!

I am encouraged as I read your answers weekly…









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Friday, May 23, 2008

Finely Scuplted


"If you are willing and obedient, you will eat from the best of the land."
Isaiah 1:19

I have a friend. She is in a word OBEDIENT. When we met the Lord had placed on her heart something much larger than herself, and she in obedience, began what she knew she could not do on her own.

She was recently away on a trip to Ireland where she hoped to step away and hear the Lord's voice and see confirmation that she was doing HIS will. She was desperately trying to "be still" and KNOW God's purpose and His plan.

She shared with me that her daily prayer is this:

You also know my daily prayer-- “Lord, as I commit my work to you,I thank you that you are causing my thoughts, ideas, words, actions, and deeds to be lined up with your will, so that I will be established and have success. I am earnestly seeking His plan. Many are the thoughts in a man’s mind but it is His will that will be established. "

This is from the email that she sent me about what happened on that flight...

"Anyway, after the trip from Ireland to Newark in the middle of the night, a long layover, we got on the plane form Newark toward home, tired. I let the window seat passenger in, took the middle seat and laid my head over on Jim. I fell asleep until we had been in the air for awhile. I woke up thinking about the mission statement that I am trying to squeeze into only a sentence or two for grant-writing. I had an idea and reached for my notebook and began scribbling, paying no attention to the stranger next to me. After a few minutes he handed me his electronic "something or other" over to me. It had a message typed on it.

Keep in mind...he was a complete stranger. The message read:

"Jesus spoke to me. He said He loved you so much and has seen your heart and is well pleased! He said, "I am your God, I AM the Door. I will open the doors that no man will close." The devil would like to destroy you and the dream, but I, the Lord am your God, I am in control. Faint not my child --look not to the left nor to the right but keep your eyes on Me. For I, Jesus Christ have my hands on you. I and only I will direct your path."

I have heard these kinds of things in various sermons, but I KNOW this lady, she is a friend, and I KNOW and BELIEVE with all my heart that God was speaking to her through this man....letting her know that her obedience was noticed by God and to let go of the worries...He securely has it all under control!

After hearing this, I found myself asking am I being obedient? It is certainly not always easy, as any of us with children know. I looked to Romans 12 is a guide to just what obedience looks like.

*Despise evil
*Cling to goodness
*Devote yourself to others
*Treat others with respect
*Never compromise your excitement in the Lord
*Serve the Lord
*Be Joyful
*Be Patient
*Be faithful
*Share with others
*Show hospitality
*Bless those who mistreat you
*Rejoice with others over their good fortune
*Grieve with those who suffer
*Live in harmony with others
*Do not be prideful

These "Living Sacrifices" are obedience. My friend LIVES this! I watch her on a weekly basis and we talk about how GOOD God is and how patient we must be at times...while finding JOY in knowing that HIS WILL is being done.

I was just moved that in God's greatness, HIS bigness that HE took the time to "speak" to my friend and let her know that her obedience was being noticed....GOD noticed.
It was a reminder to me, obedience is something we tend to dismiss or not dwell on, but God notices when we "listen" to what He places on our hearts. That my friends, pleases Him.
~Questions to ponder~
Are there areas of obedience that you struggle with?
What has God placed on your heart that requires a commitment to obedience?

Obedience is never easy. It wasn't when we were children and it isn't easy now. The rewards of obedience have eternal impact and will fill us with a peace that the world can not understand.

You can find me daily over here...trying to 'obey!'

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

In His Service


It was on a dark night at the mission compound in Haiti where I discovered the power and protection in the simple name of "Papa." There were many lessons to be learned and memories that would last a lifetime, but on this one unusually dark night, I was about to experience something that would have profound affect on me for the rest of my life.


Our church was planning a mission trip to Haiti and everyone was helping get ready for this exciting trip. We collected medical supplies, school supplies, toys, and candy to give to the children. Anticipation grew with each passing day and we were all geared up to share our love with the people of Haiti.

It happened that during this time there was an uprising of civil unrest within the country. The U.S. Department of State had issued a warning against travel to Haiti. Many were telling us to cancel the trip. We began to seek God and at the end of much prayer we decided God was telling us to go.

With tons of luggage lined up on the conveyor belt, and many tearful good-byes we were finally ready to board our plane. After arriving at Port-au-Prince where military personnel with guns greeted us, we gathered up our bags and headed toward the ocean village of Bord Mer.

I'll never forget the faces of the Haitians that warmly greeted as we approached the compound. What we thought would be our mission of love to Haiti would soon be turned around as we became the recipients of a measure of love and gratitude that many of us had never before experienced.

One night after the generators were cut off and we settled into our beds to get some much-needed rest, we began to hear sounds of the voodoo drums rising from a distant village. Earlier that day our team watched a video on the voodoo rituals that the unsaved Haitians used as part of their religion. Hearing those drums immediately brought fearful thoughts of what might be happening in that jungle.

Just then a flashlight came toward our dorm. It was the American missionary that ran the ministry, and he was about to head out to investigate what was going on. A small group of us gathered together, prayed, and followed the one the Haitians had come to affectionately call “Papa”. As we took each step closer toward the drums, I remembered seeing earlier that day how much the Haitians loved Pastor George and his wife. I amazingly became less fearful as I realized I was walking with "Papa". How could any harm come our way if were with him?

Finally we arrived at a clearing, and we could see a large group of villagers gathered around the fire. Once they saw Papa, they ran over to explain what was going on. One of their family members had died and the drums were not voodoo drums at all, they were being played to communicate to other nearby villages about the death and funeral.

We all gathered around the grieving family in their straw hut, and in that dark jungle prayed for them, wept with them, and encouraged them in their time of loss. People hurt the same in every corner of the world, but it is “Papa” that is always there to comfort in our time of need.

As we walked back to our dorm room, I looked up into one of the most beautiful star-filled skies I had ever seen to view the handiwork of our amazing God. I'll never forget the lesson I learned that night as I discovered that no matter where I am, or what I may be going through, Papa is always there with me every step of the way.

Some things to ponder:

In what situations do you most need to know that God is with you? How do you deal with fear in your life?

What are some practical ways you can do to remind yourself of God's presence daily?


In Romans 8:15 it says “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of Adoption by whom we cry out “Abba Father”.

Father I pray for my sisters who are reading this. If there is a spirit of fear, I pray they will call out your precious name. Lord you are faithful and you are true. You promise us you will never leave us nor forsake us, no matter how dark or scary the night may be.






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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What Really Matters

WHAT REALLY MATTERS

Last night was a big night for two young men named David. David Cook and David Archuleta sang in competition for the final time on American Idol--and yes, I was one of the millions of Americans watching with avid interest.

Yep, I admit it; I'm a big fan of American Idol. I love music, and I truly enjoy the competition. I get to know the contestants from the very beginning of the show, when the truly talented are painstakingly--often painfully!--weeded out from the truly awful.

It was a huge night in the lives of both of those young men. Emotions were running high, and the audience was charged with excitement.

At the same time, two candidates were duking it out in yet another round in the primary battles. The ultimate goal? The glory, the prestige, the legacy of being called the next president of the United States of America.

Pretty heady stuff. While one position will definitely have a far greater impact and role in history, the other will introduce one young man--and actually, probably the runner-up as well--to instant fame, wealth, adulation, and all that it entails.

But you know what? In the light of eternity, neither title will matter a hill of beans.

The Bible makes it clear what's really important--what will really endure, what will really stand the test of time. Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 1:14:

I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity
and grasping for the wind.


Solomon may have seemed pretty cynical, but he had it right. Nothing that's done outside of God and His values, really matters at all.

In Matthew 6:33, Jesus urges his followers not to worry about things like food and clothing, but to pursue the things of God:

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things
shall be added to you.


Hey, I'm not saying that we can't enjoy American Idol, or be vitally concerned about who wins the presidency. And indeed, everyone from a singing sensation to a victorious candidate to a ditchdigger can, and should, glorify God.

I'm just saying it's important to keep some perspective. Eternity is what really matters. I think I feel a song coming on:
It matters so little how much you may know,


The places that you've been, or the people you know


For it all comes to nothing, when placed at His feet


Its nothing to Jesus, only memories to keep.


Only one life, so soon it will pass


Only what's done for Christ will last


Only one chance to do His will


So give to Jesus all your days


Its the only life that pays


When you recall, you have but one life


--Lanny Wolfe, Only One Life




--Cindy Swanson

Visit Cindy's personal blog:

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Remembering Rainbows


I hear the opening music, see flashing graphics and a running banner at the bottom of the screen. I know it’s coming. It's The News.

When I was a kid we had to wait until 6:00 PM to watch the news, but now the latest headlines are available at our fingertips from a laptop or a remote control. No matter what time of day or night you watch television or read the banner at the bottom of the screen, the stories are sad, bleak, and discouraging.

Another child is suffering. Another mother hurting. Another Hollywood star arrested.

As a parent, it is difficult to imagine the future of the world for my child. I wonder what lies ahead and what, if anything, I can do about it. I know God is in control, but sometimes it is easy to wonder why He would allow children to continue being born in a world of sadness and sin.

Then I think of Noah.

God’s Word says that in the days of Noah, the world was so corrupt that “the people’s thoughts were continually evil.” (Genesis 6: 5) Even in today’s world, that is hard to imagine. Continually evil.
“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6: 8
Imagine Noah in a world much worse than our own, where people constantly committed evil things and constantly thought evil thoughts. Imagine what the news would have been if Noah had a laptop computer.

Now imagine that God, a sovereign and holy God, blessed Noah with children. Three of them. These sons were born into a world of constant evil, a world so evil that it had to be destroyed. God told Noah about His Plan to destroy the earth and its inhabitants.

Then He promised to save Noah and his family.

Here is the most amazing part of it all- God provided a way out, a refuge. The ark. But, He didn’t stop there. God gave Noah instructions to build the ark and He guided Him along the way.

Noah followed the instructions to the cubit. He painstakingly built the largest ship that had been built in his time. His neighbors and friends probably laughed at him. Still, Noah persevered and stood firm in his faith. When the appointed time came, God instructed Noah to take his family and the animals into the ark and then the waters began to destroy the earth.

After the rain had stopped and the water receded, God told Noah when it was safe to leave the ark. Again, Noah trusted and waited for instruction. Even after the dove did not return, He waited for God’s instruction.

As if it were not enough to save Noah and his family, God then made a promise. He promised to never destroy the earth with water again and He set a rainbow in the clouds.
“And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.” Genesis 9:16
God said that He would look at the rainbow and remember His promise.

He remembers…

God does the same thing for us today. When we wonder how to protect our children who are born into an evil world, an uncertain time, He promises to save us through Jesus Christ.

He also gives us instructions- His Word.

The Bible gives us answers and guidance in daily living. We may never need to know how to build a boat out of gopher wood, but we will be faced with difficult decisions. Scripture provides the answers. He wants us to follow it to the cubit.

God loves you. He loves your children. When you are faithful and honor Him, He will save and protect you through Jesus Christ. He will show you the way with His Word.

So, when you’re watching the news tonight and the weather report calls for rain, do not be afraid. God is our refuge and He always keeps and remembers His Promises.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” Psalms 46: 1-2

What about you?

  • Have you felt discouraged as a parent?
  • Have there been times when you felt like you were busy “building the boat” and your friends were laughing?
  • How has God shown you that He remembers?
  • Share your rainbow story.
In Christ,
Melanie

You are invited to visit my blog, This Ain't New York.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Signal Strength

Signal Strength

“Look! Listen! God’s arm is not amputated – He can still save! God’s ears are not stopped up – He can still hear! There’s nothing wrong with God – the wrong is with you. Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God. Your sins got between you so that He doesn’t hear you.”
Isaiah 59:1-3

Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation on your cell phone and had the call disconnected? If you have a cell phone, you have most definitely experienced this frustration. Often times, if the call is important and we know a dead spot is ahead, we will even pull off the road until we are finished talking just so we aren’t interrupted. For me, it is usually in the middle of a very important or really interesting phone call that the signal is lost. Sometimes I can look at my phone and see that it is the caller on the other end of my phone that lost signal because my phone will clearly show full signal strength. Other times, my phone will read “call signal lost”, undoubtedly showing me that my signal is to blame. Either way, it is frustrating, but even more so when it is my phone signal that is the problem. When the issue is my signal strength, I have to wait until I enter into an area that gives strong service before I can attempt to regain the call. Other times, it may be that I have signal, however I have failed to charge my phone and the battery is low, in which case, I must quickly plug it into its power source.

Sometimes in our walk with Christ, we may find ourselves frustrated and feeling disconnected to Him. We may feel like our prayers aren’t getting any further than the ceiling or we simply have little strength. This verse in Isaiah fifty nine clearly tells us where the problem lies. If reception is low or communication is lost between us and God, it is always a connection problem on our end. When the lines of communication are down spiritually, it is always an indication that we have wondered into an area with little or no signal strength, or not spent time with our “Power Source”, and it is up to us to quickly get to a place of full and clear reception or plug into Christ to regain strength. Since it is our sin that separates us from God, we much search every area of our life to see where we are veering off track. Sometimes it may be something we are doing, but often times it can also be something we aren’t doing. Sin is obviously doing that which God clearly tells us not to do, but disobedience is also not doing that which He tells us to do. There may be something He has clearly called us to do and we have refused to surrender our will to Him.

God doesn’t change! He can still save and He can still hear. His signal is always strong. So, how is your communication today? Are you in a strong signal area spiritually or are you entering a dead spot? Perhaps your lines of communication were lost some time ago and you are just stewing in your frustration. Maybe it has been too long since you have spent time with Christ and charged your relationship spiritually. Wherever you are, the good news is that you don’t have to change your service provider; you just have to change your location or position, or reconnect with your power source. The service provider, Jesus, is reliable. Align your heart and life with Christ today, surrender to His will, and reap the incredible reward of intimate communication with Him! The Creator of the Universe is on the line, and I am sure that is one call none of us want interrupted!

Lord, thank you that you are still mighty to save and you can still hear. Thank you that when we have ourselves aligned to Your will, the lines of communication with you are open. Thank you that when we get off track and the communication with you is broke, you have made a way for us to regain strength, if we will confess our sins to you. Help me to obey you, spend adequate time with you recharging daily, and consistently check my signal strength spiritually.



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

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sovereign

The word 'Sovereign' is one of those words. One of those words that we are not altogether unfamiliar with, yet we'd be hard pressed to say that we fully "get it" - especially when the word is used to describe God. So I did what all over-thinkers do. I looked it up.

Sovereign: possessed of supreme power; above or higher than (in place or position); independent of and unlimited by any other.
Yep. That's what I thought . . . And that's the problem.

I think we'd all agree that if anyone would fit the definition of 'sovereign' it would be God - hands down. But what about days (weeks, months ...) when our lives are filled with struggles? Is He sovereign then?

'Struggling' is my church lady way of describing how I'm sometimes not crazy about the way God is handling an important situation in my life and I am attempting to tell Him about it but He seems to not be listening or changing anything though I am providing Him with evidence and reason and reminders of why I deserve what I am asking for and why the timing is so important along with the subtle suggestion that He might not be as fair as He could be concerning this very important matter which by the way . . . . 'Struggling'.


When it comes to the sovereignty of God, I think most of us run back and forth between two schools of thought:

1 - God is good, but not totally sovereign.

2 - God is sovereign, but not totally good.

Which is truth? Neither! God is both sovereign AND good!

His power is absolute, total, unlimited, unrestricted, fixed, infallible, precise, undeniable, unquestionable, total - sovereign. He is able to move any mountain, correct any situation, change any decision, touch any life.

He is also absolutely good, merciful, faithful, just, holy, true, loving, peaceful, patient, generous, forgiving and completely willing.

Consider this: A small child toddles innocently into a street where an oncoming semi can’t see him. Mom runs to the rescue and in the nick of time, saves her son. His safety is secure again and all is well. Except for one thing. Now Junior is angry at Mom. In order to rescue him in time, she scooped him up quickly from the street and hurt his arm a bit. Revelation!! Mom is mean! For no reason at all, she’s hurt his innocent little arm. Before this incident, he thought she was so loving, and sweet and protective, but it turns out she’s just mean and uncaring, and unloving and indifferent to his pain. And to make matters worse, she offers no explanation. He’s considering not trusting her anymore.

We all know that it wouldn’t do Mom any good to attempt to explain to Junior that she did what was necessary to save his life - because she loves him. She could spend the rest of the day trying to explain the dynamics of standing in the path of an oncoming vehicle to him, but she doesn’t - because his limited understanding can not grasp it. Instead, she holds him, sheds tears of relief, and ignores the fact that he is angry with her. “One day . . .” she thinks, “One day, he’ll understand my great love for him.” And for now, that is enough for her. She endures his anger and confusion, because she knows - better than he - the danger and the risks. She sees what he can not see . . . yet.

I suppose because we’re “all grown up” it’s a little difficult to believe that we don’t always know what’s best for us. When God doesn’t allow something in our lives that we want so desperately, or when He allows situations that are difficult, it seems logical to distrust His motives.
After all, if He is 'sovereign', if He CAN do something about it, then why doesn’t he?

If He is able to deliver me from ________, then why doesn’t He? Because He’s working out a plan.

If He does love me, then why doesn’t he remove all difficulty? Because He loves me.

If there is a reason behind the madness, why doesn’t He explain? Because He knows, and for now, that is enough.

And because He has a plan. And because His plan involves training us in righteousness and holiness and faith. And because He knows of what we are truly made and what really needs to happen in the secret place of our hearts . . . And because He alone knows what magnificent treasures He has stored in your heart alone. No one else has been as uniquely gifted as you. Your unprecedented combination of gifting and heart and talent and personality and quirkiness and sensitivity and vision and manner of seeing the world is unlike any other. And He requires it to be that way for you to fulfill your calling in the Body and advance His Kingdom . . . while there is still time.


“. . . until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all the kingdoms of men” (Daniel 4:32)

Yes, Father God is absolutely sovereign in the ways of men - and women. Yes, He sees our every struggle, tear, and confused thought. Will we allow Him to use them to do what only He can do, to mold us into the very image of His Son, to produce in us what is only visible to Him, for now?

Because He is truly both sovereign AND good.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Reflections:

  • In which areas of my life do I continually and regularly experience 'struggle'?
  • Am I willing to turn those areas over to Him, knowing that He is fully sovereign and trustworthy?
  • Do I trust that God is working out a beautiful, holy plan for my life?

In Him . . .




Visit Darnelle at her personal blog: All Things Work Together

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

May 17, 2008

What is one habit, negative pattern, or sin that has been passed down your family line from generation to generation that you do not want to pass down to your own family line? What steps are you taking to make sure the habit, pattern or sin is not repeated in your own family?



This week’s question has been one that I have asked myself several times in my life. It is not necessarily an easy question to answer but I think it is an important question to answer. This question is not meant to condemn anyone, but to hopefully bring about a positive change in your family’s life. I suspect that if I asked my own children this question when they were older they would be able to name something that they wanted to change for their families (If they could not think of something, I could give them a long list!). Things will only change once we acknowledge that they need to, and the most wonderful thing is that we have our Heavenly Father that will help us to break the chains of sin; even chains that go way back down our family line.

If you are "chatting" with us this week, add your name to Mr. Linky. We'd love to see what all the "chatting" is about!



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Friday, May 16, 2008

The Pepsi Lady


One of my best friends, Leslie, is known at a local yogurt drive-through as “The Pepsi Lady.”

Years ago, Leslie took advantage of the store’s offer that if customers bought one of their large tumblers, they could bring that cup in for a very cheap refill for a limited time. To a fountain Pepsi lover like Leslie, this was a sweet deal! So every day, Leslie pulled up to the window to get her giant refill.

Because of her huge smile and sociability, Leslie became a popular customer who was greeted with not one but several employee “hello's” whenever she appeared. To say that Leslie found favor at this place is an understatement. In fact, when the time limit ran out on the refill offer, Leslie was given special dispensation and was able to continue her daily fountain Pepsi quests at the discounted rate!

Soon, Leslie became known as “The Pepsi Lady” at the yogurt shop, and relationships with the college students who were employed there started to develop.

On a regular basis, Leslie would ask the employees how they were doing at school, and they would fill her in on the latest challenge or triumph. She would celebrate with them or offer to pray for them.

The thing about Leslie is, after the students would share anecdotes or details about their lives, she would remember to ask about those specific situations the next time she saw those students. Her sincere interest demonstrated to them that they were more than just fast-food serving robots to her.

Sometimes, when there were no customers behind her leaving more time to visit, employees shared in greater depth about their lives, and at least one specifically asked Leslie to pray for her, which Leslie felt privileged to do.

Therefore, Leslie has been able to encourage these college kids, speak life into their days, console them, rejoice with them, pray with them, counsel them and make a huge check mark on the positive side of their mental “positive/negative checklist” that so many seekers tally as they interact with Christians.

When I think of The Pepsi Lady, I think,
“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' ” (Matthew 25:21 NIV).

Points to ponder:

1. Is there any regular habit or moment of interaction with others in your life in which you could minister to others in a simple Pepsi-Lady way?
2. When in public, do you care about the people behind the counter or register, or just see them as worker who are there to serve you?
3. When a nonbeliever interacts with you, do you create a positive, negative or neutral check mark on the “Would I want to be one of those Christians?” mental checklist?




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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Healing the Brokenhearted




I grew up in the era of black and white westerns. As battles ensued, arrows flew through the air occasionally lodging into a cowboy’s body. Grabbing the arrow and breaking it off, he would continue fighting with the arrowhead lodged inside. After the battle, he would have the arrowhead cut out. As I watched, I had no idea I was being given a picture of what happens in life.

There is a story of God written on our lives. We bear in our bodies the image of the living God. The enemy fears God’s image and wants to destroy it, so he sets traps to steal, kill and destroy.

Things happen in life. We get hurt. Arrows carrying messages of rejection, abandonment, failure, etc., implant into our minds. As the arrowhead pierces through, the message embeds. Like the cowboys we break it off and keep pressing on. The problem is the distorted message remains inside and we don’t even know it.

When things happen to us as children we reason through a child’s mind. We don’t see things as they really are, we see them as perceived. Things get mixed up and It’s hard as a child to know what’s truth.

Most of my life I lived thinking there was something wrong with me. I was told the story of how I got my name. My parents were expecting a boy so they didn’t have a name picked out. From that point on I believed that I wasn’t what they wanted. I wasn’t what was planned. On top of that I was more active than all my siblings, therefore I wasn’t like anyone else. For 40 + years of my life I didn’t know that what I perceived was not true. All I knew is that I didn’t feel acceptable. As hurt people do, I built a wall of self-protection. I became a hardworking, efficient, striving woman. Everyone loves a good worker.

Jesus said He came to heal the brokenhearted and to set the captives free. Our emotions are like the lights on the dashboard of our cars lighting up to tell us that something is not right under the hood. It’s an invitation to look and see what’s really going on. Anger is a strong indicator of unhealed hurt. So often I don’t know why I am angry, I’m just angry. If I take my anger or other emotions, to God and ask the questions, often a distorted message is revealed. That is what He’s coming for. He wants to expose those old beliefs in order to redeem them with His truth.

I’ve learned that journaling is a great way to process what’s going on inside me. “Why am I so angry?” “What am I feeling?” “What am I hearing?” “What am I believing?” The goal is to expose those distorted messages that have been planted inside me and renew my mind with His truth. In order to do that sometimes I have to go back to that painful memory. When He wants me to go there, He brings the memory up. In remembering He is able to give me His eyes to see what really happened. He exposes what I believed about myself and compares it to what He says about me. He loves replacing the lies with His truth. It sets my captive heart free and heals my broken heart.

The enemy has tried throughout your life to mar your image of God. You have an identity all your own, a unique shadow of Him. Jesus came to restore you to your true identity. Who does He say you are?

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release for the prisoners. Isaiah 61:1

Are you aware of the broken places in you?

What are the messages you hear over and over?

What lies have you embraced as true?


Papa God,
thank you that you sent Jesus to heal our broken hearts and set us free from the enemy’s traps and lies. Thank you that you see us as we really are. Give us eyes to see what you see. We love you.








Julie can be found daily at her blogspot, Jewelz Sightings

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Agnus Dei

Last May we had the privilege of spending a week at a resort in the mountains of Vermont. Having spent several years of my childhood living in Norway, I have always ADORED the mountains! If I could pick one place to live, it would be somewhere in the mountains! Vermont was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Life seemed to revolve around hiking, rock climbing, biking and being outside. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking! The people were very friendly and there was a sense that the area was "safe".

It struck me one day as we were driving through the mountains, that God has created such amazing things for us to enjoy. Such gifts! Yet we as people seem to be tempted to focus on the gift rather than the Giver...the creation rather than the Creator. In a state as beautiful as Vermont, how can one not seek God when everything points to God! As we drove up the winding road to our resort one afternoon, a song started to play from the worship CD we were playing. It was so fitting. We listened quietly...

AGNUS DEI
Alleluia! Alleluia! For the Lord God Almighty reigns!
Alleluia! Alleluia! For the Lord God Almighty reigns!
Alleluia! Holy! Holy! Are You Lord God Almighty!
Worthy is the lamb! Worthy is the lamb!
For you are Holy! Holy!
Are you Lord God Almighty! Worthy is the lamb!
Worthy is the lamb.
Amen


BACK TO THE CITY!
It was a little bit difficult to come down from those mountains and drive home! In the city I am surrounded by different things. The mountains were replaced by buildings! The beautiful log homes were replaced by town homes and apartment buildings and strip malls. Yet...I am still surrounded by things that point me to God. (And, I am still tempted to focus on the gift rather than the Giver!)

Here are some things that point me to God in the city?

*The Azalea bush outside my kitchen window.
*The miracle of my children growing up.
*The provision of my home.
*A faithful pastor(and pastor's wife!)
*Another day to breathe!
*The college student that chose to live by a holy standard even when those around did not!
*The dog we saw at the store who was wagging his tail...doing what he was created to do!
*The homeless guy across from McDonald's, although dirty and in torn clothes, who was created in the image of God!

All of these things point me to God!

So as I drive down the road, fight traffic, and sit at a red light, I can still sing...


Alleluia! Alleluia! For the Lord God Almighty reigns!
Alleluia! Alleluia!
For the Lord God Almighty reigns!
Alleluia! Holy! Holy!
Are you Lord God Almighty.
Worthy is the lamb! Worthy is the lamb!
Amen!
For You are Holy! Holy!
Are you Lord God Almighty!
Worthy is the lamb! Worthy is the lamb!
Amen!

What things do YOU see, in the setting God has place YOU in, that point you to God?
"Oh, Father. You have made all things well! Please open my eyes to all the things and people around me that point me to You!"

Come visit me for some coffee and a chat, at Chats With An "Old Lady"!

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Just Do Your Best


Just a quick stop to get some gift ideas – Mother’s Day, AWANA teachers, school teachers. I grabbed a buggy, sanitized the front handle, and plopped my daughter in the seat. Up and down the aisles I scoured looking and thinking. How about this? Would she like that? What is on sale? Halfway through the store, I found it nestled between some nicks for the bathroom and nacks for the living room.

It was a metal sign. Not one meant for anyone on my lengthy gift list. It was meant for me. The colors would match nicely with my décor. The boldness of the words drew me in. But the words themselves are what had me reaching to put it in my buggy.

JUST DO YOUR BEST

I immediately thought of my six-year-old son and his challenges with following the rules at school. Just do your best. I could hang it in the hall outside his bedroom. My mommy future-vision imagined him standing at the podium in front of his senior class saying, “My mom hung a sign outside my door that said it all – just do your best.”

Yes, it was perfect. I purchased it quickly and headed home to meet the bus. By the time I got home, I decided that perhaps then den was the perfect spot. Then our guests could enjoy it, as well. I hung it on a chest in the hall temporarily as I launched into the busyness of evening.

By the time I climbed the stairs for bed, the sign was long forgotten. My mind was cluttered with writing deadlines, room-mom responsibilities, must-do laundry, and the still un-bought Mother’s Day gifts. I was remembering a conversation with my mother only days before. One in which I shared with her how much I struggled with trying to be the greatest at everything – the greatest mother, the greatest wife, the greatest cook, the greatest writer, the greatest room-mom, the list goes on.

“Oh, Lord,” I cried out, “You have to help me.” As I lifted my eyes over the top of the stairs, He did – with four simple words and a metal sign. He whispered those four words to my heart.

JUST DO YOUR BEST.

My imaginary weight lifted, and I took a deep breath. I can do that, I thought. I can do my best. Then I laughed realizing the words I meant to encourage others had encouraged me instead. It’s amazing how God can take the simplest things and use them to illustrate his message to us. God has called me to do more, more for Him. But even still His encouraging words still ring in my heart – Just do your best!

And, oh, yes, tell Archippus, "Do your best in the job you received from the Master. Do your very best." Colossians 4:17 The Message

Are you feeling over-burdened with the load you carry? Do you beat yourself up because you aren't living up to your own expectations? Just do your best!


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Monday, May 12, 2008

How Precious Is This?

I saw this photo on the wall of a place that I was interviewing at yesterday. I've actually seen this a number of times and always thought it was a beautiful photograph, but I never thought about it the way that I did at that moment. Like most art, people often wonder, "How did they do that?", and I asked myself the same question as I looked at that photo. Not being a mother myself, but knowing children very well, I knew that getting that obviously newborn child into the hands of someone, in that pose, while they are still asleep, and then capturing that precise lighting was no small feat.

One way that I imagined the man picking up the child would be while it was still asleep, gently slipping his hands above and under the sleeping babe and quietly posing it for the picture. Another scenario I imagined was a sleeping baby being picked up, startled awake and then gently rocked back to sleep in the man's hands. Then it occurred to me. That is precisely what happens in our lives on a pretty regular basis, at least for me. There I am, minding my own business, when something happens to startle me and shake me from what I would rather be doing. I then whine, cry, get frustrated and sometimes scream...but then...what happens?...I get gently rocked back into a peaceful state of mind by the hands of my Father. Has that ever happened to you?

As I said, I know children. The younger they are, the more trusting they are. Why do you think our parents always told us (and now we tell our children) not to talk to strangers - because we are easily led astray or allured by other things from what we should be doing - what is safe.

I wondered about that photo again. What trust that child must have had - even just being a newborn - to trust falling asleep in that man's hands - especially if the child was startled awake and then had to be rocked back asleep. I think back to my experience at a camp when I was in charge of a 9 month old little girl. She was quite fussy, (but also very cute!), and wouldn't want to take her naps when she should. We would lay her down in her pack and play, give her bottles, let her cry it out, nothing really worked. Until one day, while I was holding her, I knew she had to take a nap because she was pretty cranky. But she wasn't having it. I finally decided to hold her just a little bit closer to my chest and rock her. She was squirming and babbling and really didn't want to stay, but I stood my ground, knowing she needed that nap. She finally quieted down and I was able to loosen my grip a bit and held her on my lap laying on top of my arms, her head in my two hands. I rocked her back and forth as she gazed into my eyes and slowly drifted off to sleep.

Isn't that what we do as His children? He knows what is best for us at all times. But what do we do most of the time - we fight, we scream, kick, whine and complain...but then He tightens His grip on us a bit and says, "rest in me, there there, just let Me give you rest." And He rocks us - gently, securely, with patience. At first we may say, "No! I don't want this, I want that." Yet He just keeps rocking us, being patient with us, letting us finally relax enough that we can...finally...relax...and...trust...in...Him...and...rest.

Then aren't there times as mothers, grandmothers and caregivers that we check in on our children while they are sleeping? I know that when I was sick with cancer, my mom woke me up often to make sure I was ok. I was pretty annoyed that she did it, but I know she did it out of love. Did I run away from her because she woke me to check on me? No...I trusted that she was doing the right thing and went back to rest. God does that sometimes, doesn't He? He may "wake us up" a bit to make sure we're still ok. And I know there have been times when I was annoyed that He shook up my life, but He always came through for me, letting me eventually rest again in Him. God "wakes us up" not to annoy us, but to prove Himself to us that He cares enough to check in on us and make sure that we are ok. And in the times when we aren't ok, He comes through for us, eventually letting us rest in Him and find renewal in His hands.

"Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven." ~ Matthew 18:3 3 ~

It takes trust to rest in the hands of our Father. We don't always see Him so how do we know that He is supporting our head or making sure we aren't being harmed, or that our lives are safe and peaceful? We trust. Little children trust. Little children step out of their comfort zones in faith to try new things - go across the monkey bars, go down the big slide, swim into the deep end, make new friends...Adults don't do that as often, and I think that is what Christ was talking about here. If we become as little children (trusting and humble, unafraid to step out of our comfort zone), we will see that not only does our Father come through for us, but that He has prepared a glorious kingdom for us if we do.

Are you resting in His hands today?


Be blessed and be a blessing!

Please feel free to visit Allison's blog over at, "Simple Christian Living".

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Reflection On Motherhood

I read this several years ago and have read it several times since, and each time I do, it renews me in my calling. Women have come into my life, placed by the hand of God. Some have been mothers, some have not, but they have each imparted grace and wisdom that I take with me on my journey. To each of them, thank you for allowing God to "use you." I've been watching.

A reflection on motherhood from Elisabeth Elliot

"You mean that's all you do?"

That's all? As a mother, your life is given to taking care of people--small ones, to begin with, whose wants never seem to cease. Sometimes when your days seem to be wholly taken up with wiping things--dishes and sinks, little runny noses and big slow tears--you wonder about what "fulfillment" is supposed to mean for you. You wonder about being (besides the perfect wife and mother) the hostess-with-the-mostest, creative, intellectually productive, beautiful... and slowly your dreams seem to evaporate.

You've been listening to what they're telling us nowadays about how important it is to find yourself, express yourself and assert yourself. Maybe you're thinking that you're nothing more than somebody's wife and somebody else's mother. And what kind of life is that?

There is a tribe in the Southern Sudan called "Nuers" where a woman's name is changed not when she becomes a wife, but when she becomes a mother. She is "ManPuk"--"Mother of Puka." Among the Nuers, being someone's mother is what makes a woman's life meaningful. Two thousand years ago there was another young woman, of the Jewish tribe of Judah, who understood that truth. The world has never forgotten her--Mary, the mother of Jesus--because she was willing to be known as, simply, Someone's mother.

Motherhood is a calling. It is a womanly calling... and let's not be cowed by those who extinguish the light and joy of sexuality by trying to persuade us to forget words like manly and womanly. At the beginning of time when God made the first man and the first woman in His image He put both under the divine command to be fruitful. The woman's obedience to that command meant self-giving. First she gave herself to her husband--he initiated, she responded--then she gave herself for the life of her child.

A woman knows, in the deepest regions of her being, that it is this very self-giving for which she was made. Single or married, her level of maturity is measured by how much she gives to others. If she's married, she gives herself to her husband and she receives. If she's a mother, she loses her life in her child and--mysteriously--she finds it.

A woman knows that no one can really say where the giving ends and the receiving starts. It is no wonder we are confused when urged to look for some "better" or "higher" vocation in which to "prove our personhood." No wonder we are distressed to be subjected to male standards, or told that the notions of femininity and masculinity are obsolete.

Old fashioned notions they are indeed, but they weren't our own to begin with. They were God's. He planned the whole system, and it's God Himself who calls. He calls some to be single, some married people to be childless, but He calls most women to be mothers. There are, the Bible tells us, "differences of gifts," and they're all given to us according to God's grace. None of the gifts of my own life--not my "career" or my work or any other gift--is higher or more precious to me than that of being someone's mother.

If our calling is to be mothers, let's be mothers with all our hearts--gladly, simply, and humbly--like that little peasant girl Mary who spoke for all women for all time when she said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word" (Luke 1:38).


HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY....

May we look to Jesus' mother as an example in each of our lives. May her obedience, her faithfulness and her simple, gentle grace inspire us each and every day of our lives. May we too have the grace to speak the words of Mary, in faith,

"Be it unto me according to Thy word." Luke 1:38
In Him,

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