Internet Cafe

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Exception or the Rule?


The Cafe is Welcoming Guest Barista, Susan Lawrence today!



Are you an “I know someone who…” person? You know, anytime you hear a story, you respond with something like…


“My friend Sherry had that same medical condition, and she….!”

“That reminds me of my uncle, except he actually…!”

“You think that’s crazy? Wait until you hear this!”


If you’re not the one who responds with a story, you likely know someone who does. Someone who has a bigger and better experience to share. And it doesn’t have to be bigger and better in a good way. Don’t you know people who can top any medical condition, family crisis, or work horror story? There’s always an exception!


With God there is no exception.

He created each one of us. We’re all sinners. We’re all in need of a Savior. Jesus died for each of us. We’re each held to God’s standards. We all fall short of those standards. But we can still have eternal life with Him.


No exceptions.


And yet we feel as if we’re the exception. We think we’re unworthy. We feel like failures.


In what areas of your life are you challenged to fully accept God’s forgiveness and love?


Jot a few words on a sticky note to reflect your struggles to fully accept God’s mercy. If you’re struggling to think of anything, examine areas of your life you try to control or experiences you feel are out of your control. Both are reflections of not completely surrendering to God’s power.


Consider the following verses:


· The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation. – Psalm 145:9

· For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. – Matthew 7:8

· For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16


You’re included in “everyone,” my friend. Look at what’s written on your sticky note. Is your situation too big for God? Nothing is impossible with God. - John 1:37


Take God at His Word. You’re exceptional, because He created you, but you’re not the exception. He can handle your issues, experiences, and struggles. Even more, He wants to handle them.


Give it all to Him, including what’s on your sticky note. And as you pray the following, crumble your note, just as God desires to crumble all the barriers between you and Him.


Trust in the LORD and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires.


Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for him to act.
- Psalm 37:3-7a


In Him,

Susan Lawrence

http://susanhlawrence.blogspot.com/

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Final Stage of Grief

I cannot tell a lie.

I am in awe of Beth Moore. But not because she can do amazing things with her hair in that humid Texas city she calls home. No, no. Although impressive, that's not what I am referring to. I'm merely talking about her ability to write something as if she's been in the innermost parts of my brain.

No wonder my head always itches.

In her book The Beloved Disciple she writes,

As a child bearing the name of Christ, if a part of you has died, in time it was meant to produce many seeds. Has it? Have we lived long enough and cooperated thoroughly enough to see tender shoots come forth from the barren ground? We hear so much talk about the phases of grief: the shock, the anger, often depression, then finally, acceptance...if we're lucky. We're led to believe that acceptance of death is the final stage of grief, but if we're in Christ, the final stage has not come until we've allowed God to bring forth resurrection life and many seeds from the kernel of wheat that fell to the ground. Yes, we have come to acceptance but not just acceptance of the death. Acceptance of the resurrection life. Don't stop until you experience it. Though it tarry, it shall come!

But we have to let it.

We can not sit idly by and watch the trying circumstances and heartaches of life keep us stranded on the sidelines. We must not act as if we're all washed up and that God cannot use us again after such grievous sin once entangled us. We should not allow the enemy of our souls steal from us an abundant life that is very readily ours.

We've all experienced death in some form or fashion. Tell me.

Has the death that took part of your heart away produced any fruit?

I'll go first.

After experiencing the most devastating blow that a wife can imagine, by the grace of God I have been able to allow the once dead heart in my chest to begin beating again. And it's passionate about helping others realize that they, too, can be better than new.

Your turn.



Visit Cindy daily at her personal site, CindyBeall.com


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Monday, September 28, 2009

My Utmost

bible study 004

Oswald Chambers wrote, “The actual things are, but immediately you look at them you are overwhelmed, you cannot recognize Jesus, and the rebuke comes: “Wherefore didst thou doubt?” Let actual circumstances be what they may, keep recognizing Jesus, maintain complete reliance on Him.”



Scripture reference: Matthew 14:29-30


That portion came from the devotional I am using this year. The one I received from my sister, Wanda’s book batch. I will be honest, I didn’t think I’d get much out of it when I first glanced through it. But now I admit that almost every time I go to the day at hand, there is a message for me.



A dear friend from blogville, sent me an e-mail that she was praying for me. This came on the heels of another dear sister-friend stating the same thing. Two hearts burdened to pray. God knows the deal.


He knows full well the problem. It’s called “Iwonderif” disease.



Ever heard of it? Ever had the affliction strike you? It can happen at a moments notice. I’ve had the ailment more times than I can count.


It happens somewhat like this:


The Lord brings an idea or thought to your heart and mind. Even though it is something that we sometimes refer to as a “burden”, it is one we gladly bear. (As in when you feel “burdened” to pray for someone.) It is something that you feel distinctly drawn to…you feel Him call…you step out in faith…and you sense His direction and His affirmation.


And then it happens. Up on your shoulder sits the pest. The buzzing mosquito. You swat---you slap…but still it buzzes.


It buzzes in your ear, “I wonder if you really heard right…


I wonder if He was really talking to you…


Don’t you think someone else could visit the sick?


I wonder if they will think you are weird…or worse yet, off your rocker!”


I wonder if your friends will leave you?


I wonder if the money will hold out to the end of the month…or the bills…will they all get paid???


Did you really hear Him call you?


Do you really think you are able?


I wonder if ….


If you’ve lived a Christian life for any length of time, you’ve probably been afflicted with this nasty bug. Similar to a virus…it can wipe you out physically and emotionally and last for several hours, or even several days—and sometimes, it can stay long enough to cause you to give up the vision God had for your life….


I wonder if.



Let’s turn that around.



I don’t have to wonder long, we are a called and chosen people.


We are one of two types of people---we are either Missionaries---or we are a Missions Project.


When He said, “Go ye”, I believe He meant “Go you. Go me.”


When He said, “Follow me and I will make you fisher’s of men”…I believe He meant exactly that!


We are to go out—in our day-to-day and share Jesus with the world.



I am being prompted in my spirit to go—in the work place—in the stores—wherever I may be—I am there to do what I normally do, work, shop, eat, and live the daily—but also, while I’m there, I am to be sharing and living Jesus.


Daily.


Without a doubt. Giving my utmost for Him.



Don’t be overwhelmed by the “actual” that is your circumstances, but look beyond—to the place up on top of the water—where He is calling you to walk. As Peter did.


Don’t cast your eyes to the waves, keep them focused on Him.



Today, He’s calling us to follow.



I’ve stepped out in faith.


How about you?


In Faith,


Angie


© Angie Knight at The Knightly News 2009. All rights reserved.


Matthew 14:29-33 (New International Version)

"Come," he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"


Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"


And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

No Substitutes

The Internet Cafe is welcoming Kristen Shockley today!
We are


I pivoted on my heels, turning to gather food for bedtime snacks and careful not to upset Benjamin who was camped out at my ankles. The routine was the same as many evenings past, but this night, he whimpered and reached. I stepped around him to grab a block of cheese. He crawled after me and I gingerly closed the refrigerator door, tiptoeing over him to pull crackers from the cabinet.



As I arranged the napkins and cups of water on the counter, Benjamin continued to rub his head against my legs to remind me of his presence. I considered picking him up and continuing my task with one arm…but then my attention would be divided between snacks and baby care. I knew he was okay and if he could wait the few minutes until I was done, the rewards would be better.



My husband, Brian was watching nearby. After settling the older children around the table, he knelt down with extended arms to the little guy at my feet. Brian was offering immediate comfort while I busily finished the food prep. Benjamin considered the proposition, then turned from him and continued to gaze up at me. Brian commented, "He would rather sit at your feet than accept a substitute!"


And a picture formed in my mind...


Should not I be as Benjamin?

Should not I be determined to wait for the One who has everything I need?

Why is it so easy for me to be distracted, to turn from the One knows me, who created me… and accept the comforts of now? The world is waiting, with arms open wide, enticing me with what it thinks I want, right now.



But if I have the patience to wait, my Lord offers so much more! "I seek you with all my heart...my soul is consumed with longing." Psalm 119:10, 20 NIV



I continued my dance around the kitchen floor, two steps here, three steps there, carefully avoiding my waiting boy. And as the “thank you, Mamas” echoed around the table and snacks were consumed, I tenderly scooped up my Benjamin. I kissed his head as he buried it in my shoulder. I wiped his cheeks as the last few tears spilled from his eyes.



Lord, give me the patience and tenacity of Benjamin. Help me to wait at Your feet. Even when the world offers a quick answer, let me accept Your timing, knowing You hold everything I need.



May we all be as Benjamin. Accepting no substitutes. Waiting at the feet of Jesus, desperate for Him.


Gazing, yearning...



Kristin


Kristin has been married to Brian, her best friend, confidant, and inspiration, for eight years and has four children who are continually teaching her in the little moments. You can visit her at http://from-my-life.blogspot.com.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

You Can Learn A Lot From a Dog



I usually feed the dog in the morning. My husband, JT, leaves really early and so he doesn't let her out and feed her because she might bark at whatever dogs bark at when people are trying to sleep and that's not cool.


So, he leaves her in her kennel and I let her out. The routine is the same every day.




Open Lucy's door, she heads for the back door while I'm scooping her food. As I reach for the door handle, she jumps up on the door so I can pat her head or something...which I don't because, hey dog, I'm feeding you, and that's plenty of love from me.

Out she runs and I follow with her cup-o-food.

Here's what gets me. It's the same food every day and you'da thought I was about to give her steak by the way she jumps around, wags her tail and then dives in like I just bought her ribs from Earl's Bar-B-Q.


Doesn't matter. It's her food and it's new every morning.

It struck me that there should be a resemblance to us and our hunger for God and for his Word. Yeah, she's a dog and it's dog food, but, it gives her life, it satisfies her and she can't wait for more.

Oh, I wish I were more like that. Not that I want to be furry and pant all the time, but you know what I mean. That I would wake up every day and wonder what delicious gift I will get from my Master today.

My food is the Bread of Life and I pray for a greater hunger for what is truly Life for me. I want a hunger for what gives me life, satisfies me and leaves me wanting more!

What about you?

Do you want to be more like a dog?




Natalie



Read more from Natalie at her blogs:


I+Am+Not+Header+3+copyand

stiletto

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Friday, September 25, 2009

He Removed the Stump


The Internet Cafe is thrilled to welcome back Guest Barista, Paula Powell


One of my biggest landscaping pet peeves is to have large bushes or trees in front of windows. Hate it! The first thing out of my mouth upon seeing my house was "if I buy this house, those bushes are gone!" A flowering bush in front of a burning bush in front of one of only two windows. Not happening with this chic.



After snipping on the bushes for a couple weeks in April, I could take it no more. I cut the flowering bush to the ground. With so many landscaping projects removing that stump was last on my list.


Fast forward to July. A couple times over the month, I would use my shovel to see what I could do in removing this horrid thing. No luck. What to do? What a wonderful time to have a strong and able man around the house. But this is not the case for now. One Friday in late July I wanted to finish my front flower bed by laying mulch. The kicker: I really wanted that stump removed before laying mulch.


With my shovel in tow, I began. Shove, push, jump, jab, stab.


Okay. This isn't going so well. I get out my hand clippers and might as well get the limb clippers too. Oh, get the hand shovel--I never know when its sharp point and scooping ability will come in handy. I was trying to be systematic so as to accomplish my goal. Remove dirt, clip a root. Remove more dirt, cut another root. Shovel, push, jab. Sweat. The sweat rolled down my face and into my eyes burning. Oh, this seems so hard. What am I going to do? It's too late to call a pro as I want it done now. I'm determined to do this and have it finished. It's so hot and I retreat for a quick break. A big sip of water and a moment on the porch step. I must continue. I have to follow through. I have to get this done. I began again cutting each root I could see knowing with each detached root I was one step closer to being stump-free.



This was just not working. I switched gears. I had to step it up. With ALL (and I mean all) my might, I jabbed the shovel into the hole around the edge of the stump. I continued this while taking two or more breaks between gushes of energy. I know I could not fully stop. I allowed myself breaks which gave much needed rejuvenation. Yet, I know stopping for the day would deplete all my desire to finish.


I felt this approach was working with the intermittent breaks but I was running out of strength and energy. On the last water break, low and behold, I asked God to "help me get this done." What a revelation asking God. Yes! I returned to jab that shovel with my all. Jab. Jab. Jab. Jab. And I felt it. It was loose. Attached by only one root. The end was near. The end was within my sight. It still took time to maneuver the shovel and get to the very bottom of the stump to clip that last root. Aha! It's done! The stump is free. My goal is complete. My desire is fulfilled.



Thank You, Lord, thank You!



As I thought about this experience and considered penning it, I reflected on how this is much like my feelings for my true heart's desire: marriage restoration. What a very difficult, painful, and extremely draining journey. Only a handful of friends have traveled this road ahead of me and with me.



I can so easily see the correlation between the stump experience and my journey. Simply reading over my words, I could easily write the feelings about my stump removal right into my heart's journey. The fatigue...the determination...the weariness...the doubts at times...the need for rest and rejuvenation toward my goal and desire.


This is what I felt with my stump and feel with the call on my heart.

The stump:

1. I didn't want to give up.
2. I was weary and tired, exhausted.
3. I saw no results.
4. I wanted a plan.
5. The sweat and pain felt good in an odd way.*
6. I didn't want to do this alone.
7. I knew the benefit of "following through".
8. I was intermittently encouraged.
*There is nothing better than being soaked with sweat, jumping into the shower, getting clean, and putting on fresh jammies.


My heart's desire:


1. I don't want to give up or stop believing.
2. I am weary, tired, and exhausted from this journey.
3. I see no evidence of my desire being fulfilled.
4. I want to know HIS plan.
5. Knowing He has a plan and is growing me feels good.
6. I don't want be on this path alone nor live life alone.
7. I know there is great reward to following Him and believing.
8. I am encouraged by those who walk this path with me or have gone before me.
What does God say about this?


1. Don't give up.
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Hebrews 10:36


2. I will give you rest.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
3. Keep believing without seeing.
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. John 20:29


4. I have a plan for you.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11


5. Trust Me in the pain.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11


6. You are not alone.
I will never leave you nor forsake you. Joshua 1:5


7. I will reward your faith.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6


8. Be encouraged.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.". John 16:33

Are you weary and burdened with what He’s asking you to believe?

Do you need rest and rejuvenation from your trial?

Does your determination to keep believing need a boost?

Lord, thank you so much that you care for every detail of our lives. You are concerned not only with the huge heart matters but the mediocre matters that come in the form of large stumps. Only you can give the rest and encouragement like we need. You simply ask us to trust and believe. Thank You for the plans, though unknown and foreign to us, mighty nonetheless. We can’t receive anything better than when it’s Your plan. Thank You for never giving up on us. May we never give up on You nor believing what You’ve placed on our hearts. In Jesus’ precious Name, Amen.

I’d love for you to visit me at His Ways.

Sweet Blessings, http://signatures.mylivesignature.com/85696/ppowell/1e965e82d53da58ef6b25be7fc630753.png © Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cafe Chat

Hello Cafe Chatters!!!
I wanted to do a video blog post today, but time slipped through my fingers, so I will try again next week. I will get right to today's questions, and I think the questions are easy to answer.
What is your favorite book in the Bible? Why is it your favorite? (Give specific details :)
See I told you the questions were easy, and I can't wait to read your answers.
Blessings, Kim

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No Tomorrow


The Internet Cafe is thrilled to introduce our Guest Barista, Tracy Knowlton today!




“Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth.”

Luke 21:34 & 35 (NRSV)



If there was just today, only today of which I was guaranteed, what would it look like?



I would have opened my eyes this morning, not half-heartedly and eager for my first cup of coffee, but eager to see the face of my Lord. I would think about Him like it was my birthday. I would wonder what He will look like and what I could possibly say to Him. I might even wear a dress.



I would have thanked God for my dogs, which are also my alarm clocks, because some mornings, during the last 13 years, they were the only reason that I had to get out of bed. They have been good companions and evidence of God’s abundance.



I would have sat with my husband before he went to work and told him how he has been the most amazing blessing of my life. I would not talk about “one day” or the kids we never had. I would just enjoy him. If I never saw him again, I would know that who we became made Jesus smile.





I would not have sat in the living room during my quiet time thinking of ways to move around money so that I could continue remodeling our house, bit by bit. Instead I would have been on my knees thanking God for giving us a place of safety consecrated for his glory. I would ask forgiveness for every time that I failed to show hospitality to someone who needed it.



Then I would call all of my friends and family members. I would tell them once again where I am going and who my Savior is. I would celebrate with some, and with others I wouldn’t hold back anymore because I want for them to know that I am going home tomorrow and I want them to come with me. I would pray with them for whatever happens tomorrow, regardless of what they said…and I would tell them how I love them.



I would spend the rest of my day not worrying about the grocery list, exercising, the dog hair tumbleweeds rolling down the hall, or this blog…no apologies. I would not worry about what I ate or what I did, just like scripture always said…only today I would take it seriously. I would go tell my neighbors that our time here is short and they need to hear something before tomorrow comes. I would laugh at myself because I will know how Noah felt, and how he just didn’t care what people thought.



I would call my pastors and thank them for their diligence. I would pray for the ministries that I had been involved in, that I had glorified God and not myself. I would ask for forgiveness when I was tired or lazy. Then I would leave that all at the steps of His throne and not think about it again.



Every time I feel back twinges, I will think…that’s ok, I will be feelin’ fine tomorrow. I would not wear makeup because I can cry just thinking about it, so that would just be a hassle.



I would ache for the moment of His arrival. I would not be stilled because, let’s face it, everything has been done and all that is left is the party. I would sing…a lot. I would not care if the neighbors heard me. Hopefully, I would get to sit on the roof with my husband in my dress, laughing and talking about Jesus.



Or, maybe I would do something else. But I know that because I was given this verse today, tomorrow will be different.



What would your day look like?


Will tomorrow be different?


Father thank you for showing up. Thank you for speaking through your word in ways that can change tomorrow. Let us hear your word and live it.

In Him,

Tracy Knowlton

Tracy is a Texan, living in Phoenix, Arizona, with her wonderful husband of three years. They have three dogs who sit at my feet each day as she studies and writes. Blogging has become a new pastime for her, and she loves inspiring women through this avenue. She is and forever will be a bookworm.

Trady graduated from Fuller Seminary Southwest in June of 2008. She attends, and serves at Lincoln Heights Christian Church in Phoenix, working with women and youth girls.

Women were the whole reason that she attended seminary. Strong women, strong messages, strong faiths to be shared. They are her passion, and cornerstones to today’s homes and families. She is privileged to serve in women’s leadership at my church.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Battle Cry

Now, imagine with me for a moment.

The war is raging and you are in it. You are on the front lines. You are ready to go. You’ve got your long denim skirt and Birkenstocks on, or maybe you are the one that is sportin’ the cute capri's pants and flip-flops; or maybe yet, you’re the gal that fights better in her dress and high heels. You’ve got your HELMET secured down; your BELT fastened tight, your SWORD in one hand and SHIELD in the other. You are ready to face the enemy. You are ready for the battle. But are you?

In her book, The Fruit of Her Hands, Nancy Wilson gives us this battle cry:


"As Christian women, we must repudiate the world's agenda for women and seek to understand the Word's agenda for women... we must determine to be obedient to the Word of God no matter what is says, with no compromises. This is what is means to be a woman of the Word. We must find out what the Bible teaches about marriage, about children, about men and women and their roles, and then we must be obedient with no apologies, no matter what the cost. Is this radical Christianity? No. This is basic Christianity."



Women of the Word….

No matter what
No compromises
No apologies
No matter the cost



Let me repeat that last one again… No… matter….the…cost.

But they’ll laugh at me….

No matter the cost.

But they’ll say I’m just too uptight…

No matter the cost.

But they’ll say I’m way too conservative…

No matter the cost.

But they’ll think I’ve lost my mind.

No matter the cost.

But I’ll be misunderstood…

No matter the cost

But they’ll shun me…

No matter the cost.


The battle lines have been drawn. Do you know where you stand?

Or have you let the world influence you so much that when you look down for that line in the sand, it is so smudged you can’t tell which side you are on anymore. Or maybe you’ve never even decided which side you need to stand on.




Go ahead and pick up your Sword – the Word of God – and take a look for yourself. But REALLY take a look. Ask Him to show you what He wants,


For your marriage
For your children
For your family
For yourself

And then, prepare yourself for His answer…

No matter the cost.


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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Disobedient Driver

I was driving in the car with my oldest son who is five years old. He and I were going grocery shopping together. As I drove, he was telling me all about what he learned at Sunday school. I stopped at a stop sign then continued driving down the street, and my son said from the back seat, “Mommy, you are so obedient.”


This made me smile. My husband and I have been trying to teach our son about obedience. We tell him that we’re teaching him to obey us so that one day he’ll know how to obey God. God will be able to bless his life only when he is obedient to God’s direction.


"All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God" (Deuteronomy 28.2 NIV).

I wondered what obedience my son saw in me. Did he notice how I try to always keep the house clean so my family can have a peaceful home? Did he see me volunteer for our church and understand the sacrifice I made? Or did he watch me take time out of my busy schedule to read the Bible and talk with God?


What my son said took me by surprise. He said, “You are obedient when you drive. You don’t break the rules so that the police officers don’t pull you over.”


After he said that, I had to take my foot off of the gas. I was driving faster than the speed limit and, thereby, breaking the law.


My son’s perceptions of my obedience even in the smallest of circumstances made me realize how important it is to obey the laws -- God’s laws and man’s laws. My son notices every little thing I do, and he can sniff out a double standard anywhere.


How can I teach my son the importance of obedience when I'm disregarding laws that I don't really care for? I'm sure my son doesn't care for a dozen of rules that I enforce (brushing his teeth, washing his hands, picking up his toys), but he still has to do them for his own good.


I want to model to my son how to obey the rules out of love. I don’t want him to see me obeying the laws because of some guilt-trip or out of legalistic duty. I want to obey the laws out of respect and love for my God. I want my son to see my obedience in every facet of my life – not because I have to obey but because I want to obey. As long as the laws correspond with the Bible and are for "my own good," I should strive for obedience.


If I want my son to obey and brush his teeth when I ask him to, I better take my foot off the gas and slow down!

"The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb" (Psalm 19.9-10 NIV).

Are there any small laws, like the speed limit, that you have not been taking seriously?

How can you strive to obey the laws with an attitude that would be pleasing to God?

Will you try meditating on those laws, imagining them to be "sweeter than honey"? Ask God to give you a compliant heart and change you from the inside out!







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Monday, September 21, 2009

The Circle of Three

It was a typical Sunday morning in church. The pastor told a funny story, challenged me in my walk with God, gave me much to consider and then closed with a heartwarming story about a homeless man. He gave the invitation to salvation and we bowed our heads to pray. We sang the obligatory hymn for the alter call. I considered deep, meaningful issues -- where are we eating lunch?


He walked down the aisle, his leather vest, biker gloves and bandanna-wrapped head made him stand apart from this Sunday morning crowd that is much more comfortable in an SUV than on the back of a bike. As he stood at the front and spoke to our pastor, the tattoo on his bicep caught my attention. I couldn't make out the words in the three circles, but I wondered about them. What do they mean? Are they a code? A creed? Who is he?



I loved that he was here -- in my very traditional Southern Baptist church. We don't get many bikers... okay, we don't get any bikers. And edgy is not something we see in these parts. I loved it. This was just what I wanted to see in the church -- different people. My heart soared -- and then it shattered. As I watched these two men, one young, dressed in leather and the other older in a suit, there heads together almost touching -- one slightly graying, the other wrapped in a bandanna, my heart broke.


As much as I talk about wanting to break out of the box, I don't do anything to reach out to those who are different. I don't ask people who cross my path about God in their lives. I don't ask them to come to my church. I don't ask God to use me to reach others for Him.


I just don't ask.


Do I not ask because I'm afraid of the answer? Am I afraid that God will use me? Or am I afraid He won't?


As I looked at those two men, heads bowed together, each with one hand on the other one's shoulder -- one leather biker glove, the other with a single gold wedding ring. So very different, these two men, but joined together before the God who created them both, the God who loves them both and the God who sent His son to die for both.


What an incredible picture and the tattoo? I never did make out the words within the three circles. It doesn't really matter, because to me, that image represented the three who stood at the front of the church -- my pastor, the biker, and my Savior. Two I saw in the flesh and the other I felt in my spirit.


Are you stepping out on faith? Believing God for miracles? The love of Christ is beyond our comprehension and it's this love that conquers all -- even death.


For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. -- Eph 3:14-19 (ESV)


Sisters, trust God to do a mighty work! Ask Him to do that mighty work through you and in you. Believe God!


In Him,

Mary



Visit my blog at Adventures in Faith & Friendships!

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Making the Best of a Sticky Situation


Please welcome Guest Barista, Amy Stavnes to the Internet Cafe!



It happened around 12 o'clock today...my moment of grumbling. Prior to that I was nursing the baby and my oldest children said they were hungry. Seeing that it was going to be awhile before they got to eat, my seven year old daughter offered to make lunch. I agreed and she happily skipped off to prepare a gourmet lunch of peanut butter and jelly roll-up tortillas.




As they sat down and began eating I heard silly jokes and contagious laughter, my baby girl became curious and quickly finished eating. She and I went to the kitchen to check on the two happy diners. It was then that my moment of grumbling arrived, as I walked by the kitchen table I felt it on my bare feet.

I not only felt it, I was stuck to the floor!


It didn't take long to realize that I was standing in a glob of grape jelly. I placed the baby in her walker and grumbled to myself as I left a trail of sticky foot prints all over the floor. Grabbing a wet rag I began to clean the floors and my sticky feet all the while growing increasingly agitated.


It was in that moment that I stepped back and took a look around...what did I have to be grumbling about?

I am blessed to have three beautiful healthy children...one of whom just made her and her brother lunch while I tended to the baby. So, what if I had to clean a little mess up off the floor...at least my children had food to eat and we have a house with a floor to clean. In that moment I stopped and said a prayer, for forgiveness from my grumbling and a BIG prayer of thanks to God for all of the beautiful blessings in my life, especially grape jelly on the floor.

1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.


It is HIS will for us to give thanks in all circumstances….so whether it is that we have sticky grape jelly on the floor, up all night with a child having nightmares, late to work because of the pokey driver in front of us…we are to give thanks.

Thanks for having a home with floors that get sticky, thanks for the blessing of a child that finds comfort in your embrace during a night of bad dreams, thanks for having a car to drive to the blessing of your job…whatever the situation, look for the praise and find thanks for God in all situations.


Colossians 2:6-7
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.





Amy is a Southern girl (okay woman) who loves the Lord. She is married to the man of her dreams . Together they have been blessed with three amazing children. God has just blessed them by placing a child in their hearts and they have begun a journey of adopting from Ethiopia. Their life is filled with family activities and a desire to raise our children as strong Christians. Visit Amy at Filled With Praise


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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Conditions for Growth


My husband and I would love to have a garden. We envision someday having dozens of square feet of lush, ripe soil filled to overflowing with vegetables of all kinds, a harvest too much for our family, but perfect for sharing with neighbors and friends. This spring we dreamed of beginning one, yet looking ahead to our traveling schedule over the summer, we decided to wait another year.


Instead, my husband thought we should try our hand at a couple of easy-to-grow veggies in large rectangular flower pots on our sun-drenched deck to see if he had a green thumb. He started with radishes. They grew beautifully and easily and we enjoyed fresh radishes on our salads for a number of weeks. Next he planted some carrot seeds. "Five weeks", read the packet. So we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

But the tiny green shoots coming from the soil didn't look like they ever matured. They were scrawny and thin and we could only hope that the carrots underneath were full-grown.

Last week, my husband had had enough of the waiting and decided to pull one out to see for himself what they looked like. His over-dramatic disappointment (purely for the kids' sake) at the sad, puny, hairy little vegetable at the end of the shoot cracked us up and we considered this experiment a failure.

Somehow, the conditions were not appropriate for those little carrots to grow to their full potential. Not being a natural gardener (and coming from a long line of conspicuously poor ones), I really don't know why. Maybe they were spaced too closely together. Maybe the soil wasn't deep enough. Maybe they had too much rain. I have no idea.

I assume it shouldn't be so hard to grow things. After all, God created them, all we have to do is cultivate them and allow them ample opportunity to grow. We all want to bear fruit in our lives as well- those wonderful ideals in scripture such as patience and kindness, long-suffering and peace- and again, as in those carrots, those character traits are natural, God-created ones waiting for us to help cultivate in our own lives.

There's something else, though, that needs cultivation and care to thrive. Something that requires nurture and proper conditions to reach maturity.
When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Sin.

I think we often consider sin to be something that simply is there, or isn't. A failure to obey, a giving-in to temptation that is clear-cut and hopefully isolated, or perhaps a pattern of behavior that we repeat over and over. But James says that sin grows in us. In order for something to grow it requires the proper environment to thrive. And for certain sins, the ones that I fall often into, I am the right environment.

While I try to create in myself the perfect conditions for the fruit of the spirit, I also seek to minimize the popular growing opportunities for the sin that so quickly entangles me. In my life, those sins include pride, a critical spirit, lack of patience and self-control, and discontentment. When I sense a little bit of one of these sin patterns creeping into my life- scrawny and small, like the carrot we grew- I am sure to disrupt their environment and overturn the soil they are growing in, so they can't reach maturity. Perhaps I find a close sister in Christ who can keep me accountable, increase my time with the Lord, find extra opportunities to foster feelings of gratefulness, or practice purposeful acts of kindness.

Sin doesn't have to become full-grown. It is a choice we make each day.

So as I try to learn how to garden successfully, with inevitable failures along the way, I will use my attempts to remember that there are two kinds of things that can either flourish or wither in me as well. As I prepare the soil of the earth, I will also prepare the soil of my heart to cultivate good and not evil.

As you tend to your inner garden, I ask you: What grows well in you?



Christine can be found daily at her personal blog:

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Friday, September 18, 2009

There Are No Orphans of God


The Internet Cafe Welcomes Abbie Bateman today!


“A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation." Psalm 68:5 (NKJV)


My sisters and I are scattered all throughout our enormous house. One in the kitchen, one at work, one sitting next to me, and then four others located in places all throughout.

As I sit here, I think about each of my lovely sisters in their uniqueness and I can’t help but ask myself one question,

“Whoa!…How did she get here?”

It amazes me! I know the answer to this question! I know their stories by the back of my hand, in which, I could in which, I could very well quote each one!

My sisters each have an exclusive testimony that only God could give them, and I have the privilege of seeing how God’s unfailing love has worked in each of their precious lives.


We are sisters, but we all come from distinct backgrounds.



We are sisters, but we all have our individual history.


Each young lady in our household originally came from different families and from various parts of the world, but we all came together for one purpose. That purpose being that with or without separation we will boldly stand for our Lord Jesus Christ because our Heavenly Father chose us to be His daughters and that we will stick true to love each other as sisters in Christ. His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting!


I know that I personally can tell you a brief snippet of my life story. I am a 22 year old, born-again believer in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who left behind a past full of neglect, abuse and a “disownment” from my biological family upon my acceptance of Christ. I praise the Lord that He did not leave me orphaned!


He not only gave me my beautiful family that I adore, but more importantly, He gave me eternal life as his daughter! I am truly thankful that there are no orphans of God! I am not an outcast because he chose me despite me!


I am reminded of the beautiful story of Esther. God did not leave her orphaned. He gave her a home with her loving relative after her parents passed away. She stood for the God of Israel with boldness! By walking in the Will of God for her life, and knowing His promises, she won the heart of a king and a kingdom!


“And Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman was lovely and beautiful. When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.” Esther 2:7 (NKJV)


God has a plan for each one of us and even if we are orphaned, or considered an outcast, He would never look at us that way.


I think of a little child. When you look at a child’s face and you know that nothing in life would make you want to leave that child abandoned, God looks at us the same way. He simply desires our obedience to His Word and for us to be a living sacrifice for Him no matter the cost!


Be encouraged that He loves you! He wipes our past away and He has chosen us, as His daughters, to represent Him while we are here on this earth! I praise God that when you willingly place your life in His hands, He doesn’t leave us orphaned! We are no strangers in His kingdom…we are daughters of the King!


Dear Lord,

Thank you for Your amazing grace! Thank You Lord that you call us Your daughters and that we are all princesses in Your eyes! Lord, continue to mold all of us, as Your daughters, in to the Proverbs 31 women You desire us to be. Lord, direct our steps and let us continually walk in Your ways, in which, we know that to obey is better than sacrifice!

There is no sweeter Name than the precious Name of Jesus, that I pray..

Amen!


Questions to “put your thinking cap on” for…

1. Have you ever been abandoned or orphaned?

2. What would you do if I told you that with God, he will never leave you nor forsake you?

3. Have you ever asked the question “Whoa..how did I get here?” and then recognize God’s sweet grace in your life?


In Him,

Abigail Bateman

Join Abigail at her personal blogspot, Abigail Bateman

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cafe Chat

To do or not to do...that is the question
Do you ever find yourself measuring how good you are doing in your relationship with God by the things you do, or the things you don't do? In the last couple of weeks, I have found myself looking at the things I am NOT doing, or shall I say some things I have given up (or tried to) because they were not things that were drawing me to Jesus, or helping me in my relationship with Him.
For me, I think I am discovering that if I look at my "DO NOT" list, it is pushes me a bit toward legalism, and causes me to focus in on my works more than I should. So today I want to see where my sisters in Christ stand on the "to do or not to do" dilemma.
Do you focus in more on what you are doing for Jesus, or on what you are not doing for Him? Is there a balance? Do you think this is even a healthy approach when you are examining yourself in regards to your relationship with Christ?
I am looking forward to seeing your answers this week.
Blessings, Kim

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Sammy the Seagull

A few months ago, my Mom relayed a hilarious story that had happened earlier in her day.

Apparently, she heard a banging noise at the front door. So, being the woman of the house, she went to investigate. When she answered the front door a seagull ran into the house.

From what I understand, he wasn’t invited in. Which, in layman’s terms means, he wasn’t welcome.
Quite shocked by the turn of events, my Mom screamed for my Dad, who being the man of the house, tried capturing the thing to save his bride.

I miss all the fun when I am not home.

The bird had flown into the front door, broken his wing, stumbled into my parent’s home, got chased out and stuck on a car roof all within minutes.

When my sister offered him bread in an attempt to build his strength (she loves animals, so much so she won’t even eat them) the seagull became all sorts of petrified and half-flew higher up onto the roof next door.

He wasn’t flying well.

And he was doing everything wrong. Without a wing working, flying higher and higher was really backing him into a corner.

I’m not sure where that broken guy is tonight in the freezing New York cold but I will tell you this, I understand why he did it.

You see, broken things will often look in all the wrong places for mending.

Sammy the Seagull did it.

He had a broken wing, was freezing his tailfeather off and decided someone in my parent’s house must be able to remedy the situation. Dazed, he walked on in.

Oh, Sammy. I get you. We get you.

Don’t we do this? We struggle with our emotions so we eat thinking that will make it better. We’ve never felt loved so we warm another’s bed thinking that will make it better. We hurt inside so we cut outside thinking that will make it better.

Only it never does.

And we become jaded.

At the first sight of bread, just like Sammy, we fly higher and higher. Away from the pain, away from the bread, away from the Only One able.

I want to personally testify our Christ is able. To not only heal our broken wings and feed us bread that nourishes; but also to restore.

The number one thing I hear from women, on a regular basis, is, “I want to know Christ and see Him in the day-to-day but I feel like I can’t. I feel far away from Him because of…” this thing I did.

Because I am broken.

Beloved, our Christ sees the beauty in broken things.

Remember 1 Corinthians 11:23, “The Master, Jesus, on the night of his betrayal, took bread. Having given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body, broken for you. Do this to remember me. “
Remember Him today.

Remember, “This is my body, broken for you.”

This is Me, broken for you…

This is Me, taking on your sin…
This is Me, risen again…
This is Me, breaking chains…

Bring Him your broken wing today. Take His Bread. Watch as He brings beauty from the broken.

And then go on.

Do what you were created for.

Fly



Kristen is the founder and editor of Exemplify Online & Magazine. She welcomes you to stop by!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Come Prepared

Each week I have an art lesson. These lessons were meant to be an extracurricular activity for my children, but as they have gotten older I have had the privilege of joining them in this expression of creativity. Each week when we arrive, our instructor asks us to do a few simple drawing exercises.


We have to get into our right hemisphere.

Admittedly, I spend much of my life here on earth taking care of left brain tasks; paying bills, grocery shopping, laundry, emptying the dishwasher, shuttling people to and fro. These activities require little creativity, or "right brain" function. But art, now that is a different story.



Our instructor insists that moving into our right hemispheres is critical to art and original creativity. She reminds us weekly that without this transition, our best expression of art and creativity are not possible. There are times that getting into my "right mind" is hard work. I have to WORK at shutting my left brain interferences out, or my artwork will not be a reflection of my true creativity.

One morning, as I was sitting down to quiet time with the Lord, I had a revelation.

Much like art class, many times coming to the Lord disconnected from the noise is hard work. The day's distractions bombard me. Much like my art class, I must find a way to leave those things at the door. Moving from my world into His. If distractions interfere with my time with Him, I will not ever hear completely what He is trying to communicate to me.

Rather than preparing my brain, I have to prepare my heart.

How can I prepare my heart when my heart longs for real intimacy with God?

When we have met our Lord in the silent intimacy of our prayer, then we will also meet Him . . . in the market, and in the town square. But when we have not met Him in the center of our own hearts, we cannot expect to meet Him in the busyness of our daily lives.
Henri Nouwen

Just as I have a series of exercises that I need to do to prepare this brain for art class, the same can be said for my quiet time with God. If a few simple exercises work in art class, why should it surprise me that a few simple exercises work at prayer time too. Just as right hemisphere exercises allow creativity to flow, centering my heart in Christ through prayer moments of solitude with Him will allow Him to freely move through me. Much like the drawing exercises that we do in class, I have learned to come to quiet time prepared. Repeating the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Here am I," helps me to be present to the Lord.

In order to meet Him in the busyness, I must meet Him in the center of my own heart, and that simply cannot be done if distractions interfere with my holy experience. I am a canvas of the Lord. If allowed, the artist of all creation would choose to use me to reflect His love to the world. As the canvas, I need to simply be, before I can ever do.

Father God,

Thank you for the creativity that surrounds me and even more I thank you for the lessons you continue to so eloquently teach me thorough simple, daily experiences. I want to meet you in the center of my heart. I ask you to guide me as I strive to come to you in the quietness, meeting you in completeness, releasing distractions. Father, hear the prayer of your child, "Here am I." Use me as your canvas Lord, as your will would have.

Amen







join Lori daily at her personal website,all you have to give, where she can be found anxiously awaiting football season.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Patch from My Past

When I was a kid, I had horrible eyesight. One eye was lazy, my right eye, so I had to wear a patch over my left eye for most of my first grade year. It was black like a pirate patch, so even though the six-yr-old boys thought it was cool, it was so NOT COOL to me. If that wasn’t embarrassing enough, I was also really far-sighted, so I had to wear big thick lenses with bifocals. And for those of you who don’t know, they didn’t make the lenses thin and unobtrusive like they do nowadays. I truly did have four eyes!


So I had a pirate patch on my left eye, bold black frames, and a great big eyeball, my right one, magnified through the bifocal. I looked like Mr. Magoo meets Popeye!

But here’s the irony. While everyone was going through all this trouble to help me see better, all I really wanted was to be blind to my circumstances.

Why? Because through those lenses, I saw hate. I saw abuse & pain. I saw drunkenness & anger & despair. I saw beautiful things too, but the ugliness of my circumstances shoved the good out of my mind’s eye. I had a serious astigmatism deep down in my heart and soul that needed correcting, and a patch wasn’t going to do the trick.


As I grew up, my eyesight improved some. No more bifocals, a bit thinner lenses, a little more style in those frames. At the same time, my spiritual eyes were seeing more clearly too. My circumstances didn’t change, but I began to see God magnified through them instead of the other way around.


I began to see how God had been there for me as a young hurting child, and how He had comforted me each time I called out to Him in desperation and fear. And by His grace, He revealed to me that He was not only my Comforter, but my Redeemer as well. He corrected my vision with 2 Corinthians 5:7, showing my lazy eye that if I would “live by faith” and “not by sight,” I would see Him up close and personal, big and tall—fully able.


If you could see me now, you wouldn’t see any eyeglasses on my face. But I’m wearing some…because my gracious Father offered me a pair. I call them my Faith-colored glasses. Through them, He has become larger to me than any circumstance I faced in the past or will face today or in the future. Through them, I see His light instead of darkness. Through them, I see hope and strength enough for each new day.


What about you? Do negative situations, big, small or medium cause you to take your eyes off God’s ability to help you through them? Is the Lord in your peripheral vision while your circumstances stand large in front of you? Are you squinting to see any beauty from the ashes of your past? Do you see only hopelessness in your future?


I wish I could say that I never put my faith-colored glasses on the shelf, but I do. So friends, let’s challenge one another to live God large. Let’s commit to see life—past, present & future--through His eyes, walking by faith and not by sight.

“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,
and His incomparably great power for us who believe…”
Ephesians 1:18-19a

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