Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Last Day of the Year

It's hard to believe that it's already the last day of 2008!  As I look back upon this year, I see where God has worked in our lives.  He has brought us through so much--good times, such as great family times and the birth of a nephew, and sad times, as we lost several loved ones this year.  I thank God for the blessing of my family, my friends and how He has worked in our lives.  I don't know what 2009 will hold, but greater than the uncertainty is the peace of God's promise that He will never leave us.  Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Baby Talk


I love frosty mornings!!!  Today is one of those...it just seems so crisp and fresh, doesn't it?  It makes me want to get out there and take a walk/jog just so I can feel the cool air burning in my lungs.  That's what I'm gonna do as soon as I finish this!  I first wanted to write about this while it was on my mind.

The other day I was changing Jake's diaper I could hear Emily talking "baby talk" to Jake.  She was saying something like, "Is Mommy changing you diapa?"  Then she said, "Wah go pay in minit?"  As I was listening to her I started thinking about how I don't like "baby talk" because as Jake is learning to talk, he needs to hear the right pronunciations of words so that he can eventually get them right.  If he always hears baby talk, he'll never get it right!

When a child is learning to talk, we model to them the right words, sometimes intentionally and sometimes without realizing it.  And when they first start talking we laugh and think it's cute how they don't "get it" right away (you can tell I love this from reading my blogs)!  Do we fuss at them and raise our hands in surrender and declare "No hope!" when they say "moy" instead of "more"?  No!  Do we get worried that they'll never learn to walk when a child falls down as they are taking their first steps?  Of course not--that would be absurd.  Well, I must confess that sometimes I am more tempted to do that when it comes to issues of character in my children.  But why would I expect them to "get it" right away?  

I realized that morning that I need to show the same kind of patience toward them in all aspects of learning as I do when they are learning to walk and talk.  The most important thing for me is that I model good character qualities such as compassion, forgiveness and unselfishness.  Then, just as they learn how to talk from hearing correct pronunciation, they will learn good character traits from seeing them.  Unlike walking and talking though, instilling good character traits takes years.  But that gives me a chance to model patience, right?  I just recognize that in just about everything I do, there is an opportunity there to teach my children about living for God.  And just like walking and talking, I trust God that one day He will help them understand and they will take off on their own!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Retaliation?

I have been reflecting on the sermon I heard today, not only because it was a good sermon, but also because the message is so counter to our culture, yet so vital to true Christian living.  

The sermon was about Jesus' teaching on retaliation in Matthew 5:38-42.  This passage is one that really speaks to me because it reminds me that living for Christ isn't just about following rules--it's about following a person.  Jesus was a great example of this teaching, as He was for all of His teachings.  To live for Christ is to love Him--and that means not just reading His teachings, but also living them.

This passage is further proof of Jesus' words in Matthew 5:17 that He "did not come to abolish [the law] but to fulfill it."  He recognized how pious Jews had twisted the law to fit their own personal likings.  He wasn't changing the law, He was simply explaining the actual meaning and intentions of the law.  So, what does it mean for us?  It means the same thing that it did back then; in matters of personal retaliation, vengeance should be left to God.  Paul wrote about this in Romans 12:19, "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord."

There is so much to be said and thought about with this passage of Scripture, so I encourage you to look it up and see how it applies in your life.  Do you have a grudge you're hanging on to?  Are you holding out for some sort of revenge, great or small?  Heed the words of Jesus.  In this world where we are saturated with secular ideas and relative "truth", we need THE Truth more than ever!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas friends!  I hope that you have all been having a wonderful Christmas season, and not sharing the sentiment of Emily's rendition of the song "The First Noel".  After all, the chorus that she sings says, "Oh well, oh well, oh well, oh well....."  Of course she really thinks that's how the song goes!!  

Speaking of songs, I have been listening to one this year by the group Selah, and I wanted to share some of the lyrics with you.  Some of you may know this song, but as I have thought about what the song says, it has been a reminder of the great mystery of God.  I realize that I don't have to understand everything about God before I trust Him with my life.  I don't understand the mechanics of the workings of my house, yet I live in it and use the lights, the internet and television every day.  But that's another blog for another day.

But as I was listening to this song, "Mystery", the other day, I was overwhelmed by the love of God, realizing that before He even created man He knew that He would have to sacrifice His Son for us...yet He still created us!!  I believe that God is wholly sovereign, and I say, who can understand His mind?  I don't have to.  I believe, based on His Word and His work in my life, in His perfect goodness.  I believe that He is totally in control.  I believe in His plan for humanity.  I believe in His everlasting love.  And that's what makes Christmas more special than anything else.  I really look forward to tonight, when all of our family will gather around, and we will talk about Jesus--what He has done and what He is doing in our lives and for world.  I hope that you will find time to do that as well.  Merry Christmas!!

"Mystery" by Selah
A child was born on Christmas Day
Born to save the world
But long before the world began
He knew His death was sure
The pain and strife secured

Mystery, how He came to be a man
But greater still, how His death was in His plan
God predestined that His Son would die
And He still created man
Oh, what love is this, that His death was in His hands
Mystery

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Three Sweet Arrows


Emily told me the other day:
"Mommy, I must be getting sick; I've been bleshuing all day."

Let me break that word down for you.  Bless-you-ing.  Yes, that's what she calls sneezing.  I can't bring myself to correct her.  No way.  Kind of like when she sings "Away in the manger" and at the last line says "the little Lord Jesus asleep on the head".  Well, He probably was asleep on His head, right?  I actually did try to correct that one before she sang it in church, but she was emphatic that it was not "hay" but "head".  Oh well...she'll learn too soon, right?

Ashlyn sang her first church solo tonight during the Christmas play and did a great job.  I've tried to get her to sing before, but have never been successful until now.  I can't help but wonder if perhaps she did it this time because the verse was about the animals in the stable (she sang about the cow who gave Jesus his manger to sleep in).  She loves animals...it sometimes works to meet her where she is!!  There may have been other reasons that she decided to sing this time, but no matter what the reason, I was proud of her--not just for singing, but for her excitement and great attitude toward her Christmas "performances" this year!

Finally, Jake has been learning some words to "Jesus Loves Me".  It was playing in the car tonight, and when it was over, he uttered two syllables..."a--din".  He said it a couple of times more until I finally figured it out:  AGAIN!  When I flipped it back, he said "Yeah!"  Then he was trying so hard to sing it.  He came out with a few words...Bible, so, Jesus.  At least it was the important ones!  

I've lost my patience with my kids on more than one occasion, but even in the worst of those moments I (obviously) wouldn't trade them for the world.  I take the responsibility that God has given to me as their mother very seriously, and I just pray that His grace will cover my mistakes as I try to set a good example to them of a Godly parent and person.  What a blessing they are to me!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Love

LOVE....

...is patient.

...is kind.

...is not jealous.

...does not act unbecomingly.

...is not selfish.

...does not keep a record of wrongs.

...does not rejoice in sin, but only in truth.

...bears all things.

...believes all things.

...hopes all things.

...endures all things.

LOVE NEVER FAILS. 
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Christmas is about God's promise of mercy and grace delivered.  It's about His LOVE for humanity--for you and me.  It really is all about Jesus--the embodiment of perfect LOVE.

Day after day I fail to show true love--to my family, friends and even to my Lord.  I really really want the life of Christ to radiate in my life so that I can learn to love as He loves.  

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Center of the Nativity

Thankfully my internet connection has been re-established.  It was on the blink for the last couple of days, I'm guessing because of the high winds yesterday.  We are too rural to have a cable or DSL connection, so we are on a broadband antennae type thing.  It works well most of the time, but when bad weather comes it's not always reliable.

Anyway...the Christmas season is rolling on for us, with too much food and not enough sleep--and I am enjoying every minute of it!!  More importantly, however, I am so thankful for all the great fellowship with our friends and loved ones, always keeping in mind the reason of our celebrations.  Speaking of that, I want you to notice something in this picture.  

This is a play nativity set that we got Emily for her birthday.  It has been the best thing--she loves to play with it, and it keeps her out of my breakable one.  But do you notice how she has the animals placed?  I was discussing this with a good friend of mine the other day, and she said that her daughter does the same thing.  When we set up our nativity scenes, we carefully place the shepherds, the wise men and the animals either in or around the stable, but most always facing OUT.  However, both of our children are very particular about placing the characters in a circle around the front of the stable so that they can ALL see the baby Jesus.  Not only are they very intentional about the arrangement, but if it's messed with, they are quick to let us know that it's not right!!  I just thought that was so neat, as it reminds me of the precious and unreserved admiration that comes from the hearts of children.  I pray that I will become as dedicated to making sure Christ is the center of all my attention!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Emily's Song

Some of you may have seen this clip, but I liked it so much I wanted to put it on here.  Emily is always making up songs to both familiar and unfamiliar tunes.  She also adds some words in there that I'm sure you would never find in the English dictionary.  We don't know what she's saying half the time, but we still love her songs.  She titled this one "Every Night and Every Day".  This has become one of her favorite hobbies.  Poor Jake is just trying to get on camera in this one.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

To "Anonymous"

Well, it seems that I need to make a clarification.  Thank you "Anonymous" for your comments, although I wish you had left your name so that I knew to whom I was writing.  But that's okay.  I appreciate your expression of concern, for I am, after all, an imperfect human and sometimes say things that either come across in the wrong way, or may be just flat incorrect.

In this case, however, my words came across the wrong way.  I agree with most of your comments.  We are  absolutely "guilty" before a Holy God--BEFORE we become saved.  I am not a "fluff" Christian who only wants to hear feel good sermons and thinks that life is just happy-go-lucky all the time, thinking that God doesn't have a "wrath" side.  I agree that there is way too much of that going on in the emerging church.  I agree with you that before we can ever become saved we have to know that without Christ, we are absolutely, 100% guilty of sin.  It's where we have to be in order to truly accept the gift of His imputed righteousness and justification.  It's a gift that astounds me, for it is wholly undeserved; it is the essence of God's grace.

The scripture you quoted describes what happened when the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, and what still happens today when a non-believer is convicted of sin.  What the Spirit does there (convict in order to bring salvation) is entirely different than what the Enemy does (guilt people into a life of shame).  This is the distinction to which I was referring.  1 Timothy 3:6 talks about the "condemnation incurred by the devil".  Revelation 12:10 tells us that the enemy "accuses [the brethren] before our God day and night."  This kind of guilt is from the enemy, not God, as is stated in Romans 8:1, "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  He has taken our "guilt" away.  

In my last post, I was referring to the ongoing feeling of guilt that is clearly not brought on by the Spirit.  Yes, when I do things that are not of God, I am convicted of it and know that the Spirit is urging me to confess.  But I do not live a life filled with guilt.  That kind of attitude, from the enemy, would only keep me from fellowship with my Father.  But the discipline and conviction brought on by the Holy Spirit allows me to move freely to Him within the realms of His grace as a means of restoration and growth.  There is a difference, and this is what I meant.  I will re-word my post, lest anyone else get the same impression.  Thank you "Anonymous"!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Celebration!


I love this time of year!  I love the festivities, the celebrations and even the busy-ness and flurry of activity that comes with it.  I couldn't go at this speed all year long, but for only one month, I find it exhilarating and fun!  Don't get me wrong, I don't ever want to forget the REASON for the celebrations, and I am saddened by the fact that many don't even know why they are "celebrating".  But, as I honor and remember the birth of my Savior, I find it a blessing to be able to be with friends and family, as well as participate in traditions such as exchanging gifts, decorating, baking and even Christmas movies and music.  

In a way I feel like I've kind of come almost full circle on this particular matter.  Growing up, Mom and Dad made a very special effort to keep the holidays Christ-centered for us.  Yes, we probably had too many gifts some years, but I always remember our Christmas Eve tradition:  candles lit, Dad reading the Christmas story, each of us taking our turn to tell what the Lord had done for us or what we were most thankful for that year.  Those were special times...times that I will forever cherish in my heart.  In fact, when I think of Christmas traditions, Christmas Eve always stands out as the warmest memory for me.  Having said that, as I grew older, I started pondering the whys of many things.  I questioned so many things about my faith, traditions, family and life in general.  It was just part of my growth as a person and as a believer.  Regarding Christmas, I eventually got to the point where I wondered if we should even give gifts.  Did it take too much away from the real meaning?  Was it really necessary?  So, even though I never stopped participating in gift exchanges, etc., I always kind of felt guilty about it--I couldn't enjoy it.  

I've come a long way from that.

As I've said before, I just thank God so much for His patience and tireless effort with teaching me new and wonderful truths.  I used gift exchanging as an example, but the truth is, I feel like I have (in my mind) sort of melted down every tradition and thought towards Christmas, and what has emerged is a new sense of wonder and appreciation for this time of year.  No longer do I feel guilty (this kind of guilt is not from God anyway) about participating in family traditions, but I am humbled and thank God for the blessing of family with whom to share.  I sincerely do, in the midst of all the commotion, know that Christ is the reason, and Jason and I will not neglect to teach it to our kids.  

As far as coming full circle, I have come back around to simply enjoying the Christmas season.  It's not different this year because I have less things on my schedule--I don't. It's not because I have less people to buy for--definitely not that.  I guess I'm just finding the joy in the celebration.  It's all for Christ!  When our traditions are based upon His blessing and Gift to us, then those traditions can be embraced and held dear.  It's all about making Christ the ONLY priority as we celebrate His life; then, as He walked among man, now, as He is preparing a place for us, and to come, as He will reign as King!  I hope that you can find joy in the celebration!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Relationship


Before I get into what I really want to write about today, I want to tell this story on Ashlyn.  Two days ago, she, Emily and I were working on a "project" as they like to call it--actually, a little craft that pertained to the Christmas story.  As I was helping Emily constructed her two-dimensional popsicle stick stable, I was leading them in a discussion about what it might have really been like on the night that Jesus was born.  Finally, after we had each shared a little, I posed the main question, "We see lots of pictures of what others think it may have been like that night, but I wonder what it was really like?"  Without even looking up, Ashlyn flatly replied, "I don't know Mom, why don't you just ask God about it when you die."  I was so taken aback by her response that I think I laughed out loud.  I guess she'd had enough of that discussion!!

I'm glad, however, that Ashlyn has the mindset that one day we will have our questions answered.  I have such a desire to teach my kids about God's love for them, and lately I've been thinking about how I present the things of God to them.  I'm finally realizing that those "things" should never be separate from anything else.  Do you see what I'm getting at?  God should not be my top priority in teaching my kids OR in my life.  He should be THE ONLY priority.  Everything else that is said and done should revolve around Him and what brings Him glory--nothing should be separate from my relationship with Him.  

For example, have you ever thought of having morning "devotion" with God and then when it's "over", you feel like you then can continue on with the rest of your day?  It's like the top priority has been accomplished.  I have been guilty of that so many times! The truth is that my time with God should never end!  He is omnipresent and is always with me, so why should I limit my relationship with Him?  I believe that is what it means to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  The scriptures surrounding that verse tell us to "Rejoice always" and "in everything give thanks".  It doesn't mean that we have to physically be on our knees all day.  It just means that we can live our daily lives and still let God be a part of every moment.  I believe that He desires that, for He loves us completely, and wants us to love and know Him as well.  

I want to live my life in this way, building upon my relationship with my Father, seeking to please Him in that way.  It has nothing to do with do's and don'ts, just enjoying being a daughter of the King.  Loving.  Giving.  Sharing.  Growing.  Living...the abundant life that Jesus Himself came to give.  

Monday, December 1, 2008

For His Glory

Praise the Lord I am feeling much much better tonight!  I'm thankful that the illness was short lived, and I'm praying that the rest of my family remains healthy.  I still feel slightly weak, but tomorrow I expect to be back in full swing (much to Ashlyn's dismay--she enjoyed having another day off of school today).  

The other day I was reading, and I couldn't wait to blog about it, but obviously, haven't had the chance until now.  I was reading a passage in 1 Corinthians 10 about how our attitudes should be, no matter what we are doing.  Verse 23 says, "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.  All things are lawful, but not all things edify."  Now, this scripture has a great meaning to me, not all of which I will get into today on this post.  But, one of the things that God spoke to me about is how we should be treating our fellow believers.  According to 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1, we should be very cautious in certain things that we do, not necessarily because they are wrong before God, but because of the offense it could cause another believer.  My first instinct is to rebut that thought and say, "If God doesn't think it's wrong, then I have every right to do it."  That's true, I guess.  We do have the right.  But, isn't part of being a follower of Christ giving up our rights?  

Let me clarify something here.  Paul, in this passage, is specifically talking about eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols.  Legalism would say that it is wrong.  Paul did not believe it was wrong--unless the person knew it was offensive to a fellow believer and ate it anyway (those who were weaker in the faith, i.e. those who still followed the law).  In verse 31, he writes, "Whether then you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God."  In other words, we do have freedom because of grace, but within that freedom, we must still do everything to God's glory, honoring Him, even if it means refraining from something that we may not be convicted of in order to keep from offending a fellow believer.

Why should we worry about offending another believer?  Here is the heart of my devotion today:  John 13:35, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."  Sometimes, in order to respect our fellow believers, we may need to forfeit our rights.  God would rather us live peaceably and lovingly towards each other (believers) than act out on the freedoms that come with grace.  Now, this doesn't mean that we should live legalistically just for the sake of others, I'm not saying that.  But, I do think that we should be careful with our attitudes, not to be haughty and look down upon those who may struggle with legalism, etc.  It is all for His glory, and Jesus Himself said it--the world will know that we belong to Him when we love one another.

Once again, these are just things to think about, and I wish that you would look these scriptures up yourself and see what God says to you through them.  He is faithful to teach when we quiet ourselves and listen to His Word!

A Little Slump

Hello everyone.  I just wanted to write this quick note to say...

Sorry I am lagging behind on my posts.  Last week was very busy, then Thanksgiving weekend put me behind, but yesterday and today I have been sick...I don't know if it's a virus or what.  I have some thoughts that I can't wait to share from the book of John.  I'm just not up to it today.  Pray that my kids don't get whatever this is!!

Keep checking my site...I'll be back in a day or two!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thankful


This week has been interesting to say the least.  Thanks to all of you who have committed prayers for our family this week with the death of my uncle.  Please continue to remember my grandmother especially, since her brother passed away this morning.  My uncle was like a son to her, and she was very close to her brother.  My mamaw is a wonderful person, and we agreed tonight that even though it is a sad Thanksgiving week for us, we can be thankful that both of these men are for sure with the Lord.  I praise God for the peace that comes from knowing that they are in a better place.

I am also thankful this week for my husband and our children, who bring so much light to our lives.  When Emily saw Uncle Clint's body tonight at the funeral home, she noticed his hands (the hand with the missing finger was covered by his other hand).  Emily got so excited and said "He must be in heaven now!  He got his finger back!!"  How precious!

Ashlyn has such a great outlook as well.  The other night we got a surprise snow.  We were headed to my brother's house, and as were getting out of the car, Ashlyn confidently told Jason, "The weatherman didn't say it was going to snow, but God did, and He's all-powerful!  He's in charge!  He's the judge!"  How true and sweet, especially coming from a seven year old!

I have much to be thankful for, including how God has worked so much in my life in the recent years.  He has changed my heart so much, and even though I have so much to learn, I am so thankful for His patience and love towards me.  He answers my prayers in ways I could never anticipate, and it is always better than anything I would have ever imagined.  What are you thankful for?  Take time this week to notice the ways, big and small, where He is working in your life--and give thanks!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Tribute of Sorts

Yesterday evening my Uncle Clint passed away.  He had a massive stroke on January 7, 2008, so needless to say it has been a rough year for him and his family.  I know that he is so much better now.  I know that.  But it doesn't mean I won't miss him!  In reflecting on his life, I thought of a couple of funny stories I wanted to mention.  

I have shared this first one with several people, because it's my favorite!!  A long time ago, I don't even know when, Uncle Clint lost his index finger.  For as long as I can remember he only had a little stump.  When I was a little girl I would ask him what happened to his finger, and his answer was always the same:  "I was picking my nose one day and a booger ate it off!"  I don't know why, but I never questioned it, and to this day I could not tell you what really happened.  I've been told for sure, but I can only remember the booger story!!!  :)

I always loved visiting Aunt Shirley and Uncle Clint many times when they lived in Ohio.  One morning, as Uncle Clint was getting ready to go to work, I remember him walking up the hallway asking Aunt Shirley if she had "manufactured" his lunch.  I thought that was so funny!  He always had a way of saying things!

The best thing I'll remember about Uncle Clint is his gentle spirit.  He was always so good to me, as well as the rest of the family.  He always had a way of letting you know you were special to him, and I really felt like he meant it.  Just over a year ago, not long before his stroke, my cousin (his son) came up to record a few songs for me.  We were set up at church and were there pretty much all day.  Uncle Clint sat on the front row for much of the recording session, just listening.  The other part of the day, when my kids were getting restless, he played with them so that we could finish the recording.  I'll always remember that.

The day that my dad called to tell me about Uncle Clint's stroke, it was so sad.  I'll never forget going to see him at the hospital, wondering if he would make it through the day.  I remember sitting among my family members, wanting to do something to encourage him.  I felt impressed to sing a particular song to him, so even though I felt a little awkward at first, I knew I would regret it if I didn't do it.  So I held his hand and through tears, sang these words, "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow, because He lives, all fear is gone, because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living, just because He lives."  Even though he was barely responsive, I felt him kind of pull me close when I finished.  I will never forget it.  

Please remember our family in prayer during this time, especially Aunt Shirley and their kids and grandkids.  Even though we will miss him so much, really only grieve for ourselves, since we know that he is in a much better place.  What a comfort to know that we'll see him again one day "because He lives".

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Follow Your Heart?


How many times have you heard this phrase:  "Just follow your heart."  What does that really mean?  Does it mean we should do what we know is right?  Does it mean we should do what we feel?  I am inclined to think that for most people, following the heart means acting on our deepest feelings.  We have been made to believe that following our dreams or following our "heart" is what will bring true fulfillment and happiness.  Our world is saturated with this "positive" message.  We see it everywhere from movies to books to reality shows to commercials.  

Have you ever read what the Bible says about the "heart"?  Jeremiah 17:9 says, 
The heart is more deceitful than all else and 
desperately sick.  
Who can understand it?

Desperately sick??  

Deceitful??  

When I read that scripture, I am reminded of the stark contrast between the message of the world and the message of the Word.  According to the Bible, following the heart can be a very dangerous thing.  But with so much emphasis being placed upon it for the "good-doers" of the world, where else do we turn?  The answer is found in Galatians 5:16, 
But I say, walk by the Spirit, 
and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

God never tells us to follow our hearts, only to follow the Holy Spirit.  Our hearts simply can't be trusted!  Only God's Spirit is steadfast.  How do we know the difference?  We start with fixing our minds on things above by reading His Word, praying/listening to Him and seeking Him daily.  

It is sometimes very difficult, but when we choose to follow the Spirit instead of our own hearts, God promises that we will receive His blessing and peace.  There is nothing that will bring greater fulfillment or happiness than that.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Renewed

Have you ever felt alone in your trials?  I have.  There have been times, even recently, when I felt like my prayers were hitting the ceiling and then just coming right back down.  I felt like God was ignoring me--like He was doing great things for everyone except for me.  I felt like my prayers were not being answered.

Do you see the common phrase in all of those statements?  I felt.  My relationship and trust in God has to be more that feelings.  I recognize that the enemy desperately wants me to lose faith in my God.  He lies to me and tells me that God isn't there.  Sadly, so many times I have believed this lie and grown angry at my Lord because I felt so alone.  

In marriage, there may be seasons where love may not be felt as strongly.  These are the times when one must rely on the commitment that has been made before God and men.  So it is with God.  I have committed my life to Him, therefore, even when I don't feel like He is doing His part, I am called to remain committed to His work and put my faith into action--believing though I can't see...or feel.  

This morning as I was reading a passage that I've probably read a dozen or more times, a truth stood out to me that was so encouraging.  It reminded me that not only am I NEVER ALONE, God is also doing a work in my life.  Here it is:

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

We can't always see exactly what God is up to in our lives, but we can know a few things.  Number one, He won't leave us.  Number two, we are to look towards and live for things eternal.  And Number three, we are getting closer to death while getting closer to life.  Every day our physical body is one day closer to death.  Yet also every day our soul is closer to eternal life.  We are decaying outwardly, yet being renewed inwardly.  That's why we should not lose heart.  God has a purpose, and it is for our ultimate perfection when we go to be with Him one day.  He cares about this purpose (truth) so much that He will risk our feelings (false) towards Him to accomplish it.  I am so THANKFUL for His patience with me!!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Jesus Prom

Last night I had the privilege of singing at the Jesus Prom again.  It's really a great time and such a great outreach.  For those who have never heard of it, it is a "prom" for special needs folks, where they come together at Southland Christian Church, dress up, dance and have a great time.  There is a part of the evening when the lights go up, the Gospel is presented, and the participants are given a gift--this year a cross necklace.  There are also lots of volunteers who come out and decorate, mix in with the crowd, and all kinds of other stuff that I'm sure I don't even know about.

I'm part of a band that does some fun music from decades past, and we have had the opportunity to play at the Jesus Prom for the past 5 years.  It's such a blessing to be there, and especially to realize the effort and time that so many people put into such an event, which is geared to show the love of Christ to those who are many times brushed aside from the "in" of society.

It's fun for me personally, because, well, I enjoy singing with the band, but also because it's great to be a part of such a massive event that has such a great purpose.  I pray that lives were touched last night, but especially that some met Jesus for the first time.  That's what it's all about! 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Standing in the River


If it seems like there has been a bit of space between my blogs these days, it's because there has been.  I blame it on my sister visiting from Texas.  It's like we're trying to cram all of this stuff into a short amount of time because we rarely get to spend time together, so who has time for writing?  :)  They are leaving tomorrow, so I suppose life will resume to "normal".  But we have had so much fun while they have been home.

ANYWAY...

Today I wanted to share a word from Joshua 3.  I was reminded of this passage yesterday as I was pondering an argument that Jason and I had that morning.  To get on a personal level, we both struggle with harboring resentment and grudges towards the other when we feel we've been wronged.  He shared with me yesterday that He had prayed about letting go of his anger and being able to forgive me, but that he wasn't able to actually do it until we were working out the issue and we prayed together.  So what does that have to do with Joshua?

In the passage mentioned, God gave Joshua very specific instructions about how he was to get into the Promised Land.  He told the people to cross the Jordan River, but not to move until they saw the Ark of the Covenant on the move.  But for the priests who were bearing the Ark, this command was given:  "When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan....the waters of the Jordan will be cut off and.....will stand in one heap."

You see?  God promised them a way to get across the Jordan River, but they had to first stand still in the water before God did the miracle.  This applied to us in a practical way, because to me, forgiveness is a miracle of the heart.  I firmly believe that God will help us, but sometimes we must take that first step to show that we are willing to put ourselves aside.  I don't believe it's because God won't help us when we are "stuck", because sometimes He miraculously pulls us out of the pit when we are weak.  But rather it's to reveal our motives and willingness to obey.  It's not always the physical action that God looks at; it's the attitude of the heart (which usually brings about action).  What do you think?  This is really food for thought.  I don't have it all figured out, I just like to take stuff like this and chew on it for a while.  I encourage you to read Joshua 3 and think about what it means in light of Christ in your life.  I would love to hear what you think!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Our 'Cabbage' in the Smokies


Laurel Falls


One of the Footbridges on the Nature Trail


The Grandkids!


We had such a great time this weekend in the Smoky Mountains!  The whole family was there, except for Will, who will be arriving home from China tonight.

We rented a cabin that was big enough for all of us to stay together, so when we first got there, Emily just kept exclaiming, "I LOVE our cabbage (cabin)!  I just LOVE our cabbage!!"  We couldn't bring ourselves to correct her!!

Another one of the highlights (for everyone but me it seems), was the sighting of a black bear, scurrying down from a tree.  It then took off through the woods after Jason screamed, "There's a bear!!!"  Jason said he didn't realize how fast bears could actually run until he saw it take off.  Unfortunately, I missed the bear altogether.  Jason is always making jokes, so when he screamed, I just looked at him and thought he was making it up.  Turns out he was telling the truth that time.

We only hiked a couple of easy trails, but considering that we had seven small children with us, that was pretty good for the amount of time we were there.  On the first one, we followed a scavenger hunt of some of the natural highlights of the trail.  That made it interesting and fun!

The kids were absolutely worn out, and so were we, but we made lots of good memories and the weather was great.  Smoky Mountain National Park is one of my favorite places to visit, so I always look forward to the trip down south.  Good times!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change


Well, with the election finally over, I must say that today I have been very much at peace.  Disappointed, but at peace.  I am still unsure of what lies ahead.  From the things I have heard, read and seen, I can't help but wonder what our country will look like four years from now.  My first reaction is negative, but I will not worry.  I know for certain that God has allowed this, and even though I don't understand, it doesn't change who God is and what He is doing.  

This morning I broke the news to Ashlyn that Obama would be our next president.  So tonight, as I was putting the girls to bed, she prayed, "Lord, we don't know why you chose Obama to be our president, but we pray that He would do things that You want Him to do."  She nailed it!  We must pray for him, as well as all of our state and national leaders.  Agree or disagree, it comes down to whether or not we are being obedient to God's Word.  Love your enemies.  Do good to those that persecute you.  Pray for those in authority.  As far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  This is the bottom line for Christians.  If we want change, let's go from the inside out.  

I believe wholly in the faithfulness and sovereignty of my Lord.  He is so much bigger than my finite mind can comprehend.  I rest in the assurance that I don't have to understand, but just follow and obey.  I urge you to pray, as I am, for America and for our leaders.  And pray for the church, that we would be united and TRULY show the world what God's love is all about.  Now THAT would be change you can believe in!

Monday, November 3, 2008

My King


He who loves his life loses it
And he who hates his life in this world
Will keep it to life eternal.
John 12:25

I have read that scripture so many times in the past, but today when I read it, it hit me hard.  I think maybe it was the part about "in this world".  With everything going on, and all the uncertainty of what's to come, it brings such peace to know that the Person in whom I REALLY have hope.....actually IS the King above all kings. 

I have found great encouragement the past few days, just in talking with people who love God, about how no matter what happens in this life, Christ is the Solid Rock that will stand for all time.  He will not be moved.  He will not be shaken.  He is in total control.  It's difficult to understand how people can move around and breathe without knowing that kind of peace.  Sadly, many just try to fill the void with falsehoods and idols, unaware that they are playing into the hands of the great deceiver.  I am so thankful to God that I can depend on His promises and deliverance.  

In the next few verses of John 12, Jesus speaks of His death, saying, "My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'?  But for this purpose I came to this hour.  Father, glorify Your name."  It just makes me think about how Jesus, being human, was surely horrified at what was to come.  But He KNEW it had to happen.  He knew it was His purpose.  His main concern was that God would be glorified.  

I pray that God would help me to have more of a heart like Christ.  Yes, I will pray steadily against the schemes of the enemy, as I believe we all should.  But at the same time, I will not forget that God must and WILL be glorified, no matter what has to happen.  For a short time, the cross was a victory symbol for the enemy.  But now, it is and has been the victory symbol of our Savior - and us.  Who can know the mind of God?  He is sovereign, and He will be victorious.

Pray

Just wanted to remind everyone to be praying, and if possible, fasting today for our nation as we are facing what is probably the most important Election Day of our lives.  

Pray for God's mercy.
Pray for wisdom for our leaders.
Pray, knowing that God is sovereign over all.  We desire for Him to be glorified, no matter the outcome tomorrow.

A couple of posts down is a prayer guide that might be helpful. 

Friday, October 31, 2008

Like My Father


I don't know how many times I have heard people say to me, "You look just like your mama!"  And how many times I have said about Ashlyn, "She is the spitting image of her daddy".  In fact, when Ashlyn was only about two years old, I was in the checkout lane at Wal-Mart when a lady I had never seen before looked at her and said, "She must look just like her daddy 'cause she doesn't look at thing like you!"  Even though that was a risky statement on her part (since she didn't know anything about me OR her daddy), it didn't offend me, because I know that it's true!  

This morning I was reading a passage, and it reminded me of how much I want to be recognized as God's child.  I do things every day that do not look like my Father.  Sometimes I spout off at the mouth.  Sometimes I am stubborn.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed by fear or anger.  But I have a deep desire to put aside those things to be more like Him.  I praise God for His patience with me!!!  John 13:34-35 says,

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

We are recognized as God's children when we love the way He loves, which means letting go of bitterness and unforgiveness, even if it seems "deserved".  We somehow think that we have a right to hold unrighteous deeds over others' heads, when all the while God has chosen to show great mercy upon us.  We forget how undeserving we are of His love.  So, it seems to me that in order to look like my Father, I simply love as He loves, because when I do that, many other transgressions are "fixed" by default.  Not that it makes me perfect, but as Proverbs 10:12 says, "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions."  When we choose to follow His way of love, we will be recognized as children of our Heavenly Father.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Prayer Guide

If you follow my blog at all, then you know that I feel a very urgent need to be in prayer for our nation, particularly for the election next week.  A friend and I have come up with a few points and verses to be used as a guide.  I wanted to share that today and encourage you to fast and pray as you feel led.  Many others will be praying with you!

God is sovereign and knows ALL.
Daniel 2:20-22 says, "Praise the name of God forever and ever, for He alone has all wisdom and power.  He determines the course of world events; He removes kings and sets others on the throne.  He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars.  He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hiden in darkness though He himself is surrounded by light."

God promises that He will hear when we pray and seek Him.
2 Chronicles 7:14, "Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land."

Pray for God's will to be done, that no matter which candidate we support, we will have less of us and more of Him.
Ephesians 1:19-23, "I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of His power for us who believe Him.  This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms.  Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else in this world or in the world to come."

Pray for evil deeds to be exposed.
Hebrews4:12-13, "For the Word of God is full of living power.  It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires.  It exposes us for what we really are.  Nothing in all creation can hide from Him.  Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes.  This is the God to whom we must explain all that we have done."

Pray for those who are easily swayed by the enemy.
2 Corinthians 4:3-4, "If the Good News we preach is veiled from anyone, it is a sign that they are perishing.  Satan, the god of this evil world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe, so they are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News that is shining upon them.  They don't understand the message we preach about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God."

Pray for national unity.
Romans 15:5-6, "May God, who gives patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other--each with the attitude of Christ Jesus toward the other.  Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

This is not a time to be lukewarm, in fact, it is dangerous to be so.  Pray for God to show mercy on our nation.  Confess your sin before Him and ask Him to bless us with leaders who will uphold the Biblical truths that have held us together for so many years.  And remember that we are in a spiritual battle, and that we must daily put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).  

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall Family Fun


My favorite time of year has not been a disappointment.  We have had so much fun this fall!!!  

Last weekend, we went to the pumpkin patch with Josh, Ashley and little Owen.  We walked through the corn maze, fed the animals, walked a small nature trail and rode a wagon out to the patch.  We got a few small pumpkins, just big enough to bring home and carve.  So that night, we carved pumpkins with Josh and Ashley, roasted pumpkin seeds, drank cider and ate lots of Mocha Pie.  To make things even more exciting, our dear friends Mack and Kristy joined us that night, only to go home and realize that it was time for their baby to come into the world!!!  Baby Brice was delivered safe and sound the next day.  I told Kristy that it must have been the Mocha Pie!!  :)

Now, Laura, Will and boys are home for a visit from the big city of Austin, and we ha
ve had an awesome time with them already.  We went on the Trick or Treat for Tots train ride in Stearns, which was a great time!!  We have also enjoyed a hay ride and marshmallow/weiner roast at Josh's.  I love this time of year, and it is being made even more special by the fact that all of our family is together right now.  I thank God so much for the blessing of family, and sometimes I wonder why I am so blessed.  

Josh, Ashley and Owen

Dad and the grandkids
Jake, Adam, Emily, Ashlyn, Reid, Thomas

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Must See


I encourage you to share this video by clicking on the envelope at the bottom of this post, which will allow you to e-mail directly from my blog, or by going to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwLY_HRt-AM and sharing directly from there.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pray Pray Pray!

I have debated on whether or not blog about the upcoming election, but I finally decided that if I do not get some of these thoughts out in writing, I might burst.

Today Ashlyn asked me, "Does Obama know Jesus?"  I wasn't really surprised at her question, considering that the election is talked about freely in our home.  Both of the girls recognize each candidate, and one of their bedtime prayer requests is "Please help John McCain to catch up and please let Obama lose."  Ashlyn knows that McCain is behind in the polls, but for all I know, as my mom pointed out, she could be imagining the two candidates racing up actual poles (you know how literal a child's mind is!!)  

Ashlyn and Emily have both asked me why we want John McCain to win over Obama, and my answer to them is that McCain stands for things that we believe in more so than Obama, which has led me to have to gently introduce topics such as abortion.  That alone has prompted them to be on the McCain side I believe.  And to be honest, even if I agreed with Obama on everything else (which I DO NOT), I could not vote for him because of his views on "choice".

Have you heard of the Freedom of Choice Act?  It is one of the first things that Obama himself has declared he will sign if he is elected--and there is nothing "free" about it.  In fact, it allows babies to be murdered without any kind of consequence or restriction, according to the law.  At the very least, Christians should be outraged by this!  This is what Obama said earlier this year while talking about sex education and abortion, 

"I've got two daughters, 9 years old and 6 years old.  I am going to teach them first of all about values and morals.  But if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby."

I cannot tell you what that does to me to hear or read that kind of "rhetoric".  It exposes one as a glorified murderer, and to me it is no different than barbarians who engaged in infant sacrifice.  It saddens me deeply that so many are deceived by smooth talk and empty promises.  I know that McCain isn't perfect, but I certainly believe that he will do a much better job of upholding what moral standards remain in this country.

I also understand that some people are not interested in politics, and may be apathetic to the circumstances, thinking that what's going to happen is going to happen.  While I agree that it's true to some extent, I cannot just idly sit by and watch as our nation falls apart.  Of course I absolutely believe that God is in control and has a plan for His creation, yet at the same time I feel a responsibility and a privilege to pray for His blessing and mercy, as well as do all that I can as a citizen of my temporary home to preserve the freedoms with which we have been blessed.

In answer to Ashlyn's question today, I told her that only Jesus knows, but that we should pray for both candidates.  That is my challenge to you as well.  Don't neglect the privilege that we have to pray for God to be glorified and for lives to be eternally saved, and don't neglect a tremendous opportunity to stand up for what is right.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Shine Like Stars!

Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life...
Philippians 2:14-16a
First things first.  I need help.
Does anyone have any suggestions of how to stop excessive whining in children?  One of my precious little darlings, who happens to be three, has lately been hung up on whining to get her way.  What I usually do is send her to another room until she is calm, then deal with it.  Sometimes I think I'm on the right track, then it suddenly takes a turn for the worse.  I'm looking for some creative, loving, effective discipline.  Anybody??

Well, I knew I was going to post this request, so I wanted to also post the above passage from Philippians, since, well, aren't we all a bit whiny at times?  The passage relates to me because sometimes my whining comes in the form of complaining and grumbling.  I am REALLY good at pointing this character flaw out in others, but many times I fail to recognize it in myself.  I guess I just don't think it's as bad when I complain and grumble.  But oh, how it must irritate those around me, and especially my Father!  

You know, we can say a big "amen" to the part about living in a "crooked and perverse generation", and it is true.  But can we say that we are appearing as "lights in the world"?  That is my desire!!  I want to stand out in that way, along with every other Christian that I know!  What a difference we could make for Christ if we would truly heed this passage and prove ourselves to be "blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach" in this world.  Take this as a challenge for you and for myself.  And as much as my Emily loves all things sparkling, maybe the "appearing as lights" part will encourage her as well!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Abigail


Today Emily got a pet cricket.  That's right, a pet cricket.  She named it Abigail (apparently she has moved on from naming everything Sparkles).  Abigail is currently hanging out in an old peanut butter jar, on a nice bed of grass, drinking water from a saturated cotton ball and eating...ground up cat food!!  Ah yes, a great source of protein for the little guy.  

Abigail came to live at our home as a result of a nature study during co-op today.  Emily has been so excited, that she even gave the jar a hug and kiss tonight before bedtime.  You should hear her talking about this cricket--it is hilarious!  But as she went to bed tonight she became deeply concerned that Abigail might die soon.  After all, she knows that the life span of an insect is usually not that great.  I gently told her that everything dies, and that God would comfort her if something happens to Abigail.  I then proceeded to tell her that in Heaven nothing would die, and that we could look forward to that!  She got so excited, hoping to see her dear Abigail again.  I decided to just leave it at that for now.

So, besides that being a cute story that I just wanted to share, it actually has to do with what I've been reading in scripture for the last couple of days.  Why does the grass turn brown in dry weather?  Why do we have to water trees after transplanting them?  Why do many plants die in the winter?  Why do WE die?  Here is a wonderful passage explaining this:  

Romans 8:19-23
For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.

Our world is a beautiful place, is it not?  Sunsets, flowers, animals, mountains and plains.  But according to the Scripture, the earth is in a cursed state because of sin.  We know that from the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden as well.  It just blows my mind to think that if our world is so beautiful in a cursed state, can you imagine what an "un"cursed world will be like?  There are descriptions in the Bible of our eternal home, but I have a feeling that our futile minds cannot even begin to conceive it.  All of creation is longing for that day, including all humans, although sadly, many do not realize or admit it.  God created us for His glory, and one day, those who have received Christ will reach the culmination of that glory.  

Once again God has amazed me with His Word, and I am thrilled beyond words to see what awaits!!! 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Peas and Carrots

So there we were at the dinner table, all five of us.  Everyone liked at least one thing that was on their plate (which is actually quite a feat these days it seems), but as always, we required all of the kids to eat at least two bites of their vegetables.  Tonight's choice was peas and carrots.  

Ashlyn ate hers before everyone else even had food.  

Emily cried at first, until we sent her to her room.  When she settled down we let her back at the table, but she still refused the peas.  Well, that is until we smothered them in barbeque sauce, and then she ate them with no problem.

Then there was Jake.  He had downed his macaroni and cheese already, so we knew that it was not going to be an easy task.  I gave up pretty quickly, but Jason was not going to let him off the hook that easily.  You see, Jason is absolutely amazing.  I honestly don't think there is anything that he can't get the kids to eat.  So first, he defaulted to the good ole' airplane routine.  That wasn't going to get the job done tonight.  He waited a few minutes and then tried the old "don't you eat Daddy's peas" as he held the fork between their mouths.  That wasn't any good either.  But then it happened.  Jason lined all of the peas up on the table and started sucking them up with his mouth.  You should have seen Jake's face--he didn't know what to think!  But as he watched Jason, he started trying to imitate him, and very slowly, he bent down and sucked up a pea.  After that, it was all over.  He ate every single pea that was left at the table, and some carrots too.  We all got a good laugh out of Jason's creativity, and it made for a very entertaining supper!!