Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hosting IOW: Sharing the Celebration

Let us remember the proclamation of the angel: "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10-11).

May our hearts go out to the unconverted people...who have no blessed Christmas day. "Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord" (Nehemiah 8:10).
by Mrs. L.B. Cowman, Streams in the Desert

Our personal celebration of Christmas was a deliberate attempt to establish a sense of home, even though our home changed every two to three years. My husband's career in the US Air Force took us all over the country and we enjoyed the travel and experiences for 22 years. During that career we were blessed with three children. Sometimes the years were lean and we could not travel back to our parents' homes to celebrate. Sometimes the years were fat and we did travel to our extended family during the holidays.

If you ask my children their favorite Christmas traditions, they will respond with

1) our Advent devotions - to redirect our focus to the meaning of Christmas we began very deliberate nightly devotions when our children were in elementary school;

2) baking cookies for the Air Force base gate guards who stood on duty on Christmas day;

3) their father reading the Christmas story from Luke every Christmas eve and then getting to open their Christmas eve pajamas and perhaps one family gift to share.

I believe the reason these traditions are most special to our children is because out of all the things we did during the holidays, these most reflected Jesus' example of celebration.

When the Creator of everything took on human flesh in the form of a tiny baby born to a young Jewish girl, the established traditions were thrown into an uproar. An angelic choir announced His arrival... The heavens themselves lit the way to Him with a bright star... The news of His birth was first shared with the people lowest on the social ladder.

I am sure many still clung to their old celebrations and ways of worshiping the Holy One of Israel, but change was coming even to them. Their world, and even time itself, was about to be split apart. While some still don't believe in the miracle of that first Christmas, there will come a day when no one will be able to deny it.

In the meantime, we are to celebrate.

That small Baby in Bethlehem tends to be the focus of a believer's winter holidays. It is good that we mark the miracle of Jesus' birth in a special way. But if that wonderful announcement to the shepherds ended with their finding the Baby in a manger and worshiping Him there, we would all be lost still.

The Baby grew up and it is His life after the stable that should be the focus of our celebrations. The parties and other gatherings are good -- Christ Himself participated in social events. Our task as His followers is to become like Him through what we know of Him.

The Baby in the manger was born to die on a cruel Roman cross to pay our penalty for sin and to conquer death in His humanity and diety by raising from death victoriously into life. Eternal life is the gift we all receive who believe in the miracle in the stable.

Along the way from the way from His birth to His resurrection, He showed us how to celebrate:

1) He gathered with family and friends.
...a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. (John 2:1-2)
2) He reached out to others to teach them the reason to celebrate.
The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." (Mark 1:15-17)
3) He established traditions to mark the importance of the celebrations.
After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:17-19)
Our Celebration This Year

Our children are all gathered in and we've been working to make our celebration both memorable and evocative of past Christmas memories. This is a year of transitions for us. So many changes in the past few months, but I love how God has orchestrated this celebration to gift us with the comfort of the familiar. Even though the circumstances have included worrisome and at times, painful, moments, we have been brought together for perhaps the last of our "traditional" Christmases. I cherish this time and look forward to how God will establish our celebrations in the future.

Our three adult children are all home with us --

Our oldest daughter, studying baking and pastry at a college 3-1/2 hours away, got home just in time to help facilitate the traditions she holds most dear and to incorporate them into her 4-year-old son's Christmas.

Our second daughter, usually working more than an hour from home and living a half hour away from us, had back surgery and is staying with us for some Mama-care. She has been inspiring the rest of us to get our gifting done as she made sure to get hers done as soon as she was able to get out and about --- simple, thoughtful gifts for each recipient.

Our son (and youngest child) was allowed to come home for a couple of weeks between training programs with the US Marines. His young bride will join us this year, a welcome addition to our family and our celebrations.

This year we are establishing another tradition to replace the cookies for the gate guards. We received a Christmas card from our newspaper delivery man. I know of this man's circumstances because my husband delivers his mail. This man's wife is housebound from disabilities. They are raising two or three little boys that are not their own. They live in an old Habitat for Humanity house. They are extremely poor. I have deliberately left the envelope the Christmas card came in on a side table. Every time someone tidies the family room, they pick it up and ask me who this person is. I tell his story...and relate that we are going to share some of our bountiful blessings with this family in need.

My first goal throughout this next year is to be a good steward of our resources so that I can share with someone in need next Christmas. The card the man gave us indicates they know the Christmas story. I will pray that my gift will help them see and feel that story in action.

My second goal for the new year is to be aware of those around me...in particular, "those who have nothing prepared." The thing about giving of ourselves is that we are given so much more than things in return.

God bless you, my friends! I pray your Christmas will be full to overflowing of the Savior's love and that you will have many opportunities to share Him with others.

For more information on In Other Words, visit Loni at Writing Canvas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Advent Lost: A Christmas Parable

She slipped quietly into the back pew after the service started. The congregation’s song washed over her, calming her slightly, as she looked around the modest sanctuary through the veil of her hair.

The song came to an end and the worship leader told the congregation to shake hands with everyone around them. Suppressing a surge of panic, she hurried out the doors and went into the restroom she had seen as she walked in the church foyer. She stayed there until she heard the music start again.

Back in the same seat, she watched as the pastor stepped into the pulpit. Over the course of the next 30 minutes she chuckled softly, wept quietly, and finally rejoiced silently as he explained how much God loved her. The message was not new to her; she had just pushed it far away from her conscious mind. When the congregation stood for the invitational hymn, she slipped out the back doors, a little smile on her face.

She came back the next Sunday.

And the next.

The first Sunday of Advent, after the candle was lit, the first song was sung, and the congregation turned to each other to shake hands, she stayed in the sanctuary. She smiled shyly as people came up, shook her hand, and welcomed her to the church.

On the second Sunday of Advent, instead of sitting at the back, she gave in to her eager heart, drawn by the words being spoken about the love of the Father, and moved closer to the pulpit.

The third Sunday of Advent, she sat closer still. Something within her was calling her to go forward during the invitation. When the upbeat song began for the invitation, she hesitated just a minute, a bit frightened and excited. Right as she worked up the courage to step out of the pew, a woman in the pew in front of her turned to her companion frowning and speaking in a loud whisper said she really hated today’s music selections and asked heatedly what was wrong with traditional hymns. Her companion nodded sympathetically.

Instead of stepping out of the pew, she stood frozen. She hurried out of a side door as soon as the service was over.

On the fourth Sunday of Advent, she sat near the back. She still felt anticipation building as the pastor told the story of the angel visiting the mother and earthly father of God’s Son, announcing the coming Savior. When she stood for the invitation, again she hesitated to gather her courage but thinking about the rescue for her life that awaited her at the end of the walk down the aisle.

Just over from her, she heard Bibles zipped shut and a couple discussing lunch plans. She tried to ignore the conversation and go ahead to the front, but her heart broke and she stood statue still when the words came to her ears that he didn’t understand why it took so long to tell the same old story that gets told every year.

Instead of going forward, she hurried out the back door, holding in her tears until she got to her car. Sobbing with overwhelming grief from hearing the critical spirits from the same ones who smiled and shook her hand in welcome each Sunday, she started the car and drove out of the parking lot.

She didn’t come back on the Sunday after Christmas.

Or the next.

On a Sunday toward the end of January, as a group of friends walked to their cars, one asked if anyone had seen that shy woman who sat in the back. For a minute everyone tried to remember when he or she had last seen her. Then someone piped up with a suggestion that they all try out that new restaurant downtown for lunch. And they got in their cars, forgetting about her as they drove out of the parking lot to fellowship with each other some more.

Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” 1 Corinthians 10:32-33 [NIV]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

In All Things Give Thanks

This is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
~1 John 5:14-15~

Today is Thankful Thursday. Our son is enduring an enormous challenge at USMC boot camp -- The Crucible. This trial-by-fire recreates battlefield stress including sleep and food deprivation while undergoing physically and mentally challenging tasks. It began at 0200 (2 a.m.) this morning.

At the completion of this exercise, 0800 (8 a.m.) on Saturday, October 31, he and his fellow recruits will be awarded the Eagle, Globe and Anchor and be called Marines for the first time since arriving on Parris Island, for our son 110 days ago.

I am thankful:
  1. That our son has found strength in relying on our heavenly Father.

  2. That he was able to call out to God when he was lonely and God was there for him.

  3. That God gathered our son into His arms when he was 6 years old and, even when our son ignored Him later on, the Lord never loosened His grip.

  4. That the Father's tender care of our son is not dependent on my emotional stability during trying times. He is always faithful to His Word.

  5. That God is wholly righteous and trustworthy.

  6. That His love for our son was proven on Calvary when God gave His Son as the perfect Sacrifice for sin and because our son believes in Jesus as his Savior, he is a child of the King.
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.
~Colossians 4:2~
Read more about the journey at Coming Full Circle: From Military Daughter to Military Wife to Military Mom.

The Crucible (The official USMC headquarters definition):

The culmination of recruit training is the Crucible, an intense field training exercise designed to build unit cohesion, reinforce core values, and complete the transformation from recruit to Marine. The Crucible is the defining moment of the recruit training experience. As a right of passage, the 45 Concepts and Issues Crucible is a 54-hour ordeal that tests the mettle of every recruit (and DI). The physical and mental challenges are intensified by sleep and food deprivation.

The Crucible focuses on six major field events and is augmented by eleven challenging Warrior Stations. Throughout this rapid paced exercise, emphasis is placed on the importance of teamwork in overcoming adversity and adaptive problem solving. The teams of recruits, under the leadership of their drill instructor, succeed as a team. The experience pushes recruits to their limits and is a poignant culmination to the transformation process.

Lynn is hosting Thankful Thursday on her blog Spiritually Unequal Marriage. Visit her to read more posts on Thankfulness and to post your own.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

I am hosting In Other Words today: True Peace

Peace is not an easy concept to grasp. It sounds like the ideal state for which to strive...so much so that the political fad of the day is brokering peace accords--agreements between nations to live, if not in harmony, at least without war. This very tenuous kind of peace depends upon the signers of the accord keeping their promises. While I am sure not all such accords are signed out of political expediency, this peace - "as the world gives" - is not lasting. It can be broken over the most trivial of events: a change of political office holder; a perceived slight or insult. The world gives a temporary peace.

The Woman's Study Bible ( 1995, Thomas Nelson Publishers) says this:
Peace...is much more than the absence of conflict; it is an objective reality that brings harmony to life. Those who have not experienced the new relationship with God are subject to His wrath (Romans 1:18; 8:7, 8). The relationship between God and His creation is restored through faith in Christ, dissolving all enmity. The result is peace.
This peace is not between people. It is a restoration of the relationship between Creator and creation. With peace established, joy follows because there is joy in the presence of the Lord.

Practical Application:

I must admit I have let circumstances overwhelm my sense of peace these past few months. It seems that worry is a great thief of peaceful living. No worry is harder to overcome than that for our children.

When our son left for USMC basic training, my peace seemed to shatter all around me, but that was really an illusion caused by me diverting my eyes from the One in whom is perfect peace and joy.

Evidently while I was ready for my children to move into their adult roles, I wasn't totally ready to relinquish my protective tether. As of this posting, our son has been at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot on Parris Island, South Carolina, for 108 days instead of the 89 days we expected.

He graduates at the end of next week, 3-1/2 weeks longer than is typical due to some medical issues that occurred right as he entered the final phase of training. To say I worried is a gross understatement. With communication limited to letter writing, the need to know how he was doing consumed my waking moments--made longer by sleeplessness, caused of course, by out-of-control fretting.

This preoccupation with circumstances not under my control caused me to become very ineffectual as a Christian in all aspects of my life. Tearing up every other minute was not a very good testament to my faith.

The turning point in my transformation from fear to trust was caused by two things: 1) Our son made an off-hand comment about how he was getting more letters from Dad than Mom; 2) In an effort to rectify that and to encourage him during the toughest week of boot camp, I have been collecting and handwriting for him, devotions that reveal the steadfast love of God in times of difficulty and testing. Each one I copied and mailed to him helped chip away at the icy fear around my heart.

I can't say that I'm basking in the warmth of God's peace as I write this--too much is still to come before our son returns home--but I am finding myself pausing to feel the heat of His love for increasingly longer periods.
Let us give His love full scope. Nothing happens by itself, and every sorrow, every trial is part of the plan of love, part of refining.
Love meant it.
Love sent it.
Love will bless it. ~Amy Carmichael (1867-1951), missionary to India

For Further Study:

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers, The Great Life
Back to the Bible Radio Program, Where Can I Find Peace?
Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Steps to Peace with God

Please leave a link to your blog post here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I'm Hosting In Other Words - October 27, 2009

I'm hosting In Other Words on Tuesday, October 27, 2009. I would love for you to join us. Just read the quote and share your thoughts about it on your blog. Then come back and link to my page so others can enjoy your inspiration.

Text: "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." John 14:27 NASB

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Beauty in Adversity

It was good for me to be afflicted. ~Psalm 119:71a

What a strange thing for the Psalmist to say... It is not natural for us to enjoy or find goodness in adversity, yet this Psalm is full of strange sayings such as these. Why did the Psalmist say it was good to be afflicted (Merriam-Webster: to be distressed so severely as to cause persistent suffering or anguish)?

What was his gain? The next half and following verse tells it:

That I may learn Your statutes.
The law of Your mouth is better to me
Than thousands of coins of gold or silver. ~Psalm 119:71b-72

Today I found my Streams in the Desert devotional while cleaning my office. Among all the useful items for research and writing, lay this little jewel mined by a woman who knew affliction. First published over 80 years ago, its truths reach through the generations to encourage and uplift because it is totally written about the Truth as God set it down.

Read this October 1 devotion based on the above verse:
It is a remarkable occurrence of nature that the most brilliant colors of plants are found on the highest mountains, in places that are the most exposed to the fiercest weather. The brightest lichens and mosses, as well as the most beautiful wildflowers, abound high upon the windswept, storm-ravaged peaks.

One of the finest arrays of living color I have ever seen was just above the great Saint Bernard Hospice near the ten-thousand-foot summit of Mont Cenis in the French Alps. The entire face of one expansive rock was covered with a strikingly vivid yellow lichen, which shone in the sunshine like a golden wall protecting an enchanted castle. Amid the loneliness and barrenness of that high altitude and exposed to the fiercest winds of the sky, this lichen exhibited glorious color it has never displayed in the shelter of the valley.

As I write these words, I have two specimens of the same type of lichen before me. One is from this Saint Bernard area, and the other is from the wall of a Scottish castle, which is surrounded by sycamore trees. The difference in their form and coloring is quite striking. The one grown amid the fierce storms of the mountain peak has a lovely yellow color of a primrose, a smooth texture, and a definite form and shape. But the one cultivated amid the warm air and soft showers of the lowland valley has a dull, rusty color, a rough texture, and an indistinct and broken shape.

Isn't it the same with a Christian who is afflicted, storm-tossed, and without comfort? Until the storms and difficulties allowed by God's providence beat upon a believer again and again, his character appears flawed and blurred. Yet the tiral actually clear away the clouds and shadows, perfect the form of his character, and bestow brightness and blessing to his life.

Amidst my list of blessings infinite
Stands this the foremost, that my heart has bled;

For all I bless You, most for the severe.

~Rev. Hugh Macmillan (1833-1903), Scottish minister and naturalist
We believers in America live a fairly soft, easy life. What kind of Christians does this lifestyle make? Are we dull, undefined examples of the blessings of God, living a mundane and unremarkable existence? Or have we grasped hold of the adversities, clawing apart the outer surface of suffering to find the depths of our Christ-molded soul, so it can sparkle with and for HIS GLORY?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

IOW: Rejoicing in Contentment

Believer...banish your fears;
cast out all doubts;
lift up the happy head;
clap the exulting hands;
give thanks,

Your heavenly Father cannot set you in wrong places.
Your loving Savior cannot lead you in wrong paths.

All is well.

~by Henry Law~

We have a little cat that wandered onto our property. I think she lived in the woods on the hill across the road for a while. She finally braved the scary highway and crossed into her own little 'promised land.'

She slunk around here for a couple months, always hanging on the fringes of whatever was going on, running away if we paid her any attention.

One evening as we enjoyed the warm spring air, she crawled under our chairs. My feet were propped up on a table so she settled down under my seat. Our other cats were around and insistent on attention, so there was no just sitting quietly. Finally they had given us the small measure they decided we deserved and walked off. The little cat stayed hidden under my chair the whole time.

After a bit, I put my feet down and she ran back until they were no longer moving. I think she must have been kicked by someone, judging by how afraid of feet she was. I reached my hand down and spoke nonsense in soft, soothing tones. The little cat worked up her courage and came over and let me pet her for a minute before her fear overcame her and she ran off.

I continued to try to win her over, thinking eventually to haul her away so we didn't end up with wild kittens born in the garage or under the storage building. I started setting food for her, separate from where our other two cats fed, since one, Muffin (the reigning queen of our little farm), would chase her away, and the other, Rocko, would scare her off with his rough play.

I named our little stray Patches, for the gray patches over her otherwise white fur. Patches gradually came to trust me. And surprisingly, her gentle nature won me over and she earned a permanent home in our cat herd.

For a long time, even with all the loving kindness she was given, Patches would still dart away in fear as we walked by. Then she started to run up as I walked in the yard and stroll with me. Now she rushes from wherever she is sleeping into the driveway when we drive in and escorts us to the porch. She will even walk ahead, then come back to see what is taking me so long to get there. She always stops at the top of the stairs and waits for me to bend over and give her a scratch between the ears. She trusts me and will even sleep under my big wicker rocker while I rock. She has learned that I will not hurt her and she seems to appreciate that I'm the one who takes good care of her.

But there is one thing about our little Patches that I have noticed. She never purrs. Even if she works up the courage to jump into my lap for a nice long pet session, she never utters the slightest rumble. It's almost as if she is afraid to completely give herself over to the pleasure of my attention and love, just in case it is taken away.

Aren't we like Patches sometimes? We skirt around God's lovingkindness until we realize it is really offered to us. Then when we accept His grace and salvation, sometimes we still hold back timidly waiting to see if we will be kicked for all the mistakes we make. We become more confident in His love as we spend time with Him and He reveals His nature to us. But for some of us, who have experienced disappointment and disillusionment with people in our lives, fully trusting in God's steadfast love never really takes hold. We struggle with our old expectations and never give ourselves up to just resting in His grace and enjoying the blessings of His presence.

Come on, dear believers, it's time to release old hurts and painful memories and curl up in the Father's lap to enjoy His gentle hand. He LOVES us with a LOVE that is forever. It's time to purr!!!
Thus says the LORD,
"The people who survived the sword
Found grace in the wilderness--
Israel, when it went to find its rest."
The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying,
"I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.
"Again I will build you and you will be rebuilt,
O virgin of Israel!
Again you will take up your tambourines,
And go forth to the dances of the merrymakers. ~Jeremiah 31:2-4~

P.S. More on Patches' life story: Her previous owner saw her sunning herself on our porch rail earlier this summer and stopped by to confirm it was her. She had been missing from their home for more than a year. Because of vicious dogs that live near them that had already gotten another of their cats, they decided to leave her with us. Patches agreed wholeheartedly, even struggling out of her former owner's arms to run and hide behind my legs. She is six years old, has had one litter of kittens when she was a year old and has been spayed. She gets to spend the rest of her days in leisure her here on Morning Glory Farm. (She doesn't even have to do the mousing jobs...Muffin is our resident varmint hunter. And poor little Rocko was overcome by curiosity and didn't make it safely across the highway back in early June, so she doesn't have to worry about him pouncing down on her from high places as she walks by.) The only person she has to run away from is the Dynamo, but she does so halfheartedly. She submits to his rough love, then makes her escape as soon as he loosens his hug.

<-- Jennifer at Scraps & Snippets is hosting this week's In Other Words. Visit her to view more posts and to add your own take on today's quote.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

IOW & WFW: No Shame

We deny Jesus every time we disregard His truth and put ourselves down. That hurts us. We deny Him every time we fail to see our value in Him. That hurts us. We deny Him every time we continue to hang on to our self-condemning thoughts and lies. That hurts us too. And then, it's as if Jesus turns and looks straight at us with His eyes of love and compassion, and something dawns on us. We have, in a sense, denied our Lord Jesus, and I wonder if that hurts Him."

~Shame Lifter by Marilyn Hontz~
There is a liar amongst us.

He slithers silkily into our lives to drape softly around our shoulders and whisper gently into our ears,

"Remember when you..."

"Who could forgive that...?"

"When that person hurt you, didn't you feel..."

"Do you really belong on this hallowed ground?"

"Since you've already messed up, why don't you..."

Shame is not of God. Shame says that we are bad, valueless, unworthy, defective, unlovable, inferior... Shame takes the wrongs, abuses, and neglect done to us and absorbs them into our self-image. We see ourselves as hateful, nasty, unworthy of love or simple kindness.

Satan is the father of shame. His desire is to twist every hurt or regret into a wedge that drives believers from staying close to our heavenly Father. He takes every word meant for encouragement and twists it into stabs that wound our fragile hearts, bleeding our joy from us...pouring into its place sorrow and fear and anger.

Beautiful lovers of God, we can defeat this liar with the Truth!

First, identify the lies we have believed about ourselves.

Second, confess to the Lord these lies.

Third, replace those lies with Biblical Truth about who God is and who we are as His beloved children.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. ~ Romans 8:1 NKJV
Look now at ourselves through the eyes of His love.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

As it is written:

“ For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,

nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
~ Romans 8:31-39 NKJV
We must grab and hold to the Truth with everything within in us.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV
Our acceptance of His Truth will lead our eyes from ourselves and point them to the Lord Jesus. Once we are focused on Him, we will be useful for His purpose.
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
~ 2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV
Rejoice now in the righteousness of God we have through Jesus Christ. God made us to be His Beloved ones. Do not deny the Lord the joy meant for Him through a close, intimate, and true relationship with us.
In You, O LORD, I put my trust;
Let me never be ashamed;
Deliver me in Your righteousness.
Bow down Your ear to me,
Deliver me speedily;
Be my rock of refuge,
A fortress of defense to save me.
~ Psalm 31:1-2 NKJV
Beautiful lovers of God, rejoice!
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. ~ John 10:11 NKJV
Strength to see ourselves rightly through Love's eyes comes from a close, enduring relationship with Jesus Christ. He assures us of His love and gives us the power to live as He desires us to live:
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
~ Romans 15:13 NKJV
Now, dear friends, if you have read this and find that you cannot understand what these words mean to you...perhaps it is time to start at the beginning with trusting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Please go here: Steps to Peace with God, read the wonderful words of Life. Come back and share with me how God has changed your world from the inside out.

<-- Loni at Writing Canvas is hosting this week's In Other Words. Visit her to view more posts and to add your own take on today's quote.

-->Susan at Forever His is hosting Word-Filled Wednesday. Visit her to view more posts and to add your own.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

IOW & WFW: Why Do You Despair?

Affliction will either warm you up toward spiritual things or turn you cold.

~Joni Eareckson Tada,
A Lifetime of Wisdom: Embracing the Way God Heals You~
My brain absorbs this. It understands the wisdom and nods in agreement.

My fingers zip to the keyboard, ready to translate what my brain understands into words of encouragement. They hover ready over the keys...

But my heart is choked with pain and worry. It refuses to give over to the wisdom of my brain and the work of my fingers. It has caused a seemingly permanent lump to lodged in my throat.

The lump, in turn, chokes off kind tones - instead letting the fear and pain shoot out in unloving bursts on those deserving better.

My God knows my dilemma. He sends Words... as a song on the radio... as a verse on a Facebook post... as a video link in my email.

He cups my heart in His Hands, loosening the grip of misery tightly bound around it. He caresses and soothes, gently urging TRUST and FAITH in Himself - He Who also holds the hearts of the ones for whom I fear and fret.

Peace pushes through the pain... the tears still just a thought away... but His arm is gripping my shoulders to pull me in close when they spill over.

<-- Debbie at Heart Choices is hosting this week's In Other Words. Visit her to view more posts and to add your own take on today's quote.

-->Christy at Critty Joy is hosting Word-Filled Wednesday. Visit her to view more posts and to add your own.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

IOW & WFW: Faithfulness Is What I Need

The Pastor, to my good friend Gaius: How truly I love you! We're the best of friends, and I pray for good fortune in everything you do, and for your good health—that your everyday affairs prosper, as well as your soul! I was most happy when some friends arrived and brought the news that you persist in following the way of Truth. Nothing could make me happier than getting reports that my children continue diligently in the way of Truth! ~3 John 1:2-4 MSG
I love the way The Message translates the word faithfulness: persist in following the way of Truth. The word Truth is capitalized because it is a proper name...another name for Jesus. Faithfulness is walking diligently in the path that Jesus has made for us.

Faithfulness is:
  • Vacationing at the beach and still finding a church to attend.
  • Waking up late on Sunday morning and still going to Sunday School.
  • Getting up before the kids and meeting the Lord in His Word in the quiet, dark morning.
  • Putting the regular tithe in the offering plate even though the grocery dollars aren't stretching as far.
  • Following the path we know God made even though we can't see around the curves ahead.
  • Releasing our will to His.
Holiness by SONICFLooD

Holiness, holiness is what I long for.
Holiness is what I need.
Holiness, holiness is what You want from me.

Holiness, holiness is what I long for.
Holiness is what I need.
Holiness, holiness is what You want from me.

So, take my heart and form it.
Take my mind and transform it.
Take my will and conform it.
To Yours, to Yours, oh, Lord.

Faithfulness, faithfulness is what I long for.
Faithfulness is what I need.
Faithfulness, faithfulness is what You want from me.

Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for.
Brokenness is what I need.
Brokenness, brokenness is what You want from me.

Please click on the graphic I made. It is formatted to be a desktop wallpaper for your computer. Just copy it and save it to your computer.

<-- Tami at The Next Step is hosting this week's In Other Words.
Visit her to view more posts and to add your own take on today's quote.

--> Lori at All You Have To Give is hosting Word-Filled Wednesday. Visit her to view more posts and to add your own.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

WFW: Evidence of Love

I don't see images of God in my pancakes or paint splashes...but I couldn't help but be reminded of my Savior's love in the coffee stain on my counter, especially since I had just read the words of Job and Nicole C. Mullen's song is playing through my head:

Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning?
and Who told the ocean you can only come this far?
and Who showed the moon where to hide 'til evening?
Whose words alone can catch a falling star?

Well I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives:
Let all creations testify
Let this, life within me cry
I know my Redeemer lives, yeah.

The very same God that spins things in orbit
runs to the weary, the worn and the weak
And the same gentle hands that hold me when I'm broken
They conquered death to bring me victory

Now I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
Let all creations testify
Let this life within we cry
I know my Redeemer, He lives
To take away my shame
And He lives forever, I'll proclaim

That the payment for my sin
Was the precious life He gave
But now He's alive and
There's an empty grave.

And I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
Let all creations testify
Let this life within me cry
I know my Redeemer,

I know my Redeemer
I know my Redeemer lives
I know my Redeemer lives
I know that I know that I know that I know that I know my redeemer lives
Because He lives I can face tomorrow
I Know I know
He lives He lives yeah, yeah I spoke with him this morning
He lives He lives, the tomb is empty,
He lives I gotta tell everybody

~Nicole C. Mullen, I Know My Redeemer Lives
Everyday you can hear the Lord tell of His love for you...pick up the love letters He put together for you in the Scriptures. Start here:

John 3:16
1 John 4:7-10, 16

For more Word-Filled Wednesday posts, visit AmyDeanne @ The 160 Acre Woods.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Wednesday's Walk: Joining the Fun

I love the idea of spending some time appreciating from whence I've come and how it has influenced where I am right now. Lynnette is one of my favorite bloggers. Please join her at Dancing Barefoot on Weathered Ground to read more and to participate in Wednesday's Walk.

I am up to my ears with the work of redesigning and moving Typing One-Handed to a new, multi-functional spot. My new magazine style will allow me to feature favorite blogs with RSS feed and links straight to the blogs. I am excited about it, but it is a learning-as-I-go project.

Thinking back on it, I realize that everything I do seems to come with on-the-job training. Becoming a wife (and discovering I wasn't the center of the universe), then a mother (is there any other job that so takes a person by surprise???), a college student (with a husband & three small children at home)...finally venturing into the work force with a computer tech degree. Many part-time and contract jobs because of the degree...finally deciding I like working from home best.

I've come full circle. I was writing from the time I learned how to properly use a pencil. Work now involves helping other women shine through their own writing via Take Root and Write...plus my own endeavors to write and publish my first novel. Now I use a combination of keyboard and pencil (yep, all my manuscripts start out in spiral notebooks written with my fave mechanical pencil).

What a lovely walk down my lane full of memories! Hey, Orchid...did you notice your favorite outfit???

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

IOW: A Quiet, Yet Deliberate, Rebellion

Miriam at Miriam Pauline's Monologue is hosting In Other Words. Visit her to view more posts and to add your own take on today's quote.
But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.” Jonah 1:3
What a strange time I am experiencing right now! What an appropriate quote for me to ponder...

My home is empty this summer except for my husband and myself. I never thought what "empty nest syndrome" really meant. Our children are all grown and on their own life paths. When our son left for USMC boot camp just over a week ago, my house and my cell phone became very quiet. I, who dearly cherish alone time, am finding myself at a loss as to how to fill my moments.

How do I redefine myself? Gain a new identity? I am still a mother, yet have no mothering responsibilities. How strange this is...something I have done for 25 years is no longer necessary to the extent I have previously known. Part of me is excited for the opportunities ahead, part is shaking with the thought of becoming an afterthought to those in whom I have invested more than half of my life. Yet, it is right that this should come.

When I look at Jonah, I see a reflection of myself. I had so much filling my days that it was easy for me to drift off to Tarshish on a ship of full of responsibilities. If some call from God seemed difficult or time-consuming - well I had meals to cook, a house to clean, little hands to wash, soccer games to attend, Sunday school lessons to study, books to read, new TV shows to watch, phone calls to answer. My life was overflowing with important things, good things, mundane things.

Yet, how often did I hear a Voice whispering for me to stop and listen, to kneel and learn, to prepare for His call? And how often did I let myself judge the task (or recipient of the task) unworthy of the precious time I had available?

Is a full life a life fulfilled?
But Jonah got up and went the other direction to Tarshish, running away from God. He went down to the port of Joppa and found a ship headed for Tarshish. He paid the fare and went on board, joining those going to Tarshish - as far away from God as he could get. ~ Jonah 1:3 The Message
How did Jonah, a prophet of God, think he could escape the Presence of the Lord by changing his location? When a task God gives us seems distasteful, is there a way to remove ourselves from His gaze?

One of my favorite Latin phrases is Coram Deo - living before the face of God. When I am walking on the path I know to be the one on which He is leading me, I rejoice in the idea that the omnipotent Creator of the universe is watching me and walking with me. Yet when that path seems filled with potholes and mud... I tend drift to the path of soft grass and no responsibility. What makes me feel like God doesn't see my rebellion? Or perhaps a better word is defiance.

Dictionary.com defines defiance as "intentionally contemptuous behavior or attitude." Wasn't that how Jonah acted? He openly disobeyed God because he decided that the people of Nineveh didn't deserve a chance to repent. His attitude conveyed the idea that God doesn't have the right to offer salvation to whomever He pleases.

In my full life have I ever deliberately turned away from someone God has put into my path? Yes.

Not too long ago I arrogantly turned away from someone who asked me for money. I detest panhandling. I told this person I had seen him earlier in the day doing the same thing.

As I self-righteously walked away with my $5 coffee in hand, his response reverberated in my ears, "I live here." There are no houses or apartments where I was...just a square filled with entertaining distractions and the river-front park. This man had no home other than a blanket under a tree by the river.

Did this man know that God loves him? I will probably never know - the city cracked down on homeless living by the river...they were driving customers away from the entertainment area. Will he have another opportunity to hear the Gospel? I pray it will be so.
Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age. ~ Matthew 28:19-20 The Message
Father, please forgive me when I disobey. Make me sensitive to Your call. Help me live a life worthy of that call. Amen.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

IOW: Remembering Your First Love

Debbie at Heart Choices is hosting In Other Words. Visit her to view more posts and to add your own take on today's quote.
To just read the Bible, attend church, and avoid "big" sins - is this passionate, wholehearted love for God?

~ Francios Fenelon, The Seeking Heart

In every new relationship there is an initial sense of exuberance. The joy of being together drowns out all other distractions. Spending time with each other is the most important thing in the world.

When we are children we seek out every opportunity to be with our friends, even as the initial intensity of the friendship wanes and other friends come into our lives.

When we fall in love for the first time, we are consumed by thoughts of the object of our affections. Sometimes even minor separations feel like excruciating pain. But eventually, even that intensity also fades with familiarity.

If we truly care for the other and our feelings are reciprocated, we make deliberate effort to grow the relationship into one with strong and steady communication that includes daily contact.

But there comes a point even in the deepest relationships where we become so comfortable that we begin to take the other person for granted. Our excitement dims into expectation. The passionate farewells turn into quick kisses and an automatic "I love you" thrown over the shoulder as we go on to more interesting activities.

As we get older, we may see this as a normal progression. Maybe we are at a level where the intensity has dimmed and our relationship is one of simple contentment with little effort required to maintain it.

There is a very serious danger to allowing our relationships to become that comfortable.

We may discover a distraction or new relationship that stirs our sleepy passion, causing us to neglect or turn our backs on the relationship that once consumed us.
...and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Revelation 2:3-4
The church at Ephesus experienced the all-consuming intensity of first love when the apostle Paul came to them and established the early congregation there (Acts 18:18-21).

The next time Paul went to Ephesus, he stayed three years and his ministry to them helped the Ephesian church become a center for evangelistic outreach in the Gentile world.
And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all...So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed. Acts 19:18-20
The faithfulness of the Ephesian church even sparked a riot among the pagan business people in the city because so many were being drawn to Christ through the passion of the Ephesian believers that the pagans were loosing their businesses due to a lack of customers for their idols.

What drew the metropolitan people of Ephesus to leave their popular and politically correct pagan worship practices and follow a Carpenter from a dusty little town in Palestine?

It was not the believers' habit of reading a Proverb a day.

It was not the church's great programs and fellowships.

It was not the members' good deeds and honest living.

Although these things will get people through the church doors...

Only a dynamic, passionate relationship with God is enough for a person to give up a comfortable "good" life and turn to a life of holy living in Christ.

Yet we know that even the Ephesian church let themselves get comfortable.

They took for granted their security in the salvation from Christ.

They turned from their first love and let themselves be consumed with

going through the motions of worship...

singing all the right praise songs...

doing all the right things...

I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and found them liars; and you have persevered... Revelation 3:2
The danger of becoming content in mediocrity and routine is real for Christians today. Jesus was specific in what the consequences of that is -- we will no longer be useful to Him in bringing others to Him and therefore
I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place. Revelation 2:5c
Our salvation is secure in Him (Ephesians 1:13-14), but our usefulness is completely based on our

"passionate, wholehearted love for God"

Jesus told the Ephesian church
Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works. Revelation 2:5a-b
We also must REMEMBER:

And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God... Ephesians 3:17-19


Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2


...speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ... Ephesians 5:19-20


Oh, love the LORD, all you His saints! Psalm 31:23a


You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Matthew 22:37

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

In Other Words: Wild Love and Extravagant Mercy

I am hosting In Other Words today. Please share your thoughts through comments and your own posts on today's quote in Mr. Linky at the bottom:
What I believe is so magnificent, so glorious, that it is beyond finite comprehension. To believe that the universe was created by a purposeful, benign Creator is one thing. To believe that this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason. It is so wild that it terrifies some Christians who try to dogmatize their fear by lashing out at other Christians, because tidy Christianity with all answers given is easier than one which reaches out to the wild wonder of God's love, a love we don't even have to earn. ~Madeleine L'Engle

The yard next to ours has been neglected for years and the elderly owners have passed away. The new owners have a lot of work yet to do to make the house livable. So it stands sad and ugly except...

Smack against the front wall are several rose bushes.

The size and color of the roses on one bush captured my attention from half an acre away. This scraggly neglected bush boasts blooms that are a stunning pink. I looked at the roses for days, admiring them. Finally I grabbed my by-pass pruners and cut a stem with a fully open bloom and one bud.

I stripped some of the thorns off the stem, dipped it in rooting hormone and placed it in a pot on my rooting table. The open bloom is spectacular. I am becoming quite tiresome to my family as I continually point it out and try to convince them to get in close to inhale its heavenly fragrance.

I am not normally a rose person, as rose bushes require a level of attention that I have never had time to give. But this rose has special meaning to me. The man who planted it lived a life that will soon be forgotten...he drank heavily throughout his life, was mean and mouthy most of it until he developed brain cancer in his latter years. Suddenly, he became a humble and meek man-dependent on others for help in the simplest matters.

This man planted the roses at a time when he was prideful and boasting. He carefully tended them so they would present the best show in his landscaping. He cut all the trees out of his yard so that there was a unobstructed view of his house. Now all that is faded away with peeling paint and crumbling foundations. The new owner has already ripped out the front shrub border and he might need to yank out the rose bushes during his renovations.

Such exquisite beauty reduced to weeds....... I had to get a cutting and try to recapture the glory of these fragrant roses.

I have to confess that I am unable to take most important step necessary to preserve the plant and assure it roots successfully. In order to focus the plant's energy on developing a strong and deep root system, I should cut off the bloom and the bud. I am finding the sacrifice of the beauty too much...I can't do it.

"the wild wonder of God's love"

God did not hesitate to do whatever was necessary to bring to Himself and root us firmly in His love.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. ~John 3:16-17
The beauty of an ordinary babe, born in the ordinary way--grown into an ordinary Man living an extraordinary life to redeem His creation:
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are My friends... ~John 15:13-14a
"All for love of us..."

This Creator knew from the beginning before He created anything that we would betray Him. He knew that the creation He breathed His own life would one day desire to kill Him. And yet He loved us:
But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. ~Isaiah 53:5
"a love we don't even have to earn"
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us...made us alive together with Christ...For by grace you have been saved through faith...it is the gift of God. ~Ephesians 2:4, 5, 8
"so magnificent, so glorious"
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. ~Ephesians 1:13

So then Pilate took Jesus and scouraged Him And the soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and put it on His head...

Pilate...again...said to them..."I find no fault in Him."

And He, bearing His cross went out to a place called...Golgotha, where they crucified Him.

So Jesus...said..."It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. ~John 19 selected
No "tidy Christianity with all answers given"

...Because this Wild Love and Extravagant Mercy defy definition in any way other than the cross of Jesus Christ!

While I am finding the idea of destroying the blossom on my rose cutting difficult, ultimately I will--probably within the next few days. To sooth myself, I will preserve the petals to use in potpourri or tea. But I know that the only way I can have an abundance of the Beauty is to do the right thing now, even though it means giving up the beauty I already have.

Lately, I find myself looking to a freer form of worship. So much demands my time and attention that I don't feel I have a moment to waste tied up in dogmatic Christianity. I desire to notice everything--to not let even a single joy or wonder go unrecognized. I don't have the patience to suffer the foolish separation among the churches of God caused by differences of interpretation.

Only two things matter:
1) Christ did not come to earth, take "on human vesture, [accept ]death and mortality, [be] tempted, betrayed, broken" to make a divided church--He came to give us unity and love through the Spirit.

2) Only two kinds of people exist - those who know God in an intimate fellowship and those who are completely separated from Him.

My responsibility is to share with those who know God the blessings He gives me and to tell those who don't know Him that He loves them wildly and extravagantly--and to love them as He does!


***1:30 p.m. eastern: Just a note to clarify any misunderstandings from my words today (as I responded to Deborah in the comments)--

I am not advocating giving up fellowship in church...more giving up the idea that anything more than the truth of the Gospel of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, and how we respond to it, have any importance.

When it comes down to the dogma --- how one dresses, jewelry... tattoos... the music one listens to (I like praise and worship music and lite Christian rock)... those should not affect how we welcome fellow believers into our midst. I believe we should spend more time learning to walk like Jesus did than worrying whether to cut our hair or cover it! And I believe that we should focus on getting into the Word daily...not worrying about whether the version someone else uses is KJV, NASB, NIV. etc.***