Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Prayers (for the whole year)

For the annual Christmas letter this year, we decided to do something a little bit different; since everyone knows how wonderful our children are, we took a little different route.

We asked each of the kids to give us their favorite Bible verse or inspirational quote and explain why it is their favorite.

We also asked those receiving it to pray these scriptures over our kids and us as they read them; if you would do the same we would be honored.

Here’s what they had to say in their own words:
2 Corinthians 4:18: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Ashley chose this verse because she said it helps her to realize not to dwell on the past but rather to look forward to the future and what may come. Ashley~22

1 Corinthians 13, specifically vs 13: “Three things will last forever – faith, hope and love – and the greatest of these is love.” Amber said she has always tried to remember faith, hope and love and we know God’s love is unconditional and pure. She says that everyone needs faith in God, hope in tomorrow, and love in Him and to one another. Amber ~ 20 (21 in a few weeks)

Jeremiah 29:11-13: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’” Taryn said she chose this verse because when she thought things couldn’t get any worse for her and everything was crashing down, that mom taught her to look to God and that he does have amazing plans for her in life. The things that she went through were not meant to harm her but to bring her to God, to make her a better person. “He’s just there…waiting for me to seek him with all my heart.” Taryn ~ 20 (21 in February)

Psalm 23:4: “Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.” Natasha said that through the tough times that she has had in her life, and the things she may be going through; when it felt dark and alone and sad, that she wasn’t scared because she knew God was with her. Natasha ~ 15

Ecclesiastes 3:2-8: “A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.” Morgan chose this verse because God tells us there is a time for everything to happen – maybe not when we want it to but when God decides it is time to happen that means its TIME! God gives us peace in knowing that everything has a time in his plan. Morgan ~ 13
John 3:16: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Cole chose this verse because it expresses the love of Jesus and tells us how much he loves us. Cole ~ 11

2 Corinthians 12:9-10: "But he said to me ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” This is one my life verses and it is my choice because God has proven to me over and again that when I surrender to him and his plan, I exchange all the pressures of life for peace; God’s power to control my life, even while life is still difficult, is proven when I step aside and humble myself. Janelle ~ age not important…

Psalm 40:2 “He lifted me out the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” Clint says this scripture speaks the truth about what God did for him; when he accepted Christ as his personal Savior it’s exactly what happened. Clint ~ age not important (but older than me…)
Ephesians 3:16-19: “I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, through it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” This is (one of) our prayer(s) for Chaynne, our granddaughter; as she grows that she will grow in Christ and that her she will experience Christ; that she will choose “life” and that her life will bring glory and honor to God. Chayanne ~ 18 months (Ashley's daughter)

Will you pray for my family? I encourage you to seek out people who will pray for you and your family. If you don't know who that is, let me pray for you.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The "Other" Son

A few weeks ago in church my pastor talked about shepherds; how they were “uncouth.” (I looked in a thesaurus to find other words similar to uncouth and was given the following: uncivilized, bad-mannered, rude, foul-mouthed, impolite, vulgar... You get the idea.)

So the “uncouth” were the ones that the Angel of the Lord appeared to; the “uncouth” were the ones who were personally invited to welcome the Savior; they were of the first to worship God in the flesh; the “uncouth” were the ones that we still sing about. Amazing isn’t it?

I know that Jesus spent his time with the uncouth, the uncivilized, the vulgar, the un-wanted and un-accepted; he spent his time with people like me. It must have been extremely difficult for those who weren’t “uncouth” to understand why Jesus hung around with the social outcasts.

I think that today it may be equally as difficult for those who aren’t uncouth to understand or accept the same truth.

My journey from unbelief to faith has left many marks. In taking me back, God has asked me to do some things for him, in faith, and in response to what he’s done for me.

One thing God asked me to do was so hard; he asked me to personally confess to someone that I had sinned against them. I was obedient and trusted that God had a plan for all of this. A couple of years later, God asked me to share this publicly; I was again obedient. But it hurt to reveal deep layers of “uncouth-ness.”

The outcome of this obedience is not what I expected it to be; I expected great relief from the guilt and shame that I carried. It did not come -not in ways I expected anyway.

In Luke 15 Jesus tells the story of the Lost Son. The parable is about a son took his inheritance and wasted what he had been given. When he had nothing left and nowhere else to turn for help, he returned to his father who was overjoyed that his son had returned home to him – i
t didn’t matter where he’d been or what he’d done. All the father cared about was that he was home. He even threw him a huge party to celebrate.

And so it is with God; if we are willing to confess and turn from our sin, he doesn’t care what we’ve done or where we’ve been, he just accepts us back as if nothing ever happened. In Luke 15:7 we are told that “… there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

However, the same cannot be said of the father’s other son. In fact, in Luke 15: 28-30 it says: The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'

I wonder what the conversation would have been between the “lost son” and his older brother. Would there have been yelling, name calling or fist throwing? Maybe the older brother was so upset that he just ignored his brother.

I praise God that he has allowed me to “come home.” But in that, I have felt the rejection from those who maybe don’t “get” that the mistakes of my past don’t define who I am (in Christ) today. For anyone who has felt this sting, I pray that you remember the "low-life's" God chose to welcome his son, our Savior, into the world and how God seeks out the uncouth.

Daddy, thank you for not keeping track of what I do wrong; thank you for praying me “home” and for never giving up on me and allowing me to inherit your kingdom! I don’t deserve the love and acceptance that I get from you; I pray that you help me to love others the way that you love me. Amen.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sun Baked Clay

“You’re painting again?” My husband is very tolerant of the fact that I love to paint but he still questions it. Yesterday I painted one of the walls in my living room an accent color to make it “pop” (like they say on HGTV…)

I love the outcome but I still remember what is underneath: plaster. I’m sure some of you know what a mess plaster can be! If you hammer a nail into it you may find that the plaster crumbles around the nail; also if you try and “demo” it, you may find that it crumbles easily and it is very dusty when it crumbles.

On top of the plaster is a greenish-turquoise color that was on the walls when we moved in. To make that even more appealing picture this: the man that lived in the house before we did reportedly sat in his “easy-chair” and chain-smoked; the result of that was that you could see where every picture had hung on the walls.

The first color we painted was some sort of tan, beige very neutral color; I think I did some sort of special finish on it to make it a little more appealing. Still, a little lackluster for my taste.

After some major remodeling in the house I got to paint the living room again; the color is called “Moosewood”; it’s a special paint so I used a big wall-paper brush to put it on the walls. The result was a very textured look.

I still wasn’t quite “lovin” it because it was so much “green” (or Moosewood) so yesterday I painted again; with a paint that looks like suede. The name of the color is “Sun Baked Clay.”

I was just admiring it again – I am satisfied…for a few years I suppose!

As I think the transformation of this wall from the time we moved in until now (13 plus years) not only has the color and texture changed, but the things around it have changed as well. Rooms have been remodeled, walls knocked down, steps moved, new windows, new furniture…you get the idea.

The colors have changed but the wall is still plaster.

I’m kind of like that wall. Underneath everything I am a mess and I can crumble easily.

Throughout the years I have been painted ugly colors and have had gross stains on me. I acted so selfishly and did whatever I wanted to; I was interested in only pleasing myself.

As time past, God began convicting me of the ugliness and stains that I had; so I tried to “paint’ myself in a more appealing color. It changed the outside, to some extent, but the inside was still ugly.

Then God began remodeling; a long and inconvenient and sometimes uncomfortable process.

And in the new color, Sun Baked Clay, God has reminded me that I am a work in progress.

Jeremiah 18:4 says: “But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.”

The pot…was…marred…I was marred! I love the transformation that the Potter has done with the clay-me; and I pray that this pot, no matter how uncomfortable it is, will continually be shaped to serve God’s purposes and that throughout all the re-shaping, I become more and more pleasing to God.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I Know that God Can...

The argument is almost constant in the back of my mind; I know I still I need to ask but the circumstances all point to the opposite of what I want to ask – logic holds me back. I know that my requests are heard by God and that prayer changes things…I know it and believe it – but how deeply do I believe it?

Several things have happened over the last few days that have me on my knees (mostly literally but sometimes figuratively) almost constantly.

husband, father and grandpa went into a scheduled surgery for his back; the doctor found a tumor and told this man that he has 4th stage cancer…

Another husband, father, grandpa is fighting brain cancer and lung cancer; most of his kids live around him but there is one that doesn’t. This son was called to come home this past weekend…

We prayed for these two men in church yesterday, the first man is a member as well as a son and his wife and their two kids; his daughter and her husband and their three kids; and his other daughter and her husband and their two kids.

We sat behind the son and his wife and as we prayed, I was brought back a couple of years to a time when my husband and I are our kids were sitting in a church pew and the pastor was praying for my mother-in-law who was fighting breast cancer. She was diagnosed at the end of the summer and she went to be with Jesus the following May.

The weeks before her death, when mom’s condition was growing worse almost by the day, our pastor still prayed; I remember tears streaming down my face during these prayers wondering how long it would be until Jesus came to take my mother-in-law home; and I also wondered if the people who were praying with us knew just how bleak the situation was. I knew that God could change her physical circumstances but I also believe that he did heal her completely.

I was reading a friend’s post today (at Getting Down With Jesus) and she shares part of her testimony; it’s beautiful to read but even more beautiful in person. As I read her post, I also read the scripture that she prayed from Mark 9:24: "Lord, I do believe. Help me with my unbelief."

My prayers these past few days have been for healing, complete physical healing. I believe that God still heals people the same as he did centuries ago. I believe he is the same God – that He Was ~ and Is ~ and Is To Come.

But there is still that tiny voice in my head that says it’s not possible.

Author of Life and Perfector of my Faith, I want to believe what I know about you to be true and to boldly come before you and lay my requests at your feet without any hesitation! Patient and loving Father, I do believe – help me with what I don’t believe. And God, please heal John and Bob.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

More Than A Feeling

I've had the opportunity to experience a few different types of Christian retreats; mostly 3-4 day weekends. I've also experienced mission work. The reward I received from each of these experiences has been different; but after each experience, for the most part, my spirit has been renewed and the presence of the Holy Spirit very noticeable to me.

Recently I spent the weekend at a retreat that I have the opportunity to attend about 3 times per year - Cursillo. (Cursillo is a "short course in Christian living" and has also been known as Walk to Emmaus, Via deCristo, and other names depending on the denominational affiliation). It's a time of worship, praying, sharing and among other things, a personal renewal of faith.

Many times throughout a weekend like this, I hear people say "I love the [spiritual] 'high' I get [from coming to this weekend]" or having a "mountain top experience." Spending a weekend focused on serving and worshipping God will do that to a person; a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit is what is needed occasionally.

I have had many times of personal renewal and an anointing of the Holy Spirit outside of experiences like this as well; in a earlier post ("I Spy...God") I talked about an experience when I felt the presence of God in my chest and He was so big in me that I had to breathe in -LITERALLY breathe in- to make more room for him. Incidences like that for me are spiritual highs or mountain top experiences. I'm trying to be more aware of the ways in which God wants to bless me like that - intentionally looking for him in my every day life!

My most recent weekend retreat didn't result in a spiritual "high" or mountain top experience. Did I miss something? Was my heart not in the right place? What is wrong with me? How do I make sense out of this?

Earlier in my Christian walk, this would throw me off; I would lose heart and it would take weeks and months, at times, to get back to a point where I felt secure in my relationship with Christ. I based so much of my personal walk with God on a "feeling."

At this moment, I am dry. Feeling empty. But I am not discouraged.

I have come to understand that along with the "highs" come the "lows." That my relationship, my growth, my security in Christ is not based on a feeling.

One of my favorite new songs right now is called "The Motions" by Matthew West; the lyrics inspire me to continue to persevere and seek God right now - even when I can't feel him. He sings: "...Cause I don't wanna go through the motions! I don't wanna go one more day without Your all consuming passion inside of me...No regrets, not this time, I'm gonna let my heart defeat my mind! Let Your love make me whole, I think I'm finally feeling something', Cause just okay is not enough. Help me fight through the nothingness of this life..."

"Be strong. Take courage. Don't be intimidated. Don't give...a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down; he won't leave you." Deuteronomy 31:6 THE MESSAGE.

I feel that!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


A challenge was issued by a friend of mine for 10 people to make a list of ten blessings or ten thanksgivings; I know of a couple of people who have accepted the challenge and now I am accepting it to.

I'm thankful for (in no particular order...)

1. Music. Psalm 92:1; "It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High..." Psalm 108:1; "My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul." Music is a gift and a powerful tool that God uses to draw us into his presence. What would I do without music...?

2. My spouse. Proverbs 31:23; "Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land." My husband is a man of God - and growing more and more like a man of God every day. While we don't always see eye to eye or appreciate each other the way we should, I am blessed beyond...to be able to share his life.

3. Kids. Psalm 127:3; "Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him." Proverbs 17:6; "Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children." Jeremiah 31:7; "So there is hope for your future," declares the LORD. "Your children will return to their own land." I am proud of my children; even though they don't always do what I think they should. I love and accept them for who they are and what they are but I don't stop praying that my children "will return" and have an authentic relationship with the Savior. I trust God's promise in Jeremiah 29 that when they seek him, they will find him when they seek him with all of their heart.

4. Friends and Family. Luke 15:9; "And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me...'" Hebrews 10:5; "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Ecclesiastes 4:10; "If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" We have been blessed by so many wonderful friends and family; those who rejoice with us but also those who cry with us; we meet, we encourage, we grow together. We have the Ecclesiastes 4:10 friends; friends who love and support; encourage and pray for us.

5. Grace. John 1:16; "From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another." Thankful to that I was finally able to accept the grace; one of the best gifts ever!

6. The freedom to choose. Deuteronomy 30:19; "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." Philippians 1:20; "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death." That God, after he sacrificed his own Son, would still allow us to choose to accept the gift of salvation is beyond me. That kind of love and patience is amazing.

7. Past mistakes. Job 23:10; "But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold." How much shall I write here? If I were to write about the ways that I've taken and the tests that have come from my choices and mistakes, they would need to be bound into a book. I am thankful though, that God allowed me to try things my way; he allowed me to fail. In my failure, I learned and experienced and got to know a compassionate, forgiving, pursuing, abundant and intentional God - my God! I don't know if I would know him the way I do if it hadn't been for the ways that taken...

8. Blood and the Lamb. 1 Peter 1:19; "but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect." For the sacrifice that Jesus made for me; that he appeared in front of God "wearing" all my sin and shame as if it was his own. That my chains are gone because of Jesus, the pure spotless Lamb.

9. Justification and Sanctification. Romans 5:1; "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ..." Titus 3:7; "...so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life." Romans 10:10; "For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." 1 Corinthians 6:11; "...But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." Can I get a witness? My heart believes, my mouth confesses = I am saved!!

10. Eternal Life. John 10:28; "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." 1 Thessalonians 4:16; "For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first." Revelation 12:10; "Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down." What more is there to say aside from AMEN and HALLELUJAH!!

Thanks Steph, for the challenge; this was good for my soul.
Also, in giving thanks this week and spending time with friends and family, will you keep the Lindsey family in your prayers? Their little girl, Jessica, went to be with Jesus not so long ago and they miss her so much. http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jessicalindsey

Monday, November 24, 2008

A "Three-Peat" At Least

In my house, sporting events are rarely watched, listened to, or even followed; with the exception of NASCAR. As the race is beginning, the family gathers around the TV to hear the announcer say "Boogity, boogity, boogity - let's go racin' boys!" Then, we go about whatever it was we were doing; the kids go downstairs, and Clint and I settle in for...a nap! When I wake up I do a quick catch-up on what happened while I was asleep and hope that my driver didn't crash or get a flat tire and put him a lap behind. These past few years have been "good" years for me as a NASCAR fan. In 2002 (I'm almost certain it was 2002 but don't hold it against me if I'm wrong) a new driver entered the NEXTEL Cup (F.K.A. Winston Cup) line-up and I became a fan of his immediately; I even bought a cap with his number on it! This past year, "my" driver, Jimmie Johnson became the NEXTEL Cup Series Champion for the third year in a row! A "three-peat!"
A few years ago I found myself at a Dunamis Retreat which was taught through Presbyterian Reformed Ministries (www.prmi.org); together, my husband and I attended two teaching weekends a year. The focus of the teachings being on the Holy Spirit, with each weekend session focused on different aspects of the Holy Spirit and our responses; since there were 6 teachings, my husband and I also experienced our own sort-of "three-peat" in that it took us three years to complete the teachings.

One of the things that was clear to me early on in these teachings was that I had wounds, deep and hidden wounds, that Jesus wanted to heal. So a journey began; sometimes it was difficult but the outcome was always the same. I felt a burden lifted (given/surrendered to God) and I also felt like I had a better understanding of the "abundant life" that God wanted for me.

One topic that was discussed during one of the weekend teachings was the idea of generational sin; that sins (i.e. anger, sexual sins, complacency, etc) can be passed from one generation to the next. Right away, there were obvious ones and I confessed them and asked for God's protection for my children - that those sins didn't continue.

These past few days, God has been reminding me of another generational sin that has affected my family and me. I grew up in a family where emotions weren't talked about; there was not much affection shown; and compliments were not free-flowing. I also didn't feel like I was given much room to fail - and if I did, (which BELIEVE ME, I did) we didn't really talk about that either.

My grandma is still living; she's 87 years old. In all the years that I've been with her, I don't really remember grandma showing affection to me; in fact, I don't remember my grandma showing affection toward my mom (her daughter); and I don't recall a lot of affection from my mom to me. Will it be another "Three-peat" or is it already? Maybe there are several more generations of "history repeating itself" than I know about. I've also felt many times over the years that I have disappointed my grandma; and unfortunately, that sort of attitude has been passed to me from my parents as well. Even though I love my grandma and my parents (and I know the feeling is mutual) I feel as if I've been marked "failure" because of mistakes and choices I made when I was younger.

I don't want my children to ever wonder if they were ever good enough for me; I also don't want it to be awkward when I say "I love you" to my children. Every night my kids give me a good hug (kisses were out a couple of years ago...) and we tell each other "I love you." When I talk with the older kids on the phone or when we say good-bye in person, there is almost always a hug and an "I love you;" but I want more for my kids. I trust that my children will know that they were loved, but I wonder if they will have feelings like I have: that they never quite measured up to my standards.

Zechariah 10:6 says: "I will strengthen the house of Judah and save the house of Joseph. I will restore them because I have compassion on them."

Dear God, it's me. I know I've messed up; I know that I've sinned against you and my kids. Please have compassion on me forgive me. I pray God, that you will equip and empower me to break the generational ties that kept me from receiving your grace for so long. God, help me to love Ashley, Brandy, Chyanne, Amber, Taryn, Natasha, Morgan and Cole the way you love them - unconditionally! Empower me to show them as much grace as you've shown me. Thank you God, for being a redeeming God. Thank you for constantly pursuing me and showing me areas of my life that need your light - and mostly God, thank you for doing it in such a way that I don't feel like a failure. In Jesus' name.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dry Bones (The House is A Mess-Part 2)

Ezekiel, a prophet, wrote in his book in chapter 37 about a vision that God gave him. It says (I'll summarize some of it but please understand this is me summarizing and I encourage you to go directly to the word of God for perfect information) that the Holy Spirit brought Ezekiel to a valley covered and filled with dry bones. God inquired of Ezekiel whether or not the bones could live and Ezekiel responded that only he, the Lord, could know that. Then God asked Ezekiel to prophesy to the dry bones and tell them that God is going to breathe life into them; he's going to cover them with skin and attach tendons and flesh - all this so that they would know that he is the LORD. So, Ezekiel obeys and bones come together; tendons begin to attach bone to bone and skin covered them - but there was no breath.

So God again tells Ezekiel to prophesy that breath will enter these bodies - breath from all four sides - so that the bodies may live. And Ezekiel again obeys and the bodies come to life and stand up. Then God told Ezekiel that the dry bones stand for the people of Israel. And the Lord then tells Ezekiel to prophesy to Israel the following:

'The Lord and King says, "My people, I am going to open up your graves. I am going to bring you out of them. I will take you back to the land of Israel. So I will open up your graves and bring you out of them. Then you will know that I am the Lord. You are my people. I will put my Spirit in you. And you will live again. I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I have spoken. I have done it," announces the Lord.' Ezekiel 37:12-14

In a previous post of mine titled "The House is A Mess" I shared that I was struggling with finding time to sit with God; since that time, I have recommitted to spending time with God. I spent this past weekend at a spiritual retreat called Cursillo and was challenged to be intentional. While pondering what God wanted me to be intentional about I was convicted of this time that I spend with God. I have been putting in the time physically, but emotionally and spiritually, I was not committing the time to God. My bones were dry.

I was intentional this morning: intentional about reading the Bible and not moving past a scripture until I understood it or received a blessing from it. I have been reading through some of the Old Testament books and just happen to be in Ezekiel right now; and this morning, when I started, I found my bookmark at Ezekiel 37. Coincidence? I don't think so-I don't believe in coincidence!

God confirmed this morning what I know to be true about him. He does not want me to be spiritually dead and that he will "put his spirit in me and I will live again." Not only did God speak to me today in scripture, but he spoke directly to me about what I was convicted of. And he reassured me that if I am willing to be intentional, he will not leave me with dry bones.

Are your bones dry? Do you need "new breath" in your life? I encourage you to seek God's heart and be INTENTIONAL!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Love & Hearts & Stuff

There is a framed poster hanging in the bathroom at work with a picture of the Tin Man and the caption on the poster says: "Remember my sentimental friend, a heart is not judged by how much it loves, but by how much it is loved by others." (From the Wizard of Oz to the Tin Man)

WHAT? Seriously, could this be any further from the truth? When I die and go to heaven I know I'm not going to be judged by how many people loved me (thank goodness) but I will be judged by how [many people] I loved. Is my being judged by the latter going to be any better for me than former?

Here's the problem for me: I know the truth but I still struggle with the lie. I'm constantly "keeping score" of things; how many friends I have on Facebook; how many "hits" I have on my blog, how many birthday cards I get on my birthday, and the list goes on. I'm constantly comparing myself to some "ruler" that I will never measure up on. I do know the creator of this "ruler" though; his name is Satan, the Devil, or his most effective name: the Deceiver.

Even though in my heart and my mind, I know that I am not accepted by God because of anything I've ever said, or done; or because of everyone that I've ever loved. Even so, I still try my hardest to "measure up" for him too. I waste so much time trying to be someone I think he wants me to be rather than just doing what he wants me to do. I think in being a "doing" person (a heart that loves) I'm "being" the person God wants me to be.

God help me to focus on you and what you want me to do; help me to stop keeping score and keeping track for if I do that, I will miss out on so many things you want me to know; I will miss opportunities to love on your behalf; I will be too busy trying to impress people around me that I will miss how great you are and how big you are in my life. Father God, forgive me...for worrying more about how I look and what people think of me than seeing to it that I'm right with you. I'm ready to do your will. Amen.

"It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone."
Ephesians 1:11-12 The Message

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Indulge Me Please

A few years ago, on my husband's birthday, he came home from a shopping trip (by himself) with a new Canon EOS Rebel Digital Camera-for ME! That's the kind of guy I'm married to - it's his birthday but he bought me a gift! I already had a Canon 35mm camera with a couple of lenses and some other gadgets and they all worked with my new digital camera so all I needed to do was charge the battery and start taking pictures. I have enjoyed photography and using both of these cameras (I kept the 35mm thinking I would still use it...) and the new camera paid for itself in one day because I was able, with the help of some computer software, to take my daughter's senior pictures. She was very happy with the outcome and so we were happy as well!

Mostly, I love scenic photography; and I LOVE this time of year! I also see beauty in barns with broken doors in need of a new coat of paint, in walls that are falling down, in rust and things that maybe aren't so appealing to the people who own these "broken" things. Another point of interest for me is our granddaughter, Chyanne! Indulge me please and let me share a few recent photos of her!

She looks very serious here - but she really is not very serious. The truth is, she may very well have been caught doing something that she shouldn't have been!

Morgan and Cole also decided it was time for her to take her first jump on the trampoline; after many warnings from me about not letting her fall off the edge, to the trampoline they went. She thoroughly loved it and showed absolutely no fear! I love that about small children; they don't know the danger that can happen and they trust completely in the person holding them or taking care of them. I wish that I could trust God like that - I'm learning but I don't know if I'll ever be able to be that "reckless" about it! Okay, just a few more - I just can't help myself!

On the left: Chyanne & Morgan;

On the right: Chyanne & Cole; and

Below: Chyanne spotted me with the camera and had to stop to say hello. Love you little princess! I was also able to get out on Friday and take some pictures of landscape and other scenery; the sky was just beautiful as you can see in this first photograph - perfect for photographing.

The picture above was taken along the side of the road; I just had to stop-the sky was so beautiful!

Both the picture above and directly to the left were taken at a place called Falls Park; very beautiful this time of year.

I really enjoyed my time out in nature with God and being able to take these pictures. I saw him all around!

Where does God show up in your daily life? Do you look for him? He's all around and just waiting to be "found!" I'd love to hear about what, or where, or whom you see God in your daily life!

They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!”
Isaiah 6:3

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Challenge Goes On

I was checking in on a friend's blog and her most recent post was this:

"I took on an easy challenge from a blog I LOVE to follow, Owlhaven. The challenge is to go to the Picture files on your computer, find the 6th file folder, select the 6th picture and post it!"

So here's my 6th photo in my 6th file:

It's a picture of two of my kids (Cole with the red sweatshirt and Morgan on his right with the black cap and black jacket) serving cookies and donuts outside a shelter in downtown Omaha this past spring. This was taken on a mission trip called the Urban Plunge through Christ for the City International.

Great times!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Leaves of My Life

"...because of Christ we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us from the beginning, and all things happen just as he decided long ago." Ephesians 1:11

October is one of my favorite months of the year. On my list of favorites for this month is being hit in the face by a leaf falling from a tree; we have several big trees around our house so it seems that I'm being "love tapped" by God almost every time I go outside. The leaves are beautiful as they fall and the gentle touch from God is a reminder that ... (I'll finish this thought later).

October is a favorite month for a few other pretty amazing reasons: our oldest and youngest children have birthdays and Clint and I celebrate our anniversary.

When Clint and I got married, I believed that he would make me happy and that my fulfillment would come from being involved in his life; however, God did not make us, or intend for any of us, to make others happy or to fulfill them; that whole "you complete me..." is a lie. Fortunately, about 5 years ago, I surrendered my life to the "One who knows me the best and loves me the most" (Pastor David Ring http://www.davidring.org/about.html); God had been pursing me passionately and in one very short moment, I realized that my happiness wasn't going to be found in Clint but in my Savior, Jesus Christ. After I accepted this truth I let Clint off the hook and stopped expecting him to make me happy and focused on how I could make his life better; I also began a relationship with the One who can and will make me happy (and provide immeasurable peace). Just for kicks, I looked up the definition of happy and it says that it is an emotional state that feels good or is pleasing.

When I think about our upcoming anniversary, I am humbled that Clint is my husband and so grateful that God held us together until we were both able to learn how to love Him first so that we are capable of loving each other the way God intended.

Ashley will soon (very soon) be turning 22 years old; I haven't been a part of Ashley's life for all of her 22 years but I have been blessed with her in my life for the past 15 or so years. I am so grateful that God has given me the ability to love her like I do. One of the best things that Ashley has done "for" us to is to make us grandparents to Chyanne! (The picture is of Ashley and Chyanne, 1 day old, in the hospital.) But honestly, Ashley is a beautiful person on the inside and out.

Cole will turn 11 years old toward the end of the month and its hard for me to believe that he is this old and this big already. When he was born, I was working about 30 hours a week, and attending school part time; he was kind of a "sick" baby and from the time he was about 5 months old until he was probably 9 months old, we had to give him nebulizer treatments every four hours - regardless of whether he was awake or sleeping. On typical night, Cole would wake up to be fed and then go to sleep and an hour or two later, our alarm would go off reminding us he needed a neb treatment. Because of this schedule I was a bit sleep deprived and looking back, I feel like I missed out on his first year or two. Thankfully, God is a redeeming God and Cole and I have had many "special" and memorable moments together. He is my 2nd favorite "man" in the world and will always be "little Cole" to me.

(continued as promised)...life goes on and as seasons change so the seasons of my life change. The leaves fall but I know in a few months, after cold and snow, new leaves will replace the ones that fall today. As my children grow older my role in their lives and what they need from me continues to change. As a mom, a lot of my identity is wrapped up in my family and the changing of the seasons reminds me that my life is changing as well and while it feels like God may be "taking away" I know and believe that he will be generously replacing what is gone with beautiful fresh and new "leaves of my life."

"Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you." Joshua 3:5

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Votes Have Been Counted...

For those who may be wondering, and don't yet know, the Casino and Resort passed 62% to 38%. I trust that God, who is in control of everything, will work this situation out for good - maybe not on it's "face" but I trust in the promise of God that he is able to work everything out for his good if we continue to love and trust him.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Vote Today!!

My heart was "heavy" as I drove to work today; the residents in Lyon County are voting today on a proposal to build a Casino and Resort in our county.

(I've taken some information from my friend's blog: "A bit of background on the debate: Kehl Management of Riverside, Iowa, is proposing a $90 million casino/resort to sit in Lyon County, just east of Sioux Falls.Proponents say the casino/resort will bring needed jobs and entertainment to our area. Opponents say the jobs and fun will come at a big price, because of the social ills of gambling." Jennifer Dukes Lee).

At first, I wanted to vote yes because of the benefit that it would be for me and my family; the thought of my property taxes being cut in half was enticing. Until I realized that everything that we gain as a family, or as a community, or school district, will be at the cost of someone else. Now, I'm aware that there are plenty of people who like to "play around" at a Casino and they use it as a form of entertainment; I myself like to throw a few dollars into a video lottery machine once in a while.

The problem for some though, is that the video lottery and slot machines and the black jack table aren't always for entertainment. I don't understand a gambling addiction because that is not something that I struggle with, just like I don't understand being addicted to drugs or alcohol; but these things are very real for some people and I can't imagine the day-to-day struggles of any of these addictions and how they affect a person professionally and personally (which possibly includes a spouse and children).

I knew from the beginning how God wanted me to vote but I tried to ignore him; the reasons for my "yes vote" were selfish reasons. Finally, I had a conversation with God about how he wanted me to vote and he answered my question with a question: "When will you trust that I AM taking care of all of your needs? I have, I AM, and I will." Not only will he provide for my needs and the needs of my family, but he will also provide for the needs of others, whether they realize it or not.

My vote today will be "no" to myself and, even if it is just one person who benefits from not having this Casino and Resort in our county, I'm voting "yes" for that person! I don't want my gain to come at the loss or cost of someone else.

"Do not take advantage of each other. Instead, have respect for me. I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 25:17 (NIrV).

(For the record, this is post reflects my opinions and my belief in what God is requiring me to do; I will not judge or condemn someone who thinks differently than me and subsequently votes differently than I do. I think that Satan will have won a battle if there are more "yes" votes than "no" today - but either way, he has won a battle because this issue has divided our towns. I pray that no matter what the decision is after today, that our communities can reunite.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Choosing Truth

A few years ago I received a book mark that was simply called "Who I am in Christ." Simple title - simple message: I am accepted; I am secure; and I am significant. The great thing about this book mark is that it has just over 30 different messages for me from God supporting the fact that I am accepted (I am his child, his friend, I have been justified, I've been united with God, I was bought with a price, I am a saint, I have access to God, I have been redeemed, I am complete in Christ); I am secure (free forever from condemnation, I cannot be separated from God's love, I have been anointed and sealed by the Holy Spirit, I am hidden with Christ in God, I am born of God); and I am significant (I am salt and light, I have been chosen, I am God's temple, I am God's co-worker, I am God's workmanship, I am seated with Christ in heaven, I am a branch of the true vine).

My identity is addressed on the back of the bookmark and it says: "Understanding your identity in Christ is absolutely essential for your success at living a victorious Christian life!" (From Living Free in Christ by Dr. Neil T. Anderson). It also has these two columns:

Satan's Lie ************ God's Truth

You are a sinner ************** You are a saint
because you sin. ************** (one declared righteous by God) who sins.

Your identity ***************** Your identity
comes from what ************** comes from what
you have done. ****************God has done for you.

Your identity ***************** Your identity
comes from what ************** comes from what
people say about you. **********God says about you.

Your behavior tells ************ Your belief about
you what to believe ************ yourself determines
about yourself. **************** your behavior.

Adapted from "Resolving Spiritual Conflicts and Cross-Cultural Ministry" by Dr. Timothy Warner

Today is one of those days - I'm struggling with my identity. Wondering if I really matter; even as I write this it seems strange because I know that I matter to God and to others. So why do these thoughts creep into my head? Why do I even entertain the devil and let him try and convince me that I don't matter?

Well honestly, because I allow myself to fall into the trap of comparing myself to others and choosing to ignore the fact that God created me with my specific gifts and qualities, abilities and interests for HIS purposes - not mine. I just get selfish and truth be told, I want recognition.

I need to get past myself (which is my sinful nature nurtured by Satan's conniving) and choose to believe the things that God says about me. Today, despite my selfishness, I'm choosing truth - God's Truth! Will you join me in living like an accepted, secure and significant child of God?

"I can do everything through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:13

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"I Spy...God"

Hardly a car trip goes by with my kids that I don't hear "Mom, do you want to play "I Spy?" Sometimes I play with them and sometimes I don't. It's a kind of "hide-and-seek" type game where one person picks an object and everyone else has to take turns guessing what the object is until finally, sometimes all choices exhausted, someone guesses the object. Sometimes my kids get so impatient with me because I don't guess the object as quickly as they'd like me to so they start giving me hints trying to speed up the process. Of course, when riding in the car, you should really try and guess the object fairly quickly - especially if you are travelling at 55-60 mph or more.

A year or two (or more) ago, Iowa decided that people were no longer allowed to spray the weeds in the ditches along the roads. For most of the summer these ditches look like they are full of undesirable weeds; but around the middle of August, something wonderful starts to happen. Here and there, in the ditches, beautiful wild flowers start popping up and sometimes you may be fortunate enough to see a patch of wild flowers or even a 1/2 mile stretch with various varieties and colors. I love looking for these bursts of color along the sides of the road on my way to and from work because it helps fill the monotony of my 40 (or so) minute commute with interest and beauty.

A few weeks ago I stopped on my way home from work because along the very edge of the road, as if they appeared overnight, there were brilliantly colored and perfectly shaped wild sunflowers growing. Both sides of the road displayed sunflowers and it felt almost as if I was on a path and not on the same road I have travelled for the past 10 years - two times a day; give or take a few days. I have watched these sunflowers continue to grow and get exceedingly tall; I am amazed at how they grow so tall and stay so strong.

Today is the anniversary of one of the saddest days in recent American history; as I was driving to work thinking back to 9-11-01 and remembering those who lost their lives so senselessly. In addition to that, my daughter's boyfriend lost a good friend on September 4, 2008 in Afghanastan as a result of an IED; Pvt. Vincent C. Winston, just 22 years old died. (http://www.myfoxstl.com/myfox/pages/ContentDetail?contentId=7386879).

Then, in the midst of the sadness and heaviness on my heart this morning, "I spied" God. He was in the ditches and he was in the fields; he was in the trees and along the side of the roads. He was in the faces of the people I was meeting; he was in the sky; and in the water in the river and on the sand; suddenly God was everywhere. I also felt him in my chest - so big that I had to breathe in to make more room. It was if God was telling me that in a world that doesn't always make sense, he is still always close to us and a very real God. Psalm 46:1 says "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."

My prayer is that those who are trying to make sense out of a seemingly senseless situation, may feel the peace and VERY PRESENCE of God - whatever your situation is.

God wants to love you; he wants to hold you and he wants you to know, more
than anything, that he loves you so much that he made the decision to have his very own Son leave heaven, come to earth to be born as a human; and then,

as people denied Jesus,
and laughed at him,
and called him names,
and spit at him,
and beat him to a bloody mess,
and mocked him,
and put a crown of thorns on his head,
and pounded spikes (not little nails - SPIKES) through his hands and his feet,
and then left him on the cross to die,

God watched...not because he didn't care - but because he cared SO much.

I pray that as you go about your day, you "spy" God in his various forms.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The "House" is a Mess

Lately I feel as if I just can't catch up, much less keep up; school has started and that adds to the list of things that need to be done in a day (helping my 5th grader with homework and studying every evening takes up a significant amount of time for this working mother).

Even before school started, I felt as if I couldn't get my house in order; I've been missing deadlines; books have been returned late to the library; I've missed birthdays of people who are very important to me; I've misplaced things; I've missed payments on bills; I've even missed preparing meals - and the list goes on. Then there are the stacks of mail on the counter; the notes of people that I need to call back; the notes that I write for myself of things that I want to do for other people; etc. It seems like in the last two or three months I have not been able to get things cleaned up or put away or organized.

Today, like most every Friday, I have the day off, and my intention was to "get organized." I got my kitchen clean and some laundry done but feel like most of the stuff that didn't belong in the kitchen didn't find its permanent home; rather, I moved it from one place to another - therefore, I'll get to deal with it another day.

Something was different today though; I finally surrendered to what God has been telling me for quite some time. Psalm 46:10 says "Be still and know that I am God." Not only is my physical house unorganized, but my spiritual house is as well; I've been neglecting my spiritual house and I have not been setting aside time each day to spend with God to hear what he has to say to me or even just to be with him.

When I did stop today (surrender) and talk with God about my messy houses, I was comforted with Isaiah 58.12: "Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings." I've had this scripture on a recipe card stuck in my bathroom mirror for probably two or more years; I don't know what made me write it down in the first place and I can't tell you how many times I've looked at it and wondered what it meant for me. Today God spoke directly to me with this scripture and encouraged me by the fact that no matter how much time passes, or how lazy I get in my spiritual life, he is always there helping me start over. I stand amazed again, at how God works and how much he loves me and that two or more years ago he was already preparing a message for me for today.

God spoke very clearly to me today and I know that he's not so concerned about my physical home as he is my spiritual home; and I believe that my Savior loves me so much and desires a close and personal relationship with me so much that he will use whatever means necessary in order for me to get the message - and today, he chose to use my messy and disorganized house. God pursues each of us so passionately and it is my prayer for anyone reading this that you see that God is running after you and he will do whatever he needs to get his message across to you. If there is an area of your life that seems too much to handle or out of control, or just too sad or difficult - I challenge you to look for Jesus in that situation.

Because God is so kind, I do believe that, along with the spiritual cleaning that happened today, because it is important to me to have my home organized and clean (not messy) for my family, that if I honor him and nurture our relationship like he is asking me to do, that he will help me with the day to day things that seem so overwhelming to me right now; that he will restore and raise up and rebuild things in my house that seem so out of control right now.

Thank you Jesus for loving me the way you do; I am humbled at the lengths that you CONTINUE to go to show your love for me.

Trusting that this is Part A of the messy house post.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

...better is one day...

I'm getting so excited for this coming weekend; Life Light music festival is coming to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. If you haven't heard of this event, it is (and I'm not making this up) the largest outdoor, free Christian music festival. It really is something to see and be a part of. I feel so fortunate to live close enough to be able to take a few days to take in the concerts and all of the other activities that go on. Another amazing thing is that in our camping group this year we have eight families from our area that are going to be camping together; what an awesome way to spend a weekend! We also have other friends who are staying in nearby hotels or driving up for the day that will be spending the days with us as well - how can you beat that?

Within our group, there are also many of us that volunteer with Life Light in various areas; for the past few years a good friend of mine and I have volunteered in the Prayer Tent. Last year, we stepped out of our comfort zone and walked through all of the food vendors one morning and talked and prayed with each of them as they were preparing for the day; what a RUSH - we simply didn't think it could get any better than that. Good music, good friends, and God allowing us to really get "dirty" in his ministry - we were on a Holy Spirit high! Life was good! My heart beats with excitement as I anticipate what God has in store for us this year.

Psalm 84:10 says: "Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked."

I can't even imagine it, but I believe God when he says that even all of my best days ever won't compare to one day, to ONE DAY, with him. I'm excited for Life Light - but today I'm STOAKED for my eternal life.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Bucket List

Have you seen the movie the "Bucket List"? Two men played by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson make a list of things they want to accomplish or experience before they die and they set out on an adventure of sorts trying to experience everything on their list. Good movie, not so great language at times, but generally I liked it.

A while back, a friend of mine invited me to start my own bucket list; without getting to philosophical I started my list (you can view it on my facebook page if you are even slightly interested) and the first item on my list is to "give away something very important to me." When I put that on my list, I had no idea what the "very important" thing was but imagined it to be an item of personal property - I'm wasn't even sure I owned it yet.

In July this scared young man came to our house and sat and squirmed in a chair in our living room pretending to be interested in whatever it was that was on the tv; Clint and I both knew why he was there but I decided to let him squirm for a little while. But because I'm a mother and I just love all children, I finally broke the ice and said "Jon, I'm going to extend my first act of grace to you - we know why you're here..." The rest is history. He proceeded to tell us how much he loved Taryn and that he wanted to ask her to marry him but first (oh my word, are there still young men who have enough respect to do this?) he wanted our permission to ask her to marry him.

So, on July 18, 2009, I will "give away" something that is very important to me - figuratively speaking, of course. As I thought about whether or not that qualified as giving something away I realized that it did indeed, because Taryn, along with my other kids, is of far more worth to me than anything I own, or could ever own. I know that I will still "have" her but our relationship will take on a new form and I will need to look at her as belonging to someone else - not in a possessive way but in a loving way.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why the Name?

The name of my blog? Easy...I have no idea what these entries will be about and I can't think of anything more random than popcorn - and - AND, if I had to live off of one food for the rest of my life it would definitely be popcorn!

I also want to be able to share all the ways that God continues to change and challenge me in and through my every day life; things changed drastically for me a few years ago when I became a Christian (when everything that I knew finally made the 12 inch journey from my head to my heart) and the work that God is doing in me sometimes seem a bit "all over the place" similar to popcorn. So, go get yourself a bowl or a bag - and maybe sometime, in a future post, I'll share with you my secrets for making the best popcorn!!!

Be blessed.