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!