Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bearing the Ark

And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan.  Joshua 3:17 NKJV
There are times, and many of them, that I feel like one of those priests holding up the Word of God for all to see so they can have the faith to cross over into the Promised Land.  I am sure there are many others who feel the same way.  We stand there crying out to keep your eyes on the Word and the promises contained therein, but so many want to focus on the standing waves in fear that they are going to crash in on them.  Some refuse to step into the riverbed.  Others start in and may make it part way, but then turn back in fear and distrust.  Some make it to the middle just to cry out to those carrying the ark that the waters are going to cave in.  They tell us we need to look around us and see the truth, be realistic, take off our rose colored glasses, because the flood is coming!  Sometimes it makes it hard to keep our eyes focused on the land ahead of us.  Sometimes we see the mist rising in the corner of our eyes and begin to fear.  It can take all the faith we can muster to keep eyes forward and stand firm, but stand we do as we watch these same people either muster their own faith due partly to our testimony, or turn back to their old way of life.  Then along comes another wave of people.  Some make it across and we rejoice.  Others begin to groan in our ears again.  This happens over and over until we almost wish we were deaf or blind, because each time we witness someone turn away from the Truth, we grieve.  Grieving takes strength and so can make us weak.  We get tired and want someone to come take the ark off our shoulders and bear it awhile.  But then comes another who makes it across and we are rejuvenated. 
Lord, I am at a weak place of grieving at the moment.  Loved ones are fighting and spewing hateful words at each other.  Children are being hurt in the process, though they try hard to conceal it which only makes matters worse for them.  I ask once again for Your intervention.  Break hearts as You reveal their sin to them.  Make them truly repentant.  Help each one see, as You see, the injuries they inflict upon each other.  Show them once again where the dry land is and teach them Your way so they don't feel they have to swim across or drown trying and so choose to stay in the desert places.
Forgive and help me continue to forgive.  Help me to trust You in this and not grow weak and weary in teaching Your truths and in simply doing what is right no matter the cost.  I love You!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Butterfly Effect

The Butterfly Effect - the theory that if a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil, it could conceivably alter wind currents sufficiently to cause a tornado in Texas.

Several years ago my parents house burned down.  It seemed so catastrophic at the time, but insurance covered the cost of rebuild and soon all was pretty well forgotten.  What I never realized until this day, this VERY day, was that there was much more to this event than I could have ever dreamed.  If the house hadn't burned, my parent's church family would never have given them homemade quilts to keep warm.  If they hadn't been given the quilts, I would never have come to have possession of them.  If I hadn't been given possession, the idea of FlorAl animals for needy children may never have been a thought.  If I had never had the thought, I would never have acted, in which case I would have never made that first cut into the material. The Butterfly Effect.
This morning I began the journey that began in my heart several years ago, but had never seen a way into fruition.  I began cutting out a pattern for a lamb.  I looked at the first quilt and wondered just how many animals I could get out of it.  Should I take the batting out and use just fabric or leave them quilted?  I had just decided that it would be faster if I left them quilted when I made a strange, yet wonderful discovery.  The folks that had made these quilts didn't use batting!  They used fabric layers!  Each time I cut out an animal I would be cutting out four!!  God took a simple act of faith in cutting out the animals and multiplied it by four!!  I was and am still stunned at the thought.  What a blessing God has brought about by a single tragic event.  Imagine, four times more children will be reached than I thought possible!!  God is MORE than amazing!!
Two weeks before Daddy passed away, he prayed a simple prayer asking God to increase his borders of reaching people for Christ.  It seemed to many that God said no.  Boy, were they wrong!!  Daddy's legacy of reaching others with the Gospel is just beginning!  I will pray over every animal and am convinced that God will use each one to bring glory and honor to His name!!  
Yes, I have four times the work, but isn't that what we were created to do?  Sewing these animals is one of my little corners in the garden of service to my Maker and Master. 
Thank You, Lord, for trusting me with it!  Give me the strength, time and determination to never give up, for giving up is the definition of failure.  I love You, Lord!!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Be Blessed!!

Last night ended Voices of Christmas.  Weeks of rehearsals and all sorts of preparations culminated in a joyous weariness of work done as well as we knew how, out of hearts wishing to glorify God and lead others to Christ.  It was exhilarating banding together as a worship team.  There were times of frustration, a tiny bit of discord and disagreement, but God took it all and worked in us a unity that prayerfully touched many hearts with the good news of Jesus!!
As I hopped on the shuttle to take me back to my car, I realized I was on a bus full of the Muslim community that had come to see the presentation.  There was one other couple on there who were church members and part of the choir, but about twelve Muslims.  All the seats were taken, but the father of one young boy nudged the boy and told him to stand.  He then instructed another young man to move to the boy's seat and told me to please sit.  I wearily smiled and told them I how very grateful I was.  I immediately felt a glow inside as I looked into each of their faces.  As I sat down, I looked into the eyes of an absolutely beautiful young woman sitting across from me.  I was astounded.  Her eyes lit up and she smiled and my heart melted.  I immediately loved her as a mother loves a daughter.  I know, because I am one.  I did not know until that moment that this was a possibility within myself.  I wanted to compliment her, so I mentioned her beautiful wrap.  It was a camel brown and had some blue and green large plaid woven through it and it complimented her complexion and eyes magnificently.  Anyone who reads this will probably think I am exaggerating, but I know I am not.  She started to answer me, and I wanted to hear her voice, but we were interrupted.  I never did get to hear it, because the shuttle stopped and we were dropped off at our destination.  I regret not staying on and getting to know these generous and hospitable people. 
This morning their faces popped back into my mind.  I saw the face of the father as he instructed his son with an expression that said, "Obey!" but whose voice expressed love.  The son's face that had a mixture of "why me?" and "Oh, all right," that brought a smile of understanding to my lips.  The others that nodded while asking me to please sit down and the beautiful, shining eyes and smile of the girl across from me.  I came that night to sing and bless others, but they blessed me more than even I can understand as the receiver.  For forty one years I have been teaching the importance of a smile and small acts of kindness.  I have practiced these actions most of my life, but I truly experienced them fully for the first time last night.  I am still in awe and pray I remain so and that perhaps I will be a little more observant and receptive of other attempts of kindness to me in the future.  This event has made me wonder just how many I have overlooked in my attempt to be the blesser rather than the blessee, so to speak.
Father, thank You for the lovely family You sent to bless me last night.  You showed me what You see when you look at this nation of a people who are seeking You, but have been enslaved by lies.  They are lovely to behold and I understand Your great love for them.  I feel ugly in comparison, and so stand in awe that You see me the way You allowed me to see them last night.  Keep their faces before my eyes and continue to open the eyes of my heart to the beauty of all Your created people.  I feel as if I have been a Jonah up until now. Restore me, use me, guide me and please continue teaching me daily.  I hunger and thirst for more of You and the more I receive, the more of You I desire.  Thank You for loving me!!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Who's Defining Whom?

I was a newly born again sixteen year old girl and felt a desperation inside to speak up and give testimony to what was burning in my heart.  So I raised my hand, was called on and blurted out, "God is calling me to teach!"  There were no accolades, no ooo's or aw's uttered, but a very matter-of-fact statement was issued instead.  "All right, we have a preschool class that needs filling.  You can begin teaching the two and three year old class at the quarter."  That was only a few weeks away and I was terrified, but excited at the same time.  I had no idea what I was doing, but You did!  If I had had time to think about it, I would have probably declined. Instead I began studying Your Word and asking You for ideas.  You used this catalyst to begin a love for teaching and working with children in me that I never dreamed possible! 
In my later twenties You did it again.  Sitting in church one evening we were asked if we had a vision.  I raised my hand and began a discussion on how children sit in worship never really understanding what is going on and a vision I had for Children's Worship.  I was calmly told I would begin in two weeks time!  Another bout of fear and desperation, but excitement washed over me.  Now I began studying and asking direction all the harder!  I tried for a year to devote myself simply to this, but ended up going right back to to teaching children in Bible study as well.  You had begun a flood of desire to teach within me. 
Now, at fifty seven I am still teaching children by volunteering at Seckman Elementary and leading a kindergarten class in Bible study and various other areas.  But there is a dream You placed on my heart years ago to make toys and write a children's book, and now You are showing me exactly what it is You were talking about.  Again, Lord, scary.  Such a seemingly monumental task, yet I choose to
be obedient, because I know that You have continually taken what seems impossible to me and brought it about, making it easy.  Okay, not so easy to my flesh, my my spirit takes great joy in it all and longs for more to do to bring You joy.  My life is not defined by what I do, but by what You do through me!!  For far too long I have tried to use my life to define who You are to others.  What is that?!!  My life in itself is nothing!!  It is You in my life that defines me, not the other way around!!
So now I can relax in knowing that it is You at work, I just need to be the vessel.  It is like at Thanksgiving.  The food has a big job to do.  It must go through the trial of being chopped, stuffed, cut, and then seasoned differently, but then comes the trial of fire.  But when all is said and done,  everyone that partakes of the meal is happy and satisfied, not because the food went through all that work, but because the chef did!!  The food was just what he/she used to bring great joy to others!!
That's what I want to be like, Lord!!  You do all the preparation and bring me through all the necessary trials that go with it, so that I my life can be a morsel of delight to the world to see, smell, and touch that brings great delight and a desire to taste!!  Then, when they actually ask for a bite, they can hear the truth - it is not me they desire at all, but the Chef who prepared me.  Then they can not just taste, but have the Chef with them and in them!!  If they heed this, they will experience a taste that will keep them going back for more!!

Thursday, December 10, 2015


One short chapter in a book - a chapter that is less than a page long - more like a devotional really, but it changed my views a bit.  Amazing that. 
I remember that as a child I was afraid of everything it seemed.  They say this is a sign of high intelligence, because the child is able to see all the possible consequences of different actions and so tends to choose the safest path possible.  That may be intelligence, but I am beginning to understand that it isn't necessarily wisdom.  I am book smart and learn things that I WANT to learn pretty easily.  However, if I find little or no interest in a particular subject, just try and make me.  Praise God that He is so much more than interesting!!  Wisdom says, "Compared to You, God, I am dense as carbon.  Your wisdom crushes my own.  Oh, but when I allow You to crush me, look how I shine!!"
When did we start believing God wants to send us to safe places, to do safe things?  That faithfulness is holding the fort?  That playing it safe is safe?  That there is any greater privilege than sacrifice?  That radical is anything but normal?.....Jesus didn't die to keep us safe.  He died to make us dangerous.  Faithfulness is not holding the fort.  It's storming the gates of hell!  (Chapter one, All In, by Mark Batterson)
Every person that has given their life to Christ has a daring calling.  The question is, having truly "given ourselves" or simply our eternity into His hands?  I think for the majority of my life I have trusted my eternal destination into His hands, but not my life here on earth.  That needs to change. 
Everything we do is done out of a heart situation.  Is our heart looking at the adventure in front of us as a challenge to accomplish in order to bring us fame, respect, love, etc, a "look what I did moment?"  Does it place so much fear in our heart that we cannot seem to make our feet move forward to begin?   Neither is good.  We need to become as that little child.  When God places an adventure before us, it is because He wants us to go with Him!!  He doesn't want us trying to do it alone.  He wants to go with us, guide us, protect us, encourage us and watch us experience the joy and wonder of it all WITH HIM!!   This time of year we sing sing songs about Jesus being Emmanuel - God with us, but what we tend to really want is for God to sit up in heaven and watch without interference unless we ask.  His heart desire was, is and will always be to be with us!!
A couple of months ago I watched our youngest grandson, who was around ten months old at the time, crawl toward the stairway that leads to his bedroom.  He would stop and turn around to make sure I was following.  He started climbing and I climbed right along with him.  He checked periodically, just to be sure I was still there.  When he made it to the top, he plopped down on his bottom, turned to me and grinned so big!!  He had made the climb, but it was so much better, because he had Gramma to share it with!!  I asked what was next and we crawled to his bedroom to play.
Jesus said we must become as a little child to enter the kingdom of heaven.  A little child desires company, God with us and in us!!  We need to make sure we are climbing, but as we climb that it is with God.  Then let the adventures begin!!  As we climb higher with Him, He will show us things we could have never envisioned from the level we were on before!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Adventurous Prayer

Lord, God, there is such joy in serving You, I admit I do not understand the hesitancy we maintain in doing so.  Yet, I am guilty at times!!  "Pray before you leap," is advice given by many, but I think we should really say, "Pray to find out WHERE we should leap, not if."  If we are always seeking the so-called path of safety, the exhilaration of utter trust, confidence and freedom of restraint can never be experienced.  Waken us, Your children to the gift You have placed inside us of excitement in discovery, thrill of experience, the joy of facing each new day as an opportunity to seek adventure as well as watching and waiting for it to happen!!  We can either choose to seize each day's opportunities or ignore them in order to remain "safe."  Help us remember that this kind of safety is false, only a reflection of the true safety we find walking, running, leaping and shouting with You!!
Last night, as we walked across a virtually empty, dimly lit and fairly vast parking lot while holding hands, I turned to my husband and said, "If I had to walk this lot alone, I would be looking all around me, kind of scared.  But with you beside me, I feel completely safe."  That is how we should experience life with You, Lord.  Yes, this world is vast, dark, empty and filled with traps the enemy has set for us, but You are with us.  You don't just hold our hands.  You wrap Yourself around us to shield us. You walk before us to point out the snares.  You are willing to share with us and take us on adventure after adventure, teaching us, humoring us, creating in us a desire to be more like You even as You fill us more and more with Your Spirit! 
I read the story of a little girl standing at the top of the basement stairs watching her daddy work.  As he turned his back, she yelled, "catch me, Daddy!" and leaped without waiting on him to turn back.  He, of course whirled around and caught her, but admonished her never to do that as he could have dropped her.  Her response should be ours, "No you wouldn't.  You're my daddy!"
May we all become as little children and never fear to leap, as we will always land in Your loving arms!!  May my motto become: Another Day, Another Adventure!! And may I mean it with all my heart!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Leaving Legacies

I spoke with one of my sisters yesterday.  I told her my heart's vision of making FlorAl bears and writing a story to go with them to place in Good Samaritan Shoe boxes at Christmas time.  Flor for my mother, Florence and Al for my dad, Albert. 
While my parents were far from perfect (they argued on a near daily basis) they loved their God and their children desperately, and there were five children.  They had hearts for more.  Whenever a child from another family would visit, they knew they would be loved and told about God.  Because of this, many of them grew up calling them "mom or aunt" and "dad or uncle," whether they were physically related or not.  This is the legacy left for me (and all their children) - love God and His children so much that you want and NEED to do something of lasting value for their benefit.
When I finished telling my sister about the bears, she wept, which of course brought me to tears, and said I didn't need her permission to obey God and that she is proud of me for being obedient to His call.  I had asked because I intend to use the quilt blankets that had been Momma and Daddy's to make the stuffed bears.  I had originally said that I could make them into bears for family members as a memorial to or parents, but could never get the gumption to get started.  Now I look forward to getting to work on this legacy memorial that can stretch across the world and minister to those I cannot physically reach any other way!  Now I just need to sit down and start writing the story God lays on my heart and find just the right pattern for the bears and little flowers to place on their bottoms.  I will also speak with my other siblings to explain what is going on and then the entire clan will get to participate in the joy of ministering to the hurts and loneliness of children across the globe!!  How exciting!!  I feel the need to get others, or at least another, involved in the work, so I pray:
Father God, if this be true, who?  Reveal Your heart to them as well as to me and bring us together as one on this and I thank You for it.  Until that day, keep me patient for Your revealing.
Today You had me read how Jonah's proclamation to Nineveh was actually Your proclamation for all mankind, who has chosen to make themselves Your enemy.  "Repent and live!"  You didn't stop there, though.  You sent the means for us to not only repent, but to be made clean so we could remain Your friends forever!  You gave us Your Son to die in our place, so that WHEN we repent, we receive complete cleansing through His blood, death and resurrection.  To love Your enemies that much is simply amazing!! 
Then You had me read, "Live as if Christ was crucified yesterday, rose from the dead today and is coming tomorrow," and "Don't just leave an inheritance, leave a legacy," a gentle reminder that what You have placed in my heart and mind I am to do!!  So be it, Lord!  Today I begin!  Show me the story and pattern, in Jesus' name!!

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Day With God's House

You would think that after a day of worshiping for almost twelve hours straight that exhaustion would overtake this fifty seven year old body, but instead it invigorates it and makes it crave more! 
Yesterday, after morning worship and a wonderful sermon on the joy of being in God's house, we kindergarten Sunday school teachers took all the children to a retirement community to sing three Christmas carols ("Christmas Tells of Jesus," "Away in the Manger," and "Happy Christmas Bells")
and hand out their handmade ornaments as gifts tot he residents there.  The joy and excitement on the children's faces poured out onto that community of senior adults and brought a light of hope and expectancy to their eyes as they received their gifts.  They smiled, ooed and awed, gave thanks and spoke of the beauty of the gift.  I pray the memory sticks with them and with all of us, especially the children and that it places inside each of us the desire to give even more.
Next we met up with a couple (friends of ours and the wife teaches with me in Sunday school) at Subway for a quick lunch where we laughed and shared with our husbands the joys of teaching kindergarten. (Like they don't know how happy it makes us, but it is so FUN to talk about!!)
What a blessing to have such wonderful friends!!  Both of us ladies had to return to church quickly, so we parted but met up at church again that evening.
Then came Voices of Christmas rehearsal.  Here I personally enjoyed almost four hours of singing, laughing, praying, laughing, talking and laughing some more!  However, singing and talking for that long dries the throat and I had a sound check to do for a solo I was supposed to sing in the evening service.  That sound check made me nervous!  The low notes didn't want to come out!!  My friend who accompanied me on piano told me to go rest my voice, so as difficult as it was, I didn't sing during worship.  If you know me, you know how hard that was!!  When it came time to sing the solo, I still didn't feel ready, so I did what I always do.  I told God that it was His song anyway, so do with it as He pleased.  I sang and it sounded "okay" to me, but about halfway through the song I felt God's power surge through me and excitement took over.  At that moment I wanted to get the world out that the world truly does need to hear us singing and shouting the glories of Christmas and what it is all about!!  I smiled as I felt a new boldness and heard the words become strong and sure: "Glory, glory to God!  Glory to God in the highest!  Peace and goodwill the shepherds heard from the hill, for our blessed Savior has come!!"
And then, to culminate the evening came the sermon.  A message on putting away all bitterness,wrath, anger and malice and speaking words of building up instead of tearing down.  That is exactly what Jesus came to do - put away all sin out of the picture of our lives and fill us instead with His mercy, grace, forgiveness, compassion and JOY!!"   Yes, I came home tired, but exuberant and wanting to do it all over again!  It truly IS better to spend one day in the house of the Lord than three years anywhere else!! (Psalm 84:10)

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Learning to Learn

Live as if you'll die tomorrow. Learn as if you'll live forever. - Mahatma Ghandi
Our motto says - Learn something new every day, but I think Ghandi was trying to get across that we should learn as much as we possibly can every day; read, don't be afraid to ask questions, be curious and look for things to REALLY learn about rather than just gain head knowledge.  While formal education may not be in God's plan for me, at least not at this time, it doesn't mean learning isn't.  Otherwise He wouldn't have placed this hunger "to know" inside of me. 
This thought went through my mind more than once this morning, "I want to write a children's book."
Ecclesiastes 11:6 says, "Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well." (NKJV) 
So now I have two dreams: Make toys for children in the hospital and write a children's book - but if either or both of them are to succeed, I must begin. 
I also must learn to be more observant.  Leonardo Da Vinci once said, "the average human being looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, inhales without awareness of odor or fragrance and talks without thinking."
That one about talking kinda hurts.
Since God has created us with an unlimited capacity for learning, then I am amiss if I do not do so.  However, knowing His instruction years ago to "let the Holy Spirit be your teacher rather than man,"
formal education is, at least for now, not in His plans.  Two reasons I am aware of, no three: I tend to become closed minded and open mouthed when I disagree with something being taught, I want to do something to correct said teaching and simply put, God says "no" right now.  I know the Holy Spirit will never misdirect my education, but I am leery of man's ability to twist his learning to his own purposes, because I know how many times God has had to correct me personally in this area.
So, for me, I will continue to seek God and His will for my life, but perhaps - hopefully - prayerfully - with a little more alertness in the five senses arena and with a bit more determination to begin what can never become finished unless begun. 
I am Yours, O Lord.  Lead me, teach me, and use me to Your heart's content!!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Just Thinking

I woke in the wee hours this morning and could not go back to sleep.  So I read a couple of chapters of Sheila Walsh's book Get off Your Knees and Pray.  This is a great book on not pretending in prayer, or being real with yourself as well as with God.  One thing God spoke to my heart while praying afterward was this: We desperately NEED God, but He desperately WANTS us!!  When I think about how treacherous we are - I am - it am aghast at the thought!  Why?  Simply put in a manner I can only begin to understand, God IS love and has chosen to focus Himself on us, because we were made in His image, which means we were created to love as well. 
This makes I Corinthians 13 come even more alive, especially in verse two where it says, "...if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing."  And again in verse thirteen, " abideth faith, hope, love, but the greatest of these is love."  (NKJV)  Why? Because like all precious gifts, faith and hope come FROM God, but love is what God IS!!  The more love we allow to flow through us, the more of Him we are allowing to freely flow..  Now THAT is amazing grace!!  To have God desire to flow through such a wretched vessel as I....amazing, wonderful and a reason, no, THE reason to live.
After all this I tried in vain to go to sleep.  I dozed in and out, but finally got up at 5:48 (I looked at the clock).  I discovered God had more to share with me!  What an exciting morning!!  I opened Mark Batterson and Dick Foth's book A Trip Around The Sun to read the following:
When Scripture says, "As a man thinks, so is he," it is raw truth.  How we approach life and react to its vagaries determines the bulk of our character.  How we love is locked into how we think about it.  What angers us is triggered by how we think.  It is between our ears that we decide how easily offended we will be...I don't have to be braid-dead to be brain-defeated. (And then)...the real question is obvious: What am I thinking?
Enough said.  Lord, remind me all throughout every day, in every situation to think about love, dwell in love, react in love.  Life is only worth living when lived with You and You indeed are love!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

when good becomes god

They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods.  II Kings 17:33a (NIV)
I am reading another book, avid reader that I am, and highly recommend it to any and all who truly desire to be sold out to the Lord God Most High.  Titles are supposed to be all caps, so say the experts, yet this one is not for a VERY good reason.  The author wants to make it clear what the title is trying to get across.  It is simply called gods at war and is written by a man quickly becoming one of my favorite authors - Kyle Idleman.  The book has a subtitle for those who question the non-capitalization: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart. 
It is almost funny, if it weren't so sad, how we can begin reading a book like this thinking it will surely not really apply to us and then BANG, it hits us right between the eyes.  This morning, after finishing the chapter on the god of success, I asked God to reveal and break down any altars I have built in my heart that do not belong to Him and to burn them with the fire of His Holy Spirit.  You see, I realized that it is a DAILY battle of god-ship that we go through.  When we wake in the morning we are given a choice - whom will you serve today, Me or yourself?
If we do not, and OH I am so guilty, stop and first thing declare our desperation for God as not simply King, but the One and ONLY King of our heart, it is so super easy to fall into the pit of self worship, which is what leads us headlong into various idolatries. 
The Ten Commandments start out with; You shall have no other gods before Me. Exodus 20:2 (NKJV)
God could have chosen to place this command as number ten, but chose it as number one, why?  Because all the rest fall together under this one.  If we make a graven image to worship, we are placing something before Him.  Taking His name in vain is stating openly that He is beneath ourselves.  If we neglect entering His rest (the Sabbath) we are saying we know more than He - a better way to get things done, thus placing our knowledge above His.  Dishonoring parents, stealing, murdering, lying, adultery, covetousness; all place ourselves and our desires above God, saying we know best.  Every one of them comes under this subtitle, so to speak, of You shall have no other gods before me. 
An interesting study will show that the word before does not mean we can have other gods as long as we give God first place.  It actually is literally "before My face" - strictly "side by side with Me" - i.e. "in addition to Me."  (Elliot's Commentary for English Readers)  God doesn't want first place as our god, He wants to be our only God.  Why?  Because He genuinely loves us and knows that every other god we allow into our hearts is false, deceiving and will do nothing but strive to bring us to our graves. 
I won't even try to go into all the possible gods in people's lives, because the list is unending.  I will tell all who read this, though, that I am discovering that my precious heavenly Father has protected me from more than I had ever imagined.  He has been pointing some of them out to me through the process of memory.  You see, I have asked God the all too familiar why questions in areas that you may or may not have struggled with, and today He answered me. 
Why, even though I absolutely adore singing Your praises, do I only get to pour my heart out on stage in song on rare occasion when others are allowed to sing week after week after week?  Why, though I adore teaching Your Word, do I only get to teach on Sundays and other rare instances.  I would love to teach daily.  Why am I not allowed to finish college?  Why did You instruct me to give up FREE seminary? And the list goes on and on and on and on....much longer than I like to admit.  The answer is the same in every instance - each of these wonderful and GOOD things would become a god in my life.  If you notice, every single one of them focuses on service to God.  Yet, because I am who I am, a mere human being, I can and tend to turn any and EVERY thing into a god, if I don't keep my heart tender toward the True God Who loves me. 
I was able to look back at my time at Starling Road church.  I was being asked to sing a solo once a month.  When I looked back, I realized that I was beginning to look forward to the accolades and that fed my hunger for success in this area.  It was becoming a god.  So, new church and only singing once a quarter, maybe.  While I admit that I am thankful that people still thank me for singing, now I want the glory to go to God alone.  Oh, I still feel that god of pride well his ugly head up now and again, but I can recognize Him and pray - I'll do my best and You do the rest.  This song is for You, whether playing flute or singing.  I understand and am VERY thankful that God is pulling the reins back on me.
It is the same with teaching.  I do SO love to teach, probably more than anything else I do.  I thrill especially to a small child's eyes lighting up with understanding and their smiles in so doing. I get aggravated at adults who have formed opinions they don't want to give up, not because they don't want to give them up, but because they refuse to see that there is freedom in so doing!!  I enjoy writing lesson plans and finding games, crafts and stories that reinforce the message.  Yes, teaching is my first love - even teaching academics, but teaching God's Word brings me great, GREAT joy.  It is not just a good thing to be able to do, it is a MARVELOUS thing, yet it too can become a god in my life if allowed.  When I start placing study and preparation ahead of the things God desires me to do in a day's time, the success in teaching has become my god.  There have been days that I prepared my heart to write to you all, but then God spoke quietly to my heart, "Not today, my love.  I have different plans for today."  On the days I have listened, He has shown me exactly what I am to do and I have been thoroughly blessed.  On the days I don't want to listen, I find frustration in my day, and the inability to wrote anyway, because if God isn't doing the writing through me, it just isn't going to happen!  I am so thankful!!!  I don't want to lead anyone down a false path and guarantee that my own personal teaching would most probably do just that. 
As far as schooling goes, I have written about that in the past, education has been a god in my family for a LOOOOOOOONG time and I fall easily as its prey if I don't trust God in this area.
So I challenge you to look into your own heart and seek as to whether you have allowed any gods to struggle their way up the ladder of your heart, building altars as they go.  Those altars can get pretty tall if we let them.  Don't forget to look at the good things, because they can become gods much easier, as they are so sneaky. 
Father, look into our hearts with us and reveal to us any and all gods that are doing battle for our hearts.  When we gain recognition, help us desire to offer them up to You as a sacrifice to be burned with the fire of Your Holy Spirit and then help us keep our eyes open, as they will try to return.  Help us remember that removing them isn't enough.  They must be replaced with knowing You more.  We do love You Father.  Help us to love You more!! 

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

On Exercise

I have been told many times that when if you begin an exercise regimen and keep at it, your body will get to the place of wanting it and you will begin to enjoy it.  I wonder how long it takes.  I have been walking two miles a day for I don't know how long and I STILL have to force my body to get moving every time.  I think Paul understood what I am going through when he said,
"For exercise of the body profits a little for this time, but righteousness profits in everything, and it has the promise of life for this time and of the future." I Timothy 4:8 Aramaic Bible in Plain English
At least I like to pretend he did.  The thing is, he probably didn't need extra exercise since he already walked virtually everywhere (except for boat trips).  Not only that, but they had to find food daily, whether by walking to the market, fishing, or hunting.
I think my biggest gripe is the amount of time it takes out of my day. 40-45 minutes is nothing to sneeze at.  I laugh when they have exercise commercials about JUST taking 30 minutes a day to work your body!!  To me that is a good chunk of time, especially when I'd rather be reading, studying and writing; then there is crocheting, cleaning, cooking, sewing and so many other things I would RATHER be doing!! 
As I started putting my tennis shoes on, this blog came to mind.  I still have only on one shoe.  However, since my foot is getting cold, I will put on the other quickly.
While physical exercise profits a little NOW, I notice that righteousness profits not only now, but in the future.  So, while I am stalling a bit at the physical, I will exult at the thought that perhaps this bit of writing might encourage someone who reads it. 
The Free Dictionary gives a clear and Biblical description of righteousness.
Righteousness is to be morally upright; without guilt or sin
The problem is, we have all sinned (Romans 3:23).  Therefore we cannot be truly righteous, so how can anything we do be of any profit for now or the future other than physical exercise, which is only good for the now?  (We can see the truth in this, because the moment we stop exercising, problems of weight and/or health, such as loss of muscle mass, begin to take effect in our bodies.)  Praise God for always having the answer!!
For he has made him (Jesus), who knew no sin, to be sin for us; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
 II Corinthians 5:21 NKJV
That is such wonderful news!!  We (those of us who have not only believed Jesus is God's Son and that He died and rose again, but have received Him as our personal Savior through prayer; seeking cleansing from sin through His death on the cross and eternal life through His resurrection from the dead) are now the righteousness of God Himself!! 
Now we can do one of two things with this information; in humility lift up praise and honor to God for such a precious gift and seek to serve Him in ANY way possible, or become proud and arrogant that God has chosen us to be used by Him and look down on those not as "holy and righteous as we."  Most of us, if we are completely honest, tend to do a bit of both. 
But that is not the point I have on my heart.  Here it is: Now that we have become His righteousness, how do we live it out in the world and draw others to Him because of it?  I think Philippians 2 has the answer:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,  complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Simply put, become more like Jesus.  How?  There is an old saying, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," meaning that children tend to become more like their parents as they grow older.  This is not ALWAYS the case, but mostly.  Why?  Because they are around their parents most of the time growing up.  They have been observing, admiring, and trusting their parents to lead them in the right direction for real life.  When they have parents that seem to have the answer to life, they want to be just like them so they can have the answer as well.  So they get to know their parents through conversations and studying them.
It is the same with Jesus.  If we want to be more like Him, we must get to really know Him.  We KNOW He has the answer to life, so why wouldn't we want to be more like Him?
Reading our Bibles is awesome and will give us some insights, at least into His great love for people and hatred for sin and the effect it has on our lives.  However, studying is better in that some of the words have a bit of a different meaning now than when written.  Righteousness is one of those words.  Back then it was an automatic knowing that the words were speaking of being sinless.  Now, however, the definition has changed a bit without us even noticing in the Christian world, because it still seems "close enough."
adjective: righteous
  1. 1.
    (of a person or conduct) morally right or justifiable; virtuous.
    "he is a good, righteous man, I am sure"
    2.  USinformal
    very good; excellent.
    "righteous bread pudding   
    That is one simple example, but there are many, so study is more vital today than ever before, because simply reading doesn't give us full meaning.  And then there is conversation, the easiest and hardest thing for us to do.  While we find it immensely simple to speak to a human being, we become tongue tied when speaking with our heavenly Father!!  Why?  I think because we still have a tendency to think of Him as being "out there," distant both physically and emotionally.  I can assure anyone who wants to know that if we can force ourselves to get up and do physical exercise, we can make ourselves get on our knees and speak with God.  The "trick" so to speak, is to imagine Him right there in the room with you.  I have actually pictured Him sitting in the arm chair.  I have "crawled up in His lap" and poured my heart out to Him.  You may think it silly and fanciful, but He did promise to always be with us!!  (Matthew 28:20) Other times I have written my prayers in journals.  Recently it has become easier for me to simply pray aloud in a whisper.  It doesn't matter how we pray, simply that we do it.  Conversation is never one way though.  We also must listen.  God doesn't always speak while I am praying.  As a matter of fact, He usually doesn't.  But while I am working, playing, making a gift or whatever, times I am mentally quiet, He speaks to me in a quiet and gentle voice what He wants me to do, or sometimes He gives me insight into a passage I have asked Him about.  Know this, He always answers when we ask, we are just not always listening for the answer He has to give.Father, You are so extremely lovely and wonderful!  I know I have more to learn about You than is possible to learn in a lifetime, but I want to know as much of You as IS possible.  Help us, Your children to seek to know You better so we can be more like Jesus on a daily basis!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Secured Ascension

"If Easter Sunday was the most exciting day of the disciples' lives, for Jesus it was probably the day of Ascension.  He the Creator, who had descended so far and given up so much, was now heading home.  Like a soldier returning across the ocean from a long and bloody war...Home at last." (from Philip Yancey's The Jesus I never knew)
Every year as I read the story of Jesus' birth, something new hits me in the stomach like a fist, making me want to cry out in shame that I am to blame for His having to come in the first place.
I remember several years ago sitting and thinking about God belittling Himself to become a mere human being in the form of a helpless infant no less, needing human care of cleaning, carrying and feeding Him.  I thought on how humiliating it must have been as Creator making Himself become needy on my behalf.  As I sat there, a new thought plowed through my mind and emotions.  "Imagine how innocent a newborn is; not knowing sin, nor even wanting to know it, fulling trusting the one caring for it to give the little one what is very best so that it is nurtured and becomes the best adult possible.  Then imagine the horror felt if EVERY sin that ever has or will be dreamed of is cast on him."  In my mind's eye I saw a tortured infant's big trusting eyes looking at me with tears and I realized that I was the torturer!  Needless to say, I cried gut wrenching tears. 
Another time I came to learn that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, because Bethlehem is where the lambs for sacrifice were born and cared for until the time for their death.  I knew then that Jesus had to be born there, because He is our sacrificial lamb. 
Each year brings different eye openers for me.  The shepherds were the first told, because they were looked down on, but would come to represent leaders of God's sacrificial flock.
The wisemen came to worship and recognized that true wisdom only comes from God and so honored Him with gifts fit for a king. 
Once again I could go on and on, but this year, as I read the words by Philip Yancey, it hit me that God not only came as an innocent infant, He came into a war zone.  He was born right in the middle of a great power struggle, not only of Roman over Israelite, but Israelite over Israelite.  The Romans had the Jewish nation of Israel under their authority, but early on the Jewish leaders realized that if they "got in good" with the Roman authorities, they would be given power as well.  Herod was one of these.  Jesus came right in the middle of it all to show the world that love and trust are the only real answers; trusting Him and allowing His love to flow through us to others.
I don't know how well we've learned the lesson.  Everywhere I look I see wars raging.  In homes there is spousal and child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, division through divorce and family services having to remove children from homes for their safety.  In the cities there are burning buildings, robberies and murder going on in the name of bigotry.  Then of course there is country vying against country for power and land.  Yes, everywhere there is still war.  Even in the church there is petty disagreements that cause such disruption that war between members breaks out at times.  The problem is we still tend to think we are in battle with people.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places]. Eph. 6:12 KJVI think we find it much easier to do battle with someone with which we can use our physical senses.  However, that is like chopping down the dandelion and allowing the root to remain.  It's gonna keep coming back for more!! 
So yes, I agree with Philip Yancey.  The Ascension day was most probably the day that brought Jesus the greatest joy - going HOME!!  He had fought the battle and won the war!!  If we could just keep remembering that!!
The other day my husband and I were having a relaxing Saturday afternoon when suddenly the was a loud explosion and our house began to shake.  It lasted mere seconds, but I knew it was an earthquake.  It turned out to be 2.5 on the richter scale, a minor quake.  I chuckled, because it only served to prove what a false sense of security we cling to. 
Don't get me wrong.  I am secure.  I am secure in knowing that if I live, I win - I get to remain with my loved ones here and continue finding ways to serve Jesus, but if I die, I win - I get to be with my loved ones already in heaven and even better - with Jesus - the One Who was born, gave His life through death on a cross and rose again all so that I might learn how to live under His protection in the midst of surrounding spiritual battles now and then in complete peace and harmony when I leave here to go to my real home with Him forever!!  The war is over.  The victory has been won!  My ascension day secured!

But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.
Phil. 3:20 NLT

Monday, August 31, 2015

Fight or Flight

 Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen saying:
‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”  Luke 19:37-38 NKJV

"Praise God,"  and various amens are heard around every Bible believing fellowship when someone proclaims a miracle has occurred, which is exactly what was happening as Jesus entered Jerusalem that fateful day.  He had just fed thousands with a single serving of food, healed lame, blind, and leprous people and delivered many from demonic oppression and possession, even raised some from the dead, so yeah, His followers were REALLY excited.  They declared Him King and Messiah all in one breath!!  They were shouting for all of their known world to hear.  They were bold and raucous, fearless even in the face of their oppressors of Rome.  Why now, when the vast majority of them had lived in fear of their and their families lives for many, many years under Roman authority?  Why?  Because they just knew that their interpretation and the things they had been taught throughout the years about the Messiah HAD to be correct.  To them it only made sense that the Messiah would come in, be declared King and begin to beat the Romans into submission.  After all, that is what God had always done in the past, wasn't it? 

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
 Judges 6:12  NIV

When God delivered them from the oppression of the Midian through Gideon, He slaughtered the Midianites while Gideon and his men blew trumpets and broke jars.

And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. 52 Now the men of Israel and Judah arose and shouted, and pursued the Philistines as far as the entrance of the valley[a] and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell along the road to Shaaraim, even as far as Gath and Ekron. I Samuel 17:51b-52 NKJV

When God delivered them from the oppression of the Philistines He had David use a slingshot to knock over the giant Goliath and then behead that giant with his (Goliath's) own sword!!  They were then able to easily defeat the Philistines and at least temporarily end their oppression over them.  

Each time shouts of victory and praise were lifted high to heaven proclaiming God's goodness and deliverance, exactly the way Jesus was proclaimed as He entered Jerusalem on the back of a never-before-ridden donkey.  The donkey should have bucked and brayed, but even he knew this was useless as Jesus, his Creator, was on his back.  The donkey probably was amazed that he had been chosen, or perhaps knew that the very reason for his birth was occurring at that moment in history.

Unfortunately, the very thing that happened after all the praise and shouts of victory in Old Testament times was about to happen again.  Just as the Israelites were thrilled with God's deliverance from oppression, but would once again turn their backs on Him in idol worship as soon as the thrill wore off, so too Jesus' followers turned their backs on Him when the thrill of miracles was depleted.  Not only did He not wipe out the Romans on the Israelites behalf, He refused to even defend Himself against the false accusations made about Him!!  Even His faithful followers ran away, I imagine thinking that as the Son of God He would be able to take care of Himself, well, IF they were correct anyway.  If not, better Him than them.  

As a child I would inwardly fret over whether I would have run away or not.  The funny thing was, I KNEW I was a coward.  I was afraid to fall asleep, afraid to walk out tiny neighborhood, afraid to learn to ride a bike, afraid to learn to swim....but the truly funny part was, all those things actually ended up making my little world a safer place.  When I learned to ride a bike it made me more alert to traffic.  Learning to swim made it less likely I would drown.  Walking my neighborhood made me physically stronger and therefore more able to resist any attempts made against me - I at the very least had more stamina to run away!!

Now as I read about Jesus' triumphal entry, I wonder instead if I would have been angry that He didn't do things the way I had always dreamed He would?  Would I want to shout at Him that He was supposed to overthrow the Romans and set us free?  Isn't that what the Scriptures proclaimed - freedom from oppression forever?  Would I be so blind as to not see that what He was about to do was greater than anything I had ever imagined and would set me free from myself?  Yes, I think I that blind that is.  I hate to think it.  I WANT to be able to say I would know, but how could I have?  Just as they had always been taught the Messiah would also be Avenger against Rome (or whomever their oppressors might be) I would have been taught the same and would be looking for it.

Even today I tend, as do we all, to look for God to do things MY way.  In our minds we think we understand the Scriptures perfectly, and so we just KNOW God will do things the way we desire, then when He doesn't, we do one of mainly two things - get angry or despair.  Sounds familiar, doesn't it?  That is because it is exactly what Jesus' followers did.  They yelled His praises and kingship, then when He refused to do physical battle, some betrayed Him and demanded His execution, while others ran away in defeat. 

As I write this, my only physical brother is lying in the hospital waiting for 1/3 of his foot to be removed.  He is five years younger than I, so I have always been a bit protective of him, even though he is much bigger than I, so it is difficult for me to even think about.  However, he has been playing Russian Roulette more or less for several years now.  When told he was diabetic, he scoffed.  Before anyone becomes judgmental, he was only playing the "if I ignore it, maybe it will go away" game that we all play now and then.  Unfortunately, it backfired and now he is in this position.  I am (this time) not angry with God for not doing things my way.  As a parent and grandparent, I realize children sometimes need a wake up call to get them up and moving.  I pray that this event wakes my brother up to the need to take care of the body God has given him to use in His service and then that he never has to go through such an ordeal again!!  But if he refuses to listen and learn, that is not God's fault, but his own.

Father God, forgive me for demanding my own way so many times in this life.  Forgive me for getting angry when You did what was best rather than what I wanted, or for running and hiding when I feared You would not respond my way.  Help me to understand what it really means to stand in faith believing and do so with determination.  Help me not to waver or be unstable in any way.  I know I have a lot of growing to do in this area, but I also know that You are more than capable of helping me do just that.  So I ask You to help me and to help all my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus as well.
Thank You Father!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Golden Grandchildren

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the prophets.  Matthew 7:12
I just turned fifty seven years old.  It's funny that inside I feel no older than I did twenty years ago, but my body tells a different story.  Exertion brings about back pain, headache and sore feet.  Twenty years ago it brought about a euphoric feeling and made me want to do more.  However, I would not go back for the world. 
Twenty years ago I was thirty seven, had three wonderful teenagers that severely tried my patience, brought me many tears and much laughter, and made my heart swell with pride and joy.  It was a wonderfully blessed time in my life as it prepared me for my life now.  I remember wondering when I would get a full night of sleep again and if I would ever have the organized house of my dreams.  Then those same children grew into adults, married and had children of their own.  I hear them in my mind and sometimes with my physical ears asking the same questions I used to ask and I smile, because I know that one day they will be where I am and will look back and realize just how wonderful those days really were.  If it weren't for those days of preparation, I could never have reached the place of being able to care for seven children from two different families, with two different rearing styles for two full days, with three of them spending two nights and not ending up frustrated, uptight and yelling.  However, because I know just how quickly time flies, how important it is to relish every moment possible with them and how vital it is to take every opportunity to share God's love with them: when there was conflict, I could calmly remind them to be kind to each other or they would have to take a nap (works wonders), pray at lunch for us all to remember that school starts on Thursday and so we need to enjoy our time together, feed them and clean the mess over and over again with the joy of knowing it made them happy and then wrap my arms around each of them one by one and tell them how VERY much I love them.  Actually, I did that last bit many, many times over the last couple of days.  By yesterday afternoon I had the headache, backache and sore feet, and this morning I woke feeling exhausted and had an asthma attack, but my heart was so filled with love for God providing me this opportunity and the training to go with it that when our daughter called and said her children were hoping to see me again today, even though she told them I was probably too tired, I had to go see them.  I didn't stay, but I took them lunch and received a BUNCH of hugs and kisses.  Talk about making it all worthwhile!!
One event that took place with a brother and sister yesterday I hope I will never forget.  They had been arguing over two small balls the sister had been using to try to learn to juggle.  The brother asked for them.  She told him she was still using them.  He grabbed her leg and pulled her shirt, causing her to drop the balls.  He then grabbed the balls and ran away.  I came in in the middle of the sister laying on top of her brother grabbing and trying to get them back.  He was yelling and crying while she simply repeated, "Give them back!"  I separated them, said a quick silent prayer for wisdom, then asked them how they were supposed to treat each other.  They both replied, "With kindness."  I told them that was true, but that I wanted to know exactly what God's word said about it.  Then I said, "Treat others the way...." and they said simultaneously, "the way you want to be treated."  I then turned to our grandson and asked, "So, if you had a toy and were playing with it and someone came and asked you for it..." He jumped in with, "I would give it to them."  I told him I hoped so, but what if he wasn't finished and asked them to wait a minute.   Would he want them to grab his legs and pull on his shirt and when he dropped the toy, run away with it?"  He looked very sad and shook his head no.  I then turned to our granddaughter and asked, "If one of your friends had a toy and you wanted to play with it, so asked if you could, would you want them to tell you no?  How would it make you feel?"  She said that it would make her sad.  I then asked what they wanted to do.  They looked at each other, apologized with sincerity, hugged each other tightly and then our granddaughter asked our grandson for a "kissy," which he happily gave her.  I whispered a thank You to God and hugged them both.

Thank You, Lord, for the trials of parenthood that teach us well how to become grandparents if we will but remember the things You have taught us, especially the part about how quickly time goes by!!  Where physical work makes our older bodies weary and achy, the joy of grandparenting, though very hard work at times, brings that same euphoric feeling physical labor used to give our younger bodies, but it is on a much larger scale and stays with us for all eternity.  It is all much more than worthwhile!!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Flexing Fingers

It seems such a very long time since I have written anything, but perhaps God was giving me time to heal from Momma's passing and then crushing my right index finger in a car door.  I stand amazed as I look back on how God deals with these kinds of issues in our lives. 
Momma died February thirteenth, making her entry into heaven just in time for Valentine's Day.  While I am certain this means little to those who are actually in heaven, I am also certain that God recognizes how important it is to those of us left here on Earth as it gave us a bit of rejoicing for her and Daddy, as he was always calling Momma his sweetheart.  It somehow placed a smile on all of our, their children, faces, even as we grieved our personal loss.
When I crushed my finger (and yes, I did it to myself by not paying attention), I stood there dumbfounded as to why I couldn't get my finger out of the door.  This only lasted a blink of an eye, but it is amazing how many thoughts can go through your mind in such short moments.   I remember thinking I should be able to move my hand but couldn't, then realizing it was because it was caught in the lock of the door and finally how stupid it was of me to put myself in such a position. I opened the car door, looked at my finger and calmly told my twelve year old granddaughter that I needed her to unlock the house door.  She asked why and I said, "Well, I closed the car door on my finger."  She asked to see it, I showed her, and she quickly and nervously began looking through my purse for the keys.  When we made it inside, I told her we needed to call her mom and see if she could take me to the hospital.  No answer.  I told her to call one of her uncles.  He lives 10-15 minutes away, was still in pajamas and had three kids to pack up, but made it to my house fully dressed in 15 minutes.  During this time I had her call her grandfather, my husband and put me on speaker.  He wanted to come home right away, but I told him we had it under control.  As we waited for my son to get there, I had to lie down on the couch to ease the queasiness trying to creep in.  Our granddaughter became agitated and started pacing.  I smiled and told her it doesn't do any good to get upset in such cases, because it won't change a thing.  She immediately calmed down and went in and started cleaning up all the blood, without being asked I might add.  Then she came back and told me this was good for her because she wants to become a veterinarian someday.  I thanked her and then she told how there was blood in the car, on the car, all over the garage floor, up the two steps, all over the kitchen floor, down the cabinets and in the sink.  I thanked her again.  I ended up with eight stitches and a 6-12 month healing sentence.  Finger flexibility is gone, but I hope will come back.  If not, it will be a constant reminder to be more vigilant when closing car doors.  I was told I would experience a lot of pain over the next several days and they wanted to prescribe narcotics for me.  I refused and have been blessed with only a twinge now and then.  God is awesome.  Why?  Because through this experience my granddaughter, who had been pulling away as teen years approach, threw herself back into my arms and has been hugging me tightly ever since!!  She shared with me her dreams as well!!  I will take that over a flexible finger any day and if I can never play my flute again, I will look at it as an opportunity to pass the mantle on to another granddaughter who desires to be a flautist like Gramma. 
Be blessed as I have been blessed and more so!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Passively Active

"By definition, a Christian is someone who trusts Jesus' death on the cross as the sacrifice that atones for our sins.  Theologians call this Christ's 'passive obedience.'" (pg 9 of devotion booklet Thanking God for Your Servant Heart)

When I read this this morning there was that all too familiar "ugh" in my spirit.  It always signifies to me that there is something not quite all together right about a statement that has been made or written.  I began praying and felt the need to look up the definition.

Wikipedia states: Passive obedience is a religious and political doctrine advocating the absolute supremacy of the Crown and the treatment of any dissent (or more precisely, disobedience) as sinful and unlawful. says: 
1.unquestioning obedience to authority
2.the surrender of a person's will to another person
And finally Webster's: absolute obedience or submission of a subject to the authority of a ruler regarded by some political writers as mandatory even when the ruler is bad
All of this is true in that Jesus was absolutely obedient to the Father's will.  To me, however, there is much more to His obedience "even unto death on the cross." (Philippians 2:8)
When I was a child, my parents would often tell me to do things I didn't want to do.  Helping keep our bedroom clean (which 5 of us shared, so it was difficult), taking my turn making breakfast and other various chores, but the worst of the worst was cleaning the kitchen after supper.  There are only so many hours of sunlight in a day, so when it was my turn to do dishes, I knew I had to give up those final moments of outdoor fun with friends.  Oh, I did the dishes all right, but I would grumble inwardly (sometimes outwardly, but where my parents couldn't hear) and in my angst to get finished and hopefully have a bit of daylight left, I would rush through the job and inevitably get in trouble when Daddy found a dish or two that wasn't quite completely clean.  He became so fed up with my uncaring attitude that one day he told me I would have a week of dishes for every dirty dish he found.
The next morning I was greeted with THREE weeks of dish washing!!  I was deflated!!  I did my three weeks, but they were accomplished with a bit of bitterness.  However, I learned to make sure the dishes were clean!!  I found no joy then in having to obey, but I didn't want a sore behind, so I did it.  Looking back I am grateful for the lesson I learned, but at the time, I was anything but.

Jesus gave complete and unquestioning obedience to the Father, but He went above and beyond by obeying in both love and joy.  
 Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 Amp)
Even if my daddy had sat me down and explained that one day I would be grateful, I might have believed him, but I still wouldn't have been joyful.  Jesus, though, was happy to die for the prize of receiving us as His bride!!  We, who have been disobedient, defiant, hateful and all sorts of despicable things, were longed for by Him so much that He willingly obeyed His Father, even though His humanity cried out against the horror of it all.  (John 17) But He joyfully gave Himself in our place so that we might become righteousness in God's eyes at the very moment we accepted His sacrifice for our individual person. We were His prize.  A people that would "finish the race set before them by the perfecting of our faith." (Hebrews 12:1-2)

" For he who had not known sin made himself to become sin in your place, that we would become the righteousness of God in him." (II Corinthians 5:21 Aramaic Bible)
When our children were small there were times I wanted to run away and hide or beat my children into submission.  I knew both of these to be evil and so I would instead run to our bedroom and kneel down in prayer asking for wisdom and strength in dealing with whatever the situation might be (sometimes I would just cry though, because I was and am not perfect).  I would then go in determined to continue in supervision and love.   It was during those times of prayer that God reminded me of the goal He had given me - rear my children in love and faith in Him so that they in turn could do so with their children and their children with theirs and so on.  So, even in my weary state, I was able to find joy in doing the most difficult of human tasks, being the wife and mother God designed me to be.  How minor that seems to what Jesus went through in order to rear me in love and faith in Him.  

Father, thank You that Jesus didn't just passively lay down His life for us, but actively sought us out and found joy in doing so on our behalf!  His death was both passive in admitting Your sovereignty and active in willingly giving Himself. 

No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. (John 10:18 NLT)

How minor is my sacrifice in comparison!  Help me focus on the joy of pleasing You now and in the world to come rather than the physical weariness that comes from serving in this world alone.  I love You!!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Childlike Sacrificial Faith

I have a confession.  I have always found the book of Leviticus rather, no other word for it, BORING and something to drudge through as I read through the Bible.  Let me say that as of today, my views have changed.  The more I study the Law and sacrifices, etc. the more I come to appreciate God's wisdom in everything.  It just proves that in spirit we really are just children, because, not only do we want to question everything, we want to show how irrelevant it is to us today.  We may not say it aloud, but we certainly exhibit it in our attitude and actions. 
Today I began Leviticus once again.  I have lost count as to how many times I have read the Bible through.  That is not to say I have read it through so many times I cannot count them.  I'm sure I could quite easily.  I have simply truly lost count.  For reference sake I will say this is possibly the seventh time I have done so.  I know I have five, but am not certain how many times after that, so seven seems reasonable.  Anyway, I came across this passage in the very first chapter: 1:6-7 says, "He shall then skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces.  And the sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire."
In the past, without actually thinking the words I just knew this verse had no relevance to me.  After all, Jesus paid the full sacrifice for my sins.  There is nothing else that needs doing correct?  Shows how very little I know!! 
There were the regularly scheduled times for the burnt offering. Burnt offerings were to be made every day, in the morning and the evening (Exod 29:38-42; Num. 28:3, 6, cf. 2 Chron. 2:4, etc.). An additional burnt offering was to be offered up each Sabbath day (Num. 28:9-10). Also, at the beginning of each month (Num. 28:11), at the celebration of Passover on the 14th day of the 1st month (Num. 28:16), along with new grain offering at Feast of Weeks (Num. 28:27), at the feast of trumpets, on sacred day in the 7th month (Num. 29:1ff.), and for the celebration of the new moon (Num. 29:6)  (

There is a very vital reason this passage should speak directly to each and every Christian daily...we are to offer our flesh as a daily sacrifice, a soothing aroma (vs. 9) to God.  Just as the priests would kill the bull, sheep, ram, whatever and then skin it before offering it on the fire as an offering, so we must remove our flesh (its power over us was already killed when we accepted Jesus death as our personal sacrifice).  However, our flesh clings to us, begging us to allow it to do its thing.  After all, it only has a short time on this earth.  We only live once.  Enjoy life while you can!!  All these things are lies that we accept as truth willingly.  While we do only have a short time on this earth, we have an eternity with our Father.  It will be better to be disciplined now and get it done and over with than to wait until then!!  Secondly, we do not ONLY live once.  We live once with this mortal, fleshly body, but then we shed it and receive an immortal and perfected body to dwell in for eternity!!  Therefore, it is not ONLY once, but it is once, so make the VERY best of it now, but learning how to live for Christ now so that it is much easier in the real life to come!!  As for the third comment, "Enjoy life while you can," I have discovered that I enjoy life much more living for Christ than when I am living for self.  My flesh will tell me anything it thinks I want to hear to get me to do its bidding.  If I listen to it enough, I will begin to agree (and it does happen, much to my chagrin) and if I give in, I am miserable.  Self pity, pride, greed, anger, bitterness, and so much more, invade my being and make me absolutely miserable, as I can never have enough of ANYTHING to satiate them.  However, when I am living for Christ, He does the work within me, it never seems an unbearable burden and I have no need to be satiated for I am no longer hungering for anything other than more of Him.  This He willingly and graciously gives, even though I do not deserve it!!  Of this I do not wish to be satiated.  I pray I will always hunger for more of Him.
After removing the skin (flesh) we must offer the sacrifice to the fire of the Holy Spirit.  He will burn it up in His power and give us the strength we need in each and every situation, even the ones that seem impossible!!
Yesterday I had both of my two youngest grandsons with me in the back yard.  Our back yard is flat for about 20-30 feet and then goes abruptly down hill into woods.  The older of the two (5 years old) was playing on the Big Wheel trike and I was holding the 4 month old.  Suddenly, the Big Wheel rolled out from under him and down the hill, into the woods.  He looked at me with huge eyes and said, "One of us will have to go get it!"  I told him I couldn't because I had the baby.  He asked if I couldn't put him down and go. After all, he was quite willing to go with me.  (He thought that since he was scared, I must be too.)  I told him that, no, I would not leave my baby grandson alone in order to get a bike.  He resolutely said that he guessed he had to go then.  Now you need to know that the bike was no more than 8-10 feet down max.  However, there are a lot of leaves, which makes it slippery.  I showed him the hanging vines and how to grasp them in order to make his way to the bike.  Long story short, he succeeded with a bit of difficulty.  When finished, he looked at me and said, "I just risked my life and I am proud of myself for doing it!"  A little later he looked at me questioningly and asked, "Gramma, I really did just risk my life, didn't I?"  While not wanting to lie, but wanting to assure him he did a very good and manly thing, I said, "You really did take a risk buddy!"  About an hour later, his uncle came to get the baby.  He recanted his story of risking his life and added, "And I got some thorns too, and I almost bled!"  His uncle very solemnly looked at him and told him he had been very brave.  I was proud of them both.
Once again I learned a lesson from a five year old!!  They are such good teachers!!  Be willing to lay down your life for the life of others, especially those weaker (baby) than yourself.  This is real living!!  If you could have seen the joy in his eyes, you would know exactly what I am talking about.  I pray he remembers the joy he experienced in this as he grows and even when he comes to the place of realizing his life was not in any immediate danger (though there could have been a snake, he could have slipped and bruised or broken something or any number of other possibilities) that the joy of being willing to sacrifice will carry him on to living for Christ by living to serve others all throughout his life!!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Listen Attention

"So pay attention to how you listen! Those who understand [these mysteries] will be given [more knowledge]. However, some people don't understand [these mysteries]. Even what they think they understand will be taken away from them." (GWT Luke 8:18)

I always thought this verse was saying to be careful WHAT you listen to, but today I was amazed to discover this is not what it is saying at all. It is saying to be careful HOW you listen. I thought, “Huh?
Do You mean to pay closer attention or be more discerning or what?”
I've thought on this verse off and on for over six hours. Within the last hour or so, while reading a book by Ted Dekker called Chosen, the thought went through my mind that we all tend to hear differently. 
An example would be yesterday morning in worship. I was singing in the choir and from my vantage hearing point I could hear the soloist well during an amazing song entitled “Alive.” The words are powerful, the arrangement melodic and the emotion we felt as we sang it was absolutely wonderful!! I didn't really pay attention to balance, as I trusted the sound crew to do their job. I knew all the words and was caught up in the joy of singing them. So imagine my shock and dismay at hearing from my husband, son and daughter-in-law that the audience could not hear the soloist or choir at times because the worship team in front was miked so loudly!! Then it hit me..they were sitting in the balcony, along with a couple hundred others, but their vantage listening point may have been quite distinctly different that of those seated at floor level, as that is where the house amplifiers are located. Perhaps (I don't know this for a fact, but the sound crew is on ground level as well, so it could be assumed) the floor level people could hear everything from soloist, to worship team to choir and orchestra. Perhaps, (and again, I don't know this for a fact) the choir and those in the balcony were at a hearing disadvantage and so received a distorted signal.
We do the same thing when we overhear a conversation. We think we hear what is being said, but we'd better ask before sharing, because we may have caught only a portion, misheard, or may have been listening in to a distorted version of the story. Then there are the times we think we hear someone talking about one person, when in reality it is someone altogether different. This happened quite recently to a dear friend of mine. She overheard someone mentioning a need for prayer for a baby and since we have a friend in common whose baby has that name, thought it was he they were talking about. A quick text to this friend revealed it was not her baby at all, but we all agreed to pray because God knew which little one it was that needed us.
So we need to be careful HOW we hear and then be careful what we do with the information gained. We must make certain we understand correctly and then only proceed with what needs doing, if anything.
There is a warning in this verse. IF we make sure we understand what we are hearing, we will gain not only knowledge, but wisdom. If we do NOT make certain of our understanding, not only will we gain nothing, but we will lose the very knowledge we THOUGHT we had. I don't know about anyone else, but I absolutely HATE losing things.
Yesterday we had our annual egg hunt for the grandkids. We hid 168 plastic eggs filled with candy. They each found twenty four of their individual color-coded eggs. When all was said and done, I did one last counting of eggs to make sure we had them all. We did, except ½ of one egg was MISSING!!
It has been driving me crazy ever since. I have checked the entire yard twice, poured over the house, went through the kids' candy bags and recounted the eggs twice, just in case one was stuck together. The ½ egg still eludes me!!
 I need to be this extreme with my hearing. Listen, if possible say it back to the person speaking, if not, ask about it later. If the message was heard correctly and was regarding someone else, go speak with that person to make certain I have the right person AND that the message was accurate. Perhaps then I would quit assuming I knew things and maybe stop placing my foot so succinctly into my mouth where it gets stuck and I get choked. Perhaps I would gain new insight into people that would allow me to love them more fully and openly. Perhaps I would grow more in wisdom and understanding of my God Who made me and loves me even when I screw up so wildly.
Listen – give one's attention to a sound. (Webster's)

Strong's Exhaustive concordance tells us that the word listen in this verse means to hear with comprehension.

In other words – pay attention and truly understand!!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Just Balance

Many, okay most, Christians do not think a person is called into ministry unless you have the title pastor of some sort or missionary attached to your birth name.  I am not one who believes this way.  I believe every truly born again believer (one who has confessed their sin before God, received His forgiveness and has chosen to follow Jesus regardless of the cost) is called to ministry.  Because of this we can receive accolades for what we feel called to one moment and be considered heartless the next by the very same people.  This should be considered a blessing, as it is what happened to our Lord and Savior many times over and is still happening today.
I have been asked multiple times by multiple people how to cut back.  My answer has been the same over the years, mostly because I didn't know how to put into words what God has done in my personal life to get me to a place of balance for the most part.  I'm not perfect, by any means, so I still get out of kilter now and then, but God is faithful to bring me back to where I confess not coming to Him for direction first, but just jumping into things.  So my answer has always been, "Learn to say no."
Learning to say no was a BIG part of my deliverance from constant frustration and feeling overwhelmed.  I felt like a three year old that has everyone making all the decisions for him including what to wear!! I was always just on the brink of yelling, "I CAN DO IT MYSELF!!"  However, when I started REALLY praying about it, because I was desperate for deliverance, I discovered something amazing.  Most of the things I accused others of deciding for me were in fact decisions I had made for myself so as not to offend someone else!  When it got down to the nitty gritty, I was doing things to please others and receive their praise rather than seeking God's direction and in the process of obedience, receiving HIS praise.  Truth be told, I even allowed myself to get overbooked so I could receive pity from others who were in the same boat as I.  I didn't want to feel left out when they spoke of how tired and overbooked they were, so I became tired and overbooked as well.  For the most part though, it was simply not wanting to hurt people's feelings. 
The really tough part of the process of deliverance is knowing that you will be found an offense to some, especially those you hold closest to your heart.  They know you love them, and because you have always been there for them in the past, they feel you should always be for every occasion or at least a lot of them.  If not, then maybe there is something wrong; perhaps they have offended you? Or you don't love them as much anymore? Or you have simply chosen to cut them out for reasons they will never understand, but it hurts?!  Truth is, none of this is true.  They are lies from the evil one trying to cause division where division isn't warranted. 
Perhaps anyone reading this might be wondering just what ministry I am personally involved in that would cause all this questioning.  First and foremost I am in the ministry of my marriage.  God's word makes it clear to me that marriage is a picture of salvation and therefore must have priority second to Christ Jesus alone.  There was a time when motherhood would have been next in line with such a fine line between it and marriage that it needs to be seen through a microscope with a magnification of about a billion.  The reason for this is that children are part of that picture of salvation - us becoming one with Christ Jesus.  However, my children are grown, married and have children of their own, so this responsibility has fallen to them.  Not that I don't try to be there for them as much as possible, but their families are their responsibility.  I am simply one of the minor support beams.  Jesus must be their foundational Cornerstone. 
Now I am Gramma and teaching has become my next top priority.  Teaching Scriptural Truths to be exact, although God has allowed me to be an academic teacher as well to many children, though I don't have the actual certification to do so.  Teaching is part of who I was created to be evidently, because it comes naturally, like breathing.  It is nothing I have done or accomplished on my own.  As a matter of fact, God made it quite clear to me at an early age that He is the One doing the teaching through me and that if I step out on my own, I will fall flat on my face!!
Next in line comes ministry through music.  I love to play flute, but I am a words person, so singing God's praise lifts me to a place of unspeakable joy!  Recently I was singing a solo for the first time in a year and a half and found myself quite nervous.  As I stood on stage and the interlude began, I prayed, "Lord, I hate feeling so nervous like this!"  Immediately He spoke these words and the nervousness abated, "Just tell the story."  That may sound confusing, but many times I have told people how funny it is to me that I can stand in front of a million children and tell a story from God's word and thoroughly enjoy the experience, but put me in front of adults to sing and I become extremely nervous!  When God spoke those words to my heart, I knew He was reminding me that we are all children in His sight and we all need to hear His story, so I needed to tell it!!  Changed my perspective in a way that must be experienced to understand. 
I cannot, at this point in my life, give up any one of these ministries, nor can I ignore any other ministry God places on my heart, such as inviting neighbors to an event where they will hear the word, but makes them feel comfortable when a regular church service makes them nervous and unhearing; disciplining children with words of love and compassion when they are in conflict with each other; taking a meal to someone recovering from surgery or illness; making a gift for someone who needs to know I love them; listening when someone just needs to talk; giving counsel to those who ask and are ready to listen to what God's word has to say regarding their situation; cleaning my house; and I could go on.  The point is, when I am asked to go to any particular event, but I feel a check in my spirit or a reminder of a previous commitment, I must say no to that invitation EVEN if it is an invitation to teach. (That is a VERY difficult one for me.) 
To sum up, learning to say no is important, but learning WHEN to say no is vital.  Learning to trust God to deal with those who find or take offense at our obedience is also vital.  I say "find" offense because, unfortunately, there are those who simply look for reasons to complain about others so as to make themselves look better in their own eyes.  If they could but understand that what we think of ourselves and/or what others think of us just simply does not matter!!  It is only how God sees us that has any benefit whatsoever!!  We must learn to love the person God created us to be even though we will never fully be that person until Jesus makes all things new and allow ourselves to become that person through the tutelage of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.  He is the Great Teacher, Transformer and Guide.  We must learn to listen to His instruction alone by testing all we hear, see and think through the Scriptures and prayer.  In so doing we will begin to find it easier to love others for who God created them to be and accept the choices they make as coming from Him rather than trying to get them to do the things WE wish they would do.
Proverbs 11:1 - A false balance [is] abomination to the LORD: but a just weight [is] his delight.
Doing things for personal or influential praise may seem all well and good, but is a false balance.  A just balance comes from the Just One - Father God - for only He knows what is truly just and right for our lives and the purposes for which He has created us.  Therefore, we must live in a manner of making sure that whatever we do is done for His glory and not our own.
Colossians 3:17 - And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, [do] all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.