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!!