Friday, August 31, 2012

A Wasp In My Home

Our family is preparing to go on an adventure!  As a family, we enjoy camping in the outdoors with campfires, starry nights, and much laughter.  The only requirement that this momma has is that we have air conditioning for nights of good sleep.  So, we have a pop-up trailer that comes with air conditioning!  It is just a glorified tent, but I do have a small refrigerator and plenty of bed space for our family. 

It has been a long time since we went on an adventure of this kind as the Texas heat has been so extreme the past two summers, and yesterday as we began preparing for travels, we made a very unwelcome discovery.... wasps!  Apparently, a large group of wasps decided that our small tent trailer was a wonderful home for them.  However, I refuse to share my quarters with wasps this weekend- I want to experience nature, but I don't want in joining me in my bed! 

So, bravely my husband sprayed the nest and we all ran for the house all the while imagining that a swarm was following us as we retreated to safety.  An hour later, Reagan braved the trailer and knocked down the nest.  This morning it was my task to clean up all the mess.  I set about my tasks when my son recognized that we had a few remaining "house guests" and again the scrambling to the house commenced.  I put on my brave belt and with much prayer went out and sprayed, again, the wasps.    I have since cleaned, organized, began packing and feeling very productive when one more wasp flew in to check out the accommodations.  Can you believe that?  I once again- sprayed and ran for the hills (or house anyway). 

I sit, now, waiting- hoping for the death to come quickly to the poor wasp so that I might complete my task.  It has been funny to me just how frightened I am by the poor, small creatures.  I might have broken a speed record this last time as I fled to safety.  The thought hit me..... why can't I flee from sin that way?  The sin that so easily entangles if far more dangerous that the wasps in my portable home.  Furthermore, when the wasps were in my place of residence, I risked life and limb to get them OUT!  Yet, too often we turn our head when sin enters our spiritual home.  Why is that?  Why is it so easy to flee from some things, but certain sins we just choose to live with?

Remember Joseph?  Genesis 39 describes how he chose to be trustworthy despite the advances of his master's wife.  When sin was literally grasping at his cloak trying to cling to him- he threw off the cloak and ran from it!  Oh, that I might have that kind of sensitivity and discernment to lose a cloak, but guard the door to my heart, my eyes, my ears, and my mind.  My friend, once sin has taken residence with you; the evil one will try to destroy you from within and the battle is much harder to fight.  Be on guard.  Be diligent.  Stand ready and on alert.

"My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ears to my words.  Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one's whole body.  Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.  Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.  Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.  Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil."  Proverbs 4:20-27 NLT

My friend, is there a sin taking residence in you?  No matter how small- just like the wasp- we must flee for safety into the open arms of the Father. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

He Lives!

This morning I was asking my sons to be in prayer for a family who had lost someone dear to them.  My oldest son sat quietly, and then almost whispered, "Did he know Jesus?". 

You see, when all of life is over, when the last grains of sand have fallen through the hourglass, that is what matters.... that 's it.  Did you know Jesus Christ and have a relationship with Him which began the moment you yielded your all of your dreams, goals, plans, longings, and sinful nature to Him?  Did you ask Him to pay the debt of sin that you could never meet? 

If so, then you know that our Redeemer is alive, well and active in our life each day.  If so, you know that He works all trials, mistakes and hardships for our ultimate good and His glory.  If so, you know that God brings peace when the world would offer none.  He offers joy beyond all circumstances and enables you to do more than your abilities or talents.  He is life beyond yourself.

If not, why?  There are no second chances when your last breath has been exhaled.

"But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last.  And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God!  I will see him for myself.  Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.  I am overwhelmed at the thought!"  Job 19:25-27 NLT

Yes, my redeemer lives!  I KNOW my redeemer lives!!!  Do you? If you do, rejoice!  Again I say, REJOICE!!! Let us never grow tired, weary or apathetic about praising our Blessed Savior.  He has given all that we might have all.... all peace, love, joy, comfort and wisdom. 

If He isn't your Redeemer, again I ask, Why not?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"I See Him?"

Kendall, our youngest son, is quite a night person.  He tends to be a little grumpy in the morning, but about seven in the evening he just starts bubbling over with joy and fun.  Tonight he walked around the house with a baseball glove on and kept shouting "Homerun!".  He also tried to "hide" in the shower curtain and wanted me to find him which was easy because he was so tickled with himself that laughter just bubbled forth.

Nights like this when he is so joyful, it can be difficult to put him to bed because I just love seeing him so happy.  Plus, he has a hard time calming down as he just wants to play.  I have learned to sing quietly to him that often he will calm down and go to sleep much quicker.  Tonight, I sang Jesus Loves Me to him several times and each time he would say, "Again!".  Finally after three or four times through the song, I tucked him in and started to walk out of the room when I heard him say something,  He said, "I see him?"  I quickly realized he was asking about seeing Jesus.   I asked him, "Oh, do you want to see Jesus?"  He smiled and said, "Yeah!". 

As I left his room, my heart flooded with emotion.  My precious two year old wants to see Jesus- the Jesus he knows loves him.  The Jesus we teach him about.  The Jesus that we sing about all through the day.  The Jesus we honor and praise with our words and, hopefully, our actions.  The thought that hit me that I want him to see Jesus in me!  I want my actions, words and lifestyle to reflect my Christ so much that others can't help but see my Savior in me.  It won't happen by accident- I am learning that I must draw from the life-giving scriptures each day as well as uninhibited prayer times.  I have to seek after His face daily because in my own strength I will fail terribly.  

Friend, I don't know where you live or what you might be going through, but I do know that you have influence on those around you.   You never know how God might use you to share His love with others, but we must be prepared- we must go and seek after Jesus each day.   I, like Kendall, want to see, tomorrow and every day. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Can You Believe That?

As I poured myself another cup of coffee this morning, I realized the sugar bowl was nearing empty.  So, I went to the pantry grabbed the sugar and began pouring.... seconds later I realized I was pouring all that sugar in my coffee- not the sugar bowl!!  Some days I just catch myself in a fog of items needing to be done and my mind gets distracted.  Have you been there?  Duties such as dishes, laundry, e-mails to be sent, meals to be prepared, errands to be completed, homeschool lessons, church responsibilities..... I bet you have a similar list. 

Sometimes, the evil one makes me think that my life is just that- an endless list of needs to be taken care of and met- that my eternal impact on the world is very small.   He knows if I become discouraged in my service of Christ, it will be easier to get me off track from what God is calling me to do for that day.   God has been working on my heart to teach me that my life is priceless to the Father.  My calling unique and tailor made just for me.  The calling God has for you is perfectly designed with just you in mind.  In the midst of all that a normal life offers, we often will not see the big picture that God designed for us.  We may feel lost in the midst of all the duties we have to do each day, and only years later will we get the perspective from God's viewpoint and see what impact we had for eternity.

Last night, some dear friends and I just closed a study on the book of Esther.  If you have never read that book of the Bible- do so!  While the name of God is not found anywhere in the book, He is seen throughout the events that saved the people of Israel.  Esther, one of God's chosen vessels, is unsure of her calling and yet Mordecai, her guardian, states, "Who knows if you have come to such a position for such a time as this?"  My friend it was one of the greatest decisions made in the holy scriptures that saved God's chosen people, but at the time I am not sure if she really knew that God had chosen her to fulfill that lofty role at that point.  She just focused on doing the next step... and then the step after that.... seeking God's face for guidance at each moment to make her steps secure. 

In the midst of making my daily decisions, who knows that I have come to such a time as this?  Who knows if that every-day-decision I make will have an eternal impact on someone?  I just have to seek after God daily to make my steps secure and firm.  I read this quote from Elisabeth Elliot this morning and it was so appropriate.... "Either we are adrift in the chaos or we are individuals, created, loved, upheld, and placed purposefully, exactly where we are.  Can you believe that? Can you trust God for that?"   Wow! 

"God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him.  When I got my act together, he gave me a fresh start.  Now I am alert to God's ways; I don't take God for granted.  Every day I review the ways he works; I try not to miss a trick.  I feel put back together, and I'm watching my step.  God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes." 
 Psalm 18:20-24 MSG

So, I echo the question of Elisabeth Elliot... Can you believe that you have a God called life of purpose?  Can you trust God for that? 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Glorious Praise

I love praise music to our Father.  There are just times when a song so touches and moves my heart that tears stream down my cheeks in praise of my Father that has given up so much for me- so I could live a life beyond my abilities.   Through Him I could live a life of joy in the midst of hardships, have peace in the midst of troubles, minister beyond my talents, love beyond my limitations, and give beyond my means.  He came, sacrificed and gave of Himself so that all believers could have a relationship with God through His sacrifice.  When I think of all that He has done, I can't help but praise Him!!! 

One of the things I look forward to being a part of in heaven is praising our glorious God, and standing in awe of what that experience will be like as a multitude of redeemed, united in worship, of the one, true God. I just can't fathom how beautiful it will be..... This morning, as most mornings, I listened to praise music while reading my scriptures and I came across the following video and it blessed me so much.

As I wept and wept watching such beautiful praise, I couldn't help but realize it is a mere taste of what is still yet to come- my dear friend, can you imagine what it will be like?  Oh glory!  Moments of such sheer, honest praise give me the strength to tackle the tasks ahead of me as well as help me recognize that there is still much work ahead of us as believers.  So many still need the Father and our world is groaning and dying without a Savior!  We must share our hope, our Savior... how will God use you today?

"Come everyone, and clap your hands for joy!
Shout to God with joyful praise!
For the Lord Most High is awesome.
He is the great King of all the earth.
He subdues the nations before us,
putting our enemies beneath our feet.
He chose the Promised Land as our inheritance,
the proud possession of Jacob's descendants, whom he loves.
God has ascended with a mighty shout.
The Lord has ascended with trumpets blaring.
Sing praise to God, sing praises;
sing praise to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King over all the earth.
Praise him with a psalm!
God reigns about the nations,
sitting on his holy throne,
The rulers of the world have gathered together.
They join us in praising the God of Abraham.
For all the kings of the earth belong to God.
He is highly honored everywhere."  Psalm 47 NLT

Friday, August 24, 2012

When Life Distracts

Some days when the toddler is screaming from his crib because he is in timeout and the older boys are angry with each other over something trivial.  When the dishes are in the sink calling my name and the laundry seems to never end.  Sometimes, I just need to be reminded that this is all temporary.  These problems that seem so big are temporary and my focus needs to be on what lasts for eternity.  I cannot let myself get distracted and concerned by all the temporary hurts, problems, stresses and things that the evil one would throw at me because God has more for me than that!!   Satan knows that if he can get me distressed and upset over trivial things that won't matter in a few days, weeks, months or years; then, I am not doing what God has called me to do.  Satan wants nothing more than to disrupt God's plan for us- the children of the King- God's chosen- Christ's redeemed!! 

It is for that reason that I must, through the Holy Spirit, claim the peace and joy God has for me above all these circumstances.  I must seek after what God has for me to do each day in order to bless Him and keep my focus on the eternal calling I have been given.  Some days that is doing the dishes, laundry and teaching my children to treat each other kindly.  Some days that means preparing for a meal for a family that could use an extra blessing or helping a friend by watching her kids.  Some days that means sharing the lessons God is teaching me through my writing and some days it is helping my husband by doing a household task for him.  It isn't always glamorous.... at times, it is downright dirty.  Any task can have eternal value if the experience draws me closer to the Father and is beneficial to another who had the need at that moment.  While Satan makes us feel that all this worldly stuff is the end of the world, but only God can make our temporary service to others of eternal value.  When the you get down by all that is screaming for your attention, call on God the ultimate source of peace and joy.  Let Him determine your steps today and keep in mind that this just a fleeting moment....

"The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand."  Psalm 37:23-24 NIV

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Beyond the Messes

Some mornings are crazy around here!  We started homeschooling again yesterday and I have been trying to get up before the boys in order to have my quiet time, get dressed, and have breakfast started.  This morning, the boys awoke earlier than I anticipated and the craziness started early.  Caleb had a trash bag explode on him while taking the trash out and we had the pleasure of cleaning up egg shells, coffee grinds, banana peels and the like from our driveway.  Then, Kendall who decided last night that he would say, "Bye-bye diapers" and would like to wear his big boy underwear had his first accident.  In the process of cleaning that up he decided that he did not, in fact, want to say "Bye-bye diapers", but would rather say, "Bye-bye underwear."  All this and it wasn't even 8:15!?!?

I love my boys and even in the midst of all the accidents and messes, I see all the possibilities- their potential- and that is what I focus on when our world seems so unclear and just downright messy.  Instead, I see what my hope and prayer for them is to become-godly men with strong values, gentle hearts and full of potential- through Christ's enabling- to change the world.  I see the influence they could have and my heart fills with love and compassion.... enough to handle each messy situation and go on to the next one. 

I think that is what held Christ on the cross and what motivated the Father to give His Son as a sacrifice for our sins.... He saw our potential.  He, being all knowing, sees the full potential in all of us and that is the driving force behind His love and patience with us.  He deals with our messes and stays focused on what we will become and all the future holds for us.  The moments when we yield our plans to His will, the moments we give of ourselves to bring life and joy to others, the moments we break free from sins that had been strongholds for years, and moments when we just praise Him because our cup is so full we can't help but lavish our love on our Savior.   Those moments are what drive Him to give all in pursuit of such wayward creations.  He loves us, friend, He loves us.  Never question His love or patience for you- no matter the depth of your sin- He still sees your potential and He still seeks after that relationship with you. 

Too often, what is the saddest is that we don't see our potential..... my boys don't realize what incredible possibilities are ahead of them.  Kendall certainly doesn't see a life without diapers as an option, but I do.  My friend, you may not see what God could do with you- with your life- but God does.  I guess it comes down to one question.... Do you trust Him?  To trust Him means accepting that you still have more potential and possibilities in your future to do more than you could ever imagine.  So, I ask again- do you trust Him?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Drawing From the Well

"See, God has come to save me.  I will trust in him and not be afraid.  The Lord God is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.  With joy you will drink deeply from the fountain of salvation!  In that wonderful day you will sing:  'Thank the Lord!  Praise his name!  Tell the world what he has done.  Oh how mighty he is!  Sing to the Lord, for he has done wonderful things.  Make known his praise around the world."  Isaiah 12:2-5  NLT

This morning as I read this passage I felt God's loving conviction on my heart.  While I can tell you the day my heart was claimed for Christ as an 8 year old child and my salvation was secured in the heavens; I also confess to you that there are areas in my life that I still struggle with the difficult realities of life.  Moments of anxiousness, fear, concern, worry, or dealing with all the temptations this world has to offer seem to plague me.  In those moments, I find myself focused on my incapacity rather than on the fullness of God that is fully capable in all circumstances.  Friend, as a child of the King, we have access to God' s ultimate power and love to help us through all challenges if we will just seek after him and "drink deeply from the fountain of salvation" that we have through Christ.  I love the wording for verse 3 from Isaiah 12 in the NIV version, "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation."  In those times, ladies would have to go gather the water they needed for the day at a local well.  My friend, we must go to the Father and draw our life-water from Him to help us for that day.  If a special need arises, we must go back to the well for an extra cup!   How are we to draw that life giving water from our Father?

I believe the following verses show us how to access that power and strength that we need from day to day.  When we thank Him for all that He has already done for us and praise Him for all that He is and is capable of doing in our life.  By telling and proclaiming to others what He has done for you and what He could do for them and by recognizing and respecting His mighty power and authority.  We must sing to Him and allow our praise of Him to transform our heart and mind.  Ultimately, we are to do our best to share His love all over the world.  It seems to me that daily we draw from our well when we spend time in deep prayer, praise, study of His word, and sharing Him with those around us and around the world.  What that looks like for me is not what that will look like for you.... and that is how it should be- a beautiful mosaic of God working in countless lives who are unique and far different from each other. 

I have struggled with fear of being in want and need ever since Reagan's lay off several years ago.  While God has ever provided and always met our needs, I still would stress about going back to that place where we lived on prayer for God to provide for our needs from day to day.  He did.  He was and is faithful.  Satan, however, likes to lie and make me fearful.  That is when I must run to the well and fill my cup to overflowing with God's praise, prayer and goodness to battle the lies of the evil one.  My friend, whatever your battle, God's well of salvation always stands full and it is always available.  All you need is to run to the well!  It is a daily- maybe even hourly- task, but God never fails you and a life lived in the fullness of God's life-giving salvation is freedom from all fears and temptations.  Drink and fill yourself with Him and live, my friend, truly live!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Baking an Apple Cake

I love fall.... the beautiful colors, crisp air, pumpkin pie, football, Halloween, and Thanksgiving all warm my heart and memories. After the heat and wild summer fun, it is refreshing to cozy up with my boys and just savor some time at home.

Last Saturday, we had quite a bit of rainfall and the heat cooled a bit. It began to feel a little bit like fall, and It was so inspiring that I decided to bake an apple cake. I recruited two helpers by the name of Caleb and Carson.

They each took turns measuring ingredients, peeling and slicing apples as well as using the electric mixer. Kendall even helped get out the ingredients and "cleaning" the spatula!

It was controlled chaos, but in the end we had a wonderful, sweet apple cake. The house smelled so yummy and I loved having that experience with my boys. I was reminded that having a wonderful time with my family doesn't have to be expensive or elaborate. We can build memories together in countless ways as long as we claim time from the busy schedule to just be together. From baking a cake, to a family baseball game, going geo-caching, or washing a vehicle together... Memories are made and we become closer. Sometimes, as a parent, I put too much pressure on myself. I am misled into the thinking that if I haven't taken my kids to all the latest movies, every cool water park or amusement area that I have let them down. Thankfully, that is not the case!! My kids just want to spend time with me and memories can be made anywhere- even in the kitchen while baking up some pre-fall goodies.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Our Homeschool Closet

There has been a project that I needed to do all summer, but I had put it off.... Until yesterday. At the end of the school year our homeschool closet had gotten way out of control, and over the summer it had spiraled to the state of desperate. I am being extremely vulnerable to show you this....(holding my breath) we go:

Now, we have never had a homeschool room, and I have found that storing all our supplies in a closet works well for us. Each day we pull out our supplies and curriculum as school begins at the kitchen table, living room floor, table outside, or even in Mom and Dad's bed. So, it is important that the closet be well organized. It took me close to 3 hours, but here is the final result:

It hit me that there are areas in my spiritual life that need cleaning out too.  Areas where I have seen clutter slowly overtaking an area in my life, but I haven't reached that point of doing a thorough cleaning.  These areas will take more time, but the process will be healing and helpful for my spiritual growth.  Some areas- just like this closet- may become ongoing projects that I have to keep a keen focus on to master.  The final result will be worth the effort though and that is the perspective I must adopt.  Maybe this has encouraged you to tackle some of those rough areas in your own world! Blessings!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Will You be Mine?

Having a toddler in the house, we often hear the phrase, "Mine!  It Endall's!!" (Kendall hasn't mastered the 'k' sound yet) throughout the house.  He has just reached the age of claiming anything and everything that might have any interest to him.  At first, it was cute.... but now, well, it has become one of the primary reasons he receives discipline.  Although, when he runs up to me and grabs my leg and exclaims, "My Mommy!" my heart still melts a little.  When someone loves you so much that they claim you as there own, it should soften even the most hard of hearts. 

This morning I read a passage of scriptures from Isaiah 43:1-4 which says, "But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you.  O Israel, the one who formed you says, 'Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I called you by name; you are mine.  When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.  For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.  I gave Egypt as a ransom for your freedom; I gave Ethiopia and Seba in your place.  Others were given in exchange for you.  I traded their lives for yours because you are precious to me.  You are honored and I love you."  (NLT)

Friend, it is so special to me when any of my children or my husband "claim" me as their own.  It makes me feel special and valued.  But, when the one and only true God calls me His own.... I catch my breath and I feel so unworthy.  There is no greater honor than for God to say You are mine and I love you.  In this passage He is speaking to His chosen people of Israel who He repeatedly sought after and delivered many times from numerous different nations.  It was for the freedom and love of His chosen people that He sacrificed so much, and branded them as "His".  He does the same, today, for anyone who would accept the free gift of salvation offered through the death of Jesus Christ.  In that moment, we become "His" and we are claimed for God.  I read this quote from Max Lucado this morning, "And only a great God does for his children what they can't do for themselves.  God's delight is received upon surrender, not awarded upon conquest."  (Grace for the Moment)  I love that! 

More than any other, I want to be claimed by Christ for God in order to live a life in the security of knowing I am not alone.  When I pass through hardships, I have one carrying me through them because I am His.  When the fire of oppressions threaten, that I have no fear because God has claimed me as His own and He will not allow me to be burned in the process.  When you become His, He will do anything to protect, claim, restore, heal, and utilize you for the calling He has for your life.  Has He claimed you for His own?  If so, rejoice and praise Him!  If not, the invitation remains and He whispers to your heart, "Will you be mine?"


Thursday, August 16, 2012

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Have you ever had one of those "it seemed like a good idea at the time" moments?  This week, I needed just a few groceries to tide us until I could go and get a large amount and I decided to go to our local, smaller store.  As I walked in I noticed that they had mini-grocery carts which are perfect for a small child to push and would hold just the amount of groceries I was planning to get.  Perfect- I thought- I can let Kendall push his little basket and it will be a hallmark card moment in the making! 

So, I show Kendall the small basket and he is thrilled!  So, are the two older boys who think they, too, need a mini shopping basket.  However, there are only 2 mini carts available..... so, I let the youngest two push the baskets.  So, we forge ahead through the isles as I try to herd my two basket shoppers around displays, other customers and items that they would love to add to the carts when I was distracted.  Have you ever heard the saying, 'like trying to herd cats'?  Well, maybe you get the picture.  Carson kept trying to ride the cart and I warned him once and then he had to pass his cart on to Caleb when he didn't obey.  This made him mad and he kept trying to "help" Kendall with his basket.  Kendall would just yell, cry and scream, "No!  I push!" over and over until I came to the rescue.  However, any time I tried to direct Kendall to make sure that he didn't drive his cart right into the cake display, he would have the same reaction.  Needless to say, I was quite frazzled by the time we left the store (the workers probably were as well) and kept thinking to myself, "it seemed like a good idea at the time".... 

Too often in my faith I have those moments as well.  Moments when I thought it was okay to push the envelope a little or let that area of sin slide, but I always come back regretting that decision.  We must be on guard at all times regarding the sin that tempts us, lest we will deal with the consequences later on.  Such consequences are needed to teach us and grow us in our faith- just as our children need consequences for their actions at times.  Boy, mine got a dose of consequences after our store visit!  That helps us be more alert the next time that sin tries to slide into our world.

Beth Moore quoted in her book, Praying God's Word Day by Day, "Allow your circumstances and weaknesses to do the job God has sent them to do- provoke humility."  Boy, in those 'what was I thinking?' moments, is when I am the most teachable.  Thankfully, God sees the real us- He knows our faults, but He also sees our potential.  His lessons are perfectly designed for developing our potential into a reality.  The more open we are to the lessons being taught, then the sooner we can move on to the next.

I know I definitely learned my lesson the other day.  Do NOT use the mini grocery cart lest your normally well behaved children will teach you a new lesson in humility.  Ha!  No, I will absolutely prepare differently before I tackle that challenge again, but I am thankful for the ability to learn my lesson, laugh and move on... it just seemed like a good idea at the time.....

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The One Written on my Heart

As I sit in my favorite chair for a time of prayer and study of God's word, I have praise music filling the room.  My coffee is fully creamed, smooth to the taste and just the perfect temperature.  I have just "settled in" for an extended time of praising and praying to my Savior.  So many mornings seem to fill with busyness before I can throw on the breaks and claim my few moments of rest with my King and Life-Giver.  Today, a canceled meeting gives me a chance for extended study and I just felt so pulled to pray. 

This weekend, I heard a message that included the need for passionate ongoing prayer.  While I try to maintain a spirit of prayer through the day- lifting any thoughts and needs to Him continually as I work and go about my day- I still felt convicted.  There is one.... one, who meant so much at one time.  One, who accepted Christ as a child and yet, has struggled in recent history with living the truth.  Temptations from the world, in many aspects, became to strong and too attractive.  Yet, they have become a snare and the one is trapped in it.  I confess, I had stopped praying for that one.  This weekend I realized my sin in that and today I just spent long moments in deep, passionate pleas for that one.  Pleas that longing for the Savior would grow and swell within until they needed Christ as desperately as the air in their lungs.  Pleas for healing- ultimate and complete- from the hurts that have plagued and destroyed so much.

Is there a "one" in your life?  Have you quit praying?  Do you want change in someone you love?  Are you praying for them?  For me, it is too easy to look the other way and live my life... but, God is teaching me that isn't enough.  I must pray and as I do, I change in my thoughts and attitude regarding the one I pray for.

"You will pray to him, and he will hear you, and you will fulfill your vows."  Job 22: 27 NIV

"Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  Jeremiah 29: 12-13  NIV

"Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith."  1Thessalonians 3:10 NIV

"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."  Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV

I am committing to pray daily for the one God has written on my heart and will specifically pray Ephesians 3:16-19 for that person.  My friend, please do not give up on the one God has written on your heart.... pray and plead to God for that individual- believing that if God has written them on your heart, He isn't finished with them yet!  I look expectantly for what God has in store for each of us as we grow and our hearts are changed through the power we are blessed with in prayer.  Blessing to you today my friend!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Going on a Road Trip

This weekend our family had the pleasure of going on a road trip. I love road trips! My excitement and anticipation grows as we pack and prepare for our trip. Many times, we begin planning our next adventure while traveling home from one. There is just something special about getting away from home and going on an adventure where I am not worried about the dishes in the sink, laundry in the basket, phone calls I need to make, and completing my endless "To Do" list.

I love the views along our travels as well.  Moments when we gasp at the beautiful views from a high vista or wonder at the incredible wideness of a lake or river or search for the sky when trees crowd our view.  When field after field greets us and the ribbon road seems to twist and curl along the landscape.  As different as all these views are to my eyes, they are all beautiful pieces of God's handiwork.  Even when it is a road we travel often, I find it interesting that we always find something new along the journey.    As we were driving home last night, it hit me that my spiritual life is so reflective of a road trip.  I always look forward to the next adventure God has for me and that excitement grows as our preparation increases.  Along the journey, I have moments in awe of God from the mountaintops when He seems so close that I could almost touch Him.  There, too, are moments when I wonder at the wideness of a situation and just have to trust God to work it out.  I have also found myself in valleys where fear, anxiety, stress crowd my view of Him.  I know He is there, but it is so very difficult to see Him through the issues.  Field after field do I pass through in moments of just doing daily tasks until I stop to admire the handiwork of God along the way.  My life- like a ribbon road- twists and curls along this life touching others around me for various seasons of this journey until I finally reach the end of my journey.... home.  Thankfully, the home awaiting at the end of our physical life exceeds anything this life has to offer.    I have come to realize that I need all the different views along the way to get me to my destination and I could never truly appreciate the views from the high vistas until I have traveled through the shadowed valleys.  I could never marvel at the mass of the ocean unless I had experienced the beautiful patchwork of field after field.  My friend, I do not know where you are on your journey, but I know that God has much more for you to do, see and experience.   Just remember to "fill" your spiritual tank through prayer and scripture; so, you aren't left on the side of the road unable to leave that place.  We must always remember that God is our fuel source on this journey and seek after Him daily. 
Blessings and good travels my friend!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The First Worship Experience

This morning as I studied, I read a devotional by Max Lucado where he discussed the first time the disciples worshipped Christ together.  It was following an experience when they, in the midst of a terrible storm, watched Him walk out to them on the sea.  After Peter joined him for a short time and had to be saved when his fears overtook him, Christ and Peter entered the boat again.  He calmed the waves and storm at that point and the disciples marveled at Him... and finally recognized Him as the Son of God and began to worship Him together.

The interesting thing to me is that they had witnessed so much in the days and weeks beforehand.  As I scrolled through the scriptures I found many healings, miracles and events that would testify to Jesus' true identity occurring before the eyes of the disciples.  One time even included a similar event when they were traveling by boat to a new location and a fierce storm came upon them.  Christ was sleeping in the boat when they awoke Him fearful for their lives.  He rebuked the wind and waves and everything calmed.  They, standing amazed, wondered, "Who is this man? Even the wind and waves obey him!" (Matthew 8:27 NLT)  It is too easy for us to wonder to ourselves, what took them so long?  Yet, we all have been there.  We have all stared in the face of Christ and seen His true identity and yet walked away unchanged.  Sometimes we walk away because the cost of obedience seems too much or too hard.  We walk away because we are afraid to open ourselves up to Him because we are afraid of the changes that would come. 

I read a wonderful Beth Moore quote from her devotion book, Praying God's Word Day by Day, which she stated, "Ordinarily, the primary hindrance to satisfaction in our lives is refusing Him access to our empty places."  Too often we hold back and walk away from all that Christ would have for us because we are afraid to let Him see our "empty places"... places- dead to sin, wounded by this world and hurting. 

Here is what I wonder about the disciples.... what was the difference between the first and second boat experiences for them?  Why did they go from, "Who is this man?" to "You really are the Son of God!" (Matthew 14:33 NLT).  I think in their first experience they for the first time had their eyes opened and really began to see that this man was something special- not just a prophet.  By the second boat experience, they had witnessed countless lives changed by this man.  People healed.  Dead brought back to life.  Brokenness made whole.  Then, with fresh new alert eyes they turned to Him and pleaded in desperation for God to save them from the waters that threatened them.  At that point, the fear of not being saved was greater than the fear of Him seeing the empty places hidden so deep within.  So, desperate cries were answered when He stilled the waves and in full complete recognition of who He truly was and is, they worshipped Him together for the first time.

I learned from this that we all have to get  to a place where our desperation for His healing and transformation is stronger than our desire to keep sin and struggles hidden.  I love how honest, beautiful worship of the Father often follows times when He steps in and saves us from ourselves...we can't help it- we must praise the One that saved us!  I never want to forget those moments in my life!  On the days when I reflect on all that He has carried me through, praise for Him just pours forth from my soul and I fall in love with Him all over again.  He took my desperation and brought healing- complete and total.  Daily He provides all that I need for the moments ahead and I know that He is ever by my side.  How could I not praise Him? 

Friend, I do not know where you are right now.  Maybe you are still watching from the sidelines and you see lives being changed, but you are just not sure.  Maybe you are in the midst of a desperate time and are crying out to Him for salvation from it.  Perhaps you are reflecting on He has done for you and praising Him for the journey you have traveled together.  This I know- no matter where you are- you are but one breath away from Him- cry out in need, prayer, and praise of this wonderful Savior!  He has never failed you and His faithfulness endures forever.  Glory!

I read the passages sharing these two experiences from the book of Matthew in chapter 8 as well as chapter 14.  Please feel free to read and check it out for yourself.  Have a  blessed day!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Just a Day at the Water Park

Recently, as Caleb was preparing to go to church camp Carson began to feel a little slighted.  I mean, here his brother got to go on a mission trip and camp- all in one summer -while he stayed home with Mom and Dad.  So, I made an effort to do something fun with him when Caleb went on each of his adventures.  Our big "thing" while Caleb went to camp was going to a new water park in our area called Pirate's Cove.  Carson was so excited that he did a mental countdown for days beforehand.  He would just randomly squeal with delight as he thought about it... seeing him so excited made me excited for him too.

So, yesterday morning was the day and his joy was so full with the anticipation of all that was coming.  We had a big breakfast, put on swimsuits, grabbed our sunscreen and loaded the car.  We arrived early- I couldn't convince him to wait any longer- and purchased our tickets.  We walked around the facility and enjoyed the cool air conditioning before going out in the heat.  But, when we walked back to await entry... Carson caught his breath and began to jump up and down with his excitement in overload.... the fun was just moments and steps away!  Finally, when the water started, Kendall even squealed and clapped.  We found a shaded table and I began to coat them with sunscreen which was quite a task when they just wanted to run and go play.  (I did the best job I could on putting sunscreen on myself while trying to hold a toddler at bay- I am painfully aware of all the spots I missed today!)

Carson went down every water slide and swam in the pool.  He tackled the floating boxes and could have earned a gold medal for his cannon ball jumps.  He faithfully checked in with me often as I stayed with Kendall and he never stopped moving.  I managed to feed every one and let us cool off for an hour while doing more sunscreen and restroom breaks, but then we were at it again.  We were there 5 1/2 hours and Carson was still saddened- nay, heartbroken, to leave when we did.  It was a day of just being able to do all the things you love and wishing it could go on forever.   He told me that he would like to have his birthday party at the water park- that will be quite a challenge since his birthday is in late fall!

I have thought a lot about our day yesterday.... you know, I hope I can be that excited for heaven.  I love my life, and all my blessings but I also want to carry a building excitement for what is still yet to come.  Sunscreen is important or you will get burned!  Spiritual sunscreen is important too...  studying the scriptures, prayer and scripture memorization are all important barriers to sin that will leave us burned.  I think part of what made Carson's day so special was that he got to be the focus of much of my attention as well as getting to pick what we did that day.  I think we all want to feel special and treated like the center of attention some times.... with God, He is always watching over us and designing events to grow us more in His likeness.  We the focus of God's heart and all that He does is for our benefit- even our trials are perfectly designed just for our individual needs.  I loved watching the joy my boys had yesterday and I think God just savors the moments that He blesses us beyond belief... when we just squeal with delight over something He did for us.

I love that God can turn a day of fun at the water park into a lesson for me.  I love my Savior!  Now, where is my sunburn cream? 

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Real Love Story

Seventy-one years ago on this day, my grandparents, Johnnie and Irene Wilson, were married.  They, with another couple, drove to a preacher's house and were married.  There was no wedding dress, floral bouquets, bridesmaids with nice dresses or groomsmen in tuxes.  There was one preacher, one couple as witnesses, and a bride and groom who loved each other deeply.  They wanted a marriage- not a fancy wedding.  It was about building a life together- not about building a house the Jones would be jealous of.  That evening they drove to New Mexico in a truck with my grandfather's father and dropped him off with some family before taking a few days to start their married life in Cloudcroft, NM.  Glamorous, huh? 

Irene Wilson on her wedding day.
Well, it may not have been glamorous, but it lasted- it lasted 53 years to be exact when my grandfather passed away from brain cancer.  They weathered many storms that destroyed crops and dreams, but this farmer and his wife stayed together and their love grew.  He was eleven years older than her and had already watched his first fiance pass away from illness years before they met.  When he first saw my grandmother at a revival meeting, he told his buddy, "I am going to marry that girl."   It took them ten years to finally be able to conceive and have one child- a daughter- my mother.  The labor was long and difficult and they never tried again for more children as the prospect was too dangerous for my grandmother. 
My grandfather, Johnnie Wilson, with my mother.
They were as different as oil and vinegar, but their love and friendship was sweeter than honey.  I learned many things from their marriage....

Almost anything can be fixed from duct tape and bailing wire.  My grandparents were products of the great depression and money was tight.  They could not afford to replace things when they broke down.  Instead, they learned and taught themselves how to fix it.  The same was true of their marriage- they fixed it.  Despite cracks from financial woes, infertility, taking care of their parents and such, they applied love, forgiveness, time and healing to fix the cracks.  It stuck and they grew deeper in love with each other as a result.

Hard work is something to be admired.  They had little financially for many years.  When my mother was in high school, they finally built their dream house which was a two bedroom, one bath home with maybe 1,000 square feet.  While that may hardly seem like a dream house to you, it was the best home they had ever lived in.  As a result, my grandparents worked hard to keep it in excellent shape- it was always perfectly mowed on the outside and spotless on the inside.  I remember watching my grandmother cleaning the grout in the tiles of her kitchen floor on her hands and knees using a butter knife.  Marriage, too, takes hard work.  Each marriage may look different from another and it may not be dreamy and perfect, but with hard work it can be something to be admired.

Laughter heals so much.  My grandparents loved to laugh and would tease each other often.  Their joy was full and complete and laughter was an outpouring of that.  My grandfather would laugh until tears would just stream down his cheeks.  My grandmother's smile would make her eyes sparkle with a glint of sheer happiness.

Friendship is important.  I witnessed my grandparents extending friendship and kindness to countless others in their life.  They would give of themselves tirelessly to build and keep friendships strong whether it meant taking meals to someone in need, mowing a neighbor's yard or sharing their home and food with someone.  The same was true of their marriage- they were each other's best friend.  Whether tending the garden, listening to the Texas Rangers on the radio, or going to town to do their laundry and grocery shopping, they did it together. They worked at their friendship.

God is key to everything.  No matter what was going on in their life, they saw God reflected in it.  He was the center of all things in their home and honored at their table, in their speech, and in their actions.  God was the center of their marriage as well.  They knew that they could only love each other as much as they loved and committed themselves to the Father.

I miss them both terribly, but I rejoice in knowing that I will see them again in heaven.  I long to know what they think of the marriage Reagan and I are working so hard to build- would they see reflections of their own marriage in ours?  I hope so!  All the things seen in their marriage is what we are trying to build in ours- forgiveness, friendship, love, hard work, laughter and ultimately God's grace.  It's about building a family legacy- honest and real- and beautiful despite imperfections.  A marriage that may not be glamorous, but lasts... and that is something that is very valuable indeed.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thankful for My Shepherd

During this past week, our son Carson's devotion has focused a great deal on the aspect of God being our shepherd.  As a result, we have had many discussions over that perspective and what all a shepherd did in Biblical times. Over the last few days, I felt God prompting me to read and study Psalm 23.  Now, many of us are familiar with this passage as it is often read at funerals.  This passage of scripture focuses on God's shepherding relationship with His children. Curious about the characteristics of a shepherd, I did some research and was quite surprised at all I discovered.  First, let us read Psalm 23.
Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

for his name’s sake.

4 Even though I walk

through the darkest valley,[a]

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me

all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord


I love this Psalm as it paints such a loving, protective picture of our Father and Lord.  In verse one, the Lord is described as our shepherd- what would that entail for a shepherd during Biblical times?  The primary focus of a shepherd during that time was to protect the sheep as well as find plenty of water and food for the animals.  At that time, the sheep were not fed in pens, but had to roam in search of foliage for the sheep to eat.  One source I found indicated that while goats could search out areas for food and find their way back; sheep, however, were not good about doing that and needed help finding food.  Sheep also struggled in finding their way home and often would get lost from the group and had to be found and returned to the group.  The flocks needed to be watered at least once a day, but in many cases water was hours away.  Shepherds would walk the sheep to the water at least once a day in order to let them drink, eat and rest a bit before returning "home".  A shepherd also had to protect their sheep from other animals that would attack the herd.  A dog would often help with this task, but a rod, slingshot and such were also carried to help with that need as well.  Each shepherd would make a guttural type call to his sheep for them to follow him- even if two shepherds were together doing their individual calls, the sheep could tell the difference and find their protector.  The shepherd stayed with his sheep continually, watching and caring for them- even through the night. 

I loved all that I discovered in researching shepherds because so much of it applies to God's relationship with me.  Just as the sheep had to be taken daily to water and food in order to stay healthy, God leads me to His scriptures daily for my spiritual health.  He quiets me in His love as I rest in His presence.  He leads me down the right paths in my life- just as the shepherd had to lead his sheep lest they get lost off from the rest of the group.  Carson brought up the point that sometimes shepherds had to break the leg of an animal that refused to stay with the group because if that sheep kept getting lost, it could be eaten while out of his care.  It hit me that, at times, God has allowed me to face discipline and consequences so that I would stay close to Him and His protection. 

Even when the sheep would face life threatening situations, the shepherd was there to protect them- ever watching and on alert for their needs.  The same is true for our Father, He protects us and provides for our needs.  During those times, He offers us peace, joy and comfort beyond our imagination.  He honors and blesses our faithfulness just as a host would honor and bless a special guest.  His blessings overflow our lives and His love, faithfulness and goodness carry us through this life and into our eternal life with Him- for those who have accepted His free gift of salvation. 

My friend, we are so blessed to have a loving, caring shepherd to watch and care for us.  Never think for a moment that He has forgotten you or the needs you have today.  He is ever aware and already at work in all aspects of your life drawing you closer to Himself.  Listen for his "call" - He will make Himself known to you.  Trust Him and stay close to the shepherd because His protection is sure.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Food and Faith

I do not like controversy.  Period.  I tend to shy away from it as much as possible.  Just the thought of being caught in the middle of a controversial situation makes my stomach hurt.  I am naturally a people pleaser who just wants everyone to get along.  Got the picture?

So, this whole Chick-Fil-A craziness has been interesting to me.  I am a Christian- if any of you have read even one of my posts you already know that.  As a Christian, I try to live a life that pleases my Father and honors Him.  I am not perfect-never have been!  I am a sinner who by God's incredible measure of grace is saved and longs to serve Him.  I believe that I am to love people and do my best to show them the love of Christ in my actions, words and deeds.  If my words and actions do not match, I become a hypocrite.  That is why it is so important for us to lean on the Father for His strength and help to live as noble and honorable lives as possible.  I want it to be said that I truly reflected the character of Christ in my actions and words.

As per my faith, I do not agree with the homosexual lifestyle.  HOWEVER, I do not tolerate hatred towards that group nor any other group that has different views than mine.  I personally believe that God would want me to love any individual where they are in their life and through a relationship of kindness be a witness to them through my lifestyle.  If I am living a loving Christian relationship before them; then, God may use that to influence them.  However, I can have no influence if all I show them is hatred.

But, I am a Christian- a Christian who also feels called to vote my conscious and support those that have similar values as I do.  It is frightening to me the lack of tolerance that our society has for Christians now.  To be fair, I have eaten at Chick-Fil-A many times and I have never seen someone asked about their sexual orientation.  I have never witnessed anyone receive anything but respect and good service. When the president of CFA was asked "the question" in the interview, what did they expect him to say?  I believe in many ways it almost felt like a set-up as they knew his personal values and wanted to put him in a difficult situation.  If he gave support to marriages of all kinds, he wouldn't have been true to his faith and values as well as facing a backlash from the media for changing his stance.  So, he answered as honestly as he could about his personal belief.  Again, when have his personal beliefs affected the service of any customer entering into their restaurants?  None, that I have witnessed. 

So, today our family braved the lines to eat at Chick-Fil-A- not to create an uprising, but as a way of showing my support to a business that offers good service and food for my family.  I was also trying to show my support to a fellow Christian who was just trying to be honest about his faith.  I wanted to be see and witness the support that was given to this faith- led business.  To be honest, the media tries to make Christians feel like a minority in this country- such a small nominal group that we should be ignored.  It encouraged me to see such a large turn out stating, by their presence, that they support these values too.  Sadly, I wonder how many of the patrons I saw today are actively living their faith.   If that same number of people became that passionate about sharing their faith and love for Christ, we would have a dramatically different world. 

We may never know the tally of how many people supported CFA today in our nation and in a few weeks, this day will be forgotten in the media memory.  However, my boys went with me today when we purchased our food and they witnessed the crowds which made quite an impression on them.  Yesterday, they were with us when we voted for candidates in the election that supported our values.  They also witness us trying- as best as possible- to live out our beliefs each day.  It is my hope that as they mature and grow, they will do the same.  And that, my friend, is even better than the chicken sandwich I had for dinner!

Engraved on the Hand of God

Loneliness....Abandoned.... Forgotten.... Sadly, while most of us have experienced these emotions in our lives for a period of time; a rare few, seem to have these emotions stamped throughout their lifetimes.   We seem them around us each day- often trying to fill the void with other things.  Some may fill it with success, some may fill it with food, some may fill it with beauty products, some may fill it with sex, and some ultimately fill it with bitterness.  The feeling that they were never good or special enough to be valued and appreciated plagues them and affects most areas of their life.  We all want to know that we are valued and important to someone.... to be esteemed.  Too often, we try to seek this value through earthly things, but those things fail.  The value we seek is found through our relationship with Christ that leads us to God.

Today, I read a scripture in Isaiah 49:14-16.  It said, "But Zion said,'The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.'  Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me."  NIV   

I also love the wording from the NLT version for verse 16 and it says, "See I have written your name on my hand.  Ever before me is a picture of Jerusalem's walls in ruins."

In these scriptures, God's chosen people (the Israelites) had not been honoring their God... in many ways they had walked away from Him.  The feelings of being forsaken and forgotten came from their seeking to live lives away from God.  They, for a time, tried to find fulfillment through the pagan world, but it left them feeling empty and crying out to God.  I just love God's response to them as He reassures them that He never forgot them.  He compares it to a mother forgetting a child nursing in her arms- could she forget her child?  Never!  And, he says, even if that did happen- I would never forget you- see you are written on my hands!  As a child, I would often write down things I really needed to remember on my hands because while I might forget other things, my hand would always be with me as a constant reminder.  I almost had to chuckle as I thought of God writing my name on His hands- a constant reminder of His love for me.

As I researched this verse more, I found something interesting.  The word "engraved" is used similarly in two other passages in the Old Testament.  First, it is found in Genesis 38:18 in place of the "seal" that Judah left with a temple prostitute in promise of a payment who turned out to be his former daughter-in-law. (And you thought scriptures were boring!)  Tamar, his daughter-in-law, had been mistreated by Judah and took matters in her own hand.   She collected his "seal" which was his identifying mark for documents and such- literally, it was like his signature on things- until a payment was brought to her.  A few months later she used his seal to prove to him and everyone around her that he was the Father of the children she was carrying.  In a way, she was saying you signed this act-now accept the outcome.

The second place where "engraved" is found is in Exodus 28:9 when God is describing how Aaron and the priests were to be adorned and He had them carve the names of the twelve tribes of Israel on stones to be put on the outfit to be worn by the priests.  This was a way of marking the priests with the heritage and history that God had with Israel, his chosen people. 

So, basically God says to Israel, your seal and engraved name is on my hand- how could I forget you?  Glory!  That blesses me so much because when Christ died on the cross, He made a way for anyone to become God's chosen children.  If you have accepted Christ, God made you part of His chosen family and your name, too, was sealed and engraved on His hand.  You cannot be forgotten- you are a part of Him.
The other wonderful thought in this verse is that Christ is marked by a scar on the palm of His hand that bought my freedom from sin.  When Christ died on the cross, He was nailed on the cross by his palms.   In a way, Isaiah 49:16 foreshadows that event.  I even have to ponder and think that every time Christ looks upon his scars, He thinks of us- the redeemed in the Lord who He died to save.  Glory! 

Do you need to know that you are loved, my friend?  Do you need to know that your life has value and importance when all else leaves you longing for something more?  All you have to do is look upon His hands, and see your name in the friend, you are loved so much more than you can imagine and will never be forgotten!